The "thing" that rocked my world may not seem Earth-shattering to some, but to me, it completely changed my view on my role in my community and in my law firm.
I figured out that I don't want to be an "employee" anymore.
An employee is someone who answers to somebody else. An employee shows up for work, does what other people tell her to do, and has very little say over how her day, week or month is scheduled. An employee rides other people's coattails. An employee cashes a paycheck, but never really invests in the future of her employer or, incidentally, herself.
Since I began my law career more than seven years ago, I've always been an employee. A good employee, for sure, but ....
Being a good employee is no longer enough for me.
The lightbulb in this regard went on in November 2012. Two attorneys in my firm who I admired greatly were on their way out, and not entirely of their own choosing. I was dismayed to see people who had mentored and trained me so well be tossed aside. And I couldn't for the life of me figure out why it happened.
All I knew is that I didn't want that to happen to me.
I learned later that the common thread between these two attorneys is that they had no book of business of their own. They were mere "worker bees" who had fallen out of favor with the firm leadership for whatever reason. They couldn't fend for themselves and no one wanted to "feed" them anymore.
When I realized this, I almost immediately hired a business development coach. Of course, I expected to land clients overnight. This didn't happen.
What did happen is that I changed my thinking. Before November 2012, my thinking was that of an "employee" - - I separated life from work. I went to my kids' sports events, attended church, and went to school functions, without considering any of the inevitable interactions I would have as business opportunities. I thought of "networking events" and drinks with my superiors after work as time away from my kids. I hid in my office and ate my salad at my desk, rather than venturing out and *gasp!* having the audacity to ask a co-worker, let alone a potential client, to lunch.
Post-November 2012, I viewed these ordinary events as opportunities. But I blew nearly every opportunity I had. The reason is because I suck at making small talk. People want to tell me about their day, their spouse, their kid's class project - and while I wish I was interested, I'm just ... not. Friendships - especially with other females - have never been my strong suit.
So here I was, having changed my thinking, but not really able to find a way to demonstrate this new thinking. And then my best friend at my firm - an associate to whom I delegated many tasks - left. And all the crap on her desk (which probably caused her to leave) came pouring back onto my desk. I was back on the bottom of the totem pole. I was buried in monotony. I had no time for marketing, no time to work on building business, and although my thinking had changed, I had no real clue about where to start. And I was mad as hell.
Something had to change.
* New job? I could write a whole post about why a new job wasn't the answer.
* Mid-life crisis? Nah - I'm still young! (37 is young, right?)
* Put on my big girl panties and actually talk to my boss about my desire for mentorship in business development? Ding, ding, ding!!!
I pride myself on being a good communicator. But in this regard, I failed miserably. For some reason, unknown to me, I NEVER spoke with my boss - likely the number one rainmaker in my firm - about my desire to grow my book of business.
Until last Friday.
The result was surprising.
He welcomed it. He answered my questions. He promised to make me accountable, to give me time to market, and money to fund it. This too is a whole other post.
And so today I announce to you, dear readers, my intention to grow my business. I mean really grow my business. I intend to FINALLY transition from employee to employer.
Unlike an employee, an employer has people working for her to whom she can delegate tasks. An employer has control over the clients she services and the practice areas she focuses on. An employer sews her own coattails, signs her own paycheck, is an owner of the firm where she works and has freedom like an employee will never know.
How does one go about doing this? To tell you the truth, I haven't the foggiest idea. But I know I'm not alone. And so while I intend to continue documenting the highs and lows of practicing in the non-compete and trade secrets arena, I also expect that it will be a place where I can share the work that I'm doing to develop my book of business. I also hope it will be a place where people who know how to do this will be willing to share with me and my readers their tricks and tips for obtaining and retaining clients.
Can you smell that? Yes, it's spring ... all things are new in spring, and so too is my outlook. In my next post, I'll tell you how I plan to get started.
~ Liza Favaro
* Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions shared on this site are my own and are not attributable to my employer. No amount of interaction on this site will create an attorney-client relationship. If you have a legal question and you ask it here, I will also answer it here (if I can), but such answers do not guarantee results and do not create an attorney-client relationship. If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at email@example.com.