In addition to understanding the law, there are a number of critical elements to being a successful attorney. Here are Fretzin’s “10 Things Attorneys Should Know.”
- You must become a great lawyer, before becoming a great rainmaker. Without understanding the law and how it applies to the real world, it is nearly impossible to speak intelligently about your services. I have worked with hundreds of attorneys and they all agree that selling legal services requires knowledge and experience of the law.
- Developing your skills as a networker right out of law school can dramatically help you in advancing your career 2-3 years ahead of your peers. Building new relationships and leveraging existing contacts can unearth all types of opportunities. Make sure you have a solid elevator speech or a few sentences that describes what you do and how you help people. Also, be ready and willing to find ways to help the people you are meeting with. Networking is all about reciprocation, so try to think strategically about how and who you are helping.
- While social media is all-the-buzz, the only one you need to really think about is LinkedIn. The reason I say this is because LinkedIn has become the Google for business professionals. Instead of going to google to find and attorney, please just use LinkedIn. So be sure to have a complete profile with a picture. Also, it is incredibly easy to find good connections through LinkedIn if you know how to use it. If you are looking for introductions from your clients, connect with them on LinkedIn and see who they know. It’s just that easy!
- One of the biggest mistakes attorneys make in trying to grow a practice is by not having a plan for growth and success. This plan doesn’t have to be a 50 page MBA level plan. Just a 2-3 page plan that outlines how you will focus your time on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The key is to write a one sentence objective, followed by strategies and tactics. A strategy could be; Develop quality introductions from my existing clients. The tactics would then describe how, when and what you are going to do in order to accomplish those strategies.
- Talking about your goals with your peers is another way to push yourself into achieving them. If I commit to lose ten pounds and never tell anyone, it’s easy to back out of it. On the other hand, if I tell the people around me, I’m more likely to stick to the goal because of the possible embarrassment. It also can be helpful to partner up with someone for accountability. Find a partner at your firm or a lawyer at another firm and share your goals with one another. Speak or meet monthly to discuss progress and encourage one another. This works for losing weight and also works for building books of business.
- Hiring a coach or finding a mentor can change your life! Why do all the top athletes have private coaches? Aren’t they at the top of their game? The reality is that we can all learn from people more experienced than ourselves. I have personally hired 4 coaches over the past ten years and it has been the best investment I have ever made. Do your research and find a coach or mentor that you would really get along with. Discuss issues, needs and goals with him/her and then pull the trigger. Waiting has never improved anyone’s book of business.
- Finding a niche’ is another way to grow your book of business. Every lawyer knows who the top specialists are in different categories. How about the best generalists? Not so much. Find an area of law that you excel in and enjoy and start working more aggressively in that area. Speak to relevant groups and try to stay ahead of the curve relating to changes in the laws. For example, if you are in health care law and learn about the new medical marijuana laws right away, you might have an edge in getting an article published or speaking on the subject.
- Stop those awful “pitch meetings” that you keep having. No one wants to be sold to and no one likes a fast talking blowhard. Remember, prescription before diagnosis is malpractice. So focus on learning about the prospects needs and wants, before saying too much. Ask open ended questions and really try to listen. You’ll be amazed at how well the meeting goes. Plus, think about how good your presentation will be once you understand more about your prospective client.
- One of the keys to successful client acquisition is to look for the low hanging fruit. This means that you may have clients, strategic partners and friends all around you that could be referring business to you. Before you head off to the networking function across town, make a list of all your top contacts. Spend an hour calling them to set up coffee or lunch meetings. Then, be sure to ask for introductions. Some of my clients are amazed at how easy this was, once they actually did it.
- In addition to being a good attorney, it has never been more important than today to be a resource for your clients. The Godfather had a consigliore, so why not be a counselor for your clients. This means going beyond doing the “work.” To have client loyalty you must go way above and beyond this point. I recommend finding them business, being a source of new information and investing time to know them personally. Clients are six times more difficult to find than to keep one you have, so don’t do the bare minimum.
By thinking about and using these ten tips, you can dramatically improve your practice. These are 10 things that attorneys should know, so try to execute on one or two of these to get started. I know that even a slow crawl can eventually lead to fast sprint.