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How To Become The Legal Business Partner Clients Can't Wait To Hire

Being a lawyer is like putting yourself in the front row at a LIVE comedy night, every night; we are frequently on the butt end of a plethora of jokes. Have you ever stopped to question how this “ridicule” impacts on your drive to progress your career?”

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Even when people need our services we often experience latent, if not overt disdain which adds yet another challenge to becoming the legal partner clients can’t wait to hire.

For example, in a discussion about whether the Tokyo Olympic Games would go ahead last year President Thomas Bach commented (albeit tongue in cheek) on their legal director’s quick address saying: “This is evidence that lawyers can be short and succinct when they’re not paid by the hour.”

It was funny, but these jokes negatively impact our subconscious minds (the real driving force behind our actions) and chip away at our confidence. We need to overcome the stereotyping and forge a strong path forward if we want to rise to the top without sacrificing our personal wellbeing.

What is the solution?

In one of our career development programmes we recommend ambitious lawyers adopt a three pronged approach :

  1. Get ready: know yourself

  2. Get set: know your boss

  3. Go: know your clients

Get ready: know yourself

When you know your own strengths and weaknesses you exude a natural, authentic confidence that makes clients excited to work with you.

One way to do this is to spend time considering the environment that brings out the best, the worst and the mediocre in you. Understanding what makes you uniquely valuable to your clients and your boss will help you get ahead.

Here’s an easy way to start the process:

Remember a time when you were ‘in the zone’ and could easily navigate challenges and obstacles with confidence and ease. How connected did you feel to this project? Were you dedicated to one project or balancing a portfolio? What made this experience so sublime? Go back to the ‘perfect’ situation in your mind and notice as much detail as you can.

Your answers indicate what supports you to work at your best, enabling you to recreate the ultimate working environment while delivering a first class service to your clients (and it looks after your own mental wellbeing).

The worst

You can repeat the exercise to identify what brings out the worst in you (for example, an unpleasant level of arrogance, feeling disengaged or snappy). When you recognise the early warning signs you can prevent a negative situation or power struggle from escalating (all of which goes a long way to helping your progress in your career).

To become the lawyer that everyone wants to hire you also need to acknowledge that any strength taken to an extreme can become corrosive (an exceptional eye for detail could also be perceived as pedantry). To get ahead you need to develop a 360 degree awareness of who and how you are, and the environment in which you work best.

Get set: know your boss

When you know yourself better you will recognise the leadership qualities you need in a boss to help you thrive (this is a two way process so also learn how to win your boss’s confidence so you can operate with greater autonomy and both look great!).

For example, in any fast paced legal environment time is of the essence; fast and efficient communication is prized. Find out how your boss prefers to interact.

If you want to be an in-demand lawyer, the next step is to extend this

"getting to know you” process to your clients.

Go: know your clients

Thomas Bach’s throwaway quip tells us much of what clients want and which lawyers often overlook:

  1. Value for money

  2. To feel looked after while receiving clear, succinct advice they can trust

  3. They want you to be the lawyer everyone else wishes they had

You need to know and overcome any prejudices your clients are harbouring about working with you (or any lawyer). You need to understand their concerns, priorities, beliefs, and any myths that stand between you and the delivery of your best work to stop them taking a toll on your confidence and energy levels.

One way to get to know your clients’ objectives is to invest time and have more meaningful on-boarding meetings to understand their real concerns and needs so that they will have more confidence in your ability to meet their needs.

The golden rule is to treat your clients as you would want to be treated as a client; if you are issuing a ten page legal analysis forget softly hedged advice. Write a short summary with a clear recommendation to help your client make a smarter choice; be the lawyer who generates value as well as mitigates risk.

Powerful progress

Get ready, get set, go is a simple and effective strategy to help you win the confidence of your line manager and your clients so that you can make rapid progress in your career.

In my next blog I’ll share insights to help you reginite your natural drive from integrative health regeneration coach Katarina Hunter.

In the meantime, I’d love to know what’s important to you when it comes to optimising your professional performance; get in touch and share your thoughts!

PS - Have you subscribed to my Water+Air podcast? It’s a must if you’re a lawyer who wants sustainable success without sacrificing their wellbeing.

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