Legal Business Development: Are You Earning A Seat At The Table?

by Paula Black
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A book of business gives you power, clout and… a seat at the table. If you want to be a partner in any law firm, big or small, you must have a book of business. It’s as simple as that!

I recently read an article from Altman Weil by James CottermanWho Should Be Partner In A Post Recession Profession? Part 1: Earning a Seat at the Table. Cotterman points out that “Law firm partnership carries certain responsibilities. First and foremost partners must generate business. A business development culture, accommodating different roles and styles, will permeate a successful firm.” Let’s face it without business development nothing else matters… you are just a lawyer with a desk.

So why are so many lawyers hesitant to commit to business development? It’s simply out of their comfort zone. But it doesn’t have to remain that way. There have been many things in your career that were not comfortable at first… but you tried different angles, practiced and stuck with it and sooner or later you mastered it. Business development is no different, it’s just a skill to master.

Cotterman goes on to pose some of the questions that should be asked when a lawyers is being considered for partner…

1. Is the individual active in developing a network of contacts and establishing relationships in the community?

2. Does she/he project an understanding of business and legal subject matter that demonstrates experience and expertise through writing and speaking?

3. Does this person seek, hold and successfully handle positions in professional organizations related to her/his area of practice?

4. Does this person seek, hold and successfully handle leadership positions in community (civic, charitable and religious) organizations?

There is no doubt that building relationships is at the core of all this. You can build relationships in a multitude of ways, in your community, among your colleagues and even online. Decide what tools you want to use and be consistent… do something every single day. Move outside your comfort zone and build a book of business… and if you want a seat at the table it can be yours.

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Paula Black
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