Perhaps you are one of those brave (and arguably insane) souls who enjoys climbing up the sides of skyscrapers Spiderman-style and then jumping off with a parachute only to hit the ground running so you can elude the police. If so, this article might not be for you. Assuming you are like the rest of us mere mortals, however, you are probably not out there looking for the fastest way to get admitted to the emergency room.
Research shows that most people are pretty risk-averse, and many lawyers fit squarely into that category. A study conducted by Lawyer Metrics gathered data from 300 partners at law firms primarily in the AmLaw 200 to try to identify behavioral differences between rainmakers and service partners. They found that the biggest difference was in the category of risk taking. According to the Lawyer Metrics researchers “[t]o a far greater degree than their counterparts, rainmakers expressed a preference for challenging established practices and a willingness to bend the rules to achieve higher performance.” In other words, you need to put yourself out there to bring in business and reap all the benefits being a rainmaker has to offer. The challenge for many lawyers is that “putting yourself out there” sometimes involves being uncomfortable or afraid or, even worse, could result in pain, rejection or failure.
Human beings were designed, in part, to be very good at self-preservation. Doing what’s comfortable may not be exciting, but it’s safe. You know what you are getting yourself into, and you’re not likely to get hurt. The inborn human instinct to protect yourself is vitally important when you are being chased through the jungle by a saber-toothed tiger or you hear that a tornado or tsunami is heading in your direction. That well-known fight or flight response, however, was not designed to make you afraid to draft your first employment agreement (Stop! You might do a bad job!), prevent you from calling a networking contact to have lunch (No! She might not be looking for a lawyer right now!) or convince you that you should not give that seminar to a roomful of business executives (Don’t! What makes you think anyone cares about what you have to say?). When your instincts for self-protection are used to hold you back from achieving success, you are unwittingly sabotaging yourself.
If you intend to attract clients to your firm, get used to being a little uncomfortable with your business development efforts because if you are not, you are likely not making much progress in that area. Set a foot (a toe?) outside of your comfort zone with the purpose of demonstrating to yourself that a little change is not dangerous and some rejection isn’t the end of the world – instead, you will likely learn that you are more “brave” and capable of business development than you ever thought possible.
A little discomfort is a good sign. It means you are trying new things and charting a new path for yourself. As the old saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result. What are your results telling you?
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