Secrets of successful business people

LegalJob recently came across a book ostensibly for business leaders seeking to become more effective presenters but the material can just as easily apply to lawyers seeking to become more effective at the business of practicing law. The book is 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators (herein “10 secrets”). This post discusses the first three simple secrets and explains how they can apply in the law context. Future posts will cover the remaining secrets.

1.) Passion

The author of 10 secrets advises the business speaker to be passionate. To help become passionate, he suggests one answer the questions of: Why do you believe in your service, product, company, or cause, why should your listeners care, and what’s your connection to your story (and are you incorporating that into your message).

The advice to bring passion to your work is clearly helpful for lawyers as well. For the new lawyer who is trying to secure his or her job having a strong connection to a particular area of law and being able to articulate that connection will likely make you a more attractive candidate. That connection could be relevant work experience, coursework in college or law school, family business or legal experience with the area or a related area, or something else. The notion is that with passion/connection comes drive, commitment, excitement, motivation, and whatever else will help you reach your goal (of becoming a great lawyer).

For the lawyer building business and selling himself or his firm, he will want to consider the answers to the questions of why he believes in what he (and his firm) is selling and why listeners should care.   What is the business proposition for why a client would be better off with him? Take them through the welter of considerations (including the obvious ones of cost and efficiency) and sort them out for the prospective client just as you will do with the client’s projects once the client engages you.

2.) Inspiration

The author of 10 secrets advises the business speaker to be inspirational. Where passion is what helps you reach your goal, inspiration is what helps you to define your goal -- the ideas, dreams, vision, etc. To help become inspirational, he suggests one answers the questions of: What stories can you incorporate in your next presentation, and how do they connect to the mission of your service, product, company, or cause? He explains that one has to think big picture by showing the client the vision and taking them there.

This is great advice for young lawyers who can generally get in the weeds and focus on the minutiae but sometimes have trouble thinking about and articulating the big picture plan. So, for example, President Reagan did not dive deep into the details of lower taxes and less government but instead talked in terms of the “shining city upon a hill.” You may not think it is necessary for a partner or a client to be inspired by your work on every project but to the extent you can think big picture (summarize the problem in a user-friendly way) and let your client know where you are heading and how you are going to get there (potential solutions), you (and your client) will be well served.

3.) Preparation

The author of 10 secrets advises the business speaker to be prepared. To help be prepared he advises one to know your audience by asking three questions: What do they need to know, why should they care, and   what action do I want them to take.

This advice for giving strong business presentations could easily be applied to young (or experienced) lawyers working on projects for partners/clients or providing recommendations. Many young lawyers pride themselves on being diligent in their preparation. However, they may not be asking these “know your audience” questions. What is the one thing (above all else) that the partner/client needs to know to assess your recommendation? Why do they need to know it? And know their communication style. How do they want to receive the information and in what format? Do they want a legal brief or a short memo or both? Do they want the hour speech or the executive summary?

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