Login | December 11, 2018

No gender barrier for business development

Law Bulletin columnist

Published: December 7, 2017

In knowing, working with and interviewing hundreds of women in law, I’ve observed a fair amount of angst regarding business development and growing a book of business.

I have heard comments ranging from, “It’s still a man’s world” or “As a woman, it’s hard to be direct when asking for business.” Whatever the case, the reality is that there’s never been a better time in history to be a female attorney than right now.

The New York Times published a piece back in 2016 that showed women overtaking men in law school for the first time ever. Look around you, women are in lead general counsel roles, growing their own law firms and hustling internally to become the rainmakers of the future.

If you’re looking for recognition, opportunity and freedom from the shackles of a 60-hour workweek, be sure to make learning business development a significant part of your lawyer lifestyle.

To make this transformation of worker bee to business development assassin, here are three easy to implement tips that work for women in growing a book and taking your career to the next level.

Tip No. 1: Become an expert at time management

With the billable hour, family emergencies and personal obligations all weighing you down, it is critical to get organized right now. The easiest way to do this is to buy the book titled “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.

I am a huge fan.

In addition to turning my life around, I have pushed his concepts to my busiest lawyer clients who immediately see results from his concepts. Without getting extra organized with your time, you may be doomed to fail as a developer of new business.

Remember, if you won’t take the time to read a book on time management, how are you ever going to truly manage your time?

Tip No. 2: Learn or do something with business development every day

If you truly want to get ahead in growing your law practice, you need to become a student of business development. An easy way to do this is to commit to learning or doing one thing every day to advance your interests.

A few suggestions might include reading a chapter of a business development book, watching an online video or attending a business development or marketing focused on Continuing Legal Education. You may also want to e-mail one contact, client or friend for a coffee in order to open new doors that may seem shut.

One of the best tools for this is LinkedIn. There isn’t a reason why you couldn’t look through one of your connections on LinkedIn each day to see what GC, CEO or HR director he or she might be connected to. By making business development and learning a part of your daily routine, you create an “inner-culture” for yourself that will elevate your game.

Tip No. 3: It’s not about being a man or a woman, it’s about being the best!

One of the greatest tips I can share with you is that there are advantages to being a man and advantages in being a women in law. What you need to do is rise above that and become excellent!

Now, there are two types of excellent. First, you must become an amazing and dynamic attorney that people are impressed with. This one point alone can make your career. Second, you must have an approach to business development that will separate you from the pack.

While everyone else is in fear to ask his or her contacts for quality introductions into the midmarket, for example, you could have an approach that is effective to get you in the door and closing that new corporate client.

When everyone else is busy pitching, convincing and flaunting his or her legal prowess to prospective buyers, you could be busy asking, listening and understanding their needs and pains. The skills to generate new business are learned, but you have to go outside of yourself to find the answers. Feel free to go to fretzin.com or theoriginationstation.com for more tactical information.

As a coach and trainer exclusively for attorneys, I am in the unique position to see and hear things that you may not.

Many of the women that I work with start out with the same concerns you might have about balancing family, work and relationships. In the end, you have to decide what’s most important to you and where you want to devote time. If you can slowly work business development into that mix, you may see advancement on the horizon.

Steve Fretzin is the author of “Sales-Free Selling” and the IICLE-published book “The Lawyers Networking Handbook.” An expert at legal business development, Fretzin has helped hundreds of attorneys in Chicagoland to dramatically grow their book of business while having a well-balanced life.