Month: November 2015

The Gravy of Gratitude

The Gravy of Gratitude

Wow, that was way too much food. Turkey, sweet potato casserole, and chocolate pie. My family and I were blessed to eat way more than we should have. But the kicker was my mother-in-law’s gravy. Her gravy just makes everything taste better than it would otherwise. The turkey, the mashed potatoes; even things that didn’t need gravy tasted better with it. It adds a flavor that just makes you want to eat more.

Many times we come into the law office to do our jobs and get paid. This is certainly true of some of your staff. They work their 8:30 to 5:30 (on a good day) counting on their paycheck and hoping to get everything done that is expected. But what I’ve noticed is that when I show my staff that I am grateful for them and what they do to benefit the company, their work improves. Their attitudes improve. Everything is a little better with gratitude. It’s the gravy of the workplace.

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Drop the Limiting Beliefs

Drop the Limiting Beliefs

One of the most oft used phrases in legal practice, as well as other fields, is “it can’t be done.” Clients come in wanting an immediate hearing. “It can’t be done.” Partners go to their staff and say complete this thing by the end of the day. “It can’t be done.” Usually, that’s the end of a discussion.

As attorneys, we are generally risk-averse. We fear losing. We don’t want to appear weak or hurt our reputations. After all, our reputation is what generates business. If we over promise but under-deliver, word will get out and the rainmaking will turn into drought.

But that’s just fear. Throw your limiting beliefs aside. As a law firm leader, you cannot afford to be risk-averse. You have to take chances. Innovate. Stretching is required to grow. If you are trying to move from associate to partner, you have to make tough leadership decisions. Don’t let your staff suffer from limiting beliefs. Trust them. Show them. Lead them.

Daily Habits for Law Firm Growth

Daily Habits for Law Firm Growth

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.

Why?

Why?

Students don’t go to law school to be leaders. They go to learn the law so they can pass the bar exam and get a job practicing law. But what happens when a lawyer reaches a position of leadership? An assistant prosecutor wins an election. An associate becomes a partner. Their legal skills have elevated them to a leadership role. But is that enough?

I have found that it isn’t. The skills necessary to lead a firm are much different than those of law practice. Lawyers are taught to be skeptical, risk averse, and critical. Leaders, on the other hand, are to be open, constructive, and risk-takers. So how are newly minted law firm leaders supposed to make the transition?

Most just flounder. After all, lawyers are a busy bunch. The billable requirements and rainmaking required to get them to partner doesn’t diminish with the new title. So leadership training is neglected, leading to toxic situations not only for their subordinates; but also for their associates.

It is my hope that this blog will be a resource for those who need some leadership guidance. I’ll be the first to admit that I am still in the growth process. As a named partner at a law firm who has practiced law for just over five years, the transition has been fast and full of mistakes. But with a steady diet of reading, tweets, and mentorships, the change in position has been made much easier. I hope that you will benefit from this. As we take this journey together, let me know what questions you have? What struggles are you facing? How have you overcome some of the lack of leadership training? I look forward to learning from you.DSC_0430