Q: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"

A: "Practice, practice, practice."

So goes an old joke from the 1950s. But, how do you develop the kind of client roster and revenue level to which you aspire? Same answer: Practice, practice, practice. The key word in any skill-based pursuit is "practice."

For some reason (one that may not even be conscious), lawyers seem to expect themselves somehow to intrinsically know how to get business, i.e., without any training or practice. Why is that? Would they expect themselves intrinsically to be able to play the piano, turn the double play, prepare a gourmet meal, play scratch golf, or write the Great American Novel?

I don't know about all those other sublime skills, but my theory of why lawyers expect to get business without skills or experience is because, up until the Great Recession of 2008, they did get business without skills or experience. Lots of it. From the mid-to-late '80s until the economy tanked, they plied their trade amid a perfect storm of demand for legal service that enabled annual rate increases of from 6%-10%.

This experience caused lawyers to believe that marketing and selling were easy, and didn't require any real skill. The glitch is that they weren't marketing or selling; they were order-taking.

The order-taking era is over, permanently

It's time to deal with the real world, i.e., what your clients have faced for a long time, and it's characterized as declining demand and increasing competition, both of which require real marketing and sales skills.

Because nobody is born good at it and there are no "naturals," that means you have to  actually get good at marketing and sales, which means:

  • understand what it is

  • learn how to do it

  • practice, to get good at it (and confident)

  • do it often enough to become experienced

  • get objective feedback and coaching so you can improve and approach the "artistry" level

You'll get good at business development the same way you got good at lawyering. So, let's start by no longer calling it "business development" and, in recognition that the five bullets above represent an investment and progression over time, hereafter call it "business development practice."

Mike O’Horo

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