The Naked Lawyer eBook


by Peter Groves

Late one evening, still at my desk, I had a phone call. A recruitment consultant, or headhunter, or £outstanding as a colleague used to call them, with an American accent, told me she was seeking someone in my area of law for a leading firm. A salary that Croesus would hardly have dreamt of. Did I know anyone who’d fit the bill? Perhaps I would? Only one condition: a fully transportable following of at least a million. Sterling. Per year. Would that be a problem?

Merely knowing the law is not enough. I naïvely thought it would be, and perhaps 30 years ago I was right, but anyone trying to make a career in the law now needs other skills. Either knowing the law is a given, or it doesn’t matter, because often all that’s needed is a way to lay off risk. But your chances of success will depend on who will buy into your knowledge of the law, or lay off their risk onto you.

We all have to be – or try to be – rainmakers. Like it or not (and I certainly don’t), we are all in business, and success in business doesn’t come from knowing more about your product than anyone else, or even from having a better product than anyone else: it comes from turning contacts and prospects into clients, and keeping them.

We all have to sell ourselves – and if that has unsavoury undertones to you, I share your discomfort. Whether our profession is the second oldest, or comes in somewhere after spying, medicine and engineering, it’s impossible to ignore similarities with the oldest one. Fortunately, the similarities don’t run too far, but lawyers who wish to avoid the equivalent of walking the streets around King’s Cross need a reliable collection of clients whose idiosyncrasies they understand, plenty of referrals and a flow of new prospects.

It is the rainmakers who will flourish in the modern legal profession.

I can talk the talk, but walking the walk is another matter. Of course, the world is full of people who tell you they can teach you how to do that – but in my experience that’s never going to work. Transforming oneself from a technically competent (or even brilliant) lawyer into a successful practitioner requires not just a few teachable skills, it needs a fundamental change in your outlook.

I can be given all the knowledge in the world about pole-vaulting, but I’m never going to be able to put it all together and sail over the bar. I’ll be forever stuck in the zone where the pole stops me clearing what I could do as a high jump. I’m in a place so far removed from Sergei Bubka that I’ll never get close.

Of course, we can train our bodies, acquire the muscles we need to launch ourselves into the air, build up our speed on the runway, plant the pole accurately. In my case, perhaps with effort I could work out how to arrive at the take-off point on the correct foot. We can splash out on expensiv equipment. But our minds wouldn’t automatically shift to the right place too. That might need a different sort of coaching.

Sales and marketing skills are not inherent in a lawyer’s make up. Perhaps we actually became lawyers because we lacked what it might take to be a salesperson, a politician or an investment banker. If we are going to get into the right mental place to make rain, we’ll need to leave our comfort zones.

And the perfect inspiration to get us out of our comfort zones is Chrissie Lightfoot. She’s already been a solicitor but found that she wasn’t content to settle for the comfortable life. She wanted more from being a solicitor than just law: she was one of the few natural rainmakers to find their way into the profession.

So, how to get out of your comfort zone? A bit like pole-vaulting, there’s no gradual way to do it. You’re either vaulting, or you’re not. Jump in, throw caution to the winds, and perhaps like the ancient Greek athletes, get naked. No, I don’t mean literally. The world is not ready for lawyers publicly disrobing in large numbers. It probably never will be, not without some radical changes in the physical condition of the average lawyer.

But Chrissie takes the nakedness metaphor, calling her 12-volume set of books “the naked lawyer”, and squeezes every last drop of value from it. This is on-the-edge stuff, not for the faint-hearted: even for the liberally-minded it might sometimes be over the top. But do you know what? It got me reading (nothing like the promise of something vaguely sexy to do that), got me out of that traditional lawyerly comfort zone and, having engaged my attention, kept it.

I’m not going to talk about the lessons you will learn from reading these books, the changes they are likely to make to your outlook, even to your life. I’m not going to reveal what Chrissie wrote that caused that lightbulb moment, bringing home what was wrong with me all along. No, definitely not. You’ll have to read it for yourself, and see whether the lightbulb comes on for you too somewhere.

I’m just going to say that the author of a book about sales and marketing who compels you to read it as strongly as the naked lawyer does clearly knows a thing or two about rainmaking.

Peter Groves, IP Lawyer (30 years experience), author of ‘A Dictionary of Intellectual Property, London, UK.

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