There are a lot of opinions and emoticons out there in today’s online world. Manage your path forward through research and your destiny through the setting and measuring of success metrics. Let the facts, rather than hearsay, guide you to a successful career.
While many people “use their gut,” most of us benefit from goal setting and measurement based on fact-based research. Recently, an associate at my firm, after a couple of years spent in focused analysis, goal setting, profile building, and networking, has become the second-most-viewed lawyer in our firm’s web site and significantly increased his billings and his personal happiness. You can, too.
Do you know who you want to be? You might be in your 20s, 30s, or even 50s — have you sat back and thought about your future? Do you even know where you want to be in the next five years? I am sure you are great at a lot of things and that makes it even more difficult to choose a path to pursue. The challenge is that if you don’t focus your efforts, your billable hours will reflect that.
Pulling your weight — Day one
You have the pressure that you need to pull your weight on the first day of your career. What does that mean for a lawyer of any year of call? Essentially, you need to be perceived as a visible, credible, trusted, good value, legal business partner. Success means you need to pursue a career-long dual path: being professionally excellent and business relationship savvy.
Be known for something
Your first step is to choose an area of law and industry in which to forge strong bonds. In which areas do you want to be the go-to lawyer? Use your billings to help you decide. Try this: Look at your last few years of billings and quickly, without thinking, draw a
beside each matter. Think about what makes you get up before your alarm in the morning and bolt to work, and what makes you hit the snooze button six times. Those are signs!
You will probably see a pattern emerge in the analysis of your historical matters. Smiling right up at you is your destiny. Seize it. Even if the matters that appeal to you are not enough to pay the rent, it’s the start of a path towards your dream career. Your goal will be to do more of the work you like so that, at some point, you can hand off the matters you don’t like and that don’t align to your personal plan. Calculate the percentage of work in your “like” bucket and give yourself annual goals to increase it.
Understand the industries and clients you’ve chosen
Lawyers today must provide clients with more than legal advice. You need to understand your client’s business, existing challenges, and future directions. What legal implications exist or are on the horizon for their industry and their business? How can you quantify their legal and business risks and help them achieve success?
Research is your friend, and your librarians, search engines, and your clients’ web sites, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all great, fact-based methods to understand your clients. Even better is to take time off the clock to visit their offices and get to know them and their strategic plans better. Give yourself a set amount of time each week to understand your clients. Measure your progress.
Audit and own your online presence
Research shows that almost 75 per cent of matters opened had some online searching, validating, researching, browsing, and/or comparing component to them. You need to own your online profile. While your marketing and business development support staff can help you with best practices, it is impossible for them to serve every lawyer’s online omnipresence!
Find your most referenced profiles, usually the ones on your web site, LinkedIn, and online directories, and make them client-focused, clean, clear, and consistent. This is a big job so set a goal for the first year of at least cleaning up your own web site biography. Ask your support staff to set up Internet analytics for you so that you can monitor your page views, etc.
Develop your network
Identify and prioritize online and traditional, public, private, and legal networks and their opportunities. Use the networks’ own analytics to help you understand what types of clients visit them. Give yourself goals to increase your presence in the ones you have prioritized.
Ask each and every new client what the path was in finding you and deciding on you for their work. Keep track of every step the new client took to search, find, validate, familiarize, and compare you to your competitors. Use this information to continuously update your presence and network activities.
Steering your success
Setting success metrics based on fact-based research, measuring how you’re doing, and adjusting as you go along will put you in the driver’s seat of your career. Focus, planning, and excellent implementation will pay off for you, too.