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In Jim Collins's two business bestsellers, "Built to Last" and "Good to Great," the CEOs of the companies that went from good to great offered the same advice: The Stop-Doing list is more important than the To-Do list. The "stop doing" list is a mechanism for disciplined thought about how to allocate the most precious of all resources: time.

In the lawyer business development context, the stop-doing list will help recapture time and reallocate it more productively, but it also has a major impact on results. It's not so much that the "stop-doing" items waste time, but that they're actually counterproductive. They get in the way of getting the business, and can make you unwelcome among prospects.

Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding “to do” lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who built the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of “stop doing” lists as “to do” lists.
— Jim Collins, author of "Good to Great"

In mid-February, I spoke at an ABA Corporate Counsel event designed to facilitate "dating" opportunities between private practice litigators and inside counsel. One afternoon while the GCs met separately for some private peer interaction, I spent 90 minutes with outside counsel. We had two instructional goals that day, to show the litigators how to:

  1. Recapture the 80% of time wasted on unproductive and counterproductive BD activities
  2. Simplify everything in their BD lives

Beginning next Tuesday, April 7, each week I'll publish one of 13 corresponding Not-To-Do and To-Do pairs. At the conclusion, I'll share the slides from the ABA presentation.

As foundation for this, I offer the following principles:

  1. In a Buyer’s Market, Seller’s Market behaviors are doomed to fail. 

  2. You’re either generating sales opportunities, or converting them. Anything else is task avoidance. This includes "relationship building."

  3. Positioning” is literal. You must stand for something. 

  4. Revere, and relentlessly pursue, “relevance.”

  5. Litigation, transactions and other legal matters derive from business behavior. They're not self-contained, self-generating entities.

  6. 80% of most lawyers' BD activity is counterproductive.

  7. Don’t try to get good at things you shouldn’t do at all.

  8. Only 3 things matter:

Until next Tuesday...

Mike O'Horo

Next week: Not-to-Do #1 - Pursue individual companies