As an associate, your main function has been to bill enough money to justify your salary and to gain enough experience so as not to commit malpractice. But as a partner, you not only continue those functions but add another: law firm development. So what steps can you as a partner to see sustaining law firm growth?
John Maxwell, leadership guru and author, teaches that we overestimate what we can do in one day and underestimate what we can do over several days. In other words, greatness is achieved in our daily habits. To illustrate this principle, he states that personal growth is like chopping a tree with an axe. If you swing an axe five times a day every day, eventually, the tree will fall.
He calls this principle the Rule of Five. As an author, his Rule of Five states that he must do the following five things every day: read, think, file, ask questions, and write. Christmas. His birthday. When he’s sick. When he doesn’t feel like it. Every day he does these five things. As a result, he’s written over 73 books on leadership.
I took a stab at a Rule of Five for Law Firm Growth. Obviously, this is a work in progress. These may not be the Five that we need, and I am open for suggestions. But these are the Five I have practiced over the last year and have seen a significant increase in my law firm business.
1. Every day I read the law.
Surprise. Lawyers need to know the law. Shocker. But you would actually be surprised by how many lawyers come to court unprepared. Sometimes it is intentional, but most of the time it was lack of preparation. We have a duty as professionals to stay up to date on legal precedents and codes. You wouldn’t want a doctor to operate on you that hasn’t prepared. Your clients don’t want an unprepared lawyer either.
2. Every day I network.
This is actually the hardest one for me. The practice of law is so busy. Running from court to court then to the office for appointments, it seems that there is never time to network. But this is crucial to grow your firm. People refer business to lawyers they know and trust. Take an hour a month and meet with a legal mentor. Send a congratulatory note to someone who was promoted. Just do something every day to put your name out there.
3. Every day I team build.
As a partner, you are a leader in your firm. If your employees are dissatisfied with their work conditions, you can be certain it will be evident to your clients. Build into your employees. Take them out to lunch. Make sure you are sending them to development training. Have family get togethers. Your clients will have a better experience if your staff is happy.
4. Every day I collect money.
Set a goal here. It’s not enough to bill. If the money never comes in, a bill is meaningless. I have a set amount of money I expect to bring in every day, whether by collecting on billings or through flat retainer fees. I have found that since setting the goal, I have always reached it. When I didn’t set a goal, the amount floundered.
5. Every day I communicate.
Whether you are a transactional lawyer or a litigator, you have to be able to communicate. I have a personal rule that I must try at least one case every week. Most cases settle but I find it pretty easy to find at least one person who wants to have their case tried. If you are not a litigator, take a public speaking course. If you are able to communicate, the sky is the limit for you.
So what are your thoughts on my Rule of Five for Law Firm Growth? Are there any that you would change? Any that you would replace and, if so, with what? I look forward to learning from those who are willing to share.