Why do some lawyers take full advantage of business development learning and training opportunities, while others pooh-pooh them or delude themselves that it’s not important to improve their knowledge and skills? Why do those who admit that better BD skills are important nonetheless procrastinate forever, promising themselves that they’ll get to it when they have more time?

An important part of the answer lies in how you view the world generally. People’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

If you believe that certain lawyers are “naturals” at business development, rather than it being an acquired skill, and you use that as justification for not learning how to get clients, you probably have a fixed mindset.

This creates problems when you’re challenged, because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed. “I’m getting pressure from my firm to generate business if I want to retain my equity status, but I’m not a glad-hander or schmoozer; that’s just not me.”

Your fixed mindset precludes you from recognizing that this isn’t an existential question. It has nothing to do with what you are. It’s about what you can do. When you become receptive to the idea that all things are learned, and all things can be learned, you’ll be able to learn that there are many ways to generate business other than glad-handing or schmoozing. There are ways that align with your personality and don’t require you to act like someone you’re not.

By contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort, that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

This makes them happier because they are better at handling difficulties. They also outperform those with a fixed mindset because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.

A fixed mindset can manifest itself in a rigid view of your circumstances, too. For example, if you believe that you can’t make time for business development because of existing client obligations, and you use that as justification for avoiding BD, you’re demonstrating that you believe your world can’t be changed. Try to envision a world where you’re effective both at client work and BD, and that they each command an appropriate share of your time and attention. (Sorry, but a couple of begrudging hours per week is neither appropriate nor sufficient. You’re kidding yourself.)

So, you ask, where will that appropriate number of BD hours come from? Until you become skilled, and establish a strong position in a valuable market, you’ll be pretty inefficient, so you’ll have to lengthen your day temporarily.

To carve out BD time during business hours, evaluate your billable work to see which of it only you can do, and which can be delegated to others. (This will make your clients happy, and you should be doing it already.) Next, segregate the work that you can do in off-hours from that which must be done in the office during prime time because it requires real-time collaboration.

Now that you have time to pursue business, it’s time to accept that BD is a skillset that you’ll have to learn and practice. Begin by reading everything you can about it. There’s no shortage of articles, white papers, blog posts, podcasts, etc. available free to educate you. Develop a broad perspective.

OK, you’re now reasonably educated. It’s time for training, which is different than education; it’s the actual doing of the thing. Look for inexpensive online training tools that you can use during off-hours, that enable you to repeat lessons and practice what you learned. If your firm doesn’t offer it, find it yourself online. If your firm won’t pay for it, buy it out of your pocket. You make plenty of money, and these tools aren’t expensive.

When it’s time to apply what you learned in the real world, where the stakes are real, get coaching. If it’s available within your firm, great. If not, pay for it yourself. You can hire an experienced coach for the equivalent of a few billable hours per month.

You’re not limited by what you can do today. You can learn anything. These days, BD skills are the most important things you can learn.

Not sure about your mindset? You can test your mindset here.

Mike O’Horo

RainmakerVT’s online courses will teach you proven BD skills in an engaging, entertaining way as you manage an avatar through simulated networking events, sales calls, and other BD challenges. You’ll learn by doing, choosing what to say and do through a series of decision points, and you’ll get instant video coaching about each choice you make.

See what lawyers like you say about RainmakerVT.

Would you be more comfortable under the hands-on guidance of a coach who’s helped thousands of lawyers generate $1.5 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) in new business? Take a look at how our coaching relationship would work.

Questions? Schedule a free call with me.