When it comes to business development, the legal profession isn’t known for teamwork. It could be described more as track and field, rather than football. Each lawyer in the firm does what he or she does and at the end of the year they add up the score. Seldom is there strategy to leverage the skills of all the players. BUT… when there is, it’s a beautiful thing! The velocity of success is remarkable.

How can legal business development teams work better for the greater good? There are interesting examples in the digital world. Walter Isaacson, author and CEO of Aspen Institute writes an article on Linkedin… Why Steve Jobs Obsessed About Office Design(And, Yes, Bathroom Locations) that has a few insights for legal business development teams.

Isaacson writes…

Creativity is a collaborative process. As brilliant as the many inventors of the Internet and computer were, they achieved most of their advances through teamwork. Like Robert Noyce, the founder of Intel, some of the best tended to resemble Congregational ministers rather than lonely prophets, madrigal singers rather than soloists.

Twitter, for example, was invented by a team of people who were collaborative but also quite contentious. When one of the cofounders, Jack Dorsey, started taking a lot of the credit in media interviews, another cofounder, Evan Williams, a serial entrepreneur who had previously created Blogger, told him to chill out, according to Nick Bilton of the New York Times. “But I invented Twitter,” Dorsey said.

‘No, you didn’t invent Twitter,” Williams replied. “I didn’t invent Twitter either. Neither did Biz [Stone, another cofounder]. People don’t invent things on the Internet. They simply expand on an idea that already exists.’

He goes on to explain…

There is something special, as evidenced at Bell Labs, about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally. The founders of Intel created a sprawling, team-oriented open workspace where employees all rubbed against one another. It was a model that became common in Silicon Valley. Predictions that digital tools would allow workers to telecommute were never fully realized. One of Marissa Mayer’s first acts as CEO of Yahoo! was to discourage the practice of working from home, rightly pointing out that “people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” When Steve Jobs designed a new headquarters for Pixar, he obsessed over ways to structure the atrium, and even where to locate the bathrooms, so that serendipitous personal encounters would occur. Among his last creations was the plan for Apple’s new signature headquarters, a circle with rings of open workspaces surrounding a central courtyard.

Another key to fielding a great team is pairing visionaries, who can generate ideas, with operating managers, who can execute them. Visions without execution are hallucinations. One of the great visionaries of the digital age was William von Meister, a flamboyant entrepreneur who launched a dozen companies and watched all but one flame out. The one that succeeded became AOL. It survived because von Meister’s investors insisted he bring in two people to execute on his vision: a former special forces commando named Jim Kimsey and a young marketing whiz, Steve Case.

“Visions without execution are hallucinations!” So true. A business development team has a much better chance to succeed than a single lawyer trying to get people to do what he or she needs done to land a new client. That’s a painful process.

Teamwork… contributions by all team members. Big and small. Results celebrated by all. This mentality will lead to a whole new level of success.

Give me a call today if you’d like to discuss how you can build a business development team that gets results.

No matter how good you are… you can’t do it alone. You need a team. The team could include staff members, colleagues, a contract attorney, freelancers and the list goes on. There is no question that you need a team to be successful.

My question is how committed are you to your team… and how committed are they to you? Lawyerist contributor Josh Camson writes about his lessons learned from Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing and the character Toby Ziegler, the White House Communication Director. Yes, Toby was just a television character… but the wisdom is profound!

Camson writes…

Toby: …’We’re a group. We’re a team…We win together, we lose together, we celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories sweetened because we did them together…I’m simply gonna say this: you’re my guys. And I’m yours. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.’

When someone on his staff leaks an embarrassing quote to the press, Toby is furious. But instead of chastising his staff, he gives the above speech. Toby understands that without everyone that works for him, he wouldn’t be able to do his job. We are no different. Without our partners, associates, paralegals, and support staff, we wouldn’t be as good at our jobs. It’s important that we remember that the next time we think a member of our team did something wrong.

It is our job to inspire and motivate on behalf of our clients, firms and communities. Money seldom inspires. And often times money isn’t even being exchanged. I have a criminal defense client that everyone in the courthouse is happy to see and happy to help. So I ask you… Who is truly happy to help you? If the list is short… What are you going to do about it?

“I don’t have time!” I hear that over and over again. Often times, after lawyers complain about not having time we go on to discuss their business development initiatives and almost each and every time they divulge to me little and big things they are doing that don’t make sense that he or she is spending their limited time doing. But they don’t make the connection.

Time is money… I’m sure you have heard that phrase many times. It is never truer than it is with lawyers. Because you sell your time in hour increments and even if you charge a flat fee, you figure out what to charge based on how much time it’s going to take… Simple.

BUT, it’s not so simple when it comes to doing things other than legal work. Three times this week I spoke to lawyers about projects they were working on and each one lamented their lack of time. One talked about setting up a group on LinkedIn… great idea! But did she need to spend her time setting it up, no! The answer was… “It’s easy, I can do it fast.” Sure she can, but she has a team that could do it and besides, her time would be better spent writing an article to post on LinkedIn.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Others could bring expertise and insight that you may not have. And sometimes it’s simply a second pair of eyes that can be invaluable.

Ask yourself… “Could someone else do this task? Am I doing it because I like doing it or maybe because I want to prove how smart I am?” Neither of those qualifies as a good use of your valuable time.

Chelsea Greenwood wrote in Success Magazine… “Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock. For some, that’s what the passage of time sounds like. For others, it goes more like this: Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.” What does time sound like to YOU?

I work a lot with lawyers who are building a team or wanting to be part of a team. So when I read Seth Godin’s blog post I thought… “But of course!” He writes…

The easiest way to get people to do what you want them to do… is to start with people who want what you want.

Identify, organize and excite people who are already predisposed to achieve what you had in mind and you’re much more likely to have the outcome you seek.

Today I worked with an associate who told me that he volunteered to assist his managing partner with a Pro Bono trial. The managing partner offered this opportunity to all the associates, but it turns out that my client was the only one that took him up on the offer. The managing partner shared the fact that he was disappointed that my client was the only one interested in the opportunity. My client responded with “Anytime you want to take on a trial… count me in.” 

I think this is exactly what Seth was referring to… this associate and the managing partner want the same thing. They are trial attorneys that love being in the courtroom and giving back to the community.

We should all look to surround ourselves with people who want what we want. I believe life would be much easier… don’t you?

No one is ever REALLY solo… everyone has a team: big or small, on the payroll or contract, vendors or partners. Fast Company’s Erin Schulte put together four of their best tips… lawyers listen up!

Create Stars
Attract the best talent. Digital companies are hiring–and in fact are in hot competition for certain types of employees. But you don’t have to be Google to attract top-tier talent. HUGE CEO Aaron Shapiro offers advice on luring the cream of the crop to your office.

Hire based on spirit–not just skill. A leader can be coached on how to become more influential and engage their team to achieve great results; an employee can be trained for technical skills. But spirit is the set of "soft” skills that can’t be trained effectively. You have to hire for them. These are hard to find, but are necessary for a company to excel.

Motivate your employees with workplace flexibility. Organizations that employ a healthy and robust work/life flexibility will win the talent war. Start with these pain-free ways to move your company toward greater flexibility that benefits you as well as your employees.

Keep your MVPs. If your once-stellar employees are starting to shine a little less brightly, it may be time to rethink your approach to accountability and rewards. Interpersonal Frequency CEO Harish Rao suggests putting more focus on the relationship than the size of their paychecks.

Believe me… there is nothing better than working with people you like and respect. I have had enough years of doing the contrary and the former is the ONLY way to live. It means the difference in YOUR attitude and your clients experience. If your team isn’t where it should be… do something about it. Rotting fruit doesn’t get better with age.

Some people wait to be invited, appointed, begged or cajoled into signing up for a project. They sit in the back of the room hoping they won’t be called on… does it sound familiar?

What most people don’t realize is there is far more to gain when you take responsibility for a project. Some people see this crystal clear. What sets them apart? Here are a couple of examples…

Last week I was working with a client in British Columbia, Canada, and it was so enjoyable that when I returned to Miami I had the feeling that I was coming home from vacation. Yes… VACATION! Why? Because I had the most fabulous time working with a team of TRULY engaged people. Lawyers AND staff, that volunteered to spearhead initiatives… a team that saw clearly that business development is EVERY ONE’S priority. NOBODY was sitting in the back of the room hoping they wouldn’t be called on… they were contributing ideas that could move business development forward and create RAVING FANS of the clients they already have. How can you make this happen around you?

Hire like-minded people with positive attitudes… that see possibilities… not impossibilities.

Recognize that everyone from receptionist to top lawyer is equally as important to the success of your firm.

Care… yes care about what every team member has to contribute. That doesn’t mean you have to act on every idea… as a colleague of mine says… everyone has to love every idea for 5 minutes. (This is a powerful concept, try it.)

At the other end of the spectrum is an individual lawyer that I coach and it just so happened that he was my first appointment when I returned from "VACATION" in Canada.

He is a young partner in a national firm who has made a commitment to business development and creating a focus for his practice like no one I have ever seen. In about a month here are some of the things he has accomplished…

Created a handout for this new focused practice… defining what it is and how it will help their existing clients. He also listed colleagues in other offices that have experience in the area.

Made a presentation to the partners of his firm in the local office, distributing the handout.

Revised his on-line bio to reflect this initiative.

Joined a committee of the ABA and has taken on a leadership role which he will undertake at an upcoming conference.

Requested and been granted a slot at the upcoming firm retreat to make a presentation.

His new blog is in the works and he has already written several blog posts.

Made a proposal for two speeches and will be contributing an article for the local Bar.

These are just a few of his accomplishments. Would you say this guy is committed? Absolutely! He could have come up with lots of reasons why this couldn’t work… but no… he found all the reasons why it COULD work! He is making it happen in a big way.

What sets these people apart from others? It’s passion and commitment, with a drive to succeed. And taking on responsibility to contribute to the greater good of the team. What do they get out of it? They will all learn much more by taking on the responsibility and gaining hands-on experience. THAT my friends is invaluable.

So… I ask… are you sitting in the back of the room hoping YOU won’t get called on? Stand up and take on responsibility… it will pay dividends. I can hardly wait to see what these people will accomplish in a year’s time… and I am honored to have the privilege to work with them.