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Bouncing Back

How to Strengthen Your Law Practice and Increase Resilience Amid Disruption

Servant leadership, innovation and knowing what's controllable are key.

By Heather Moulder

Business is grinding to a halt, many courts are closed, and some legal services aren’t needed right now. You’re concerned the coronavirus will sink your practice or, at a minimum, have a long-term impact. You can choose to hunker down and wait it out. Or you can decide to act boldly and be of service in new ways.

My advice is that you choose the latter. Because the truth is that what you do now will affect how well you bounce back from it all.

Don’t Wait and See: A Three-Pronged Path to Resilience

In January 2008 I was promoted to partner. But the celebration didn’t last long. By the end of that year, every client I had was out of business. (I was a structured finance lawyer.)

Luckily, I bounced back. Within a few years, my annual originations exceeded $1 million — and that number more than doubled over the next few years. But luck isn’t why I bounced back.

Those of us who focused on servant leadership, prioritized innovation, and took control over what we could (while letting go of the rest) successfully rebounded. Those who didn’t struggled (many, for a long time).

Although this crisis is different, the main strategies that helped me quickly recover can help you do the same. Here’s a look at them.

1. Renew Your Focus on Servant Leadership

You likely chose this profession for a reason — one that’s grounded in service to others. Refocus and intensify your efforts by serving people’s high-priority needs.

People hire you because they like and trust you (not just for your legal expertise). Now is the time to deepen relationships. This might mean taking steps like:

  • Referring clients to another attorney or firm.
  • Sending an article to prospects about how to deal with uncertainty.
  • Emailing information on what to expect in your industry during a downturn.
  • Checking in with clients via phone, just to see how they are.

Identify their needs and serve them in whatever way you can. Be a good human.

2. Be Innovative (Yes, Even When Self-Isolating)

There’s no telling how long we’ll be forced to self-isolate (which makes relationship building more difficult). And it’s a safe bet the current crisis will have long-term negative impacts on the economy and the industries you serve. Many lawyers might be forced to pivot.

This means that the demand for innovation is (and will remain) high. To start thinking more creatively, go beyond current pressures and events. Think about what’s next and the long-term ripple effect. Then, ask how you can help navigate the next steps.

And work to establish yourself as the go-to expert within your industry. You don’t have to do in-person speaking and networking. You can do this online — for example, by:

  • Writing an article on your firm’s blog and posting it to LinkedIn.
  • Hosting an online Q&A, training session or forum.
  • Posting short videos on current topics of interest within your industry.
  • Starting a virtual mastermind group with fellow lawyers and business owners.

Remember to use the power of social media to get the word out.

(Related: “How to Stay Afloat as a Small, Local Firm” by Conrad Saam and “30-Day Business Development Plan for Lawyers During the COVID-19 Crisis” by Jay Harrington)

3. Take Control of What You Can and Let Go of the Rest

When times are good, it’s easy to start believing that you have control over things you really don’t.  Crisis, uncertainty and disruption have a way of exposing you to the truth.

But that doesn’t mean that you have no control. The key is to focus on your mindset and behavior. This will help you let go of the rest.

To aid with this, stick to your daily habits and routines as best you can. This anchors you into what you have control over. Be creative where need be. For example, if you usually work out every morning in a gym, adapt to working out at home instead. There are plenty of at-home, equipment-free workouts that can be found online.

When it comes to your mindset, use proven practices that will help you better manage stress and increase resilience (and be consistent about this). Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Mindful meditation. Breathe slowly through your nose while counting your breaths for three to five minutes. When your mind wanders, refocus it on your breathing and counting.
  • Journaling. When you feel stressed or anxious, write down your feelings and thoughts so that you can process through them more effectively.
  • Reframing. Instead of focusing primarily on the negatives, identify and refocus on the positives. There’s always something that can be learned and skills that are being developed.

These simple practices will enable you to focus on what’s controllable while increasing self-awareness and decreasing stress and anxiety.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

More mindset tips:

“5 Ways to Reduce Anxiety in a Worldwide Pan(dem)ic” by Jamie Spannhake

“Shift Happens: 5 Ways to Manage Change” by Jamie Spannhake

“Handling  Fear and Stress During a Prolonged Crisis” by Shawn Healy

“Stress Less, Control More With Three Proven Strategies” by Heather Moulder

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Heather Moulder

Heather Moulder is an executive career and life coach at Course Correction Coaching. A former attorney, Heather helps successful-on-paper-yet-unfulfilled-in-life professionals create sustainable success that’s balanced with a real life (on their own terms), so that life can be fun again.

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