Originally published in The National Law Journal on August 19, 2013
The 80/20 rule certainly applies to rainmakers—20 percent of lawyers bring in 80 percent of the business at any given firm, and sometimes more. Why is it that some lawyers just can’t seem to make rain?
I’ve interviewed lawyers all over the United States and in Canada and Australia about what keeps them from bringing in business, and find that three factors get repeated over and over again.
- Time: Lawyers think they don’t have time to build their business. But the interesting thing about time is that everyone gets exactly the same number of hours per day. The 20 percent know that the only way to develop their business is by dedicating a set percentage of their time on a weekly basis to that end.
- Discipline: I frequently hear lawyers complain that they lack the discipline for business development. I find this interesting because lawyers, in general, have outstanding discipline. What many lacks, however, is focus. There is a saying in business: “What gets measured, gets managed.” As long as law firms focus on billable hours and new matters brought in the door, they emphasize the wrong things from a business development perspective. Revenue is the output, not the input. Until firms and lawyers find a way to measure the inputs (ranging from high-quality, long-term business development efforts including blogging and writing), lawyers will continue to struggle with discipline when it comes to business development.
- Lack of process: During a recent presentation about LinkedIn for lawyers, I used an image of Darth Vader with the caption, “I find your lack of process disturbing.” Lawyers have a process for everything, from managing litigation to closing complex deals. What they need to become rainmakers is a process for business development.
All rainmakers have this in common: Even if they don’t use the same process, they at least have one. You can start with something as simple as creating an Excel spreadsheet to record your list of top 20 contacts. Every month, designate one day to send a quick message to each of these contacts; each quarter, give them a call or set up a meeting over coffee. It doesn’t really matter what process you create, but find something that works for you and stick to it.
Sometimes lawyers ask me, “Should every single lawyer be using social media?” They are often surprised when I tell them the answer: Maybe, maybe not—it really depends on your practice. But every lawyer needs a business development process.
Create a schedule, and the discipline will follow. It’s about time you joined the 20 percent; they have exactly as much time as everyone else, but they make a lot more money.