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2 minute read | 5 years ago

Remember the Soft Skills in 2019

Photo of Kevin McMurdo By: Kevin McMurdo

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True story (so I am told): A young billionaire—let’s call him Bill—was given the opportunity to pitch to the owners of a major sports league. Bill’s purpose was to convince the owners to expand the league and add a team in Bill’s hometown.

The presentation was impressive. Bill assured the group that he could provide the necessary capital to build a new arena/stadium. He outlined the work he had done to secure appropriate downtown property on which to build. He had assembled a strong management team. His market analysis was exhaustive, indicating sufficient interest and the potential for longterm fan support. For three hours, the owners grilled Bill on the finer details of his project. When he left, Bill was confident that his proposal would be accepted.

The owners unanimously rejected Bill’s proposal.

Later, when asked why they voted down the proposal, one of the owners responded with a single word: arrogance. Bill had projected a tone that simply didn’t sit well with the owner group. He had failed to pass the interpersonal “chemistry test” crucial to admission into their exclusive club.

The story reminded me of my first meeting with the Wicker Park partners. I asked the group, which had conducted more than 2,000 client interviews at the time, “What do clients want?” They responded that clients have three requests for any client-lawyer relationship:

  • Solve my problem
  • Make my job/life easier
  • Be someone I enjoy working with

Indeed, of those three qualities, the need to like their lawyer(s)—those who could “pass the chemistry test”—was paramount for the vast majority of clients.

 The need to like their lawyer(s)—those who could “pass the chemistry test”—was paramount for the vast majority of clients.

As law firm business development professionals prepare for another challenging, competitive year in 2019, plans likely will include a mixture of old and new strategies:

  • Competitive intelligence programs to help focus our efforts on the most meaningful opportunities
  • The newest technologies to help us organize, prioritize and reach out to key clients and prospects through a variety of social media channels
  • Enhanced websites with powerful, relevant content
  • Innovative pricing strategies
  • Client and industry teams that better align firm services with client needs
  • A targeted plan to interview key clients

This is also an excellent time to plan programs for your lawyers to develop and perfect their “soft skills,” or basic communication behaviors to help them recognize and adapt to the communication preferences of their clients and prospects: active listening skills, presentation skills, networking skills, leadership skills and many others.

Consider adding those soft skills trainings to your list of 2019 programs to help your lawyers pass the chemistry test and, hopefully, avoid the disappointment that billionaire Bill must have experienced upon receiving the rejection of his proposal.