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What Makes A Great Lawyer Makes A Great Business Developer
It is a characteristic that is fundamental to success as a lawyer. If you do not have a thirst for knowledge and a burning need to understand the context of things you will never be driven to get to the root of your clients’ problems and will only ever be of limited, if any, real assistance to them.
That same sense of curiosity drives successful business developers. It drives you to:
- Ask more questions than give answers;
- Use the word “you” more than the word “I” when you are talking to people;
- Drive down deeper when people say things that hint at an issue they are struggling with; and
- Experiment and try different methods of communication and different tools to see what works and what doesn’t work for you, etc.
Great lawyers do not just sit back and wait for things to happen on their files; they make them happen. They initiate on whatever they need to in order to drive the file forward to the best result they can achieve for their clients.
Lawyers who initiate with the same enthusiasm when it comes to the growth and development of their business are invariably successful business developers. Initiating conversations with people that you meet; reaching out to press, conference organizers, periodical publishers, industry organizations etc. to offer them content for their audiences; walking into the office of the partner at your firm that does work you find fascinating and offering to help them – great business developers make a habit of doing all of these things and more.
Great lawyers fail. The more they fail and the earlier they are in practice when they start to fail, the better lawyers they become. Assuming, that is, that they stand up again after failing and fail better the next time. And that latter part is the part that demonstrates the resilience that they need to become and to remain great lawyers.
If you are paralysed by either the fear of failing, or by failure itself, you will never be a great lawyer. Similarly, you will never be a great business developer because the majority of things you will do in aid of building your practice will fail in one way or another. You will be ignored, be rejected, be criticized, say something wrong, be embarassed, be misquoted or taken out of context and even if you do something right you won’t be able to measure the effect of that success because it is unlikely that you will be able to track any one thing you do directly to a file coming in. From time to time you will enjoy a direct connection between an action and a new file, but it will be very infrequent. Successful business developers keep swinging the bat knowing that they get better at it with each failure and that the cumulative effect of their entire experience is what will keep making them better. They are resilient.
Great lawyers are decisive; even when they don’t have 100% of the information they would like to have before making a decision. Their decisiveness gives them an air of authority and it makes clients feel confident in them and trust them. Sometimes they make the wrong decision and have to make another one; sometimes their decisions turn out results that they didn’t foresee and aren’t great; in short sometime they fail – see above. But it doesn’t stop them from being decisive because they know that as a general rule they will make a good decision at least 80% of the time, and that even when they make a wrong decision, the result will be better than it will be if they make no decision at all. It is easier to turn a ship that is moving in the wrong direction than it is to turn one that is dead in the water.
The same goes for business development. Those lawyers who make decisions, do something, even the wrong thing, and keep moving, even if it is sometimes in the wrong direction, will be great business developers because they will eventually make the decisions that right themselves and doing something will always be better than doing nothing.