Enthusiasm matters in rainmaking and in client service

How enthusiastic are you about building your practice?
Not how motivated, how determined, or how skilled, but how enthusiastic? 

Enthusiasm has a bad reputation in our society and in professional circles specifically. It’s often knocked as naive or overly eager. But the truth is, we enjoy enthusiasm. Don’t you want to work with and for people who are lit up about what they’re doing? 

Your clients want to work with someone who’s enthusiastic about working with them. Whether you’re representing individuals or the largest corporations in the world, your clients want to know that you’re invested and even proactive… In other words, that you aren’t just dialing it in.

When I was in law school, I had a professor who was so enthusiastic about tax law that he infected all of his students. We did the reading and showed up to class engaged and looking forward to his lecture and our discussions. About tax. (The now-me shudders just a little at the thought, but I was drawn in like everyone else at the time.) In contrast, I had a few professors who were smart and knowledgeable, but their lack of enthusiasm left me feeling eh about their classes. And I suspect that was ok with them. 

Enthusiasm engages audiences and motivates action. 

And that carries through to rainmaking. Sure, it’s easy to create a “paint by numbers” business development plan that you execute without any particular sense of relish. But when you find a way to get fired up — whether it’s because you are passionately interested in your work or your clients — that’s when you become invested and when things can shift on a dime. 

So, how enthusiastic are you? It isn’t an idle question. Read the featured quotes below as you give this some thought. 


Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson 


Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, which takes the imagination by storm; and, second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.
~Arnold J. Toynbee 


[One] can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.
~Charles Schwab 


For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.
~Zig Ziglar 

5 Ways to Generate Great Content

Content marketing refers to the process of generating articles, blog posts, presentations, and more that are centered on your practice area and that share substantive information useful to your audience.
This newsletter is content marketing, for instance. When you teach a seminar to a room of clients, potential clients, or referral sources, that’s content marketing. When you speak for a CLE program, however, even though you’re presumably delivering useful information related to your practice area, it isn’t content marketing unless you stand to get business or frequent referrals from lawyers.

Content marketing is a reluctant rainmaker’s friend. When you offer valuable information to an interested audience, you’re demonstrating your knowledge, skill, trustworthiness, and approachability, among other qualities, without imposing on your audience. You’re marketing with information that’s beneficial, and your audience usually appreciates your efforts. (If they don’t, they’ll quickly leave your audience.) 

Content marketing is effective because your audience is actively interested in the information you’re sharing and you’re demonstrating your value while marketing. 

But content generation can be the bane of a lawyer’s existence. The content needs to be timely (or evergreen), relevant, easily consumed, and — most importantly — good. If you imagine sitting in front of an empty computer screen, wracking your brain for an interesting topic you can cover effectively in the time allotted, trying to squeeze in one more activity in your already-overburdened schedule, you aren’t alone.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be so painful. Most of my clients find that coming up with ideas is the most difficult part of content marketing. Here’s how to make it easy: 

  1. Use listening tools. Twitter is great for tracking trending topics. Skim or read periodicals relevant to your industry as well as some from outside your industry. One of my favorites is Zite (available for the iPad, iPhone, and Android phones) a “personalized magazine” that pulls news from a variety of sources grouped by the categories selected by the user.
  2. Use your clients’ questions and concerns. You probably field questions day in and day out. What themes do you notice? What questions should your clients be asking? If you’re stumped, skim your outbox. You’re almost certain to find topics suitable for content marketing.
  3. Ask your clients what they’re thinking and wondering about. Not only will you learn more about your clients’ needs, which is a great business development activity in itself, but also you’ll notice themes that interest your clients and are ripe for content generation.
  4. Review a book or service that your clients will find useful. Chances are that you’re aware of sources that your clients don’t generally follow. (That’s why I review business books in this newsletter. Most lawyers don’t read these books, and I often get notes of thanks for highlighting useful information.) Bringing information they might not discover otherwise adds value.
  5. Myths, misunderstandings, and outright lies. Chances are that there are some incorrect but commonly-held beliefs or approaches related to an issue that your clients face. Sometimes it’s a simple factual misunderstanding or misinterpretation, and sometimes it’s all about the deeper truth. Debunk those misapprehensions or challenge the common wisdom. When you explain myths and truths, you can quickly get the attention of your audience.

Whatever methods you use to identify content topics, keep a running list of your ideas. You’ll probably find that the best ideas occur to you while you’re exercising, showering, watching TV — anything except sitting at your desk. Use Evernote or a simple Word document to list your ideas. That way, when you are in front of the blank computer screen, you’ll have a list of ideas ready to go. 

Are you tough enough?

How to Build the Determination and Discipline to Reach Your Rainmaking Goals

This week, I’d like to share some thoughts on determination. Business development is not a one-time effort. It isn’t rocket science, as the saying goes, but it does call for sustained effort over a long period of time, especially when things aren’t going quite as well as you’d like. And that requires determination.

I could share stories of determined lawyers and those who let go too early, but I’d rather draw from other sources. Sometimes we see best when we see outside our own worlds.

The Determined Dog

My dog is inspiring to me with her example of deep-rooted, unshakeable determination. (Even though I’m a certified dog nut, I never thought I would say that!) Toward the end of my vacation, Patches got an infection that landed her in the hospital. This is the fourth round of something that’s nearly killed her three times — this last round hasn’t been as bad, fortunately.

One of the first signs of the infection is that she’ll limp for a couple of hours and then lose all use of the affected leg until the infection is gone. In the past, she’s been unable to move much at all for a month or so. She’d try, but getting up and walking was just too hard, and she’d stay in the same spot until I’d lift her and help her walk with a sling.

But this time, it’s almost as if she knows she’s been through this before, that it’s annoying and unpleasant, but that she’ll be ok. Instead of lying around, she’s been hopping from the first day. Her entire being telegraphs, “I want to bark at squirrels and protect my pack, and nothing is going to get in my way!”

Patches’ body is weak right now, but her determination is strong. Hopping is difficult for her, and after she’s moved 10 feet or so, she’ll rest for a while, breathless, before picking up and moving on. Unless, of course, there’s something she wants to do more than rest, and then she won’t allow her body to stop her.

Her infected leg is weak, but rather than letting that weakness stop her, she’s learned to compensate with her three strong legs.

The Disciplined Mind…with Safeguards

Before I left for vacation, I’d settled into a nice routine with my workouts. Up at 5, at the gym around 5:30, and done around 6:30. It wasn’t easy (especially since I’m not at all a morning person) but it had become habit and I’d maintained the effort for months.

One of the first things I remember learning about working out (years ago!) is that the mind will give up before the body does. That’s a mantra I use most days in the gym, especially when I’m pushing myself, when my legs or arms hurt, I’m out of breath, I feel like I can’t keep going, and I want nothing more than to stop. 

I’ve learned, after a lot of work, that I can pay attention to the discomfort and doubts, or I can crank up the music and keep on going until I achieve what I know I can do. Even though Lance Armstrong is operating under a shadow these days, he nailed it with this quote: 

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with? 

There’s a confidence that comes with completing the designated task on a consistent basis. It’s a confidence born of experience, and there’s no substitute for or shortcut to developing it. (Read this terrific article that drives this point home in the context of athletic training, and then extrapolate to business development or any other professional objective.) I haven’t hit my overall goals yet, but because I keep hitting the interim goals as planned, I know that I will reach that ultimate success. 

Even though I usually don’t let temporary discomfort derail me, I’ve learned that I need safeguards on some occasions. Most recently, I knew I’d be facing a challenge to get back to the gym after being away for more than two weeks. I wanted to be sure that I’d manage that challenge, so I booked an appointment with my trainer for the first day I planned to return to the gym. No excuses on the time. And, in fact, I booked a double appointment, for help with cardio as well as weight training. No wiggle room on leaving out part of my planned workout. 

And sure enough, the workout was not pleasant. And my trainer encouraged me and pushed me, giving me the support and push that I needed so that I could do what I’d planned — and, in fact, to stretch a little bit further. The next workout was much easier (mentally, if not physically), and my confidence continues to grow. 

Questions for Reflection

The message here is pretty obvious. Give some thought to these questions.

  • How developed is your determination when it comes to business development?
  • Are you making the most of your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses in rainmaking activities?
  • Do you have a solid business development plan in place?
  • Are you confident in your ability to put that plan into action and reach the goals you’ve set?
  • Have you identified danger zones, when you may be likely to slide backwards?
  • What support do you need to get through those danger zones and to stretch you beyond your comfort zone? Do you need to line up additional help?

I’d love to hear your answers to these questions — just send me an email.  And, of course, I’d be happy to arrange a conversation with you if I might help you reach your business development goals. 

Mountain Climbing Is A Great Business Analogy

High Altitude Leadership:  What the World’s Most Forbidding Peaks Teach Us About Success (J-B US non-Franchise Leadership)

By Chris Warner and Don Schmincke


High Altitude Leadership, published in 2007, draws on observations made during mountaineering expeditions (including Mount Everest ascents).  Through teaching stories, the authors identify eight dangers that climbers and business leaders face.  Although the observations are phrased in business terms, they’re certainly applicable to legal practice as well.


1.  Fear of Death. You might understand immediately why a mountain climber would fear death and how that fear could create paralysis and, ultimately, cause exactly the feared result.  In business (and in the practice of law), fear stops action.  To avoid falling victim to this danger, accept the prospect of failure and act anyway. I envision this as the action that allowed some law firms to avoid the worst of the Great Recession by seeing the problems early and moving to mitigate those circumstances rather than becoming paralyzed by the fear of what might happen.

2.  Selfishness.
The authors analogize business selfishness to the precarious situation created when a climber eager to make an ascent ignores warning of danger and by doing so threatens the safety of an entire team.  In business terms, the authors explain that selfishness produces DUD behavior:  Dangerous, Unproductive, and Dysfunctional.  The solution?  Crafting a compelling saga that speaks to purpose and mission and creates the passion that will overcome selfishness.


3.  Tool Seduction. Tools – whether ropes and oxygen to assist in mountain climbing or leadership and business development systems – are important.  Overreliance on tools, however, produces people without the foundational skills necessary to survive.  When I was a child, my parents made sure I could tell time with an analog watch before permitting me to wear a digital watch.  The principle here is similar, as is the solution:  learn the underlying skill and how to use the tools wisely. Social media, for example, is just networking with the use of some new tools.


4.  Arrogance. Although more than 13,000 people have attempted Mount Everest, 73% failed to reach the summit and 208 died in the process.  Warner and Schmincke claim that arrogance always lurks behind failure, showing up in poor planning, poor execution, or the belief that ordinary rules are inapplicable.  Humility tempers the ego and avoids failure. Where have you observed arrogance vs. humility in the legal field over the last five years?


5.  Lone Heroism. Those who refuse needed help, who really believe that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” are suffering from lone heroism.  Warner recounts the story of a climber desperately wants to make an ascent the purist way, without oxygen, even though his body was shutting down.  In business, lone heroes refuse good advice and hamstring talented team members.  Developing partnership and allowing partners to take the lead when appropriate avoids lone hero syndrome.  (As a sidenote, lone heroism — which I call “long ranger syndrome” — slows the progress of would-be rainmakers who refuse help and guidance.)


6.  Cowardice. Just as fear and failure / death stops forward motion, cowardice keeps climbers and business leaders stuck in place.  They may unenthusiastically continue work on a project knowing it’s doomed, or they may fail to uncover a weak or arrogant member of the team because someone might criticize them.  The solution, of course, is developing a sense o bravery, which is encouraged by an atmosphere in which everyone is expected to speak the truth and to admit to problems as step one toward correcting them.


7.  Comfort. The best climbers and the best leaders are comfortable being uncomfortable.  Sure, it’s easier to climb a mountain or lead in rosy times.  But strong leaders know how to persevere even in unfavorable circumstances — and they know that sometimes perseverance means stepping back when changed circumstances make a strategy infeasible.  Choosing to step into calculated risk may be uncomfortable, but it’s also how progress gets made.


8.  Gravity. Even carefully laid plans sometimes fail due to erroneous assumptions, brand new obstacles, or others’ failure to adhere to commitments.  Bringing skill to climbing and to business will avoid many problems, but challenges are sometimes unavoidable.  High altitude leaders recognize the role of luck: sometimes you can do everything right and fail anyway.  Just ask those who suffered through the law firm layoffs o 2008-2009.



The analogy of mountain climbing is surprisingly applicable to business, as the authors note:


“On big peaks, we tell clients that the first mistake they made was joining the expedition.  They are now in an environment where things can go terribly wrong very quickly.  If they are going to make it home alive, they have to be more disciplined, more giving and more humbled than ever before.  Everyone has to scan the horizon.  Everyone has to examine themselves and each other for signs of weakness.  Everyone is responsible for their own safety and the safety of everyone else.  They have to prevent the small mistakes from adding up to a catastrophe.



High Altitude Leadership is a compelling book with a strong business message. We’ve all seen the pull that business places on the practice of law in recent years, and High Altitude Leadership will be helpful for lawyers who are seeing the business side of practice in a new light.