What Do Layoffs and Business Development Have in Common?

It’s in the wind, and I cannot ignore it. According to this article, Big Law associates continue to be worried about their jobs. Layoffs have happened to date as a result of the most recent economic downturn, and economic woes are predicted to continue for awhile into the future.

Although there is not a lot that the most vulnerable lawyers, aka associates, can do about the economy, it is no time for them to sit on their hands and hope that the next work assignment to show up on their screens.

Under circumstances like this, associate lawyers need to become proactive. They need to improve their chances for success in the legal field by getting involved in business development. Being proactive in this way for the benefit of the firm also will increase job security and provide some cushion against the next round of layoffs.

It will not be easy. Developing business is hard for all lawyers, and it is especially hard for women lawyers, who typically face challenges related to what remains a male-dominated profession. The relatively few female role models and the lack of comfort with traditional male centric business development strategies make client development particularly daunting for young women lawyers.

But the difficulty does not stop with women lawyers. The transition to being responsible for developing business is hard for all young lawyers. The reality that it is not enough to have achieved superb legal skills can be alarming. It was a steep climb, but it is not the end of the road. More is required to prove yourself.

My best advice for becoming comfortable with what can be a heavy lift is to find excellent instruction in CLE, bar association, and consultant programs to perfect your business development skills. Learn from those who have done it, and stick with the program. If the instructor says make five cold calls a week to prospective clients, make them. If your instructor says send out a helpful business/legal article to five potential clients a week, do it. If your instructor tells you to organize a happy hour with a group of your business friends, do it.

Just do it. Sell, sell, sell. Your effort will be noticed, and you may strike gold. And equally as important, perhaps, you will not be sitting around doing nothing. There is too much of that going on these days, and it is easy for boredom to morph into anxiety and depression.

And anxiety and depression are places you want to avoid most.

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