This has been a tough year for many law firms and for many attorneys. Many law firms lost business earlier this year, while others have flourished. What you as an attorney, and your law firm, do in the second half of 2020 can make or break your year and set you up to weather any potential financial storm in 2021. Why does this matter from a financial planning perspective? Because your job – your career – is the source of the income that you need to live the life you want and to fund the goals that are important to you. A lot is at stake now, and how you manage your career moving through 2020 will have great impact on your financial future.
What is the number-one skill needed for navigating times like these and propel break-out growth?
It’s a growth mindset.
A growth mindset embraces the belief that growth is limitless. A fixed mindset is a limiting belief – a belief that there is only so much growth. Rather than play to win, attorneys with a fixed mindset play not to lose.
Managing Director, Debra Baker, recently spoke about ways attorneys can position themselves to end 2020 successfully and start 2021 on the right path. Baker and her firm help drive law firm growth in revenue and expand client relationships. She shared that now is a great time to reevaluate what you want out of your law career, and it’s a great time to reinvent yourself.
Moreover, having a growth mindset is essential for women and people of color because in times of economic crisis, these groups suffer most from the effects of a fixed mindset in law firms. So, it is especially important to embrace a growth mindset if you are an employee of a firm with a fixed mindset, or find yourself with this limiting belief.
The financial crisis of 2008 was brutal for attorneys and for law firms. And yet, some firms came out of that crisis stronger and better off financially. Baker saw some firms embrace a growth mindset during that crisis, which led to a stronger, more profitable firm. But many more firms and attorneys had a fixed mindset. They hunkered down to ride out the storm, rather than focus on opportunities for growth. When you have a fixed mindset, you believe that there is only so much growth, and when times are tough, you slash, burn, and contract. You take profits, cut employees, cut salaries, cut marketing and business development. This fixed mindset is focused on survival, but not on thriving. Just reading the headlines from the Layoff Report of Above the Law
makes it painfully clear how many law firms have a fixed mindset.
Fast forward to today, where we find ourselves in another economic crisis. The steps lawyers and law firms take now will make all the difference to their year, and their financial future. Rather than focusing on “just making it through” the storm, time of disruption is the perfect time to invest in yourself and your firm.
Baker shared with us the three steps of a growth process she walks through with the attorneys and law firms she advises:
- Take a growth assessment. Know where you are, what your risk factors are.
- Do a growth audit. What is your process for growth, for business development? What are your strengths? The playbook for business development has been thrown out, so now is a time to pivot.
- Prioritize what has to happen and when.
Once you have decided to choose a growth mindset, and have audited where you are, growth will come down to bringing in business. Law firms are all about generating revenue. Most firms have a small number of attorneys responsible for generating revenue (Baker calls them “Sellers”). These are the attorneys most valued by their firms, and most successful. Those attorneys who are junior or not responsible for bringing in business are called “Doers.” You may be a Doer because you can’t stomach sales. Countless conversations with attorneys over the past decade have made it clear to me that most attorneys aren’t fans of business development. It’s not why you pursued law. But, sales mean freedom. Having a valuable professional network and professional alliances that serves as a funnel for new business gives you freedom and more choices. It leads to greater compensation and control over your career and your ability to live the life you want.
How to become a “Seller” when you really don’t like sales? The most successful “Sellers” are those who are givers. They are generous with others, suspend self- interest, and have authentic relationships within their professional network. This is not pitching, not selling as most people might think. It is approaching business development as a way for you to help others. And, it can be done virtually, which allows you to continue to grow in our evolving pandemic.
There are three ways Baker suggests you “give” to those folks in your professional network:
- Make introductions. These could be personal or professional introductions.
- Invite folks in your network to events that are valuable to them. There are countless webinars now on myriad topics that you can share with your professional alliances.
- Share information or insights that your network would find valuable. This might be a legal update, job position, even something personal.
People are especially hungry for information now and sharing that with your network will keep you top of mind and help you create a deeper, more authentic relationship with them. This in turn leads to business opportunities.
We are halfway through 2020. It is a great time to take stock of where you are now in your business and where you’d like to be when this year wraps up. Embracing a growth mindset can help you end 2020 with a thriving practice and begin 2021 on the right financial path.
Bridget Grimes is a financial planner who helps female attorneys live the life they want by having a plan for the four financial derailers.