'x x x.
One way a young firm should stay hungry is to always search for new business. There are good reasons that I constantly harp on the importance of business development. Even if you are fortunate enough to be busy, you never know when your current workload may dry up. This is particularly true in litigation because any case can always settle or otherwise resolve unexpectedly. No matter how busy you are, you should constantly seek out new work and new clients.
But seeking out new work comes at a potential cost to your current cases and clients. You can’t be so desperate to grow that you spend so much time on business development that you ignore your current clients or let your current caseload suffer. Some lawyers take a churn and burn approach, trying to maximize their short-term return from every engagement, with no concern for the longer-term client relationship. To form a practice that’s built to last, you need to work hard to maintain those relationships, and that means you can’t neglect your current clients while constantly fishing for newer ones….
You might be tempted to ease off business development if your firm is already working at full capacity. Even then, I tend to think this is a mistake. If you have a new firm, and you have the luxury of having more work than bandwidth, the right response is to increase your capacity, not moderate the demand for your services. As I mentioned, you never know when demand will lessen on its own accord. And regardless, if you’re not doing all the work that’s available then you’re leaving money on the table.
The flip side here is that, precisely because litigation demand is so fickle, increasing your payroll is dangerous. If business slows and your payroll expenses are too high, the results can be devastating to the economic health of your firm. You need to carefully moderate your appetite for growth and take care not to bite off more than you can chew.
Being hungry doesn’t refer only to striving for new clients and matters and the means to service them. Being hungry can also manifest itself in the manner you service your current clients. Joke all you like, but I have always believed in virtually 24/7 “check you email” accessibility. Obviously, that depends on a number of factors, including the types of services you’re providing and the rates your client is paying. But when you’re charging hundreds of dollars per hour, I think clients reasonably expect you will make yourself generally available to them and treat their matters with the seriousness they deserve. Sometimes, unfortunately, that means late nights or weekends or even working during dead weeks.
Of course, you have to set your boundaries, and that includes personal and family time, vacations with your cell phone turned off, etc. Different people and practices have different boundaries, and it’s certainly true that not one size fits all. If being hungry becomes a desperate obsession instead of an aspiration, then you’re doing it wrong.
To some extent, being hungry is in the eye of the beholder. And the most important eyes are those of prospective clients. Their perception of you determines whether they will hire you and, consequently, whether your firm will succeed. Your hunger, or lack thereof, will play a critical role in how you are viewed in the eyes of the world.
x x x."