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Why “finding time” to market is unreal - you need to see the value instead (7th June 2013)

People say the hardest part about meditating is finding time to meditate. This is so because meditation is seen as “doing nothing,” and therefore it’s hard for people to justify the time.

By understanding the benefits of meditation, (which include making us more productive) we can then see the value of taking the time to do it.

This is true. It’s true of any activity. If there’s no perceived value in doing something, why bother?

So, when people say they don’t have the time to do something, or that they need to find the time to do it, aren’t they really saying they don’t see enough value relative to the time required for doing it? (The answer is YES)!

In truth, we usually find time for the things that we value. We only say things like, “I don’t have the time,” when we are being asked to do something we don’t value, or don’t value enough.

All of us have obligations imposed upon us by work or family or school, but even then, you don’t have to “find the time” to do them. You do them because you see the value, i.e., the pleasure of doing something for someone you love, avoiding embarrassment, keeping your job, and so on.

So, if you find yourself thinking you don’t have time to do something, before you try “to find the time” or feel guilty for not trying, ask yourself if what you are contemplating doing is really worth doing.  Often, the answer will be no and you can let it go.

You don’t have to “find the time” to do things that are important to you. You just have to be honest enough with yourself so you know what is important.

Now let’s apply that to marketing your law firm to produce more work and explore what is lurking below the surface. These scenarios are real and happen in law firms in every state of Australia.

Managing Partners have said to me: “We have too many unmotivated partners. What should we do?”  Looking back, three features or characteristics emerged:

  1. Those in leadership roles, who were most upset with their fellow non-work producing partners, did not wish to talk face-to-face with the lacklus­tre lawyers to discuss the situation and the steps that would be taken, if they did not change their behaviour (the consequences).
  2. Money, either more or less of it, did not seem to motivate this group of under-work producing lawyers. Compensation did not incentivise them to get out the door to market.
  3. The unmotivated, non-producing partners did not want to change their behaviour or work habits to include marketing.

If point 1 describes your firm, then the partners need a third party to speak frankly and focus on why they are even in partnership.  It doesn’t need to be this way but without outside help this broken partnership will either become an unpleasant environment or crumble (unhappily).  Leadership is needed here and that falls to one of the Partners, if not the “Managing” Partner.

In point 2 you need to find out what will motivate these lawyers? It may be they have had such a bad experience in marketing in the past that they would rather “chew their left arm off” before being forced to do any.  Or they may be so “proud” they don’t want to admit that they are no good at it and don’t want to embarrass themselves in front of their clients or peers, this is more common that you might think!  Usually they dress this up with “oh we don’t need to market because in our firm …(insert rubbish reason- like, we just rely on word of mouth)”. 

Now if that person persuades the others not to market I wouldn’t see any future there if I was an up and coming lawyer- my advice – get out of there, the firm will wither on the vine, no matter how big it presently is.  On the other hand if the senior people can be persuaded that there is value in marketing then that’s another matter entirely.

I am aware of a mid-sized firm where this is exactly what is happening, some new partners were invited into partnership and the older (non-marketing ones) are actually enjoying the different marketing roles assigned.  The fear they had of marketing was imagined- they have their own style and it’s different, but who cares.  This is a small example of how a couple of younger partners (and an outside consultant) managed to highlight the advantages and value of marketing.  That firm is doing well and the partners are happy- all of them!

For Point 3 people, they can only be saved from termination, if the firm is of sufficient size that other non-client activities such as precedent creation and maintenance can be assigned to them that would otherwise be done by the other partners. Or so much more client work can be done by them to make up for the non-marketing work and that the other partners are prepared to accept that.

The take away message here is that marketing these days does have a value in every law firm. If the lawyer doesn’t see the value in it, then there is no way a busy lawyer will find the time to do any.  Some lawyers have not considered the value and it’s not on their radar - like meditation.  Get them to understand it and for those who are no good at it (and that is most) then it’s a training issue- train them and at the same time “skill-up” the whole firm.

The leadership of the Managing Partner is also tested in these scenarios. These decisions can have a colossal effect on the firm and naturally people’s lives, so it’s advisable to get some expert advice. Ensure that all options have been explored ahead of any showdown.  At the same time, you are in partnership and all partners have a responsibility to perform at agreed levels. If someone isn’t complying and refuses to alter work habits, there must be consequences.