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Vancouver team heads to Mundiavocat

May 30, 2012

To thrive in legal practice it helps to have a regular exercise routine. And it doesn’t have to be a boring trip to the gym three times a week. There are many great ways to maintain and boost your energy.  One recent example is Mundiavocat, an international soccer tournament that brings together over 1,500 lawyers and more than 70 football teams from the Bars of five continents. The tournament takes place every two years.  This year the players are meeting in Croatia from June 1 to June 10.

Don’t think this is some amateur tournament.  These players take it seriously and train rigorously. Have a listen to Vancouver team captain Kinji Bouchier from Lawson Lundell speaking with CBC’s Rick Cluff on the early edition this morning.  Go team Vancouver!

Posted in: Goals & Planning, Leadership | Permalink | No Comments →

The personality attributes of top rainmakers

February 6, 2012

What does it take to be a great business developer? What does it take to attract clients? In law firms I find there is often this image floating around of the rainmaker as a smooth talking, assertive and maybe even aggressive promoter. In my personal experience the great rainmakers are quite different from this. As I write this post I have one rainmaker in mind. He is the consummate professional. He is a quiet, soft spoken man of a few words. He has a sharp business mind that his clients appreciate. Although mentorship may not be his favorite thing he has become very good at it, and he delegates a great deal of work to his team, not because he enjoys supervising but because it is good for the lawyers under him and opens up room in his practice for more work to flow in.

To all you lawyers reading this post let me tell you, you just might have what it takes to be a good if not excellent rainmaker. Last year a Harvard Business Review’s blog by Steve W. Martin listed the top characteristics of the best salespeople and they read like a description of the many lawyers I have the pleasure of working with:

Modesty: Top sales people score medium to high for modesty and humility and are team players. I have worked with so many lawyers who have told me they didn’t go to law school to become a salesperson, and that they hate promoting themselves. Well here is the surprising news – that sentiment is shared by some of the best sales people out there.

Conscientiousness: Top sales people are highly conscientious about their work and are strongly motivated by duty and responsibility. Again, doesn’t this sound like most of the lawyers you know?

Achievement Orientation: Top sales people are very goal oriented and track their performance against their goals. The legal profession is full of modest and conscientious professionals but far fewer are achievement oriented. I have seen how the drive for accuracy and perfection, coupled with an aversion to risk can override the focus on achieving outcomes. The good news is that by developing a process for goal setting and progress tracking in your legal practice you acquire the benefits of this ‘achievement orientation”.

Reader take note: I point out these traits because it is helpful to remember that the myth of the rainmaker often obscures the reality about what it takes to be a trusted professional and have the capacity to bring in business for yourself and your colleagues. In many cases I find that simply working to develop new habits such as setting goals and tracking performance can get you from mediocre performance to good in a short period of time. The key is that the values of hard work, discipline, humility and duty are assets as much for business development as they are for your legal practice.

Posted in: Business Development, Leadership | Permalink | No Comments →

What to do when faced with a boring client

July 26, 2010

Here’s a question I get all the time when I am running business development training courses:

“What do I do when the person I am speaking to is boring?” 

In essence, business development for lawyers is all about building trusting relationships. The quickest and most sure-fire way to build trust is to spend more time listening than speaking. To be a good listener you need to be a good questioner and learn to ask about things that get people interested and speaking about subjects that matter to them. 

Or, as Mark Hunter commented in his Slaw column last week: “ever notice that people do business with people they like?” Being a good listener is the fast track to being likeable. 

So what happens when you can’t listen? What do you do if you find your client or important contact boring?

Faking interest never works.  And just imagine being on the receiving end with someone looking at you with boredom. The natural reaction is to feel insulted and to then judge the person to be arrogant, aloof and yes, unlikeable.  

The answer:  It’s up to you to find what is interesting about the person. Push aside your judgemental inner voice and place your focus firmly on the other person. Everyone is interesting, your job is to uncover this.  Use questions to get the person speaking about things that are important to him/her.  Follow your curiosity. The goal here is to listen and discover, not to prove how interesting you are.  Some sample questions that can open up a conversation are:

  • How did you get into being a …. ?
  • What are you looking forward to this weekend?
  • I’m curious, what made you decide to… (go to that school, travel to Palm Springs, etc.)

Another approach is to ask for advice when the opportunity arises. The majority of people enjoy teaching. 

Take me for example. I don’t golf. I have never held a golf club. What do I do when faced with an avid golfer?  Instead of getting bored and shifting the subject, I dig into it. I confess my general ignorance and then ask to be enlightened.  What are the best golf courses in town? Has it been good for business development? What’s the best age to start kids in the sport? What have been the best golf courses they have ever played on? What I discovered is that while I am not interested in the sport  I am interested in what people like about it and get out of it. 

The bottom line: it’s up to you to turn it around. It is in your power to turn boring into interesting. 

When you show you are interested and really listen to the person you will distinguish yourself from the majority of people who do not.  The end result is that the person will then likely become interested in you and it will be your turn to tell your story.

My favorite resource on all things to do with listening is Just Listen by Dr. Mark Goulston.   He reminds us all that we are responsible for our own degree of interest with this quote: 

“Boredom is what happens when I fail to make someone interesting.”  Warren Bennis, Founding Chariman, USC Leadership Institute

Posted in: Business Development, Client Relations, Leadership, Networking | Permalink | No Comments →

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