Close your eyes and imagine a superstar lawyer. Now, this superstar lawyer is a natural. He delivers a winning closing argument in a bet-the-company (or capital murder) trial extemporaneously (in fact, he established his reputation when he won such a trial two months after graduating law school, never once working past midnight). He leads negotiation calls without any prep or so much as a Post-It note to remind him of the details. He sketches out his arguments on his smartphone on the go, then files them with the court – as is – to win a motion.
Do you know someone like this? Of course not.
Do highly talented lawyers exist? Of course yes. But much of what makes them “naturals” is their ability to learn, deliberately practice, and combine all their hard-won knowledge and experience in unexpected ways. And their polish is the result of focused work prior to the high-stakes moments.
In short, A superstar lawyer who is just born that way and doesn’t work hard is a fairy tale.
Now let’s turn to this common refrain among attorneys reluctant to engage in business development activities: “I’m just not made for this.”
How’s that for a fairy tale? Business development is not a dark art, and it’s not the domain of those naturally born to it. Rather, business development is a learned practice just like law.
Did you know how to write a contract the day before you entered law school? Did you know how to structure an interrogatory set the day you started your first job? Did you slay in the first deposition you took (or did the deponent emerge unscathed after the first deposition you defended)? No? Were you “just not made for being a lawyer” because you had to learn how to do these things? Or is it that the law has a clear path to mastery, and you followed that path until you became competent?
Thinking about the ability to develop business as a character trait and not as a practice is a cartload of 100% unadulterated bovine manure, and it fails you in insidious ways. In addition to giving you an easy out to not even try, it predisposes you to blow the opportunities that come your way:
- You’re not inclined to put in the work that goes into preparing for the networking events you attend (do you know who’ll be there? Did you come up with a couple of questions to start a conversation with people? Have you thought about what success looks like for attending this event?).
- You don’t prepare a script for when you call a potential referral source (or two scripts – one for when they pick up the phone, and one for when you get their voicemail).
- You don’t learn from your mistakes, because you attribute your mistakes to your innate nature rather than to a lack of skill, and therefore you don’t analyze them beyond “OMG, that was so embarrassing, I’m never doing this again.”
So do yourself a favor, and quit believing in the fairy tale of the born business developer. Instead, start trusting in the concrete promise of learning a new skill set.