Marketing Corner: Which You Will Show Up in 2014?
By Kimberly Alford Rice
As we head into a new year, consider committing yourself to making it different, better, more fulfilling.
Sure, the life of a lawyer is nothing if not an exercise in multi-tasking and constant balancing of multiple priorities but the savvy lawyer understands that her legal career is only as satisfying as she molds it to be.
To all the lawyers who lament about the tough grind, I would say you must understand, deeply, that whether you are a solo practitioner or a member of an AmLaw 100 law firm, if you are in private practice, you are a business owner and must regard yourself as a business owner regardless of whether or not you actually have any business of your own.
In order to take control of your legal career, you must become the boss of your own one (wo)man firm: "You, Inc.," and the one thing that "You, Inc." needs is clients. If you are a solo practitioner, you truly understand this completely. No clients, no business. No business, no legal practice.
However, I am often troubled that many attorneys practicing in law firms either proactively decide (professional suicide) or decide by default (no action taken) that as long as firm partners are feeding them work, they're good. These intelligent women (and men as well) are fed the "don't worry about bringing in new files in" line by firm partners or they are lulled into complacency as a result of the constant feeding at the trough of the few firm rainmakers. Either way, the long-term career prospects are dim unless these folks somehow have an "aha" moment to realize that increased earning potential and long-term job security is directly linked to developing and growing a healthy book of business.
Unless you have been living under a rock since 2008 when the recession began, you have witnessed law firms implode, explode, and lay off attorneys left and right. The attorneys who remain are the rainmakers and the ones who are "future" rainmakers. No law firm is exempt…none.
It is vital to understand that as a result of the economic changes and the dramatic paradigm shift in legal services there is no longer the age-old lock step tradition of moving from associate to partner in a pre-determined number of years. There is no guarantee that you will remain with the same firm without experiencing a layoff, at least once. In fact, there is no longer a guarantee that you will even have a legal job when you graduate law school.
The only way to secure your career and your future with a higher degree of certainty is to move from the "employee" mindset to that of the "CEO of Me" mindset, and take definitive, strategic steps to build a book. Sadly, here's the dirty little secret that is often hidden: law schools and most frequently law firms do not teach you or prepare you to make that happen. Sure, firms may say they have a healthy mentoring program and/or training curriculum; however, as a practical matter, the intentions may be honorable but the follow through is often disappointing.
If it's going to happen, you must be the captain of your own ship, and make it happen. There are many rainmaking books, classes, and professional trainers/coaches you can retain. Becoming a rainmaker is the only way to have job security - in a law firm or on your own.
Remember, rainmakers are not born - they are made, and you can learn the skills necessary to be successful in your own right.
So, I ask you, will the employee you or the CEO you show up in 2014, and how will that scenario define your next "best" year?
Kimberly Alford Rice (firstname.lastname@example.org) is principal of KLA Marketing Associates.