You’ve Got to Stay the Course

Young solo lawyers sometimes come to me and ask about growing their practices. I'm oddly enthusiastic about helping them (the fact that I'm enthusiastic about anything always surprises me).

They don't listen.

They do what they were going to do regardless of what I tell them.

I'm not sure why I keep telling them the same stuff when I know they won't do it.

I suppose they don't really intend to listen to me. They're probably not really seeking advice. They probably just want to meet me and get me to refer business to them.

That's fine, I suppose. I'm pretty sure I didn't listen to anyone when I was a young lawyer, so why should they?

I give them my great talk about finding new clients and building referral relationships. They head out and do whatever it is they were going to do and pretty much ignore my advice (of course, a few of them listen and read this blog, so I'll admit to a few successes).

Then, about a year later, I check to see what has happened to them (mostly, I never hear from them again after the first meeting). Why do I check? Because I have a habit of looking at my calendar from a year ago (in order to confirm my belief that nothing ever changes), which gets me curious. Then I go Google the young lawyers to see what happened.

Most of them have (1) given up their practice and gone to work for someone else or (2) switched practice areas to something else and started over on building a different type of practice.

Why did they give up?

They ran out of money, energy, or motivation. Mostly, from what I can tell, they think they gave it a good shot and it didn't work, so they felt that they had to shift gears.

When I was a young lawyer, the word was that it took two years to grow a practice from zero to struggling. No one expected to buy a BMW, except those hired by big firms, right away or anytime soon. That's not the case now.

Many of the young lawyers I talk to expect to earn big dollars right away.

That doesn't happen in the real world.

You've got to stay the course. It takes time. It takes at least a couple of years to get going.

Think about it. If you need referral relationships, and nearly everyone does, then you need time to build those connections.

At two marketing lunches per week (you could do more, but most won't), you can only go to lunch 200 times in two years. If you have lunch every three months with your best referral sources, you'll only have enough lunches to handle about 20 referral sources. I'm not going to do the math, but plot it out on a calendar and you'll find that those 20 folks take up 80 of your 100 slots in year two. See?

If you build those relationships, over time, you'll own an asset that pays dividends from now until you retire.

If, however, you switch gears before the first year is over, you won't build that asset. You'll start over and probably get frustrated when the new thing takes as long or longer than the old thing.

You've got to stay the course if this is going to work. You can't hit the reset button and view that as progress. It's not.

Mostly, we're all headed in the same direction and we're all doing the same thing in one way or another. Our path requires relationships, and they require time and commitment.

Stay the course.


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