Building a Book of Business Through Imperfect Action

All of us want things. Every year many of us resolve to make changes – personally and professionally – in order to get what we want. Eat better, write that article, exercise, make those phone calls, spend more time with family, learn that new skill. But inevitably another year passes without the results we desire and we are back to square one.

For most the problem is not one of indecision, but inaction. The desire for change is strong, but the will to make sustainable change happen is lacking. For this reason many lawyers spend their careers on autopilot, attending diligently to client needs and priorities but not their own. Days, weeks and years seem to flash by in a whirlwind of emails, conference calls and court appearances. With demanding clients, bosses and adversaries to deal with on a daily basis, who has time to focus on much else?

That’s not to say that most lawyers are mindless or aimless about their future. Far from it. Most have audacious goals for their career. But far fewer take the steps to achieve those goals.

Ironically, many lawyers end up settling for mediocrity because they are perfectionists. They don’t have the time, energy, or mental bandwidth to execute on a perfect business development plan, so rather than do a “good” job of building their practice, they do nothing at all.

The pursuit of perfection is a noble goal, but it’s an impractical impediment when it comes to building a legal practice. In fact, perfectionism is a form of resistance that many lawyers place in their own paths as a way to feel better about their unwillingness to do the hard, gritty, sometimes grimy work required to develop business.

The truth is that practices are built on a foundation of imperfect action, not perfect intentions.

Here’s a challenge for you: Do something business development-related today. Make one call. Send a short note. Bang out a quick article.

Don’t put it off. Don’t wait for a window of time that will never come. Take advantage of your margin time – at lunch, in line, on the train – to make progress. Accept the fact that the unpredictable nature of the practice of law will never allow for the perfect routine.

Act. Then act again tomorrow. Pretty soon you’ll establish a habit of action that will start to pay dividends. It won’t be perfect, but that’s the point. Good habits always trump perfect intentions never acted upon.