Lawyers Facing a Mountain May Want Help from a Sherpa

Here’s a simple query for you lawyers out there. Is it smart to climb a mountain, knowing that it will be difficult but worthwhile, or smarter and easier to just avoid it altogether? Before you answer, know that your destiny at the top of that mountain includes financial rewards, career control and flexibility, all contributing to your ultimate goal—happiness. To get there, though, you will experience long hours, sweat, tears and the constant managing of family and friends who support you but struggle to understand all that is required in order for you to reach the summit.

Now, c’mon, you didn’t honestly think there wouldn’t be a catch, did you? This is Steve talking to you!

The age-old quandary many attorneys face every day is: Do I keep my head down and bill hours or invest time and energy in growing my book of business? Some additional questions may include:

  • Is business development and marketing just a big waste of time?
  • Where do I even start?
  • I’ve been doing a lot of it but how do I get results this year?
  • How can I possibly balance the billable hour and business development?

Great questions, right? Now, how about some answers to help you make a strategic career decision. Ultimately, there are three ways to approach this “mountain” as I called it in my article’s title.

Option #1. Don’t do a G#% Damn thing! If you’re happy and content with the way things are AND you are 100% confident things at your firm will never change, you are good to go. Maybe taking care of your partners’ clients and doing great work will make you irreplaceable at your firm. That being said, if you’re reading this article, my guess is this isn’t the option for you. Most lawyers know that obtaining and retaining their own clients is the only real security they have as a practicing lawyer today.

Option #2. Be a student of growth. In the history of the world, it’s never been easier to find and leverage information on any subject you desire. Want to learn how to smoke meats, leverage LinkedIn or play the guitar? There are literally thousands of hours of video, audio and written content on just about every subject imaginable. You know this already but may not have taken advantage of the content available in the legal business development and marketing space yet.
Just to share, a few of the many solid podcasts I’d recommend include:

Additionally, there are so many great blogs, books and videos out there to help you learn what they never taught you in law school. My YouTube channel alone has over 300 videos that are highly valuable to lawyers interested in learning biz-dev and marketing skills. Additionally, my recent international bestselling book, “Legal Business Development Isn’t Rocket Science,” offers over 50 chapters of highly engaging content. This book covers topics from time management and social media best practices to building your personal brand and effective networking to drive results, plus much, much more. For many self-starter attorneys, leveraging the content that has already been created is the best way to go. This may be all you need if you have the discipline to execute upon what you are learning.

Option #3. Suck it up and hire a coach. While this might seem like a shameless plug for my services, I can assure you it’s not. When you think about the most successful people in the world, know that they have had a coach, mentor or advisor in their corner at some point in their lives. Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson, Hugh Jackman had Tony Robbins and Benjamin Graham even coached Warren Buffet, just to name a few. A question you might have at this point is, “What can a coach offer me that I can’t do myself and how do I get my investment out of it?” To answer this, here are three important factors to

1. Is the coach experienced in your space? While not every coach needs to be a specialist in your area, it’s beneficial when they are. The last thing you want is someone learning legal business development or marketing on your time. Ask around or go online to identify two to three of the strongest players in the legal space to help you cut through any possible missteps when engaging an outside coach, consultant or advisor. One additional thought is to review their LinkedIn or Google reviews to see what other lawyers are saying.

2. Work to identify your gaps. When meeting with a coach, consultant, etc., it’s critical that they ask–and you answer–questions to identify that your needs fit their deliverable. For example, if you’re looking to get all of your business from Google ads, I would not be the right coach for you. A good coach never sells, but rather walks you through the decision- making process to see if there’s a good fit between you. I always say, “I’m only as good as my player.” This means I can coach, but if you aren’t playing, we will be wasting our time together and your hard-earned money.

3. How do I get the best ROI (return on investment) from working with a coach? The biggest hurdle you’ll have in hiring a coach is the sticker shock. Like a good lawyer, we aren’t cheap (at least the good ones aren’t). I’m sure the last thing you want to do is invest time, money and energy with a coach and not get everything out of it. So, rule number one is DON’T hire a coach unless you’re ready to do the work. One way to understand the ROI is to speak with clients who have already worked with that particular coach. Ask them about their experiences and what type of ROI they received.

One more point here, there will rarely be a good time to start working with a coach. You may have massive litigation, a new baby at home, big travel plans or any combination of challenges that could curtail your desire to commit to doing business development with a coach. The simple solution is, don’t let life stop you from achieving your goals. If you know that building your book of business is the key to freedom and control in your career, then putting it off isn’t the right pathway. It’s like saying, “I’ll lose weight next year.” It’s simply not going to happen.

In reflecting on these three options, I hope that you think about it and make a decision that will help you in your career endeavors. Personally, I wouldn’t be successful without ongoing coaching in my life and in business. I truly believe that we can shortcut mistakes and win back time by listening to others who know more than we do in areas where we aren’t experts. This is why people hire attorneys, right? Maybe it’s time to take some of your own medicine and hire a Sherpa before climbing that mountain.

For resources to help you build your book of business or to contact me about coaching, please go to my website at or email me directly at [email protected].

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