Lawyers looking to build a thriving practice should focus on key measures that will get them to their end game, explains attorney, author, and consultant David Freeman. He provides some critical pointers for building a successful practice from the ground up.
Bodybuilders, bakers, builders, and farmers all carefully measure what is needed to create the perfect final product—muscles, cakes, homes, and crops.
Why don’t lawyers carefully measure and analyze the right activities needed to build thriving practices?
The irony is that lawyers are often too focused on the end game—the number of client matters—rather than what is really important—the activities that get us to those client matters. The number of client matters we land is generally out of our control, but we can control our progress toward achieving those matters.
Developing and monitoring progress shows you if you are on track to accomplish your goals. Therefore, it is imperative to determine what you should measure, and then measure it.
For example, it’s clear that talking to potential clients will logically lead to new work, so measure how many potential clients you are connecting with every month. We know speaking and writing can build brand awareness and promote visibility in target audiences, so measure how many articles you are writing and the number of talks you’re giving each month. Lawyers in firms often refer work to each other, so measure how many times you’re connecting with those referring lawyers.
In essence, this process is a three-part harmony. First, determine your goals. Next, choose the right activities that will get you to your goals. And finally, establish measures for those activities.
Let’s say you’re a junior partner who practices employment law and for most of your career, you worked exclusively on firm clients and did not spend much time engaging in business development or nurturing your existing network of contacts. As a partner, you now must hunt for your own work.
For your goals, you must increase the size of your network of people who have the power to hire you, serve as referral sources, and who can amplify your brand to targeted audiences.
A first step toward achieving your goals is develop a list of everyone you currently know who has the potential to hire you, to serve as a referral source, and to get you mass exposure through speaking, writing, etc. This list could include current clients, friends and family, industry contacts, firm contacts, and community connections.
Next comes your wish list. Who would you like to know? Make a list of those people as well, and then come up with reasons why they would be interested in speaking with you.
Perhaps you’re writing an article or will be speaking at an event and you seek their input. Maybe you have joined an industry group and want to meet some of the members. Perhaps you can take a leadership position in an organization and leverage that position to meet new people. Or you’re doing a podcast and you’re looking for guests.
All these activities, both with your existing and potential networks, have associated measures. You can track things like the number of times you reach out to your current or new contacts, the number of speaking engagements you conduct, the number of groups you join that are filled with your target audience, or the number of leadership positions in the right groups.
Be More Disciplined
Let’s take another scenario. Perhaps you’re a mid-level partner who is relatively busy and you sporadically engage in business development. You’ve had some success, but you know you could crush it if you were more disciplined.
For your goal, you might want to engage in business development more consistently, because you know you often drop the ball when other things pop up.
Activities that support your goal could include putting regular time on your calendar to focus exclusively on business development. You could also find people to hold you accountable—e.g., find a “business development buddy” in your firm or elsewhere and schedule time to plan, make commitments, and be held accountable for your commitments.
To track your progress toward achieving your goal, you will need to measure several activities.
This includes the percentage of time you stick with your calendared commitments to engage in business development, the time you put into business development—for example, if you currently put in 3 hours a month, challenge yourself to make it 4 hours—and how often you meet with your accountability person.
These are just a few examples of how you can use a goals, activities, and measures approach to build an extraordinary practice. Define your end game, reverse- engineer what needs to be done to get to that end point, and measure your progress on your way toward your goals.
Whether it’s building big muscles, baking delicious cakes, constructing gorgeous homes, growing plentiful crops, or creating huge practices, the rules are similar. Measure what matters and build systems to guarantee you will stick to your plans.
Most lawyers don’t think this way, so by applying these logical principles, you can consistently outperform your competitors.
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First Publish at Bloomberg Law | October 2022