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 You don't have enough clients and work to secure your future, and you don't have the business development skills you need to get those clients and work. Your firm either doesn't provide such training, or provides it only to a select few.

I guess that means you're pretty much sentenced to be a second-class lawyer forever, constantly in fear of de-equitization (if you're a partner), compensation cuts, or outright loss of job.  Right?

Only if you ignore the obvious.

My January 18 post in this blog, "The (business development) gods help those who help themselves," cites various studies in which lawyers claim that business development training is critical to their success, but that their firms don't provide it.  Many of those quoted used terms such as "critical," "survival," etc. to communicate the importance of such skills, and the training to develop them.

Last November, Allan Colman and Frank Mims cited the following from last Fall's ALM Intelligence survey, which "reviewed cross-selling, client retention, utilizing metrics, and the importance of ongoing evaluation and refinement of targets and individual efforts."

"In fact, last fall's ALM Intelligence survey on laterals indicated that of the 48% of laterals who moved firms before becoming partners, a very large percentage made the switch to get business development training and support."

If I'm reading this right, half of laterals are partner-track senior associates, "a very large percentage" of which changed firms to get business development training.  Wow.  They actually changed jobs to get BD training? (I have some doubts about this, but will let it go for now.)

So, what was the "obvious" I refer to above?

Sarah McClellan, a partner at Thompson Knight, answers the question with "Want to Succeed in Law? Adopt an Ownership Mentality." She tells us that, among other traits, 

"...owners take personal responsibility for the business’s success. An owner knows that the business’s success will require his or her personal investment of time and money. Owners know that the buck stops with them. They don’t look to someone else to make things work.

    • Think as if you have no partners and the business’s success is entirely dependent on what you do. If you were practicing on your own, with no one to get work for you, what would you do on a day-to-day basis to make sure your business succeeds?
    • Owners are proactive. They don’t (because they can’t) wait for someone else to initiate business-building activity, but take the lead.

You are the chairman and sole owner of You, Inc. You have complete responsibility for whether or not that enterprise prospers. Waiting for someone else to assure your success is begging for failure.

The business development skills upshot is, take responsibility for getting what you say are critical skills.  Stop waiting for mom or dad, i.e., the firm, to get it for you.  If this is as important as you say, isn't it time to put your big-boy pants on, arrange for, finance the training yourself?  You can afford it.  More accurately, you can't not afford it.

I think it may have been John Kenneth Galbraith who said the keys to success were simple:

  1. Decide what you want.
  2. Decide what you're willing to give up to get it.
  3. Get on with it.

Too many lawyers' answer to #2 appears to be, "nothing." They grew accustomed to their firms supplying every need. Well, Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore. The world has changed, permanently.

This is an opportunity. The inertia that you know will paralyze most lawyers in this respect means that you can gain a market advantage that you'll never relinquish.

If you think it doesn't matter whether you adapt or not, you might be interested to know that clients actually care about lawyers' sales approaches and behaviors.  In fact, they express a surprising loathing for the clumsy methods of the past.

For some sample quotes from our interviews with legal service purchasers, click here. At about the 2:15 mark of this video, you'll hear and see what I mean. (My only regret is that we weren't able to record these buyers' remarks. If we had, you would have heard the disdain and revulsion in their voices when they spoke about how most lawyers' approach was a complete waste of their time.)

Mike O'Horo

After these buyers convince you that skill matters, review the RainmakerVT course list to see how our just-in-time training lets you buy only the training you want, when you want it.

Cost? Less than you spend at Starbucks every month.