In his 1992 bestselling book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are
From Venus, John Gray wrote about the fundamental differences
between males and females. Gray suggested that if men and women
could learn to appreciate some of these differences, they would
improve their relationships.
Gray's analysis is useful for couples who are trying to improve
their relationships; but in business, understanding differences can
broaden our thinking, improve our communication and make us more
In a law firm, look at how different constituencies think about
marketing and you quickly get the picture. A typical lawyer in
private practice sees marketing as a necessary evil. Many do not
like to be perceived as a salesman, and many are afraid that they
will sully their reputation by self promoting.
In contrast, talk to a marketing director and you get a very
different take. To a marketing director, speaking, writing,
volunteering and meeting prospects for lunch are all worthwhile
investments of time. While no single activity is likely to generate
work by itself, the cumulative effect is to help an attorney build
his reputation and strengthen his business relationships. Over
time, these activities enable the lawyer to attract more
These two mindsets can be summed up in the following way:
marketing professionals think like entrepreneurs. They focus on
"what might be." Lawyers, on the other hand, tend to "think like
lawyers" and focus on "what might go wrong."
Of course, anticipating what might go wrong is the essence of good
lawyering. While a good lawyer factors in what the client wants,
managing the downside risk is what lawyers do. But there is a lot
that lawyers can learn from marketing and sales professionals. Law
has become a highly competitive business, and just doing good work
is no longer enough to ensure that your pipeline will remain
So what are some examples of how to shift your "risk avoidance"
mindset to a more entrepreneurial mindset? The following list
illustrates some common activities and the differences in how
attorneys and marketing professionals approach them. They are
illustrations of how shifting your own thinking can keep you
focused on making a long-term investment in your success.
- Attending a networking function -- Attorney mindset: I
never know what I am supposed to do at these events. How do I avoid
wasting my time with people who are just looking for a job or want
to sell me something? I never get any business from attending.
Marketing mindset: I have no expectations. I'll try to get
a sense of who might attend and maybe even show up early to look
over the list of attendees; but I'm simply going to try and meet
people and learn what they do. Maybe I'll meet someone who shares
my interests. If it feels comfortable and appropriate, I'll get
permission to contact a few people I meet and invite them to coffee
or lunch. I will be open to the serendipity of what comes my
- Speaking at a client seminar or CLE program -- AM: I
didn't get any work from doing this. It was a waste of time. I'm
just giving away all of my good tips to my clients and competitors
for free. MM: I've put together a solid presentation that
I can turn into an article. I can repeat this presentation for
other clients with minimal effort. I have enhanced my reputation
for being an expert in my practice area and I can add this to my
bio. I can use the presentation as an excuse to write to my
- Following up with a networking contact -- AM: He never
responded to my e-mail. I've been rejected. If I contact him again,
he'll think I'm a pushy salesman. MM: Maybe he never
got my e-mail. I'll keep trying until I hear one way or the other.
But I'll be a little creative about it. If I sent an e-mail first,
next time I'll call or maybe I'll send an actual letter.
- Calling inactive clients just to say "hi" -- AM: She
knows I'm just calling because I want her business. MM:
Maybe she likes hearing from me because we share common interests
outside of work. Maybe there is some way I can be helpful to her
that doesn't involve getting her business (maybe she needs a
referral to another service provider -- or maybe I can introduce
her business to potential investors).
Thirty years ago, there was far less pressure on lawyers to
market. In today's business climate, however, lawyers ignore
marketing at their own peril. Relationship-building and
reputation-building may not come naturally to many attorneys; but
avoiding these activities because they seem risky is no longer an
option. So start thinking like an entrepreneur and take some
chances. Be open to the serendipity that comes with getting out of
your office. There will be plenty of time to think like a lawyer
once you have the work, but only if you change your mindset and get
the work in the door.
Stephen E. Seckler is president of Seckler Legal Coaching.
He coaches attorneys on a broad mix of marketing and career issues.
He writes the blog CounseltoCounsel (www.seckler.com/blog) which
was included in the American Bar Association Journal's Blawg100 in
2007 and 2008. He is a member of the MBA's Law Practice Management
Section Council. He can be contacted at [e-mail legal].