The following is adapted from The New Law Business Model by Ali Katz, New Law Business Model Founder and CEO—find it on Amazon.
Are you ready to step up to the next level of success in your law practice? Having the right mentor could be critical.
Who do you run your great ideas past when you don’t know if they’ll work? How do you know the next right step to focus on to build your business? Have you ever had an innovative new approach to reaching your market or expanding your services, and wished you’d had someone with more experience to hear your idea and give you honest feedback? Or, perhaps you’ve hit a roadblock in your career and you’ve needed advice on what to do next?
I’ve been there. And, in each and every situation, finding the right guidance was the answer to getting to my next best solution. Oftentimes, finding the right guidance required me to kiss a few frogs first.
So, how do you sort through the muck to find the lotus blossom and choose the right mentor to get you the support that’s right for you?
First and foremost, accept the fact that you cannot (and should not) go it alone or try to reinvent the wheel. That’s just a waste of time and energy.
Second, don’t expect your mentorship to come for free. The idea that mentorship should be free is one of the biggest fallacies that keep most lawyers from getting the support, advice, and guidance they need. Trying to get free mentorship means that you are going to be limited to free groups on social media with a lot of great ideas, but the mentorship you need isn’t about ideas (I’m sure you have plenty of those), it’s about execution.
Or, you might find mentorship from a lawyer who has been in practice for many years and now wants to give back with the benefit of their time, mentoring you, but that lawyer may not be the best source of mentorship for the kind of cutting edge new reality you want to create in your life and law practice.
One of my early mentors was one of the most well-known “business of law” coaches in the field. And, while he was a great human who did understand the “business of law”, if I would have followed his guidance, I never would have invented the Kids Protection Plan® or focused my practice on serving young families, which is the very thing that built my law practice to a million a year, and has now become a given as a practice area focus for thousands of lawyers.
Finally, get mentorship from someone who has done what you want to do, proven their success, and who can guide you step by step from where you are now to where you want to go, as quickly as possible.
As a lawyer, your most valuable assets are your time, energy, and attention. If someone has figured out how to get you to a result faster than you can get there yourself, and more efficiently than you can do it on your own, because you can build on their experience, that’s the mentor you want.
So, define the specific result you want, and then find the person who has already done what you want to do, and that’s where you’ll find your next best mentor.
Find a Mentor Who Supports You to Fail Fast
The best mentor will help you to fail faster. Failure is hard for us lawyers. But, failure is where you grow, so it’s a critical part of your learning process. And, the right mentor should help you to implement, try new things, lean into your discomfort zone, and, yes, fail, and then learn the right lessons from the failure, and keep moving forward.
Mentorship is more than knowledge transfer. In the best mentoring situations, the mentorship you receive will keep you moving forward when you would otherwise quit.
Think of it in the context of working with a personal trainer. As we all know, the most effective part of your workout is when you are able to push into the point of failure. That’s where your muscles are built. And, yet, getting yourself to that failure point can be difficult, if not impossible. At least, it is for me.
If I’m left to my own devices, I would never work out. And, if I did manage to haul myself into the gym, I would never push my body to failure. On the other hand, when I work out with my personal trainer, I do the workouts that I would simply never do on my own because he’s there, pushing me forward, while at the same time, reminding me that I’m safe, I can do it, and to keep going, even when I want to quit. It’s at those “I want to quit!” points that the growth happens.
If my trainer tells me to do “mountain climbers” for a full minute, I do them—even if my mind and body are screaming at me to stop. If, after a minute, when I’m at the point of breakdown, my trainer says to keep going for another thirty seconds, I keep going.
After all, if the trainer thinks I can do it, maybe I can! Just when I’m reaching my point of failure, thinking, I can’t do one more second, he tacks on another ten seconds. That’s when my mind shifts from I can’t to I can, and I do. I push past the point of failure and that’s where the transformation of my body (and mind) happens.
It’s the same when you are building a business. You almost always find your transformation the moment everything falls into place, right when you are about to give up.
Mentorship in Action
The best mentorship always happens in the moments of transition from one level to the next, and if you are trying to rely on free support or a mentor who doesn’t have a foundation of transformation built into their mentorship systems, you won’t be well served to get where you want to go.
Take Amy, for example. She’d been with us for a few years as a Personal Family Lawyer®, doing pretty well, happily seeing four to six new clients a month, but she wanted to go to the next level and hire a support team, so she could increase her income and work less.
Hiring is always scary. And just when Amy brought on her first team member, her client engagements started to tank. Up until then, she had been consistently engaging just about everyone she met with. Then, all of a sudden, right after taking on a commitment to hire a client services director (CSD) and pay payroll each month, half of the people she met with didn’t hire her. And then it got worse: the next three people she met with didn’t hire her, either.
Imagine if Amy had been trying to get support through free groups on social media? How long would it have taken her to break through? Would she have kept going? Or would she have gotten advice to let her CSD go, and turn back?
Fortunately, Amy had a coach through our New Law Business Model program, and Amy’s coach was able to help Amy see and understand what was happening and why, and make the slight course correction that was necessary. Without the mentoring Amy received, she would have almost certainly fired her client services director and slipped back into a lack of confidence and self-doubt about her ability to grow.
Instead, Amy’s coach helped her to see that she had dropped parts of her business’s Client Engagement System when she brought her CSD on board. Amy’s coach knew to point to this because we’ve coached thousands of lawyers over the years through this exact transition, and we know what to look for, and how to point directly to it, to get our lawyers back on track when it happens.
As a result, rather than firing her CSD and deciding maybe she should just stay small, Amy implemented a training system for her CSD, focusing on the right metrics and milestones. Shortly after that, Amy was back to engaging 100 percent of the clients she met with, and at an even higher average engagement fee than before. Now, with the support to serve her growing clientele, she can continue to grow, increase her income, and work less to spend more time with her son, as she desires.
This is where mentoring really happens: in the breakdown moments. A mentor helps you make the change you desire, even when you can’t see how it’s possible.
Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life
To initiate change, you must first change your mindset about what’s possible. You have to change the quality of your thinking and ideas. Being around people who are already doing what you want to do, who have already achieved that success, creates an environment conducive to change.
I wouldn’t have done anything if I hadn’t seen other people do it. That’s why one of my mantras throughout building my business has been, “If she can do it, I can do it.” Repeating this sentence to myself has never failed to change my mindset—my beliefs—on what is possible.
Work with a mentor who will encourage you to dream bigger than you ever have for yourself and then give you the specific guidance, support, and systems to turn your dreams and ideas into the actions you need to make big, necessary changes in your life. If you continue to do things the same way you’ve always done, you will have the same results you’ve always had.
A mentor takes you beyond your own capacity—beyond your breaking point and through the failure to success. The right mentors make real change possible.
For more advice on finding a great mentor, you can find The New Law Business Model book on Amazon.