Lawyers: Your most important asset is …

You.

It is easy to forget sometimes that people buy from people.

By and large, unless you are McKinsey, a brand works for a product (Heinz, Mars and Coke) but not so for professional practice.

Clients may be attracted to your firm because of its reputation – perceived or otherwise – but if you fail to engage with them then they will be disinclined to proceed.

To an extent it is still not as stark as this because clients will:

(a) not be familiar with the process of buying legal services and therefore unable to determine if what you are telling them is any better than your nearest competitor. Of course this could change if your claims record was made a matter of public record;

(b) consider that your demeanour and coolness is the price that they have to pay for instructing your particular firm; and

(c) believe that all lawyers behave as you do.

In short there is a degree of slack in the system. And sometimes that extends to your mediocre service standards.

But I believe that in time, as clients become more aware of the alternatives to private practice, you can expect to see a more demanding mindset and more than that clients will simply not instruct you even if they may have done so previously.

As I mentioned over the course of this week, now is the time to be reprogramming your persona, looking at your firm’s offering and reengaging with the profession and your role. None of this is easy but if you care enough you will start acting in such a way to make a difference.

A number of the issues that are holding you back relate to resources, finance and disenfranchisement but one thing that you have control over is how you think, act and do.

You don’t have much time. Waiting is not an option and even if the management is lukewarm or playing the long game, then you don’t have to fall into line.

Now is the time to be sharpening the saw in every respect and using your newly acquired skills to engage with your clients, develop new skills and walk the talk. Lawyers are notorious for elucidating every conceivable argument to escape doing something: “We have tried that before and it didn’t work”. But don’t fall into the same trap. Carve out your niche. Don’t wait to be told what to do. Just do it. Sure you will be under the cosh for chargeable hours, fees and promoting the firm in such a way as to be of little benefit to you but if you find your passion – actually your love of law – then doing all this stuff is so much easier. If you dislike what you do or are lukewarm and you continue to carp on about the failings of everyone else, then how are you possibly going to change your circumstances? Believe in yourself, have a vision, mission and purpose, and don’t stop pushing through even when others around you have lost all hope.

If you are fed up with everyone getting on your case, then fight back. If all you are doing is time (like bird really), then the next few years are going to be just as hard as previously and if you are not engaged and passionate about your area of practice, then you need to seriously consider your future with your firm or more likely law itself.

If you are at a loss to know where to start then there are no shortages of books you can read. It depends what floats your boat but perhaps just the act of stepping outside of the circle of work, work, work will give you the perspective that you need.

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