Such is the mantra of Graphicly founder and serial entrepreneur Micah Baldwin. In these seven words, Micah captures the essence of the thousands of words published in the legal press about a litany of challenges:
firm dissolutions and failures
partner de-equitization and income reduction
layoffs and RIFs
narrowed and lengthened partner tracks for associates
client demands that legal services be delivered and priced differently
out-of-category competition, e.g., offshoring, technology, and "in-housing"
solos' squeeze in B2B and B2C
newly-minted lawyers' surviving a no-job market
Building, selling, leaving
Baldwin's company is an Internet startup, but lawyers would be well served to embrace his wisdom. Throughout the careers of all but the most recently-arrived lawyers, only one of Baldwin's trio mattered: "building," as in creating legal work-product and training young lawyers.
"Selling" was the province of a rare and poorly-understood breed called "rainmakers," who worked their mysterious revenue alchemy without anyone else having to pay much attention other than making sure the work the brought in got done satisfactorily.
Until 2009, "leaving" was relatively rare, and almost always voluntary.
We have enough builders, thanks
Offered a choice of the three roles in this title, I suspect most lawyers would immediately volunteer for "building." The problem is that the legal-service demand curve has peaked and the law biz is intensely competitive and becoming more so with the arrival of a growing number of alternatives to traditional law firms. There are more than enough builders, thank you very much, and a dire shortage of sellers. The result is a flood of involuntary "leaving" -- or, in the case of new JDs, "not arriving."
"Leaving" is an effect of the gross imbalance between builders and sellers, so let's set that aside for now and address the cause.
Supply v. Demand
Because of oversupply, builders are not in demand. They're asked to leave, either directly, or indirectly encouraged to leave by stripping them of partnership or income, or otherwise marginalizing them, causing them to leave for their psychic survival.
Sellers are in demand because there are too few of them relative to the revenue-generation needs of firms. In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne urges "get started living, or get started dying." For lawyers it's "get started selling, or get started leaving."
Fortunately, selling can be learned. It's not some birthright or innate capability. It's a process, and lawyers are process-oriented. (The good news is that it requires only a different application of the "lawyering" skills you already trust.)
Baldwin simplifies further:
"For a company to be successful there are literally only two functions the company has to perfect. Building and Selling. Thats it."
You already know how to build. Now, learn how to sell. Then, sell, and enjoy the rewards of being in demand. Then, if the day comes that leaving makes sense, you’ll be in demand, and do it on your terms.
Marketing and Selling are learned skills, not innate ones.
If you've ever purchased or participated in any kind of business development training, you know that much of the training you're asked to devote time to feels like "just in case." You can't see any immediate application for it, so you put it in the "get around to it when I have extra time" column. (We both know when you'll have extra time.)
RainmakerVT can help you develop the rainmaking skills you need to succeed amid real competition. This is not your grandfather's training. There's no program to follow, no big commitments, no nagging.
This is just-in-time training. That means you buy only the course you need right now to prepare for what you'll face in the next week or so.