Are you a good lawyer? You probably are! You pride yourself on doing good work. You are diligent, careful, a skilled advocate and a caring adviser, all at the same time. You’re great at closing the deal, winning the case or getting the best possible settlement or outcome for your clients. In a profession in which ethics and service to clients are a top priority, quality is key. Your clients expect it and the profession demands it. But if you are a lawyer in private practice, that can’t be your ONLY job.
For Rainmaking Success, Change Your Job Description
When you are a private practice attorney, being a good lawyer is not enough to ensure your success. If it were, clients would find you and hire you solely on the basis of your reputation in the community. You’d be so busy that clients would be begging you to represent them, you would be turning away work and your financial future would be assured. Unfortunately, for most lawyers, that’s not the reality. Clients won’t bang down your door simply as a result of you sitting in your office doing good work.
The Rainmaking Principle that every lawyer needs to hear is this: You are not just a lawyer. In other words, you’re not just a service provider, however highly educated, delivering technical expertise. You are ALSO in the business of marketing your legal services
Ugh! Did you read that and shudder? Or feel a little sick to your stomach? You’re not the only one.
Many lawyers have been led to believe that practicing law is a bit like being a member of an exclusive country club populated by highly intelligent, refined, educated people and that marketing and selling are beneath them, in the domain of – haughty sniff – salespeople (clearly a dirty word). We were taught, even if not explicitly, that marketing and sales are unprofessional, unseemly and suited only to the proverbial ambulance chaser.
Like it or not, a law practice is a business. If you don’t bring in clients, you don’t bring in money. And without money, you can’t pay the bills, hire the best staff and live life outside the office the way you want. As a result, your stress increases and your job satisfaction and power to make choices decreases. That country club vision is not reality. No matter what anyone has told you and what anyone has led you to believe, you are in a business and you are in business to make money.
I frequently get calls from lawyers who are skillful practitioners, love the work they do and sincerely enjoy standing in the service of their clients. The primary reason they are calling me for guidance, though, is that they are not earning the financial remuneration they want and deserve.
For Rainmaking Success, Forget What You Were Taught
The idea that you must market and sell yourself as a lawyer is a powerful concept and one that many lawyers don’t want to accept. It may help to know that the stereotype of the pushy salesperson is outdated and that you can learn to market your legal services in a way that is tasteful, palatable, service-centered and aligns with your goals, personality and values.
But even lawyers who are willing to acknowledge that marketing and selling can be valuable often don’t consider it to be a central or essential part of their job description. They allow the seemingly urgent tasks on their desk to distract them from doing the important work of bringing in clients
The illusion that doing good work is enough to bring you all the clients you could ever want is a remnant of a time gone by when the economy was simpler and the market for legal services was not so competitive. Depending upon your age, you may remember an Oldsmobile ad from a number of years ago aimed at younger drivers. At the conclusion of the TV ad showing a newly designed automobile taking curves on a winding road at top speed, a disembodied voice intoned “[T]his is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” With apologies to General Motors (who produced the Oldsmobile until it was phased out in 2004), this is not your parents’ legal market. Partly because of an overabundance of lawyers out there, you must shift your perspective to successfully develop business.
If you’re still not convinced, consider this a dose of tough love (with an emphasis on the love!) because I’m going to say it again. You are in the business of marketing your legal services. No matter how good a lawyer you are, no matter how diligent, how earnest, how caring, how committed to meeting the needs of your clients, in today’s world, good work is simply the minimum that is required to be a lawyer. That is the price of admission, but not enough to fill your practice. The market for legal services has changed and to get what you want and deserve you need to change with it.