To successfully develop business as a lawyer means you have to have the right mindset about sales. Too often lawyers are mentally blocked about sales and they do not want to confront their own points of view about what it means to be a sales person.

In the business world, those in professional sales are highly paid. The reason for this is selling is hard. Companies like Cisco, GE, Salesforce, etc… all have large sales teams, and they work hard to compensate the best ones because they are hard to replace. The CEO, if he does not come from a sales background, understands the importance of the role.  In law firms the opposite is often true.

I have witnessed many firms who role their eyes at the lawyer who would rather be out drumming up new business over being in his or her office practicing law. The badge of honor is billable hours, closing deals, and winning cases. Selling activities are not championed, and thus young lawyers come up in the firm with little or no desire to be seen as a lawyer who can create new business opportunities.  The best at sales often get hired away by law firms who appreciate their skills and will compensate them accordingly.

If the culture of your firm puts business development as a second tier priority, than you will always have second tier results.

As an individual who wants to cultivate a successful and sustainable career, you have to have a mindset that is positive about the role of selling. Too many firms teach their young associates that it is the reputation of the firm that brings in the business. This is not only not true, but it undermines the future of the young lawyers.

But there are reasons firms do not help set young attorneys up to be great at business development. They do not want them to leave, and someone who early on can create a book of business will have power. I said this once at a law firm and pissed off a senior partner who walked out of the meeting and later tried to get the firm not to pay me.  The reason?  I was right and he knew it.  He hated the idea of young attorneys learning to sell, as they could leave with clients. Shortsighted? Yep.  But it is true in many Big Law offices.

Understanding what is holding you back from being a rainmaker is important. in my work coaching lawyers this topic is a big one. Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset ? (for more on this read MINDSET by Dr. Carol Dweck).  If you have a fixed mindset you will fail at cultivating the type of practice that lead you to reading this blog post. A growth mindset is the only way a lawyer can develop ongoing business and build a reputation that will keep their practice active for twenty plus years.

Take a minute to write down what holds you back from developing the type of new clients you want.  Make a list. What is stopping you?

Now look at that list. How many things on that are real and how many have to do with a closed or fixed mindset?  There are some real things that hold people back from being a lawyer who can develop business, but most of the things I have seen listed are crap and in your head.  You can tell yourself a false narrative and choose to believe it, or you can get out there and start laying the ground work to create a big book of business.

It takes several years to cultivate a reputation and make more short list with potential clients. Everyday you wait takes you farther from the success you desire.


Thom Singer is an advisor to law firms. He also works with individual attorneys on their business development plans.  To learn more about his “Business Development Coaching for Lawyers” call 512-970-0398.