By Gary Holstein, Practice Advisor
Have you ever looked at yourself closely in the bathroom mirror and wondered, “How did things get to this point? I don’t feel connected to who I used to be…I don’t even know who I am anymore.” Or, “I hate what I am doing.”
The pressures of the legal profession often blur the distinction between what you do for a living and who you are as a person. As an attorney, however, there is a good deal of natural overlap between the two. It’s rare for people to persist in the effort to become an attorney and to practice law if they are not deeply committed to the tenets of the profession.
What happens, however, when you grow disaffected with the practice of law? What happens to your identity, self-esteem, and belief system? Does this disaffection cause a rupture between who you really are and the persona you portray to others? What are the effects of this disconnect on your marketing efforts? This is important because your marketing effectiveness is directly correlated to your authenticity.
Disaffection With Law Creates A Gulf Between You And Your Profession
Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner once wrote that a person is really three things: who you think you are; who I think you are; and who you think I think you are. Disillusionment with the practice of law can drive a wedge between these perceptions and cause some very undesirable side effects which profoundly influence your marketing effectiveness.
Some people, for example, leave the practice of law totally; others contemplate different specialties or seek work in a different environment. Many emotions accompany this disillusionment: anger, self-doubt, resentment, avoidance or overwork, depression, withdrawal, and sometimes a feeling of failure.
If we begin to examine the root causes for this disaffection, we often discover that clients and/or staff exacerbate the problem. Recently, for example, an attorney confided in me that he was finding his clients increasingly draining. When asked if he was actively marketing to attract different clients, he said that he didn’t have the time or the desire to market. What he failed to take into account is the fact that the quality of your clients directly impacts the quality of your practice. Consistently attracting the right clients can alleviate your negative feelings about practicing law. Think about it. Would you feel differently if you worked mostly with high level, high value clients?
Discontent is hard to hide. To try to hide it takes effort, which creates more stress and deepens the chasm between who you are and what you do. It can significantly impede your client development efforts.
Cultivate Three Characteristics Of Successful Marketers
The true power of a rainmaker is to be authentic and to reconcile that authentic self with one’s profession so there is no chasm between the two. After working with thousands of professionals through the years, I have identified three characteristics that are shared by successful people who consistently market effectively. I call it the EEC result. People who are at ease with themselves, others, and their professions demonstrate empathy, enthusiasm, and confidence.
- Empathy means that you can understand, want to understand, and are able to convey your understanding of the other person’s problems or issues. It demands that you are capable of looking through someone else’s eyes. This is difficult to do if you are not seeing clearly through your own.
- Enthusiasm must be generated from your untainted view of what you do and the value that your legal service provides. If you are not proud and supportive of your work, it is unrealistic to expect others to feel that way. Genuine enthusiasm emanates from clear thinking about the results of what you do and the impact on the lives, businesses, and families that you serve. It’s highly contagious.
- Confidence is the belief that you can produce the required results. It, too, is contagious. When faced with a challenging situation, you need to ask yourself, “Who would do it better?” Through some combination of effort, skill, intelligence, knowledge, and persistence, you need to believe that you are the one that can serve this client best. After all, you have risen to the challenges for quite some time, right?
Narrow The Gap Between Who You Are And What You Do In Five Steps
Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself a series of questions:
- Do I have the empathy, enthusiasm and confidence necessary to market successfully?
- Can I influence people effectively?
- Am I bringing to bear the effort I need to sustain and grow my practice with the right clients?
If you’re seeing a stranger in the mirrorif the gap between what you do and who you are has widened and you don’t feel authentic in your personal and professional endeavorsthen the answer to these questions is probably no.
People who are able to convey empathy, enthusiasm, and confidence to others are able to influence people in a positive manner. They are the kind of people you want on your side. They are the people you trust, the ones to whom you refer clients. Being the most articulate or extroverted attorney isn’t always enough to consistently attract new clients through referral sources. Quite often, those attorneys who are authentic people best manifest the EEC syndrome.
How do you narrow the gap so that you begin to recognize yourself in the mirror?
Five steps are required to change.
- Change your paradigm. You must consciously decide to believe that most aspects of your professional life are within your control and that you can influence them. If you believe that things will never change, you are right. If you believe that all of the facets of your life can change, you are also right.
- Diagnose your work environment and yourself so that you can honor the attributes you already possess. First, study each component of your practice to see if it is serving you. Look at the client development and client intake process, cash flow, time utilization, and the staffing system. Next, examine your preferences and personality style (there are a number of instruments you can use). Knowing how you approach and handle situations allows you to re-align everything you do, including your marketing efforts.
- Create your vision. Determine what you really want your life and practice to look like. Often we focus on what we don’t want. Research indicates that those with written and well-defined goals and visions are significantly more satisfied with their lives.
- Develop and execute a plan to achieve that vision. In most cases, implementing change requires a team to provide support and accountability. Include people in your firm, trusted colleagues, and a practice advisor. When this step fails, it’s often because other people are not included.
- Look in the mirror and really see yourself. The more you believe you are in control of a situation, the less stress and anxiety you’ll experience. Your marketing efforts will naturally be more effective and less of a strain. You will possess all you need to take control.
Absolution from Sin #2 is forthcoming!
The first article in the series can be found here.