How to convince your firm to invest in your professional development.

Marni MacLeod

It’s a tough slog out there for new lawyers. Lately, I’ve met with a number of young lawyers who are either looking for articles or ways to enhance their value at their current firms. My response always includes encouraging them to demonstrate how they can be an asset to business development efforts. One thing they don’t teach you in law school is how to market yourself and bring in clients (the work behind the catchphrase “business development”). If you focus on developing these skills, you will differentiate yourself. The bonus is that you will learn about the kinds of clients that you enjoy working with and how to attract them.

So, how do you go about gaining those skills? Start by taking inventory of the skills you already have that provide ways to engage with clients both online and off, get yourself some coaching or make use of the plentiful resources online. Take a look at the resources provided by marketing firms to professional service providers. This is what the marketing partners at your firms are looking at…inform yourself. Good bets to start gaining insight include Great Jakes, Ross Fishman, Lexblog, Stem Legal, the Legal Marketing Association, and Hinge.

Other terms bandied about include SEO and analytics. Most lawyers don’t know diddly squat about either of these fields and for a good reason, they are complex, specialized fields. Consequently, learning a bit about them puts you in the position of being able to add knowledge (read value) to your firm. Take a look at Moz’s White Board Friday, check out Search Engine People’s blog, do a course on Lynda.com on analytics basics, if you’re ambitions get certified in Google analytics. These kinds of skills will serve you well in your current position, and someday, when you are running the show, it will give you the background you need to decipher whether the SEO company or marketing firm pitching you for work is blowing smoke or actually knows what they are talking about.

One final thought, there’s nothing that says you have to do this in isolation. The practice of law frequently requires working in teams, and you are likely no stranger to study groups from your law school days. Talk to your fellow students or colleagues who are in the same boat and brain storm your professional development together. Take a leadership role in offering to teach your peers about what you already know or have learned. There is no business organization on the planet (including law firms) that will not recognize the value of people who are prepared to contribute to the development of the team as a whole. Rising tide floats all boats and all that. Good luck!

How can you convince your firm that you deserve a slice of the training/coaching investment pie? Don’t tell them, show them. Your peers’ past promises and claims haven’t proved reliable, so more of that won’t work. Show them:

Read everything you can about professional services marketing and sales.
Ask your business development department for suggestions on what to read.
Send notes to those who decide who gets training and coaching, summarizing what you learned from your reading and how you’re going to apply it.
Participate in webinars on business development topics, and report on what you learned from them and how you will apply it.
Request advice on applying this information to specific situations that are imminent.
After receiving advice, report back with the results and learnings from the attempt, and solicit more advice.

Source: Attorney at Work

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