The Toughest Negotiation – Time to Build Your Practice

Guest post: 

http://www.negotiationlawblog.com/legal-practice/the-toughest-negotiation-time-to-build-your-practice/

One of my favorite movie quotes is from Angelica Houston’s character in Ever After. As the wicked stepmother, she declares to her favorite daughter

“Darling, nothing is final until you’re dead, and even then, I’m sure God negotiates.”

Although I cannot speak to the question whether God negotiates, I have found the first part of the formulation to hold quite true. I have learned that if I am persistent, passionate, and willing to see my challenges and opportunities from a variety of angles, I am usually able to find a creative solution to a problem and identify common ground with someone with whom I have a dispute.

Whether it’s getting a customer service agent to empathize with my situation, haggling to pay wholesale instead of retail, or building consensus amongst a range of strong personalities, there is always a way to state your case and persuade your audience to see the world through your eyes.

There is one challenge that I have discovered to be most daunting for professionals to negotiate — the management of their time. 

Time is our most precious nonrenewable resource and as such, we put a premium on it. We attempt to prioritize and guarantee a return on our investment. Often we are left feeling that an activity was either not worth our time or took so much time that we were unable to sustain the task’s momentum.

Between work and life, we struggle to find balance and sanity.

My work with attorneys — helping them to build their practices; assisting them in overcoming their own internalized judgments about marketing and business development — requires me to help them re-negotiate the way in which they allocate their time.

I empathize.  It is a daunting task to find a comfortable balance between one’s professional and personal lives when you are forced to measure it out in six minute increments.  Despite many attempts to eliminate or modify the present system by which we value legal word — the billable hour remains the entrenched and painful lens through which a lawyer’s daily practice is viewed. Given this historic approach, it’s no wonder than that Web 2.0 activities (blogging, online social networking, & wikis) are met with such resistance.

While it is true that there is no one size fits all solution for growing a legal practice, there is one excellent way to refocus the discussion.

I’ve never worked with an attorney who didn’t agree that the practice of law is a relationship-driven business. Relationships take time to develop and require nurturing, both of which can be streamlined with Web 2.0 tools. If used correctly, there are numerous opportunities online to have a “deep dive” conversation – one in which attorneys can quickly learn a potential client’s business, current needs, and future risks.

When someone is in pain, there are opportunities to help them find a solution and be of value. Relationships that would take years to develop offline can accelerate faster online because — for better or worse — the internet encourages candor.

If you are struggling with how to do more with less in these tough economic times then reconsider making a small investment of your time in the mostly free Web 2.0 resources.

The sense of community, collaboration and reciprocity that exists in online social networks can quickly translate into marketing opportunities that are speedily turned into new engagements. If you contribute positively and regularly to the online conversations at Q&As (LinkedIn), subject matter listserv forums, blogs, and, most recently, Twitter, you are highly likely to improve your “know, like and trust” stock.

In the end, professionals who are able to renegotiate their time priorities to set aside a few hours a week to invest in online-relationship-building, will be rewarded many times over by the ease with which your network can be immediately deployed for your benefit or that of your clients.

If you find Web 2.0 daunting, ask a tech-savvy professional friend to advise you or, better yet, give me a call!

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Do You Trust Me?

 

sinkingship

Guest blogged here:

http://legalwatercoolerblog.com/2008/10/21/do-you-trust-me/

Jack asked this of Rose in Titanic. Deckard asked this of Rachael in Blade Runner. Aladdin asked this of Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin. Trust is the ultimate litmus test for any relationship. It’s what happens after you’ve moved past the stages of know and like. In these tough economic times, what we really have is a crisis of trust. Employees don’t trust employers. Banks don’t trust creditors. Consumers don’t trust their advisers. Without trust, markets freeze, productivity goes down, and fear quickly takes over the business environment. Bad times quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy when trust is absent.

U.S. currency doesn’t have a lot of text on it but one sentence that is printed on every bill and coin is “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Many in this country don’t even trust in this concept anymore. So what happens as trust erodes all around us? As Thomas L. Friedman states in his book The World Is Flat, “…the very thing that keeps open society open, innovating, and flattening, (and that) is trust.” If we allow fear to take over then trust has little opportunity to grow. Instead of giving into this fear perhaps it is more productive to reflect on who you trust and why?

Stephen M.R. Covey in his book The Speed of Trust goes a step further and spells out the economics of trust.

“A cynic might ask, ‘So what? Is trust really more than a nice-to-have social virtue, a so-called hygiene factor? Can you measurably illustrate that trust is a hard-edged economic driver?’”

Throughout Mr. Covey’s book he demonstrates his “…simple formula that will enable you to take trust from an intangible and unquantifiable variable to an indispensable factor that is both tangible and quantifiable.” Basically, he concludes that when trust is low, speed is slow and costs are high. Conversely, when trust is high, speed is fast and costs are low.

How true is this when we look at life inside a law firm? Our primary goal when working with attorneys and clients should be to establish trust. As Mr. Covey believes “Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.”

If you have consistently performed both to the satisfaction of your audience then you already know the answer to the “Do you trust me?” question. If you haven’t, then maybe it’s time to regroup and focus on improving your character and competence.