Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
Going beyond business development and your ability to generate work, there are a couple of considerations you should think about if you’re looking to get on or speed up the ‘Partner Track’. The first consideration is to learn how to play well with others. Here I am referring to everyone with whom you come into contact on a daily basis; your assistant, paralegals, IT professionals, receptionists, firm management, marketing, library services, etc. Go out of your way to treat these people with the utmost respect and watch how in turn they will over perform and deliver for you. You will not become successful in your career without their support. So when they go out of their way for you, acknowledge their efforts. Take them out to lunch from time to time. Ask them how they would like to contribute. Find out how you can help them achieve their career goals by first understanding what they are. Treat them as you do your clients. In other words get to know them as much as possible.
Giving back to the firm
By this I am referring to what can you do outside your practice to provide value to your firm. Consider answering these questions as a place to start:
- What committees can you be on and contribute to?
- Are their opportunities for you to mentor a summer or articling student, or even an associate more junior then you?
- What can you do outside the walls of your firm in the community to better position your firm?
Follow this advice and you are more likely to become a partner at your firm.
Several years ago I predicted that at some point the larger firms in Canada would look to bring on full-time in-house business development coaches. It has recently come to my attention that it’s happening now. New positions are being created where coaches are working in-house with specific practice groups. Unlike other business development and marketing roles, these new positions are purely about coaching. They are there full-time to help the lawyers create a plan of action and then support them through implementation teaching them various skills along the way. If this isn’t a resounding statement in support of the value of coaching lawyers in business development, I don’t know what is.
A general rule of thumb I share with my clients is this. If your time is not focused on doing the work, generating the work, or managing your people and the work, then whatever tasks are taking up your time should be delegated to a non-fee earner. Do the Math. Look at your billable hour rate. Or look at what your time is worth if you work on contingency. Does it really make sense for you to be managing your IT, or Admin? Couldn’t you easily pay someone in the neighborhood of $25-$30 an hour to take over those tasks? Again, if you’re not doing the work, you’re not billing. If you’re not bringing in the work, you’re not growing your firm. And if you’re not managing the people and the work, there is more room for error.
The same goes for every other fee earner at your firm. If your law clerk is busy doing admin, that is non-billable time. You can’t expect your people to realistically hit or surpass their targets if they are engaged in work that is non-billable. You have a lot of money sitting on the table that could easily increase your bottom line. Always make sure your people are doing what is most valuable to your bottom line. Consider out-sourcing part of the lower-level work, or hire someone part-time if there isn’t enough for a full-time position. There is always a solution.
As you seek to grow your firm it will be advantageous for you to become the best possible leader you can be to inspire, motivate and lead your team. I read somewhere that great leaders don’t create followers. Great leaders create more great leaders. That is a great approach to take, to empower your people to become better, to take on more responsibilities and leadership roles within the firm. This is also a great way to support your succession plan (which I talk about later in this chapter). Some tips on becoming a better leader. In most cases, it boils down to having great communication skills.
- Treat each member of your team individually.
- Have regular one-to-one time with each team member and get to know what truly motivates them and what they want to achieve in their career.
- Provide regular feedback on their work. Tell them what they are doing right or great and why, and tell them how and where they can improve.
- Set up clear expectations from the beginning so there are no miss-understandings later.
- Ask for their feedback on client and firm matters-this is a great way of empowering them. They have a ton of ideas that could benefit your clients and the firm-just ask them.
- Always remain approachable and willing to listen.
- Share your vision for your firm and engage your team to be a part of that vision. Most people and especially this younger generation like the team approach. Take advantage of that and leverage it.
- Create systems and processes to make it easier for your people to do their jobs. And if you don’t know where to start-ask your people how you can make their jobs easier.
- Share your knowledge and mentor your people. Share what you have learned about time management, client management, file management, email management and help your people become as efficient as you’ve become.
- Lead by example. If you are asking your people to do something that you don’t or won’t do yourself, you can’t really expect them to do it either
This month I a dedicating my blog to those of you who have decided to grow beyond a solo practice and build a small firm and those of you who already have a small firm that you want to grow. There’s a huge leap from running your own solo-practice to growing and leading a small firm. So first let me congratulate you on your entrepreneurial drive.
Up until now you’ve likely been the only or at least main Rainmaker. So once you yourself have gone through the approaches and exercises outlined in this book, the next step is to get the rest of your team, anyone that is client facing and interacting with your clients, engaged in business development. And from experience, it’s not as difficult as it may sound. This could include all lawyers and staff. After-all, if Business Development is about building relationships, and it is, each member of your team has a different network and the ability to build relationships and attract referrals to your firm. In case you are sceptical…
As leaders of small firms, it’s really important that you engage, inspire and motivate your people to be the best they can be. Although you are very busy balancing between rain-making, lawyering, and managing your people the more one-to-one time you can have with your people the better. Don’t treat everyone the same, they’re not. Find out what truly motivates each individual on your team. Find out how they would like to contribute to the growth of your firm. Find out what motivates them. There are a lot of negative opinions surrounding the ‘millennial generation’. This is the next generation of talent walking through your door. Not as much attention has been paid to the very positive attributes of these new young lawyers. They like to be a part of a team. So leverage that characteristic to your benefit. Working in teams has not been the way of the past, but it definitely is the way of the future for law firms truly dedicated to offering the very best in service.
The other thing you can do is to help with their own professional development. When you’ve learned a new system that helps you save time, share it with your team. The amount of time that you will collectively save adds to everyone’s productivity. Strive to have systems for everything to make it as easy as possible for duplication and consistency.
A great article from the Harvard Business Review, read here.
As I was reading this article this morning, it occurred to me I have heard this before. In fact I have written about it and given presentations. In 2008 I gave a presentation entitled “The Law Firm of the Future” to members of The Legal Sales and Service Association (LSSO), in Boston.
In 2009 I gave a presentation entitled “Crisis or Opportunity” to members of Globalaw in Banff. The content was much the same offering insights into what would be possible with innovation.
This article comes from ft.com and is written by Caroline Binham.
Read it here.
One of my clients today brought up something that she has been challenged with, selling herself as the lead. She doesn’t feel she has the name recognition to be the lead and up until now she would sell a more senior lawyer. But now her firm has asked that she take on that role. When she described that one of the things she has established is a reputation of keeping within her clients’ budgets, we identified that to be a key factor as to why her clients want her to manage the relationship, and why new clients would feel the same way.
Just off a call with a client who is coordinating a new sub-practice group. She told me how un-eventful their first meeting was and that no one had yet volunteered to take various roles on. My first bit of advice to her was to look for people to take on tasks based on ability and desire rather than seniority. If others push back, be more than open to receiving input and help from them, but be sure to set hard deadlines.
The other advice was to do some one-to-one advocating ahead of the next meeting to get her ‘soldiers’ in place, other people willing to take on leadership or accountability for some of the tasks at hand. This will give the perception of movement and others will eventually follow. When people start attending meetings that actually get things done, they will want to be a part of that movement.