The practice of law is stressful. And complicated. And, at times, frustrating.
Legal marketing and business development need not be. Here are a few back-to-basics tips designed to improve your relationships with clients and colleagues.
1. Be in the Moment
When engaging in marketing activities, be in control, be purposeful and only do one thing at a time. Don’t sneak a peek at your iPhone under the table during a lunch meeting. Don’t start, then stop, then start, then stop formulating that article you’ve been meaning to write. If you’re interacting with someone, interact with them. In other words, be in the moment.
Action Step: For one month, clear your plate. Commit to only doing one thing at a time. This is a good approach for everything you do in life, but at the very least apply it to your marketing activities.
2. Keep It Simple
We overcomplicate things. We use complicated language because we think it makes us appear intelligent, when it actually makes the client feel inadequate and resentful. We email when we should call. We don’t send handwritten thank-you notes, even though we love receiving them. Our timekeeping entries are vague, and we think the client won’t notice. Stop overthinking and overcomplicating how you communicate with clients and colleagues. Keep it simple.
Action Step: Write 10 handwritten notes to clients and contacts this month. Nothing may happen as a result, or something great may happen. Who knows! One thing you can be sure of is that you’ll make someone’s mail-opening experience more enjoyable, and you’ll make yourself more memorable.
3. Be Yourself
If you watch TV legal dramas, you may draw the conclusion that to be a successful lawyer with a strong book of business you need to be polished, good-looking, articulate and aggressive. Now take a look around. Successful lawyers come in all shapes, sizes and personality types. But the one attribute most have in common is that, like nearly all successful person, they are genuine and authentic. Sure, there are exceptions. Phonies always manage to slip through the cracks. But people crave authenticity in all relationships — including the attorney-client relationship — and reward it. Be yourself.
Action Step: Stop trying to please everyone. Focus on being yourself in all situations. If someone doesn’t like you as a result, then that’s their loss. As Paul Newman once said, “If you don’t have enemies, you don’t have character.”
4. Grow and Give
Do you have an approach to your legal career? Put differently, are you being purposeful and thoughtful about your near-, medium- and long-term career objectives? Or do you find yourself just going through the motions — nose to the daily grindstone? For many lawyers, an objective may be something along the lines of “to make partner and become financially secure.” Worthy goals, no doubt. But is that something that you can really sink your teeth into and rally behind on a daily basis? Probably not. Everyone needs to identify their own passion and motivation, but here’s a suggestion: Commit to continuously grow as a lawyer and as an individual and contribute to other people in a meaningful way. Grow and give.
Action Step: Try to learn something new every week — a productivity hack, a software shortcut, a best practice, a new technique — and share your newfound knowledge with co-workers and clients. By improving yourself, then helping others better themselves, you’ll find that you’ll end up getting much more in return.
Jay Harrington is co-founder of Harrington Communications, where he leads the agency’s Brand Strategy, Content Creation and Client Service teams. He also writes weekly dispatches on the agency’s blog, Simply Stated. Previously, Jay was a commercial litigator and corporate bankruptcy attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Foley & Lardner. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism and earned his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.