Bodybuilders, bakers, builders and farmers all carefully measure what is needed to create the perfect end product: muscles, cakes, houses and crops.
Why don’t lawyers carefully measure and analyze the right activities needed to develop successful practices?
The irony is that lawyers are often too focused on the end game—the number of client files—rather than what’s really important—the activities that bring us to those client files. The number of customer cases we win is generally beyond our control, but we can monitor our progress in completing those cases.
Developing and tracking progress shows you if you’re on track to meet your goals. Therefore, it is imperative to determine what you need to measure and then measure it.
For example, it’s clear that talking to potential customers will logically lead to new work, so measure how many potential customers you connect each month. We know speaking and writing can build brand awareness and promote visibility with target audiences, so measure how many articles you write and how many talks you give each month. The firms’ lawyers often refer to each other, so measure how often you connect with these referring lawyers.
Essentially, this process is a three-part harmony. First, determine your goals. Then choose the right activities that will allow you to reach your goals. And finally, establish measures for these activities.
Let’s say you’re a junior partner practicing employment law and for most of your career you’ve worked exclusively for clients of the firm and haven’t spent much time engaging in business development or maintain your existing network of contacts. As a partner, you must now hunt for your own work.
To achieve your goals, you need to 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 with targeted audiences.
A first step towards achieving your goals is to make a list of all the people you currently know who have the potential to hire you, serve as a referral source, and market you to the masses by speaking, writing, etc This list could include current customers. , friends and family, industry contacts, company contacts and community relations.
Next is your wish list. Who would you like to know? Make a list of those people as well, then offer reasons why they would be interested in talking with you.
Maybe you’re writing an article or speaking at an event and asking for their input. Perhaps you have joined an industry group and would like to meet some of its members. You may be able to take on a leadership position in an organization and leverage that position to meet new people. Or you’re doing a podcast and looking for guests.
All of these activities, both with your existing and potential networks, have associated metrics. You can track things like the number of times you reach out to your current or new contacts, the number of speaking engagements you lead, the number of groups you join that are filled with your target audience, or the number of posts management in the right groups.
Be more disciplined
Let’s take another scenario. You may be a relatively busy mid-level partner and sporadically engage in business development. You’ve had some success, but you know you could crush it if you were more disciplined.
For your purpose, you might want to engage in business development more consistently because you know you often drop the ball when other things come up.
Activities that support your goal might include regularly marking time in your calendar to focus exclusively on business development. You can also find people to hold you accountable, for example, find a “business development buddy” at your company or elsewhere and schedule time to plan, make commitments, and be held accountable for your commitments.
To track your progress toward your goal, you will need to measure several activities.
This includes the percentage of time you are meeting your calendar commitments to engage in business development, the amount of time you spend on business development – for example, if you currently spend 3 hours per month, challenge yourself to do so 4 hours – and how often you meet with your manager.
These are just a few examples of how you can use a goals, activities, and metrics approach to create an extraordinary practice. Define your end game, reverse engineer what needs to be done to reach that end point, and measure your progress on your way to your goals.
Whether it’s building big muscles, baking delicious cakes, building gorgeous houses, growing bountiful crops, or creating huge practices, the rules are similar. Measure what matters and build systems to ensure you stick to your plans.
Most lawyers don’t think that way, so by applying these logical principles, you can consistently outperform your competition.
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.
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David H. Freeman is a lawyer and a business development coach and consultant in law firms. He has authored or co-authored 14 books on law firm leadership and business development. He is also the creator of Lawyer BookBuilder®, a self-paced online digital coaching program that shows lawyers how to become great rainmakers.