It doesn’t have to mean ‘doom and gloom’ it can spell opportunity if you keep your eye on the ball and focus on what your clients need. Change is all around us. Disruption is everywhere. But if you are still of the mindset that change is temporary and if you are patient, everything will go back to normal, stop kidding yourself. Change is and disruption is the new norm. Check out this link to a conference held in March at Harvard Law School about disruption in the legal industry. http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/plp/pages/kenny_event.php If Harvard Law School is talking about disruption in the legal market-it must be real!
It is never too early to think about your own succession plan. I work with many small firm owners at various stages of their careers. Many small firm owners wait until they are on the cusp of retirement to think about succession. One way to prepare for succession is to groom your people or recruit people to mentor and develop so one day they will be in a position to buy you out. I am a big fan of this approach as it’s a win for you in your firm will have a higher value; a win for whoever is buying you out as they will have the chance to build relationships with the clients and staff; and a win for the clients as they will have confidence in the lawyer already.
I’ve seen many retiring lawyers over-value their firm and eventually end up just walking away from it altogether because they didn’t plan well enough in advance. You see if you wait too long, you’re only really selling good-will, your client list. There is no guarantee that the firm clients will stay on with a new lawyer they have no relationship with. So either groom your people from within, or bring someone on about three years before you intend on retiring with the intention that they will buy you out. In two cases I know the seller of the firm and the buyer of the firm worked together for at least two years before the selling lawyer retired. This gave the buying lawyer time to build relationships with clients and staff.
I have two clients who are only half-way through the process of buying into a firm, and they are already thinking ahead to retirement. They are already thinking about succession planning. And this has affected their approach to recruitment. It’s never too early to think the end game.
If your firm is like the small firms I’ve worked with, you have a cohesive and happy team. If you follow the advice I’ve shared with you, it will only improve that culture of team and success; which is why you must be relentless when bringing on new talent.
First thing is you must ensure anyone coming on board will be open to business development. Moving forward that should be a part of the staff and lawyer profile you are looking for. This is one way you can ensure your firm will continue to grow.
Another thing to keep in mind is ‘fit’. One of my clients has his law clerks and associates do the initial interview. This gives them the opportunity to see if this person is someone that they would like to work with. After you’ve done such a good job creating a cohesive place to work, the last thing you want to do is upset the apple cart by bringing in a dud.
I can tell you one thing, if you have created a culture where people love to come to work, it won’t be as hard as you think to get more great people. There are a lot of unhappy and unengaged people in the legal industry that would jump at the chance to work for someone they respect, be a part of a team, be a part of growing your firm. And when you are selecting lawyers ask yourself if this is someone you think could become a partner one day? Which leads nicely into the next section.
Another important consideration in becoming more targeted is whether ‘to niche or not to niche’. I mean becoming highly specialized in a certain area. There are certainly pro’s and con’s to creating a niche practice. If you do carve out a niche practice area it will allow you to target your audience more effectively. In becoming an expert in your field you will fully understand the needs of your audience. That’s a plus. The downside sometimes to having a niche practice is your audience will be smaller. There won’t be as many potential clients for you. So if you are going to niche, you’d better do a very good job of building your profile and becoming known at the ‘go-to-lawyer’ in this field.
If you stay broad in your focus, the upside will be that you will have a larger pool of clients to draw from. But I see several downsides. First, it is virtually impossible to market yourself and your services effectively over several markets. You won’t have the time to be everywhere at once. Depending on your practice area, by staying broadly focused it’s harder to become known as the go-to for every area you are practicing in. Consider what you really enjoy and what you’re good at. If there are complementary practice areas that go hand-in-hand and you enjoy all of them, maybe it makes sense for you to stay broadly focused.
T= Targeted S= Strategic and T= Tactical This is what and how I teach lawyers to approach business development.
Targeted in that everything you do is in front of your ideal target audience whether that be potential clients or referrals sources. When you speak, you know your audience has the potential to either hire you or refer clients to you. When you write an article, you know the readers have the potential to hire you or refer clients to you.You are targeted because you did your homework to find out where to be in front of your target audience.
Your strategic approach comes from creating a plan for your practice and your marketing efforts. Your plan should include market analysis, competitive analysis, a SWOT analysis of your practice and your own skills, goals you wish to accomplish, and an audit of what you are currently doing to market yourself and your practice, what is working and what is not.
You are tactical in that every step or approach you take can create the outcomes you set in your plan in the goals section. And each and every step or approach is also practical and attainable.
Are you ready to be TST(TM)? Get targeted, strategic, and tactical, and get more clients.
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?