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Business Development
2 minute read | 7 months ago

Inspiring Tales from the Appalachian Trail

Photo of Caitlin White By: Caitlin White

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Pharr Davis present an inspiring keynote at the LMA SE conference in Nashville. A record-setting Appalachian Trail hiker, Jennifer shared stories from her remarkable feats of endurance. Several of her experiences reinforced messages we often give lawyers during our business development trainings. 

During a particularly grueling part of her third hike on the trail, Jennifer was tempted to quit. A day behind the record she had set out to beat, she was wet, shivering and suffering from hypothermia and shin splints. However, she decided to stop obsessing about the record and take each day as it came. Once she waved off the daunting expectations, a psychological shift occurred, and she started enjoying the experience again. And the number of miles she hiked each day went up. She found a unique style and pace that were sustainable and ultimately set a new record.  

  • Building business and client relationships is a journey. Constant comparisons to those with more seasoned careers can be oppressive. Find your own BD style and develop systems and habits that work for you.

Entertainment on the trail is often found from conversations with fellow hikers. Given that the trail takes 5-6 months to complete, many hikers are either those who haven’t yet started their careers or retirees, who bring both energy and wisdom to the conversations. In an environment with limited distractions and judgement, Jenn shared that she was able to find her voice by listening to others.  

  • Take the time to ask questions and really listen before you make assumptions. Be curious and show a genuine interest in your client’s business and success. Making meaningful connections with your clients and understanding their needs will make you a better business partner and lawyer.  

Jennifer shared a story of having an awkward conversation with a hiker on the trail that needed to happen. She explained that being kind also means respecting someone enough to tell them the truth.

  • Have transparent, open and direct conversations to prevent problems. If a challenge does arise, have the courage to address the conflict before it spirals into something bigger. 

Hoping these stories provide a little inspiration to find resilience and joy in your journey.