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Make time for BD

The importance of January 2-4, 2019

Many lawyers see the final two weeks of December as a business development Dead Zone. Prospects and clients are scrambling to meet year-end deadlines, and are distracted by professional- and family obligations related to the holidays. While this reasoning is understandable, the danger of shutting down your BD effort completely is that two dark weeks turns into four, or six, or more. Here's what to do instead.

Rudderless Ships

Law firm leaders, unless you remain visible and continually make it clear that sales is important enough for you to check on all the time, your sales programs will remain rudderless, compromising your firms’ results and your lawyers’ development.

Are you still learning, or do you think you've peaked?

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?

Time management? Nope. It’s actually "choice management."

The reality is that we can’t get, make, find or have more time. Time simply passes, inexorably, day by day, minute by minute. We can, however, choose how we spend our time. Indeed, “time management,” is a misnomer; I prefer to call it Choice Management.

You can't succeed at business development if you relegate it to "extra time."

Some lawyers declare this openly. Far more say it implicitly through their avoidance behaviors. Most relegate business development to the last item on their list, to be dealt with when everything else is done and they have some extra time. I've been coaching lawyers for 25 years and I've yet to see one who had extra time.

"Pay yourself first."

Make business development your first priority, instead of an afterthought that gets attention only when everything else feels like it’s under control. How often is everything in your practice under control?

Schedule a half-hour for BD first thing every morning, before you jump into the daily maelstrom of practice demands and the day gets swept away, leaving you mentally spent and regretting that yet another day slipped by without doing anything to generate future business. The key is every morning. Not “most,” or “frequent,” or worse, “occasionally,” but every morning.

"Overcapacity" is a euphemism for "Find more work on your own"

In a 2015 Altman Weil survey, 65% of respondents said equity partners weren’t busy enough, and 79% said non-equity partners were insufficiently busy. As a result, for the last 18 months, law firms have been laying off lawyers, counseling partners to leave and closing entire offices. Here's what that means to you, and how to protect yourself.

The "how" of focus

Everybody is telling lawyers that their business development effort requires focus, but far less is offered about how to do that. Here's the "how."

The cobbler’s kid with no shoes

Who is your most strategically important client? It's you. Specifically, your practice growth. And you're not treating that client well when you make yourself the lowest priority, paying attention only sporadically and with little thought. Move yourself up the priority list.

Not-To-Do #12: Relegate business development to "extra time"

Whenever you say, "I meant to do something to generate business, but I've been too busy," it's as silly as saying, "I meant to shower and brush my teeth, but I've been too busy." Yet, this is exactly what far too many lawyers are doing. In a buyer’s market, business development is hygiene, not earn-a-gold-star-if-you-occasionally-get-off-your-butt-and-do-something. Here's what to do instead.