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Doing good—even exceptional—work is not enough

Obviously the first prerequisite for building a successful legal practice is to do good work and work hard for your clients.  But, unfortunately, that’s not enough.  And I still come across many young lawyers who just don’t understand this… Only yesterday, during a training course, several lawyers admitted that some of my information seemed a hard pill to swallow. 

But, as with strong medicine, it’s only for your own benefit.  Therefore, as an associate, beyond doing the requisite level of good work, here’s three basic things you must do (as a minimum!):

1.  Make sure everyone perceives your good work

Doing good work, in the first instance, probably means making the partner you work for look good. But make sure you’re also making yourself look good in the eyes of the client, in terms of positioning yourself for the future.   Just as important, make sure you’re doing good work in the eyes of the lawyer on the opposing side, thus building your reputation in the marketplace.  (Also, you never know where people end up in the future or who might be in a position to give you referrals.)

2.  Build strong relationships

It’s crucial to build relationships with your clients that go beyond the minimum: good work.  To do this, always keep in mind:

  • Your client’s problems must become your problems.  Your client must believe that you genuinely care (which in turn must be the case).

 

  • Nobody particularly relishes using a lawyer, so your goal is to make your lawyer-client relationship as rewarding as possible.  Your clients should ideally not only trust and respect you, but actively enjoy working with you.

 

  • Building client relationships, oddly enough, uses the same skill-set as making (and keeping) friendships.

 

3.  Get out of your comfortable office

Good—even exceptional—work alone will not generate business (which at some point you will need). You can only generate business through having a network of relationships, and you only build up such a network by getting out of the office and fostering new contacts.  If you’re spending all your time on billable work, you may be succeeding in the short-term, but you’re probably also undermining your chances of future success.  Force yourself to get out of the office and meet people!

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