- Who & Why?
All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘lawyers’
When I graduated from law school in 1997, jobs were plenty. I was so very fortunate, as were all my classmates. Just about the only reason we had for not getting a job was if we failed the bar exam.
Looking back, I realize how blessed we were. I really didn’t have much anxiety around finding a job. If anything, my anxiety was more about whether I would find a job that I really wanted.
Fast forward 19 years. I have so much respect for recent law school graduates. They no longer have the luxury that we did when we graduated. Nothing is guaranteed once they graduate.
This may sound like a bad thing, however I see it differently. I think graduates these days are much more resourceful and scrappy. They are forced to figure out their brands and then market themselves in a way we never had to do.
This brings me to the dilemma I see so many law firms facing today. The majority of those who graduated law school a few years before me as well as those who graduated with me are mid-level partners in their firms. They are not the oldest in the partnership ranks yet.
As a result of when we graduated and our fantastic economic circumstances, many of these partners always had work- it was either always generated by more senior partners and given to them or it was easy for them to get work otherwise.
The problem I see is often, as a result, these partners are not able (or willing?) to generate their own business because they have always had business given to them. So their brand is practically non-existent and their marketing efforts, rusty at best. This may sound like a generalization and it is. This is based on my many years of experience working with law firms on branding. There are obviously exceptions everywhere.
Here are their top 3 Marketing Mistakes:
- They assume the business and work will always flow because it has always worked out for them in the past. Don’t get me wrong. I love optimism, however it has its limits. Because of this mentality these partners aren’t as open as they can be to seeing their branding and marketing needs differently. This hurts the entire firm.
- They don’t participate in marketing and branding work like others in the firm do. I see this regularly each time I go into a law firm to train the attorneys on branding and marketing. The room is filled with: a) 65 year old and above attorneys/partners and b) 27-35 year old attorneys/associates. They are all eager to learn because they know it matters. No where to be found are the mid-level partners ranging in age between 40 to 55 years old or so. This hurts the entire firm.
- They don’t choose to see marketing and business development activities creatively. I find when this level of partner does market their practice, it is in very traditional ways such as advertisements, taking a new firm website picture or speaking at a conference. Rarely do they stop and really focus on working on their own internal projection to possible clientele (i.e., their brand) nor how to collaborate with other attorneys. This hurts the entire firm.
The end result of all this is the following: one day within the next ten years, these very same lawyers are going to be the most senior attorneys at their firms as the older partners retire. As such, the older partner are no longer going to be around to feed them work. The younger lawyers will have already figured it out and have moved on without these partners. This hurts the entire firm because of the inequity of the situation.
What does this mean for you? If you are a mid-level lawyer and this description fits you, please consider:
- Choosing to see your marketing and branding efforts in a new light: What can you be doing differently to develop business?
- Working on yourself and your own brand instead of focusing on others.
- Hiring a consultant and/or coach to help you get up to speed. Most often in these situations, the timeline is accelerated and it will creep up on you before you know it.
Ever wonder how some people just have greater and better capacity for life than others? I’m not talking just in business, but in what seems all aspects of their life. Ever wonder why the entrepreuner can really wear all the hats of CEO and Chief Bathroom Cleaner, too?
In my time, I’ve learned that being flexible and open to new ideas is one of the most important attributes in my life. The only attribute higher for me personally is integrity.
Being an immigrant has always helped me be flexible, nimble and see the world of options before me. That’s just how we grew up. We moved to the US with two suitcases thinking we were just here on vacation. We never ended up leaving, which was fantastic. When I stop and think about how much my parents had to tolerate change and be flexible and creative, I’m astounded.
I lost some of my willingness to try new things and flexibility to adapt when I was knee deep into the practice of law. I’m not quiet sure what it was. Maybe it was because my days were very predictable and the law was founded in precedence. I really didn’t think anyone cared for me to be creative, flexible and take on new learnings beyond my substantive practice. Being a lawyer was hard enough, it seemed.
But somewhere deep inside me, I was yearning to learn new things, adapt and try on new roles and experiences in life that may have made me uncomfortable, but would have been fun and creative. I was used to discomfort and sitting in the unknown. In a way, I thrive on novelty and unchartered territory, but I also have compassion for how others may not share my views.
Fast forward all these years to now, where I run this personal branding company. What I ask of my clients all day long is for them to sit in discomfort, put on a creative hat and try to learn from new experiences and apply their lessons learned to new situations. In particular, I want them to apply their lessons to new situations that may not always be predictable and comfortable.
This is the hallmark of a dynamic and creative personal brand. People will always stand up and notice you and your brand if you are agile, fluid and creative. People welcome your self-confidence to try on something new.
In the workplace this notion is referred to as “learning agility”. In fact, The Korn Ferry Institute says learning agility is a leading predictor of talent and leadership success for people. Korn Ferry also finds that learning agility is rare, with only 15% of the workforce being highly learning agile.
John Delaney, Dean of the school of business at University of Pittsburgh, said it best in a Huffington Post article about this very subject. Professor Delaney said, “Learning agility is what happens when a lawyer is asked to maintain a robust social media presence or a financial professional is tapped to open a global office even with limited knowledge of the new country’s economy or culture, and yet they overcome their lack of experience and discomfort and find a way to simply make it work. Those who are learning agile know what to do when they don’t know what to do. They know the questions to ask, the people to work with to find the answers they need and they are comfortable being uncomfortable.”
So what does this mean for you? Stop and ask yourself:
– How willing and self-confident are you to take that next step at work even when you not sure what to do? How about in your personal life?
– How often do you find yourself in uncomfortable situations where you are willing to tough it out in order to find a solution?
– How creative do you allow yourself and your brand be in order to grow as a human and a leader?
As a former securities lawyer turned personal branding expert, I can tell you I get the pain of practicing law, juggling family and having to be seen and heard in an effort to market your practice. It’s not so easy being good at all things, all the time.
Over the years, here’s what I’ve discovered are the top three mistakes lawyers make in marketing themselves.
- We don’t think we need to market ourselves
This is a very common problem. Often we feel that because we are professionals and rely on our intelligence, we don’t feel we should have to “sell” ourselves. How tacky, right? The hidden problem is that we often don’t know how to, or are uncomfortable to, market ourselves.
Here’s how I distinguish the two concepts for lawyers. There is healthy self-promotion and then there is bragging.
Healthy self-promotion is always about the other person. How are you a stand for them being better?
Self-promotion is fine if it means you are explaining your uniqueness, raising awareness and thereby, explaining how you can help your target market. How else will you let people know what you do and how you can help them live a better life and run a better business?
Bragging is when you no longer care about helping others, but looking to gain praise and be better than others. Bragging is what makes us feel nauseous and uncomfortable when we are the victims of it.
If you have a strong personal branding strategy and self-promote with the intent of helping others, then you can never be accused of bragging or boasting because you have kind, compassionate intent behind your self-promotion strategy. In other words, you are working towards a cause bigger than yourself.
- We don’t spend enough money, or the right kind of money, on marketing
Oftentimes in law firms, we are given an annual marketing budget. We are also given free reign to spend it as we see fit. I often see lawyers taking their, say $5000, marketing budget and going to a conference with it. Sometimes it just so happens to be a conference with lots of golf involved.
Don’t get me wrong- I go to lots of conferences and I love playing golf. The two concepts work well together.
However, they only work well when they are part of a deliberate, marketing plan that is based on your well-developed personal brand. This means you know who you are, what your story is, how you will share your story and where your target audience is found. Maybe all this means that you go to a conference and play golf. Maybe it doesn’t.
- We give up too soon
So here’s the saddest part of it all. This is the part that should never have to happen. What do you suppose happens when the marketing budget is gone, and we find that the conference and golf did not net any new clients- year after year?
Or maybe you’ve seen situations where associates have spent eight years doing great billable, substantive work. They have not spent much time on business or personal development. Then one day it happens- they are made partner. Oh happy day! Right? Not always. Oftentimes, they end up sitting in front of me in tears (men or women). They are panicking because they don’t know how to bring in revenue and clients, as is often encouraged and/or required of new partners.
This is when many lawyers throw up their hands in the air and “give up”. They claim in exasperation that marketing themselves “just doesn’t work”. Or maybe they say that they will never be good at it because they are introverts.
I say that doesn’t have to be the case. Step back and spend time and effort on knowing yourself, your brand and what drives you to be a contribution as a lawyer.
To start, ask yourself:
a) Why did I become a lawyer?
b) At the end of the day what emotional value do I bring my clients?
c) What am I all about (hobbies, passions, and community service) as a PERSON, not as a lawyer?
I realize that time is a precious resource. However, this is one area you don’t want to short-change yourself by not giving it proper time. This is true whether you are an associate or a partner, solo or in a larger firm.
Until you can say that you have done so, then you won’t be able to say with any degree of certainty that your marketing efforts did not work.
In this world where we are all running around in a hurry trying to get who-knows-where, stop and think to yourself: what’s the best thing you have to give? If we look at what we know to be “for sure” in life, we’ll find that besides death and taxes, time is a sure thing.
What do I mean by this? We only have so much life to live. So how much are you giving to your life and where? Your time and where you choose to put it really are in your control. If you think otherwise, then you are getting sucked into the game of “there is never enough time”. You may be out of balance.
If you look at your career and aspirations, there are certain things that are very important for you. For instance, if you are a lawyer, then becoming a partner is valued because not everyone can achieve it, only the “elite”. If you are looking to get promoted within your company or get a new and better job, then that is valued because your new title/job signals something to others- that you’ve made it.
But what have you really “made” it to? Put another way, what are the costs of your success? Maybe your success costs you your relationships? Maybe your happiness and joy in life? Or maybe both? It really can be very lonely on the top. Is it just too painful to step back and observe? Is that why you read this and subconsciously think it is non-sense and “fluff”?
I believe all great personal brands (and thus successful people) have balance in their lives. Unfortunately, because of the stressors and demands of particular careers (i.e., lawyers and doctors), we are out of balance and oftentimes, not even aware of it.
Balance means that we stop and assess our lives. As Byron Katie said when I interviewed her, we stop and “sort out our lives” by sitting still. Then we can find that we want our time to mean something. If all we have is our time and how we give to others, allow yourself to do things that you love to do- things that nurture, enrich and balance you. For instance, doing community service that actually and truly enriches the community nurtures and enriches you, too.
If you stay out of balance long enough no one wants to be around you, much less hire you. That’s the sign of a failing personal brand. Eventually anything out of balance succumbs to natural forces and tips over. Don’t let that be you. Find your balance and center. Now, that’s a great brand.
TELL US WHAT YOU DO TO STAY IN BALANCE.
A common conversation I have with attorneys revolves around the almighty billable hour. Depending on how long they have been in practice and where they are in their career, they are either wondering how to monitor the hours (i.e., hire/fire others who don’t meet them) or trying to figure out how to meet their own hours.
One thing applies to all of them across the board when it comes to billable hours- they are all stressed out. Many are to the point of obsession about their billable requirements. This obsession leads to all sorts of nasty things- like paralysis, I dare say. According to my research, there is a direct inverse correlation between your self confidence and stress. The higher your stress, the lower your self-confidence and thus, the poorer your personal brand for others.
So what, you say? What does this have to do with my billable requirement?
Well, I believe that the pressure to bill X number of hours leads to higher stress and less productivity. In other words, lawyers produce worse and less. The other detriment of this is of course that lawyers are angry, anxious and perhaps at the point of desperation where they’ll compromise their integrity to bill enough….all leading to a bad public brand perception of our industry.
What if there was a peaceful, productive atmosphere and less angst around the almighty billable? I’m not disillusioned when I suggest this- I’ve been there, done that. It didn’t work then, it hasn’t worked for others since. And it is only getting worse.
If you are “in charge” and reading this consider creating a work atmosphere that is less tense and focused on the billable hour. Try something new and be daring. It can’t fail.
If you are reading this and you are identifying with my message because you “must bill”, then what about trying something new. What if you work it the other way: set your PERSONAL weekly billable goal lower and exceed it. Watch the stress go down and your productivity and happiness go up. Also, consider what’s the worst that can happen if you don’t bill “enough”? If the answer isn’t “death” then I think you know what to do.