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Early in my legal career I saw how vital it is to a firm’s success to have business development strategies in place.
Here’s my story:
I never intended to become a lawyer. My father (a lawyer himself) actually wanted me to become a nuclear physicist.
In retrospect, the only other career I think I seriously entertained was becoming a teacher. I love helping people see the big picture and live for the moment when everything clicks and people start to “get it.”
It’s interesting to see the connection between the concept of teaching as a career and how I now teach clients how to master business development.
I’ll admit that from an early age I was drawn to the world of law. When I was in middle school, my father dragged me to his American Bar Association meetings. At first I hated it. Then one day I “got it.” It was a vivid realization that the law was a way to make a difference in a quickly changing world.
I went to law school right out of college and graduated at 24. In my first job, clerking for a federal district judge, I was exposed to the breadth of practice: criminal law, contracts cases, intellectual property, employment law and more.
That helped me to get a good grounding of the way the law worked and to find where I could be of most service within it.
At the end of my clerkship, I returned to college to get an undergrad science degree so that I could sit for the patent bar. My plan was to practice patent litigation, which combined my interest in high tech/biotech issues and litigation.
While completing my degree, I worked for a solo patent lawyer in Atlanta. He brought me on specifically to help with a big trial, and the project was quickly coming to a close. He wanted me to found and lead his “litigation department” but it turns out he had spent all his time on this one trial, and there was no new business in the pipeline. I could see the end of my paycheck, and I quickly decided to find work elsewhere.
Reflecting back, it now dawns on me how much he would have benefited from knowing how to develop new business while working on his current projects.
I passed the patent bar.
Next, I went to work in Atlanta for the mega firm Jones Day. I worked there for 6 years. One day, after years of getting strong reviews, I was told that I would not make partner with the firm. Fortunately, I had an easy time moving to a boutique IP litigation firm, where I was told I would likely make partner within a year.
Despite the security and promise of partnership, I began to notice a rumbling deep within, a sense that even though I loved practicing law, there was something more that I could do.
Throughout my career I had always loved helping my fellow lawyers figure out how to improve their practices, how to serve clients better, and how to build the practice and life they’d always wanted. After some soul-searching, I realized that this was my true calling. I left the firm and launched my business.
A couple of years later, the economy started to turn. I watched my fellow lawyers lose their jobs because clients were no longer willing or able to pay the fees to support high salaries, and lawyers didn’t know how to get new clients who could and would pay. Blogs and legal news reports revealed thousands of layoffs, and lawyers all over the country began to fear for their jobs. When you’ve done everything right and it crumbles out from beneath you, it’s a real hit to your confidence. I know: I’d been there.
Up until this time, the ability to secure new clients was not an expected skill for practicing law. In the old days, everyone recognized the distinction between rainmakers and worker bees, and each had its place. Now the world had changed. Many lawyers were left unsure how to proceed with their careers. Many didn’t even have a career left, after good, solid firms had to close their doors, and almost no one was hiring. Lawyers knew the old way no longer worked, but most didn’t know what to do next. They wanted to find a way to create a career they truly wanted.
It was out of this necessity that Lex Innova Consulting was born.
Lawyers had discovered that new business doesn’t just magically appear. I began to teach lawyers that clients won’t just come to you. You have to go to them. If you know how to get clients, you are more valuable to an employer. You’re more valuable even to your own clients. And if you decide to change firms or to start your own practice, you can. That’s security.
I taught lawyers that the secret to a sustainable legal career or firm rests on ones ability to build relationships with clients, get referrals, and turn prospective clients into paying clients. I showed them how to build a book of business.
I taught them the power of having a say over their own career.
And it’s something that I’d love to share with you.
A little personal something about me.
When I’m not helping clients I love to visit Wyoming and spend time outside in the mountains. I love photography and Tudor history, and I’m making a public goal of completing and publishing my mother’s book on how women got the vote in Wyoming in 1869.