Monday, November 3, 2014

Baby Steps

I flipped the TV on last Saturday morning with a cup of coffee as the kids started stirring and they heard me laughing as I watched Bill Murray in the classic, “What About Bob”.

Like a song that has different meanings at different times in life, this movie struck me with its simplicity and rather poignant message.  Particularly when you apply it to business.  In a three part harmony or play it makes for some actionable advice as you think of 2015 and how you are going to grow your practice.

Think of what your craziest goal is and what a year to end all other years in your career would look like.  Feel that anxiety and doubt creep in.  How will I ever get from here to there? I have always generated this much business.  How will I ever get than many new clients, grow my practice, find time for that certification, stick to a workout plan, unplug for a vacation with my family.. Sounds great, wont ever happen.

Bbbbb baby step your way to a seminar…Bbbb baby step your way to a networking event, Bbbb baby step your way away from your laptop and phone to a weekend getaway.

The anxiety is simply too much!  I’m doing the steps, working the system..I need I need!

Time to take a vacation from your problems.  What if all of the reasons why you couldn’t do something didn’t exist? Chances are, they really don’t. The fear, uncertainty, and doubt is but a terror barrier that you have put up that prevents you from doing what you can do.  Forget them, take a vacation from them.  If they are real, they will always be there.  Close the place up, have a neighbor watch them, pay a few months in advance for lawn service and get away from them.

The top rainmaker that I know gets out of town for a weekend a year to a hotel 50 miles away.  Leaves his phone and laptop behind.  Hikes, reads, reflects.  He comes back with hand written goals for his next year and throws out what didn’t work that year.  He gets away from the noise and comes back with a plan.

Death therapy

In the last part of the film, Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss)  reaches his breaking point with Bob (Bill Murray).  Bob has been taking Dr. Leo’s advice so literally that it creates a breakthrough, but not until Bob looks inward at what all of this has meant.  He is chained to a tree with bags of dynamite and comes up with the metaphor.  The clock is ticking, he is chained, about to die. Rather than panic he realizes that all that he has been must die to REALLY live.

To control your destiny in a law firm, the service partner must die to give way to a rainmaker.  Just like the associate or law student had to die to become a partner.  All of the things that have held you back to this point have to go to give life to what you can be.  Even the best practices need pruning.

With fall leaves and cool weather upon us, use that metaphor for what you need to start planning for when the cool thaws and you have baby stepped your way into next year.

For more information on client development best practices contact please call Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or

Friday, September 5, 2014


“So how have you been?”


How many conversations have you had like this in the last week? Kids back in school, catching up with parents, colleagues, etc.

“Busy”, or its close friends, “slammed”, “non-stop”, “runnin-runnin”, “swamped” (usually from my UF friends), or if you want some street cred with wait staff and maybe extra onion rings when you take the family out to dinner, “in the weeds”.

When did “busy” become good?

How many people do you know that love busywork? Usually they all have the same mantra…”I have 300 hundred emails in my inbox…”, “Back to back conference calls all week..”; “Have to get all of these reports done so that I can roll them up to a singular report and prepare a 10 minute presentation..” Good grief! Sounds important, better not stop you from your “busy” to discuss something important like the weather..

Cell phones, Ipads, laptops, wifi, have made us accessible from everywhere at all times. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago.

The stuff that used to take us days, now takes minutes. We have Sig Sigma’d our way to bliss! Or have we?

What good is the 12 hour work day if the work can be done in 2 after all? Hours still have to be billed.

So we enter “the grind”. More stuff has to go in the funnel to overcome the efficiencies. That is either productive or unproductive stuff.

“Good…busy” is what I hear from attorneys that usually are neither. Because my next questions revolve around how much business they generate and it’s always low. Then they wonder why they are not happy at their current firm, feel undervalued, and tell me how they are the best attorney in that practice area in the area.

The rainmakers that I know have a process and don’t get caught up in busy. They can tell you how they generate business, don’t tolerate average, and seem to have time for a standing tee time in the week, or coach their kids sports.

Busy, I would assert, is the new “special” or depending on perspective, “victim”. It’s where people hide out. There is a reason, as the saying goes, if you want something done, give it to a busy person. They need it to fill calendar space. They need to be copied on every email so that they can hit 300 every day. Conference calls sound very important, until you realize that most people on them are probably checking their Facebook posts.

Well if that is busy…that’s not good.

For more information on client development best practices contact please call Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or

Friday, June 27, 2014


About a year ago, I was having a discussion with an attorney that I had developed a friendship with in Ft. Lauderdale about their practice.  Every 6 months or so we would discuss their career and potential opportunities.  They found themselves stuck.  Over a 3 year period they had originations of 472k, 509k, and 488k. 

Seeking a better opportunity, but stuck in a range, the attorney discussed client development plans.  What has worked, what hasn’t and yet nothing had really changed. 

Last week they called and said that originations have passed 900k since that discussion and a simple suggestion that I made. 

Figure out the things that you simply do not want to tolerate anymore and stop tolerating them.
Their list consisted of 10 items.  Time and energy demons. 

They tolerated: People walking in their offices when they had time blocked for other activities on their firm calendar, calls not getting returned from clients and prospective clients, an associate that needed direction on everything, legal assistant that was consistently late, seminars that weren’t generating any business, firm meetings that they didn’t have a need to be in, clients that take 30-60+ days to pay, etc.

A lot of frustration and animosity that builds up and distracts to the point where the 15 minutes lost turns into an hour.

Now, there are things that as functioning humans you simply must deal with.  As a Miami Dolphin fan, the draft is a yearly reminder of this..

However, what can be holding you back from significantly growing your practice can be the things that you feel like you have to overlook when you really do not have to.  It’s not a THEM problem, it’s a YOU problem. 

These are not comfortable discussions or changes that you have to have with others. Kind of like telling your parents that you want to start your own traditions rather than dragging the kids from house to house during the holidays.  At some point a practice has to grow up.

Set an expectation with clients on payment. If an associate isn’t working out, get a different one.  Plenty of good ones out there. If people walk in your office while you are the middle of a matter, bolt the lock, put a sign on the door. If you are wasting time on client development matters that aren’t developing clients, spend time on things that will. Tired of missing your kids events because of working late, stop letting 15 minute distractions become an hour.

Tolerating is where some people hide out.  It takes time and effort to tolerate. What if the inverse were true?  Not tolerating your business being under 1 million a year. Not tolerating an averagevacation. Not tolerating calls that interfere with family time.

Make your list and lets talk next year..

For more information on client development best practices contact please call Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Last week I had a conversation with a managing partner of an AM Law 100 firm that has grown significantly through lateral hires and we discussed the “portable book of business” issue.

He said that he isn’t looking for a portable book of business; rather he is looking for a mindset.

Makes sense. Do you buy a ¼ drill bit or are you buying a ¼ inch hole?

His point was that looking at someone’s practice whether they are growing or trending up or are they in the same range for 3-4 years? Where do people stop and why?

Most attorneys that I speak with have originations in the same average that they did 5 years ago, give or take a bad year or two. But what makes a 500k practice not reach 1 million, or a 1 million dollar practice not become 2 million? Mindset.

The chasm starts with a fundamental truth about attorneys that makes them great attorneys. Risk aversion. Entrepreneurs take risks to grow business; attorneys are there to manage risk. When to use one side of your brain to grow your practice and the other side that has to show confidence and competence.

As we start Q2, are you looking forward with a full pipeline and wind at your back, or looking backwards at a rough start to 2014? Mindset.

Most of what I hear are self-imposed limits when I speak with attorneys. A comfort zone has been reached; more business means more staff, more headaches, etc.

Although some will never say it, they do not believe that they deserve to do or have more. How will success affect their relationships with friends, family, and colleagues? People love to project fears and envy on people that succeed. Dealing with success for many is harder than dealing with failure.

If failure is in the past and success is in future. Where do you stop? Is status quo safer and more fulfilling than growth? If so, why? What barriers are truly holding you back?

Random baseball zen: (Don’t backhand a ball that you should be able to get in front of.)

Speaking with the managing partner made me understand that dynamic and why some firms succeed and some fail. It’s safe to hire someone that can keep themselves busy, makes a reasonable compensation, and works well with others. Hiring on mindset means having to invest in resources, planning, looking 3-5 years into the future more than 3 years of past originations.

For more information on client development best practices contact please call Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or

Friday, January 24, 2014

Follow Through

A few months ago, I played in a golf tournament with a few attorneys and we finished dead last. The winning teams at these events tend to either have a ringer, use creative compromise arithmetic when tabbing up scores, or buy enough Mulligan’s to overcome an afternoons worth of shots into the water.

So there we are getting our dubious award of free golf lessons and absorbing the good natured ribbing. 3 free lessons with a golf pro and some end of the year free time to use them.

Dan was part Zen master, part troubled looper on the undercard circuit for a few years, and from the poses that he put me in either found his only pleasure in life twisting people into pretzels, or he had discovered a new form of far eastern yoga that he no doubt repaired himself with while playing his way through a hostel filled golfcation through Malaysia.

His message was clear, however. My follow through troubled him.

The follow through in sports can be mind-numbing. What difference does it make how I end up if the ball has been hit or thrown where it needs to go? The “where you end up”, as you learn, is a result of all of the correct or incorrect actions up to that point. Billions of dollars are spent every year on golf by people who cant figure this one simple thing out. A series or random events, tied together by hope and luck, caused them to hit a perfect shot. Now they come back time and again, trying to find that one shot, when they should be focused on the action that happens after the shot.

Aren’t we guilty of the same thing when trying to develop business? I hear attorneys all of the time that have no idea how much business that they have or how they get it. It just is kinda there every year, until it isn’t.. Some tell me that they have given countless seminars, networking, social media activities, etc, but have no idea if any of it really works. They just step up and swing.

Sometimes the worst thing that can happen is that they give a seminar and have a ton of early business. The next time, it gets hooked into the woods. That first one though, keeps you coming back.

Conversely, just because your follow through is good doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen. Sometimes you hit a sand trap. It’s a process. Having a process and knowing all of the actions that make up a perfect follow through, let’s you know where you need to correct. What questions you need to ask about your activity to not waste movement, time, and energy.

Dan the Zen Master finished the lesson with what seemed like a couple of sun salutations and vinyasas and a urging to “end on a high note”. He pointed to a flag 180 yards away as a spot to aim, stood behind me a few feet and watched my feet, elbow in, slowly back, turn the wrists, come down smoothly, eye on the ball… club out front…WHAACK!!

Right into the trees. Hate that stupid sport..!

For more information on client development best practices and process contact please call Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or

Monday, January 13, 2014


Recently, my family was invited to my wife’s best friends church to pay tribute to her 98 year old grandmother. For 3 hours, family came, hymns were sung, and then her grandmother, who in her 80’s got a college degree, sat and played piano perfectly. That would have made for a beautiful service on it’s own. After the song, this little woman who has been a matriarch to an entire community and seen some of the worst racial elements of society, and as recently as a few nights earlier counseled a family on her street that lost a teen son to a shooting stood and preached Galatians 5 with more force than I have ever heard a sermon delivered before. Love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness. Her common refrain, “Feel the joy..!” It absolutely filled my heart.

As we walked to the car, my mind turned to a church that I would be sitting in two days later, and how a family that we have known for years could ever find joy again.

Trent was 10 years old and a schoolmate of my daughters. I met him on opening night of practice coaching t-ball a few years ago and his mom told me that he may miss some games and practices because he was diagnosed with brain cancer. 4 years of doctor visits, therapy, radiation, traveling to and from cities to see specialists. They had just brought hospice in a few weeks ago before the schools boosterthon race. Trent still ran a couple of laps and was carried the rest of the way. A perfect Tallahassee day and his smile showing pure joy of being alive and around his friends.

Neighbors on his street decorated for Christmas so that he could have one last experience. The joy of the season. The next day he passed away. As a parent, you cant imagine, and you don’t know what to say.

I didn’t expect to hear joy. “We had him for 10 years, and get to love him forever..”

I’ve heard describing faith is like explaining a color to someone that can’t see. Perspective is the same way.

As a recruiter, I thoroughly enjoy getting to know people. People share amazingly inspirational stories. I also hear about the divorces. Not seeing kids. Health issues. Financial despair. The holidays are the best or worst time of the year depending on your perspective. No amount of money or title changes it.

This season I wish you love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness.

For more information on client development best practices contact please call Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or

Information vs. Knowledge

“I have only come here seeking knowledge. Things they would not teach me of in college..” The Police

My daughter walked in to my office the other day and asked a question. “How far is it to the center of the earth?”

My first instinct was to Google it. Then something struck me. If I had an random question at her age, I would have had to get on my bike, go to the library, sorted through the Dewey Decimal system, find books on the earth, scan through various chapters and FINALLY get the answer to my question. In the process, I would have stumbled upon what the earth’s crust was made of, the percentage of water, micro-climates, theories on what formed the earth. It gave me knowledge, not just the answer to a question that will quickly be forgotten.

So, we got in the car and went to the library. 2 hours later, we got the answer, and she wanted to bring home a couple of books on Lincoln and Florida history. (Be honest you already Googled the question didn’t you..?)

I hear a common refrain from hiring partners and recruiting directors at firms. They seek attorneys that seek knowledge with a curious mind, and are having a tough time finding it. Not just with younger attorneys that grew up in the digital age. It’s part of the process that makes for a successful partner. Rainmakers are curious about a customers business, and dig deeper than their website. Seeking knowledge is going beyond the questions into the theory. The how and the why. The “what’s next” and how can you be useful to them.

Since early 2009, I have spoken with thousands of attorneys about their client development practice. The increase in their books of business directly correlates to the types of questions that they asked about how they develop clients. Prior to the economic collapse, many just did their thing and business came in. Billing pressures, leverage, clients closing or merging, and several other factors changed the landscape. The nimble attorneys adjusted by asking how those changes affect them. What types of clients to call on, what changes need to be done in approaching them, guarding against losing clients. All kinds of questions they asked themselves and asked their clients.

If you are not where you want to be with your client development goals, question everything and everybody.

Or to quote the great Parrothead poet:
“Answers are the easy part, questions raise the doubt”, Jimmy Buffett

How many miles you ask…? Take 2 hours with your kids and email me with the answer..:)

For more information on client development best practices contact please call Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or