Virtually every lawyer aspires to be Indispensable to at least some clients. This is the top rung of the Impact Ladder.
By the time they become senior partners, many lawyers correctly feel that the battles they've survived have earned them real judgment. At this stage in their careers, they want someone to need, use and respect that judgment.
So, what does it mean for you to be indispensable to a client? Simply put, it means that the client cannot conceive of acting without your consultation or guidance.
Here are some givens in reaching Indispensable status:
- Have patience. This is a standard that may take years to reach, if at all.
- Accept that this is a sequential process. The three status levels we've discussed in previous weeks (Relevant, Useful and Valuable) are predicates. Relevance (become an industry expert) provides the context that enables Usefulness. Being useful (apply industry knowledge to your client's challenges) in a way that conveys positive economic impact on important issues makes you Valuable. Being consistently and creatively valuable (create economic impact with your ideas, advice and performance) over a period of years gives you a chance at being seen as Indispensable. You've shown over time that you'll reliably evolve with your client as their professional circumstances change.
- Look better to your clients than the rest of the pack. For anyone to consider you indispensable, not only must you be consistently valuable to them, but they also must have contrasting experience that differentiates your value. This, too, takes time.
At this, the highest level of Professional Intimacy, not consulting with you doesn't enter their minds. It has become a subconscious habit based on it having been so consistently worthwhile over time.
There's a Zen aspect to this, too. The importance of pursuing indispensability isn't whether you actually get there. Instead, it's in the many ways that all relationships are created and improved as a result of you consistently pursuing the highest standards.