At some point during our lifetime the path to a successful career morphed into a maze of complex twists and turns and only those with GPS or a helium balloon on a long string had a fighting chance of succeeding or being rescued.
In our effort to keep up and use available technologies, position ourselves among many competitors for new work, stay abreast of changes in law, provide current clients with due care and advice we’re at risk of forgetting the very basics. Whether you’re an associate, partner, managing partner or you hold another leadership position within the firm, it’s good to review business essentials every now and then. Some of them you probably already know, and some you may be doing — but forgetting why.
What would you tell your younger self about practicing law, working with others and creating a successful practice?
The first of a five-part series, the following 10 tips are the tenets of business that will consistently serve us well. They will help ground us, connect us with others and help to pull us around the corner to recovery from the global downturn.
Here are your first 10 tips:
1. You are running a business.
You are a service-provider and clients should always get great service from anyone who answers the phone, sends a package, e-mails an opinion, or duplicates documents. Every member of your firm should be trained to service the client and it’s imperative the firm’s leaders and partners embody this attitude as an example to all.
2. Everyone’s a prospective client.
Treat everyone as if they are about to refer you new work. Anyone who is connected to the firm in any way will form an opinion of you that they will share when asked. This includes opposing counsel, the photocopy repair-person, the caterer, candidates interviewing for a position and anyone you hand a business card to.
3. Empower your team.
Every member of your firm can make an important contribution to the firm and its clients. Ensure each person understands their role and give them the authority to fulfill their responsibility, plus a little bit more.
4. Communicate with care.
Take time to understand how your messages are received, regardless of whether the recipient is a client, colleague or staff member. Consider your tone of voice, body language or choice of words and whether they will be received in the manner in which you intend.
5. Always row together.
You’re all in this together, only to differing degrees. Some are partners, some are not, but you’re all working for the firm’s clients in one capacity or another. Coordinate your efforts so you’re headed in the same direction. For instance, if you’re a small firm providing personal legal services, train everyone to note and celebrate clients’ personal milestones – a graduation, a birth, a house move, etc.
6. Get good people.
Elevate yourself with the company you keep. Hire the best and brightest you can and position them in the best spots in your firm. Tap into their strengths and let them shine. Provide for ongoing professional development, rewards and recognition.
7. Relationships matter – inside and out.
Build strong relationships with everyone inside and outside your firm. Do this by returning e-mails, phone calls and other enquiries promptly. Ask your assistant to help you during your busiest times, but do acknowledge those who have taken their time to reach out to you. This demonstrates your respect of others and will reflect well on you and your firm.
8. Be kind.
People might forget what you said or did, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. Listen carefully, be sensitive and understand what others might need from you.
9. Never stand still.
Whether you’re in an internal meeting or speaking with a client or prospect, ask “Shall we go ahead, then?”, or “What’s our next step?” Keep your practice and your firm moving forward by making advancements. Even a small step counts.
10. Sneak up.
Keep your assistant on side and recognize loyalty and good work. Surprise your assistant with a weekly latte, the occasional gift ‘just because’ or a thank you card with a handwritten note of why you value their contribution. Extend this approach to anyone who helps your clients, makes you look good or makes your job easier. You will be rewarded many times over for these small gestures.