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One of a Kind

Consistent Action, Not a Perfect Plan, Is What’s Required to Build a Successful Legal Practice

By Jay Harrington

Success (the sustainable kind) is the result of consistent work over long periods — monthly 401(k) deposits, not a Mega Millions jackpot.

It took 30 years and nine rewrites for Allan Scott to bring “The Queen’s Gambit” into our living rooms.

John Grisham spent three years writing his first novel, “A Time to Kill,” and 28 publishers passed on it.

Bruce Springsteen spent six months doing lyrical edits for just one song: “Born to Run.”

Julia Child worked on “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” for 10 years.

We’ve all heard that “overnight success” is largely a myth. Success, at least the sustainable variety, is the result of consistent hard work over long periods — monthly 401(k) deposits, not a Mega Millions jackpot.

Building a Successful Law Practice Requires a Long-term Mindset

And that requires fighting our natural instincts.

Research shows that most people will opt for immediate gratification over more significant long-term rewards. It’s a tendency called “hyperbolic discounting.”

In practical terms, this means optimizing for billable-hour bonuses versus investing in marketing and business development.

I spent years as a practicing lawyer knowing — at least in the back of my mind — what I should be doing and putting it off until the following year. It was always more of the same until I finally got my act together.

It didn’t happen overnight, but it would never have happened if I hadn’t started taking consistent action.

The Importance of Consistent Work

Every high-profile success wandered in the wilderness of obscurity at some point.

Someone’s got to win the lottery, but that’s not much of a business plan.

Success results from stringing together days of focused effort on little things that start to stack up and turn into larger wins. As 19th-century writer Anthony Trollope observed: “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”

There are many things you can do to market your law practice. Don’t get caught up in trying to develop the perfect strategy.

What you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether you do it consistently. Being consistent means having a point of view that’s clear. It also means expressing it on a regular basis.

  • Having a clear point of view leads people to trust you — they come to know what they can expect from you.
  • Regularly expressing your point of view through your marketing makes more people aware of you.

It’s a simple formula: Awareness + Trust = Opportunity.

What’s hard is sticking with it … or even getting started.

Motion and Action Are Not the Same Things

There’s so much noise and so many differing opinions that many people get bogged down by planning to take action but never do. They’re perpetually in motion but never move forward.

Instead of trying to come up with the perfect marketing plan, start taking action.

  • Post on LinkedIn.
  • Host a webinar.
  • Email a reporter with an idea for a story.
  • Call a client you haven’t heard from in a while.
  • Write a personal note to a referral source.
  • Write an article.
  • Start cross-selling the expertise of your colleagues.

Do it every day. The real-world marketing feedback you will receive from the consistent work effort will be far more valuable than any plan you can develop before taking action.

Take action. Allow your plan to be shaped by your real-world experience. It won’t happen overnight, but you will be rewarded.

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Categories: Business Development, One of a Kind, Thought Leadership for Lawyers, You At Work
Originally published May 13, 2021
Last updated October 6, 2021
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Jay Harrington Jay Harrington

Jay Harrington is the owner of Harrington Communications, a leading thought-leadership PR and marketing agency that specializes in helping law firms and lawyers build awareness, influence and new business. Jay is the author of three books for lawyers on issues related to business and professional development, including “The Productivity Pivot,” “The Essential Associate” and “One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Practice.” He podcasts at The Thought Leadership Project and writes a weekly email newsletter. Previously, he practiced law at Skadden Arps and Foley & Lardner. Follow him @JayHarrington75.

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