Seven secrets to thrive during the recession
While it may seem as if every law firm is struggling and reducing staff, many firms remain stable and some are even excelling—we just don’t hear about them in the news. How are they accomplishing their success? Julie A. Fleming, founder of Life at the Bar LLC, answered the question during a recent CLE program, “Seven Secrets Every Lawyer Must Know to Thrive, Even in a Recession.”
The first of the seven secrets is: Don’t get sucked into the news. It is important to stay informed, but if you focus on the negative news of layoffs, it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rather than pay attention to things over which you have no control, spend time adapting your expertise and services to the changing economy.
This brings us to secret number two: Be ruthless with your time. This means being effective in what you do and making sure that what you are doing is moving you toward your set goals and objectives. Be sure to pay attention to tasks that are both important and urgent. Setting goals and working on a professional development plan may never be “urgent” but they are important. Make time for them.
Secret three is to develop good listening skills. Clients often feel that when lawyers listen, it’s as if they are skimming a book, only paying attention to the highlights. The best business developers focus on what their audience is saying, paying attention to tone, speed of delivery, word choice and non-verbal communication cues.
Secret four is to actively network. You want to position yourself strategically for success by meeting others who can help you. Ask yourself: Who do I want to meet in order to reach my goals? What steps can I take once I meet those people? When introducing yourself, make sure you highlight something that differentiates you and your practice.
Secret five is to innovate. Figure out how you can creatively improve your firm’s structure and services. For example, offer a flat rate on some services, take time to educate clients on the risks involved in this type of economy, or be willing to negotiate an unusual fee structure to help a struggling client. Innovation requires listening to the needs and concerns of your best clients.
The next secret: Understand your clients. Lawyers don’t always fully grasp how the specific issue on which they are representing a client fits into the bigger picture of their client’s business. Take time off the billable hour to learn from your clients. What are their top concerns, realizations and projections in the current economy?
It’s also important to invest in ongoing education opportunities such as CLEs and skills training. Although you may be reluctant to spend the money, now is the most important time to give your staff opportunities to develop additional and unique skills to gain a competitive edge.
Finally, the last secret to remember is: Get connected to people in similar professional situations. Join a rainmaker team that will help create healthy competition and ensure you meet your networking and business development goals. If you want to start your own group from scratch, it is recommended that you not exceed 10 lawyers to keep the group manageable.
Following these “secret” steps may take a lot of time, effort and follow-through, but in the end, the results make the hard work worthwhile.