By Mark Powers and Gary Holstein
Dolan Media Newswires
BOSTON — Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner once wrote: “A person is really three things: who you think you are; who I think you are; and who you think I think you are.”
Since none of us have control over how others see us, we believe the quality that makes us the person we are perceived to be is the level of authenticity with which we conduct ourselves in the world.
How does this matter of authenticity concern attorneys? If you have ever looked at yourself in the bathroom mirror and thought, I don’t feel connected to the person I used to be or I hate what I’m doing, you may be experiencing the identity crisis that can arise after you’ve practiced for some time. You may have had to trade in certain parts of your life and pieces of your personality — especially the idealistic parts — in order to conform to expectations or serve your clients well.
The job you may be doing now may be quite different from what you thought you were signing up for in your youth.
So what happens when you grow disaffected with the practice of law?
Some leave the practice of law altogether; others contemplate different specialties or seek work in a different environment. Many less proactive attorneys work daily with a thinly veiled sense of dissatisfaction. Many emotions accompany this disillusionment: anger, self-doubt, resentment, depression, withdrawal and sometimes a feeling of failure. It’s hard to go about your day disguising your disaffection with the law, your firm or your partners.
Managing this dichotomy takes work and it can become more difficult when the notion of marketing is introduced into the equation. How do you market yourself when you are no longer in love with what you do? You would naturally feel that marketing yourself requires a different persona than who you perceive yourself to be — and you’d dread every minute of it.
In fact, the true power of a rainmaker lies in his or her ability to be authentic. A person who has reconciled themselves with their profession so there is no chasm between the two is someone clients can believe in. Think about your best efforts and successes and you will find that your feelings of being authentic were very high at the time.
If we begin to examine the root causes for this disaffection, we often discover that clients exacerbate the problem. Recently, an attorney confided in me that he was finding his clients increasingly draining. When asked if he was actively marketing to attract different clients, he said that he didn’t have the time or the desire to market.
But consistently attracting the right clients can alleviate your negative feelings about practicing law. Think about it: Would you feel differently if you worked mostly with high level, high value clients?
Cultivate three characteristics of successful marketers
After working with thousands of professionals through the years, we have identified three characteristics that are shared by people who consistently market effectively. People who are at ease with themselves, others and their profession demonstrate empathy, enthusiasm and confidence. All three are contributing factors to authenticity.
Individuals who possess empathy are able to understand another person’s problems or issues and can effectively convey this understanding. It requires you to be capable of looking through someone else’s eyes.
Enthusiasm must be generated from your view of what you do and the value that your legal service provides. If you are not proud and supportive of your work, it is unrealistic to expect others to feel that way. Genuine enthusiasm emanates from clear thinking about the results of what you do and the impact on the lives, businesses and families that you serve.
Confidence is the belief that you can produce the required results. When faced with a challenging situation, you need to ask yourself, “Who would do it better?” Through some combination of effort, skill, intelligence, knowledge and persistence, you need to believe that you can serve this client best.
A criminal defense attorney with whom we work felt very uncomfortable “marketing” his services until we helped reconnect him to his passion for helping clients in a meaningful way: he compiled a list of agencies and people who could help first time offenders. Not only has this helped him serve his clients better, he now has many potential referral sources to talk with about something he believes in: helping first time offenders get on a track for a more productive life.
Narrowing the gap between who you are and what you do
Here are four easy steps that will help:
1. Change your paradigm.
You must consciously decide to believe that most aspects of your professional life are within your control and that you can influence them.
2. Diagnose your work environment and yourself.
Study each component of your practice to see if it is serving you. Look at the client development and client intake process, cash flow, time utilization and the staffing system. Next, examine your preferences and personality style. Knowing how you approach and handle situations allows you to re-align everything you do, including your marketing efforts.
3. Create your vision.
Determine what you really want your life and practice to look like. Often we focus on what we don’t want. Research indicates that those with written and well-defined goals and visions are significantly more satisfied with their lives.
4. Develop and execute a plan to achieve that vision.
In most cases, implementing change requires a team to provide support and accountability. Include people in your firm, trusted colleagues and a practice advisor. When this step fails, it’s often because other people are not included and there is no accountability.
The key to all this is to look in the mirror and really see yourself. The more you believe you are in control of a situation, the less stress and anxiety you’ll experience. When you meld authenticity with meaningful action, your marketing efforts will naturally be more effective and less of a strain. We’ve seen attorneys who have used their interest in travel, rare books, genealogy, map-collecting, food or dogs as part of their client development efforts. What would make your marketing efforts more fun and authentic for you? When you reconnect with your own passions, hobbies and interests, we bet the outcome will be a more satisfying professional life.
Mark Powers is the president of Atticus Inc. and co-author of “How Good Attorneys Become Great Rainmakers” and “Time Management for Attorneys.” He facilitates a marketing roundtable program for attorneys requiring a simple, focused approach to attract new clients. Powers can be reached at [email protected] or at (352) 383-0490.
Gary Holstein is a Certified Atticus Practice Advisor. He is a dedicated and knowledgeable management consultant, energetic, experienced manager and coach who has consulted for large and small organizations worldwide. Gary blends a number of diverse disciplines with practical experience to help attorneys exceed their goals by implementing purposeful change. He can be reached at [email protected]