In the course of a conversation with a law firm marketing consultant, he shared he had a mentor who once told him:
When you start out in practice, if you get a call from somebody asking, “Can you perform brain surgery?” your answer is, “How about Thursday?”
I think there’s good and bad there.
Lawyers need to be confident and rely on their ability to get answers to meet the needs of their clients. That’s good. You can’t just say no to clients and turn them away because at first you don’t have a solution to their problem.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t overstate what you can do. Your success depends on:
- Having the resources and the discipline to delegate what needs to be delegated;
- Getting the answers that need to be answered; and
- Being rigorous with yourself that you’re not going to give an answer to a client, or attempt something for them, that you really don’t know.
The good news is, very often, you can go learn it. You can go find out, especially when you are a young lawyer and you have not necessarily decided to focus on a particular area. That can be well worth it.
I think the bottom line is confidence is all well and good, but you have to be honest with yourself and your clients. So, what you can do for the person who needs brain surgery is either perform it or find him a brain surgeon. We shouldn’t resist doing our clients and ourselves a favor by making qualified referrals. Our clients will appreciate us for it.
The answer in the end is, “Yes,” or “No, but I’ll find you somebody who can.”