In the most recent issue of Edge International Communiqué, I point out that most lawyers need only take one simple step to generate more business. That step is the one that takes them away from the opulant chairs behind their desks, and out the door of the office.
Here is the article:
Business Development and the Comfortable Chair
You’ve worked long and hard to earn your comfortable chair. It is probably so well made that you can sit in it for the entire day. Clients probably like it. Maybe your staff does too.
But that chair is your enemy when it comes to the bottom line. It conspires to enfold you, thereby insulating you from both current and prospective clients. It has you thinking and planning and doing existing client work way too much – and generating business way too little.
I work with many firm leaders who want their partners to produce more revenue. The practice group, industry group and client group leaders want exactly the same thing from their constituents. Those leaders ask me, "How can we motivate behaviors that result in more business generation? What do highly effective leaders do to foster great results?"
There are answers to these questions, just as there are ways to coach golfers to make them incrementally better on a continuous basis. But those answers are about fine-tuning; what we are talking about here is getting out of the chair and into the game. There is no way golfers can improve their swings if they are sitting down.
When we sit in our chairs too much we "lose," and when we get out of them (for an appropriate portion of our time), we "win." Why? Think about how the lawyers for whom you are responsible would answer some of these questions if they were being honest (I have added typical honest responses in parentheses):
- How many hours did you spend drafting your business development plan? (So many that I’m embarrassed to tell you.)
- How many hours did you spend contemplating your strategic plan, in particular, with a view to maintaining or enhancing the respect of your peers? (Ditto.)
- How many prospective clients have you seen face-to-face outside the office in the last week? (None.)
- How many existing clients have you visited at their places of business in the last month? (None.)
- Do you have a list that you could show someone right now that contains the names of the most important contacts you have – people so important to you that you would not want to lose contact with them for more than just a few months? (No.) Supplementary question: How many of those people have you seen the last three months? (Unless I have an active file open, none.)
- How many of your clients have you introduced to another lawyer in the firm in the last month? (None.)
- How many of your partners have you visited to impart the nature of the favorite part of your practice – including your passion for that practice area, your sensitivity to anyone who might transfer work to you with the greatest emphasis on satisfying the referred client as well as the referring lawyer? (None.) (Note: I have written elsewhere about why lawyers are so reluctant to refer work, including the behaviors they have observed in the past that are likely to deter them from ever choosing to do so again.)
I am not suggesting that you ditch your chair in a fit of anxiety. In fact, enjoy its comfort when you ought to use it. But do get out of it from time to time. I make you a promise based on my experience: if you marginally increase the time you, and those you lead, spend out of your comfortable chairs — devoting your attention to some of the activities implied by the questions above – the business you (and they) will generate will increase substantially. I know that this works.
The very best business generators in your firm will tell you that you will not realize the benefit of getting out of that chair immediately. There is clearly a lag effect. While some opportunities take a long time to bear fruit, and some never do, a significant proportion will – and the healthy proportion of those will happen within months, not years.
I also invite you to subscribe to Edge International Communiqué by clicking on the link at the bottom of this menu of archived issues. EIC is published once each month and features articles by Edge International partners from around the world on a variety of issues relating to law-office management and governance.