Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
Good morning Lawyer X, this is your wake-up call. It’s time to re-think your career. This is not a call you were hoping to get. But let’s face the facts. Your practice is nearly dried up. Your market is flat. You are not bringing in any new clients, and you haven’t for some time. And the bottom line is there are no new clients to get. To make matters even worse the clients you do have are going away or have nothing for you to do. Yes, it’s pretty bleak. But it’s not your fault. Don’t beat yourself up, do something about it.
At the time of writing this, we are in the compensation season. And as a result, I expect we are going to see a lot of layoffs and more de-capitalization in Calgary and Vancouver in the coming months. There are a few practice areas that are feeling this pain, and basically on their last legs at many firms. This has been a long, deep and painful cycle. Your firm is unlikely to hold your life-line for much longer. And don’t think it’s any better across the street. No matter what firm you’re at, the work has dried up. The way I see it, you are left with the following three choices.
- Leave the profession and find something else
- Find an opportunity in-house
- Leverage your knowledge and experience and relationships and look for another practice area that you can apply them to
Look for my full article this month in The Lawyers Weekly where I discuss what your next steps should be if you chose #3.
Another area to consider before working to build your practice, is what kind of practice do you want? I often think lawyers and accountants get started in their careers without taking the time to really examine what you like to do. What is the types of files you like working on? What are the types of people you like working with most? What are you best at? What are your strengths? You certainly have several choices in building your accounting or legal practice. And just like Part One, when I spoke about values, this is about aligning what you’re good at with what you would like to build.
Some people are more suited to litigation, and others more of the high-volume solicitor work. There is no point working hard to build a practice if you don’t feel fulfilled. I once had a client who, at 5 years in decided he hated being a litigator. So our work then was to reboot his career in a different direction. And he did and went on to be not only successful, but also fulfilled. But do you want to effectively waste five years of your career?
Over the years I have worked with a number of lawyers who at one point in their careers either wanted to or had to take a new direction and develop a new practice area. And some of them have gone on to become amongst my most successful clients. That was the case with a client the other day. He was pretty down on himself. I asked him if he had considered adding an area or areas to his practice, and he had. I said great, then let’s get to work and build it for you. In this particular case, the slow period he is going through is really out of his control and is really about the economy and his particular practice area.
This is common and just like with any business, changes in direction sometimes need to be made. If you find yourself in this situation think about what possible practice areas would be complimentary to those which you currently serve. What other areas would you enjoy? What type of work/clients would keep you motivated? Are there any current clients that would benefit from these added services? Then as you did before, begin to build your profile in those new areas. Of course there is a lot more to it than that, that is why you hire a coach.
A while back I had the pleasure of working with a 5 year call litigator who wanted to make a change. He hated being a litigator and wanted to become a solicitor. He approached his management for support and they hired me to help him make the transition. Within a short period of time he was learning new CLE and bringing in new files. He ended up loving his new work and has since made valuable contributions to his firm. So if you are not happy and want to make a change, do it before you get so burnt out you want to leave the profession altogether.
Have you been thinking it’s time to try new approaches? Or maybe you have just been frustrated with your lack of results. Happy New Year, maybe this is the year that you try something(s) new. So if you have been living or thinking inside the box, get rid of it with the Christmas tree, and try something new.
In my last blog entry I started the conversation about why it’s so important to focus strategically on your target audience. Here are a few tips on how to do that. First you need to identify if the areas you are working in are emerging or established and what are their long term prospects for growth. Also consider the types of work you like and the people you like to work with. Finally you need to look at what your firm is doing and make sure it is aligned with your own goals. Then begin to learn everything you can about those markets. How do you do that? Ask your current clients that fit your ideal profile, what is of interest to them? What do they read and why? What associations do they belong to and what events they like to attend. Then start attending those events and reading those publications to better understand what is important to them. If this sounds simple, that is because it is. It is also very strategic and it works.