Last week, I spent several hours helping a very senior lawyer who called for help figuring out how to get positioned as the go-to lawyer for an emerging business problem he had observed.
He sent me a gracious thank-you note afterward. His kind gesture got me thinking about what I actually do as a trainer and coach, and the similarities to what you do as lawyers.
All of us live for the challenges. We chose to be lawyers or coaches so we could work on the ultra-complicated, unique business or legal challenges. These are the matters that require the creative, one-off solutions that we all find so stimulating, and that require us to bring our "A" game.
Much of what we often do, however, is facilitate a more thorough analysis of the situation by others. As we drill down deeper into the various scenarios, facts, and subtleties, we try to make sense of a problem as outsiders. That "fresh eyes" process helps our client separate the strategic wheat from the data chaff.
If we've done our jobs, at some point all the distracting information is stripped away, and the solution becomes obvious. Given enough time, most smart, seasoned executives and counsel will get there. Having us ask the right questions, listen, ask more questions, listen some more, and so on, can help them get there right now.
Don't hitch your wagon to specific legal knowledge or skills alone. All knowledge ages and eventually obsoletes itself, and there are countless lawyers offering similar knowledge and skills, making that a race to the bottom. Many desirable clients are looking for a counselor who facilitates the answer instead of always providing it.
Approaching new business development this way lets you make the sale in a way that frees you from the (default) expectation that you'll be the one to do all the work. Who to hire and trust is the client's decision. Who performs what portion of the work is yours. Make sure to sell in a way that reserves that decision to you. Otherwise, you'll be trapped on a billable-hour treadmill that's hard to escape.