"How'm I doin'?"

"How'm I doin'?"

Former New York City mayor Ed Koch famously asked this his constituents all the time, “How’m I doin’?”

We all want to know how well we’re performing. Understandably, lawyers get anxious about their progress as they move down the arduous road to developing biz dev skills, habits, and results.

For most, this is uncharted territory, and they can’t be expected to grasp the magnitude of what they’re about to undertake.

How long will it take?

Whenever a lawyer explores a coaching relationship with me, they always ask how long it will take to get from where they are now to where they want to be. My answer is always the same: “Longer than you think.” Admittedly, it’s not much better than “It depends,” but it’s a start on opening their eyes.

One of the obstacles to understanding your progress is that lawyers only recognize two polar benchmarks: The day they get started, and new business coming in the door. They have no knowledge of the dozens of progress indicators between those two poles, so it’s impossible for them to gauge interim progress.

Anxiety sets in

A few months after we get started, they usually get anxious. Some because they waited much too long to get started and they’re worried about a cash crunch, or they’re anticipating an unfavorable review by their firm. Most, though, are just experiencing the normal desire to know how they’re doing.

I sent the following message to a lawyer I coach in response to him expressing the fear that, after seven months of our collaboration, he’s not making progress. It could be sent to just about any lawyer I’ve worked with.

Expectations out of whack

“You're progressing steadily. The only thing out of whack is your expectations.

To illustrate, let’s use a metaphor of learning to play a musical instrument, having never done so in the previous 20 years.

When you decided to do that, we spent two months researching various potential instruments before you decided you wanted to play the piano.

Next, we spent three months teaching you the basics of playing piano, just getting you familiar with the basic requirements and skills. We continued your lessons and you began practicing eight hours per week for two months.

How good of a piano player could you expect to be? After seven months, would you be frustrated at not being invited to play for pay?

It's unrealistic for you to expect to overcome 20 years of inactivity or reactivity in a few months."

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Learning a new profession

Remember that you're trying to learn a completely new profession -- not some mere parlor trick. Like law, this profession has its array of required skills, protocols, and practices. There’s a lot more to learn than you’re aware of, and you have to remain diligent.

Think about the years of hard lessons you had to go through to master your lawyering skills. The misconceptions you had to overcome. The mistakes you made. The after-the-fact V-8 head-slapping moments. What would suggest that that same bumpy journey isn't part of learning this new profession?

To gain a better appreciation for the length and difficulty of this journey, I encourage you to read Lawyer Business Development- From Ignorance to Mastery.