Originally posted in The National Law Journal on November 15, 2012
Last month I ran my first marathon, in St. George, Utah. I took my training extremely seriously, reading a couple of books on the subject, altering my diet and losing weight. I even read an absurd number of blog posts and Internet articles about running marathons. Unfortunately, none of this prepared me for what happened the morning of the big race: I got sick, threw up and couldn’t even keep fluids down. I wasn’t going to quit, though, after more than 100 hours of training. So I relaxed, tried to take small sips of Gatorade until the race started and then I was off.
It was like I had never been sick. My first few miles flew by, fueled by pure adrenalin. I was running a little ahead of pace, but for the most part kept it conservative, completing 9-minute miles. As I ran, surrounded by 7,499 other runners, I was caught up in the moment, I guess—or maybe I was still a little nauseous—but wasn’t drinking very much. I didn’t really realize this until I got to about mile 12 and found that even though both Gatorade bottles attached to my belt should have been empty by this point, one of them was still full.
I hit the halfway mark right on my goal pace. But it wouldn’t last. Ten minutes later, I hit a wall unlike any I had experienced before. I had become severely dehydrated and my muscles were shutting down. A runner’s body needs two things to perform at a high level: water and glucose. And I hadn’t provided my body with enough of either.
In the legal profession, rainmakers stay “hydrated” by remembering two principles: “Feed the funnel” and follow up. They do the former by continually prospecting, searching out new business and new relationships. They understand that relationships take a long time to cultivate and that sometimes they might not see immediate results. “The fortune is in the follow-up,” said law firm marketing expert Stephen Fairley of The Rainmaker Institute. Follow-up can take many forms, but there are three essentials. First, get back in touch within 48 hours of meeting a new prospect, to cement the relationship. Second, connect on a monthly or bimonthly basis with prospects and high-value relationships. Third—and most often forgotten by attorneys—check in following completion of a trial or a deal to find out how you did. Each type of follow-up requires discipline and attention to detail. A good lawyer would never miss a judge’s deadline; a good rainmaker never forgets to follow up.
When I talk to chief marketing officers and directors of business development at firms across the country, I hear one theme repeated more than any other: “I can’t get my lawyers to follow up.” We are all busy, and it is easy to find pressing tasks to fill our days, but rainmakers understand that without a consistent plan for follow-up they will be in trouble.
I managed to finish my first marathon, but I was left with a real sense of disappointment. Maybe it is the lawyer in me, but I didn’t want to merely -finish, I wanted to excel. Don’t make the same mistake I did—stay hydrated.