How to Give Thanks to the People Around You

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.


“Karyn, thank you for working so steadily from the time you arrive at our office to when you leave. Your dedication demonstrates that I can trust you to play fairly with me. Trust is important to me, and it is a relief and a time-saver not to have any concerns about your attitude.” That’s a message I want to convey to my assistant in this month dedicated to expressing gratitude.  I know she’ll receive this message, because she’ll publish this blog post for me. I’m hoping she’ll relish having the world (or at least this corner of it) know something that I appreciate about her.

I’ve written previously that studies have found various ways that expressing gratitude can enrich your life and increase your enjoyment of your law practice. I wrote about the value of acknowledging a job well done, which is a form of expressing gratitude, and how to give an effective acknowledgment. I’ve also written about the importance of demonstrating your appreciation to referral sources. Are you starting to get the message that I think having an “attitude of gratitude” is important? Read more «How to Give Thanks to the People Around You»

Animal Law and Social Media

Houston Bar Association Animal Law Section Presents:

“Lawyers to the Rescue: Part Deux”

Debra will speak on “Animal Law and Social Media”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

9:00am – 2:30pm

South Texas College of Law

Garrett-Townes auditorium, 1303 San Jacinto

Click here for more information about this animal law program.

Cultivating the Courage to Ask for Business – Part 3

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

This is Part 3 of a 3 part series in which Debra L. Bruce talks to attorneys about less painful and more effective ways to ask for business from potential clients.

Networking Is Key

So how do you get into conversations with potential clients, or create the connections that can improve your likelihood of success, without making cold calls or being pushy? Networking is key. One in-house counsel said, “I enjoy talking to new people who introduce themselves at a conference or an event, particularly if they are confident, poised and friendly – without being overly aggressive.” Another said, “In order for a law firm attorney to have some chance of getting my business, I almost always would need to have met that person and ideally have had an opportunity to interact with them in a legal setting, such as serving on a bar committee or participating on the same seminar panel or co-authoring an article with them.”

So don’t give up on speaking, writing, bar service and trade association activity just because your phone doesn’t ring the next day. You are demonstrating your expertise and putting in place relationship building blocks. If you don’t meet a potential client, you might get to know someone who can later make an important introduction or referral. Corporate counsel frequently seek referrals from lawyers they trust, particularly other corporate counsel.

Companies Value Interpersonal Skills

Networking also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your talent for communication and connection. If you get overly nervous or tend to keep quiet in group conversations, seek help in developing a confident presence. Decision makers use every interaction to evaluate your ability to work well with others. As one counsel said, “If the person I’m thinking about hiring is rude to the waiter at a restaurant, won’t make eye contact, or otherwise presents poorly in person, then I worry about how they will interact with business folks at my company, appear to a judge, etc.”

Asking for Business from Friends

Who needs networking when your friend has the power to choose legal counsel? If you have the necessary expertise, it might seem like you’re on easy street. However, as a lawyer-coach, I have often encountered women attorneys who worry that if they ask for business from a friend, particularly a female one, it might damage the friendship. Could the friend think the attorney is trying to take advantage of the relationship? Perhaps the client would feel uncomfortable providing candid direction or feedback to a friend. Maybe the client wouldn’t want to risk exposing their own mistakes, shortcomings and fears to a social acquaintance.

Interestingly, my survey elicited responses from some female corporate counsel who felt quite comfortable doing business with friends, and some male counsel who didn’t. One of the women said, “My company has provided management training so that I am comfortable creating commitments and holding people accountable to their commitments, regardless of whether they are a business colleague, friend or family.” Counsel who didn’t mind being asked for work by friends stressed that “the lawyer has to do a great job no matter who they are” and that they should understand that companies have policies and procedures to follow.

Given the variety of preferences among corporate counsel on the subject of doing business with friends, a wise attorney will watch for indicators of a friend’s attitude. Do they often socialize with outside lawyers? Do they share their concerns about business problems with you or seek informal advice? Do they seem to have an interest in seeing you succeed? Have they ever mentioned that they might call on your expertise one day? Does your friend generally have an informal and approachable demeanor? Those are all good signs. Read more «Cultivating the Courage to Ask for Business – Part 3»

Cultivating the Courage to Ask for Business – Part 2

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

This is Part 2 of a 3 part series in which Debra L. Bruce talks to attorneys about less painful and more effective ways to ask for business from potential clients.

First Downs vs. Touchdowns

If your prospect hasn’t jumped at the chance to retain your services, he may not have the necessary confidence that you can bring real value to him. Or perhaps he doesn’t have the authority to move forward. Instead of going for a touchdown by asking for the business, just try to keep scoring first downs. Consistent first downs will eventually turn into a touchdown, if you don’t fumble.

So how do you keep the ball moving? Perhaps you can ask, “Would you like to hear how some of my clients have solved that problem?” That’s a low risk question that doesn’t require much courage to ask. It offers to donate something of value to your prospective client, building trust. It also naturally opens a door to tell a success story.

Your success story is more persuasive than a direct ask, and often leads to more pointed inquiries about your services… initiated by the client. Maybe you won’t ever have to ask for the business, as the client takes the lead. If the client expresses interest in progressing to the next level with you, your follow up question might be “What’s the next step?”

If signals seem positive, but still non-committal, ask for a commitment short of a touchdown that keeps advancing the ball. Here are some possibilities:

  • “Would you like to set a time for further conversation to explore whether we can help you?”
  • “How about if I pull some data together on this to go over with you next week?”
  • “Would you like me to take a look at your agreement and give you some preliminary thoughts?”
  • “Are there some other folks with valuable input on this subject that you and I might like to talk to together?”

If you get a commitment for intermediate action by the client, you will know that you’re still in the game.

Even if this process doesn’t evolve into new business, by proceeding incrementally based on previously developed information, you can avoid fumbling the ball and scaring the client away. You will have gained useful data and built a little trust toward a future opportunity. The client won’t avoid your next call, especially if you shared valuable insights in this process.  Read more «Cultivating the Courage to Ask for Business – Part 2»

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