How to make sure you never run out of work

Jun 27th, 2018 | Uncategorized

Lawyers involved in large transactions or preparing for complex trials often tell me they have no time for personal business development, that they cannot spare an hour for a lunch with a referral source or to attend a community, trade or bar meeting they would otherwise.

That’s a mistake, one captured recently in popular media and a book the Wall Street Journal has named the best business book ever, the E-Myth.

These same lawyers often call me in near panic after the case unexpectedly settles, the trial ends, or the deal gets delayed or closes.  “I’ve got (little or) nothing to do. What should I do now?” they ask.

One of the top takeaways from the E-Myth, first released 25 years ago, is that you must work on your business, taking responsibility as an owner, and not just in your business, acting as an employee. Setting aside business development is acting like an employee and not an owner.

The danger of cowboy thinking…

Kevin Costner, in his role as the patriarch of a Montana ranching family in the series Yellowstone, chided his 38-year-old son in the opening episode about this mistake in managing their cattle business.  Frustrated, he pointed out the difference between a “cowboy” who is “working” the ranch, as his son does while failing to see how to cull the herd to maximize profits, and a “cattleman” who does.  The latter is “running” the ranch, Costner says.

A recent article in Inc. reveals this issue of ‘on’ versus ‘in’ is widespread:   “Owners tend to do sales and marketing when business is slow, and then stop as soon as business picks up, thus cutting off the pipeline that created the business in the first place and setting things up for another slow cycle.  Instead, you should always be working on sales and marketing, even when business is good.”

In their article on how to keep customers, Inc. goes on to say monthly contact is key to maintaining top-of-mind awareness.  Avoid a sales pitch, Inc. advises.  Instead, “Give them something of value, preferably by email.”

This is why we include legal e-alerts and regular e-newsletters about topics affecting your clients, prospects and referral sources in every law firm marketing plan we write.  And, we look for this in every best practices review we conduct for a law firm, no matter its size or practice mix.

That’s great long term advice, but what can you do NOW if you have little or no work?

I answered that question for lawyers at a regional meeting of a law firm network a few weeks ago.  Look at the last three to five files you opened that you liked and which were profitable.  Where did those cases come from?  Reach out to those who sent you that work, and reconnect.  Keep looking at the sources of past matters until your plate is full.

And, never again suspend working on your business, never again adopt an employee mindset, and never again allow yourself to become a cowboy on your own ranch.

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