When I give presentations, I’m often asked “what is the biggest contributor to a law firm’s business success?”  There are so many possible answers to that question, but I know those who know me would guess I would say “planning”.  Yes, I do heavily endorse personal and business planning.  But that wouldn’t be my answer.  Given what I’ve been seeing in the marketplace, and from events around the world, I’d say this: Be more aware, and be more disciplined.

Be More Aware:

When I do a strategic planning process with a firm, I interview every lawyer in that firm and one of the many questions I ask is:  what changes will your clients experience in the next five years and how might that affect our provision of legal services to them?  It’s shocking how few can answer this question.  Despite the fact that we are in the service industry, reliant on clients, we care very little about their future.  This weakness goes far beyond predicting client shifts.  Lawyers, particularly Partners, can feel that they already inherently know the answer to many questions you might ask them.  But my work has proven time and time again that lawyer gut feel is often wrong.  Get it right by recognizing that you aren’t omniscient, and practice being curious about the world around you.  Want to know what clients think? Ask them. Want to know how your employees feel?  Ask them. Want to understand how your business is doing?  Crunch the data.  Once you start to ask for information (instead of assuming you already know the answers), a funny thing happens.  You start to take more notice of things occurring around you, and learning from them.  Be more aware.   And this includes being aware of where your own business (practice) is on any given day in comparisons to your hourly and revenue targets.

Be More Disciplined:

I can help lawyers to create the best personal business plan they’ve ever had, or a really meaningful strategic plan for a law firm.  But if these aren’t implemented, they are useless.

So much of what I do is to help law firms, and lawyers, to negotiate and then navigate through change.  This change requires a personal commitment: a promise to oneself to operate in a way that is sometimes very different from the past.  A commitment to maintaining the disciplined practice of changing small, everyday behaviours, so that bigger changes can occur over time.

I work with a very smart profession, so I find it ironic how little personal discipline many lawyers have.

Instead of dreaming about a different way of being, make it happen.  Determine your plan, and then follow it – daily.  Losing weight results from a hundred different decisions that are made each day.  Building your credibility, landing new business, moving into the Partnership…you can leave these up to fate and luck, or you can determine the pathway to each and then implement the strategies you’ve chosen.  Wishes don’t lead to accomplishments: actions do, when their purpose is clear and when they are consistently, regularly implemented.  That requires discipline.

Decide that in 2024, you’re going to focus on being more aware, and on being more disciplined.  These don’t cost anything, they don’t require assistance from anybody else, and there’s no barrier to their achievement other than your own self-imposed limitations.  Instead of looking externally for the answers, focus on personal accountability. Be more aware. Be more disciplined.

Heather Gray-Grant is a business strategist, marketing expert and executive coach for law firms and lawyers.  She can be reached at heather@heathergraygrant.com