CMCP Blawg

Time for an Empathy Adjustment

I could blame the hot weather for making me cranky, but I think it’s something else. I’ve had too many conversations with lawyers this year about the difficulties of being heard, being acknowledged, and being fairly compensated. Even for my coaching clients who are succeeding at their business development efforts, there is a sense that the game is, if not rigged against them, not set up to benefit them equally. This reminds me of many conversations I had with my dad, who often said, “Whoever said life is fair?” Although he recognized the unfairness of life, he deserves credit for hiring and promoting women and minorities in the 1960’s, long before diversity initiatives and talk of unconscious bias.

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Demystifying Business Development, for Associates and Beyond

Every year, I have the opportunity to meet new associates, either at networking events or when I present workshops at law firms or bar associations. Not surprisingly, each new class of associates has similar questions about business development. Even though many law firms provide some level of training on business development, many associates aren’t convinced that they have the necessary skills to succeed and they don’t have confidence that their peers will ever be able to send matters to them. From my perspective, the fact that you completed law school and passed the bar indicates that you are perfectly capable of mastering the skills you need to build your own book of business. Below are the most common questions I’m asked and brief answers to them.

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Are Carrots and Sticks Really the Answer to Diversity and Inclusion Success?

In my previous blawg, I wrote about the financial rewards of having a diverse workforce.  There are many sources that connect diversity with increases in revenue, profitability, workforce retention and access to clients.  Those all seem like decent carrots, or incentives, to encourage a more inclusive workplace.  The Bloomberg Law Big Law Business Diversity & Inclusion Annual Report was released recently, and confirms that rewards are important.  The final paragraph of the report includes this sentence: “The survey results show that monetary incentives would be a key driver for firm attorneys in promoting diversity and inclusion.”  That seems to support the idea that diversity and inclusion (D&I) will lead to exactly the monetary awards that firms desire.

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Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.

In case you’ve ever been worried about being different from everyone else in your law firm or company, I’ll encourage you to follow Oscar Wilde’s advice.  You really can’t be anyone but yourself, and isn’t this the point of having diversity and inclusion initiatives?  Isn’t this also the point about business development?  Clients hire you because they trust you, and they know when you’re not being true to yourself.  I was talking to a former female client recently who said she experienced too much stress during her first few years of practice because she was trying to be like the men in her firm.  She said, “Once I stopped trying to be someone else, my clients told me how much they liked working with me, compared to other lawyers.”

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Does Every Request Deserve a Yes?

I have a rule for some of my high-achieving coaching clients. They are not allowed to say “yes” to any new project or task until they have thought about it for 24 hours. In the context of business development, you might think this is a strange rule. Normally, I encourage my coaching clients to be fully engaged in biz dev and to be diligent about implementing their marketing plans. But I’ve noticed that many lawyers need permission to say no once in a while. If you are constantly balancing (perhaps juggling is a more accurate word) billable hours, involvement in bar associations and other professional associations, practice group or firm commitments, and being mentored by or mentoring others, you may not have enough hours in the day for having a personal life, as well. Your cup, as they say, may already runneth over.

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When it Comes to Business Development, Everyone is a Solo

My coaching clients often ask if there is a difference between marketing plans for solo practitioners and those created by lawyers who work in large firms. Ultimately, your marketing plan is based on your individual goals. Your plan may include tasks related to your practice group, or the geographic location of your office, but when you’re out in the world, you are selling your own relationship to potential clients and referral sources. There can be an advantage to being part of a firm or a practice group that can complement your expertise. Obviously, there are many clients who need full-service firms, but there are just as many clients who need only one specific set of skills at certain times.

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Even E. M. Forster Believed in Face to Face Meetings

A recent New Yorker article referred to a short story called “The Machine Stops.” It was written by E. M. Forster more than one hundred years ago, about people who lived underground and were entirely dependent on technology. Somehow, Forster imagined a world that sounds similar to the way we live today. There  were “plate screens” that sound like today’s smart phones and laptops and there was a form of instant messaging. People lived in isolation and rarely had face to face contact.

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