Success isn’t just about numbers! If you are operating under continuous stress with little meaningful connection to the work you do, it might be time to rethink your approach. In this edition of The Digital Edge, hosts Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway are joined by Katy Goshtasbi to explore some of the more intrinsic challenges lawyers face in the process of business development. Katy explains the importance of reducing stress and defining your values in order to create business goals that serve both your personal and professional needs.
Katy Goshtasbi is a change and branding expert and founder of Puris Consulting.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Clio, Nexa, Scorpion, and ServeNow.
The Digital Edge
What Lawyers Need to Know to Succeed in the Marketplace
Intro: Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway, your hosts, both legal technologists, authors and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 141th Edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. We are glad to have you with us.
I am Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises, an information technology, cybersecurity and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I am Jim Calloway, Director of The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today our topic is ‘What Lawyers Need to Know to Succeed in the Marketplace’.
Sharon D. Nelson: Before we get started we would like to thank our sponsors.
Thanks to our sponsor Clio. Clio’s cloud-based practice management software makes it easy to manage your law firm from intake to invoice. Try it for free at clio.com. That’s clio.com.
Thank you to Nexa, formerly known as Answer1. Nexa is a leading virtual receptionist and answering service provider for law firms. Learn more by giving them a call at 800-267-9371 or online at nexa.com.
Jim Calloway: Thanks to ServeNow, a nationwide network of trusted prescreened process servers. Work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high volume serves, embrace technology, and understand the litigation process. Visit www.serve-now.com to learn more.
Thanks to Scorpion. Scorpion sets the standard for law firm online marketing with proven campaign strategies to get attorneys better cases from the Internet. Partner with Scorpion to get an award-winning website and ROI positive marketing programs today. Visit scorpionlegal.com/podcast.
We are very pleased to have as our guest Katy Goshtasbi, who is a Change and Branding Expert and Founder of Puris Consulting. For over 12 years she has collaborated with law firms, lawyers and organizations on growing in size and profits by mastering change and developing brands that get their message out effectively.
The results include happier, more productive lawyers, reduced stress, attracting better clients, higher retention rates and more revenues.
Katy practiced securities law for over 14 years, mostly in Washington, DC. She was a federal lobbyist senior counsel at the SEC, at a law firm, and in-house advising two boards of directors.
Katy most recently was Chair of the ABA Law Practice Division. Thanks for joining us today Katy.
Katy Goshtasbi: Thanks for having me Jim and Sharon. It’s a pleasure to be with you guys today.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, we know you made this trip rather rapidly for us, to bring us to today, so thank you for that. And maybe you could start by telling us a little bit about your company Puris Consulting and how you got into that particular business.
Katy Goshtasbi: That’s an excellent question and I think it will make a lot of sense for people if we start with my story and I am going to turn it into a very quick story. So I am an immigrant and we moved to this country in 1979 during the revolution in Iran, because people are always trying to figure out where I am originally from, so there you go.
And we moved here with two suitcases thinking we were going to stay for two weeks because we had to leave Iran, and we never went back. So I got to grow up in the Midwest and I am just very blessed and fortunate to have that upbringing, from Indiana, Go Hoosiers, and I always wanted to be a lawyer because that’s how I thought I was going to save the world.
So no one laughed, because I did get to save the world for 14 years as a securities lawyer, as Jim said, and I had a fantastic career, and during my first career as a securities lawyer, I was always giving advice on the run, what we have now turned into a formal business, branding advice. People would always ask me, how did you get that job, how did the partner in charge give you that client, how do you keep moving from job to job, and I would take people out to lunch and say hey, look, I am really busy but I will take you out to lunch, I will tell you what I know, see if it works, if not, we will try it again.
So that’s really how this all started. I was always giving advice without even knowing it. And so when I moved to California and went in-house, that was my last legal job, I was in Orange County in-house, I remember the day, I had spent 12 hours drafting a small bit of a mutual fund prospectus and that’s all you all need to know. And so I went home 9 o’clock at night and I opened my own mailbox in the dark and there just so happened to be my own prospectus and reflexively, what do you guys think I did with it. Well, I threw it away, because no one reads that stuff.
And so that’s how I knew, that was my aha moment that, oh my gosh, what if what I am doing as a lawyer is not my purpose, it’s not serving the reason I became a lawyer. It’s a very personal decision and I don’t advocate for lawyers to change their careers. In fact, I am trying to get lawyers to stay in practice, but figure this out for themselves.
So I had to do what I had to do in order to be able to provide the service now. So I quit cold turkey two years before the recession. People said oh my God, you left all that money and all that fame, and I kind of chuckle at that, but I did.
And the reason everybody thought I was crazy and I thought I was crazy was because no one was reinventing themselves two years before the recession, everybody had steady jobs and people were like you are the only lawyer we know that has been around the block in our industry, in every setting, why would you leave it? And I just kept saying I can’t do this anymore, it’s going to kill me, and I can’t sit around and draft prospectuses all day, someone needs to, and it’s an important job, but it’s not my job anymore.
So long story short, I took a random Community College course, taught by an ex-Harvard litigator of all people, and his whole course was about natural talent; what are we good at and how do we bring that to the world. And this man was brilliant for 12 years — no, for 25 years, sorry, he had been teaching this, and this is two years before the recession when people weren’t even thinking along the lines of who they are.
And in that three hour class he changed my life, he was the teacher I needed, and I always thank him for it. He really said that my natural talent is what I am doing now. After class he called me up and he said, you need to do this for your fellow lawyers, and I was so frustrated Jim and Sharon, and I said what are you talking about, do what, and he said you will figure it out.
So here we are 12 years later, maybe even longer now, I keep losing track of time anymore, and I thank him every day.
So the purpose of Puris is exactly what Jim said, it’s about really having people figure out the truth of who they are, because fundamentally anything we want to sell and anything we want to portray out to the public to have a message that sticks with our audience is about who we are, because that’s the authenticity that we need. But without knowing that it’s a very hollow, artificial sale and there is no good solid brand behind the law firm or the people and so the message doesn’t carry in developing business and selling is hard. So that is literally and exactly what we do, and that’s my story.
Jim Calloway: That’s great. We know you have done some formal research regarding stress and self-confidence. What does that research show?
Katy Goshtasbi: Yes, so about ten years ago I decided well, I better prove my theories because I am very left brain, linear, and analytical, which is what made me a good lawyer and I thought well, people need to know if these apply to them. So as a researcher, which by the way, I had developed that skill set too, who knew I was a researcher, I was always a lawyer, I went and I did formal research with a neuroscientist at UCLA and here is what I found.
There is a direct inverse correlation between our stress and our self-confidence. So as our stress goes up due to natural stressors in everyone’s life; kids, deadlines, colleagues and workmates, aging parents, you name it, traffic, everything is a stressor, right, even the most self-confident people have that happen to them, so as their stress goes up, their self-confidence proportionately drops, our self-confidence proportionately drops, no one is immune from this from a physiological standpoint.
So your stress is going up, your self-confidence is proportionately dropping and what that means is that your brand value is diminished, but what does that mean, that means that you are not emotionally resonating anymore with your audience. And so that means no one is buying what you are selling them.
So everyone tells me, my processes are about the whole person. So if you are looking to get a date, this material helps you really understand — the research helps you that look, if your stress is up and your self-confidence is down, no one is resonating with you, whether you are trying to get a new client, get work out through the door, capture culture within your organization well, or get a date or relate well to your spouse or your kids.
So that’s what my formal research shows. So my programs are always about putting tools in clients’ toolbox around reducing stress, so that their self-confidence naturally goes up so that we can then develop that platform for their brand messaging and who they are.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, one of the things you talk about a lot is life values. So tell us what life values lawyers should incorporate in their practice and how those values help them?
Katy Goshtasbi: Yeah. So I always say that the brand is about the person first, who are you, before we can actually develop a business brand, a law firm brand that goes out there and gets you success, you have to have a foundation for your own brand. And that’s actually very hard for people, because they are like, I don’t want to look at who I am, but that’s really the crux of what my whole program is about, like who are you.
And so the question of who are you becomes uncomfortable for people and that’s good, if you are not uncomfortable you are not growing. So if you are having that discomfort even listening to this, awesome, that means it’s working for you.
So who are you is about what are your values and your values show who you are. So in my life I have four values; fairness, freedom, faith and fun. You don’t have to have a literation in your values, not all of them have to start with F; you don’t even need four values, but you need to know what your values are, because your values will then allow you to own who you are; that’s my favorite word, owning who you are, and then be able to express that consistently with your audience, and once you show up consistently for people, then they trust you and that’s how you resonate with them. And so you want to be able to own your values and enunciate them to yourself, because then you can literally run every decision through your values.
So my fairness value is very important to me. Every time I want to say something or something sits wrong with me, I run it through that fairness value and I go, so should I be saying something, should I be speaking up, should I let this go. And it also helps to take away a lot of the judgment in my life, and that we form for our clients as well. When we are not living through our values, we are judging a lot, but when you look through your values, when I am looking at it black and white through my fairness value, for instance, then I am not judging the situation, I am just saying it either works for me or it doesn’t work for me.
And that’s how owning your values and putting them into your practice really helps, because people can tell you are clear about who you are, and a strong brand is very attractive, people want to be around that, let alone hire someone who has a strong set of values that they are bringing into their legal practice every day.
Jim Calloway: What’s the biggest challenge you find lawyers face these days in business development?
Katy Goshtasbi: Yeah, that’s an excellent question too Jim. I find that time is of course always a challenge for lawyers, right? It’s a challenge for humans, right? Not all of this is just about one particular career, although we are talking about lawyers here, but time is a huge challenge, and what that means is people can’t figure out how to show up and where.
And so the other challenge that we find that people have incorporated with time, lawyers have, is being brave and really getting uncomfortable or really let’s say getting comfortable with discomfort in order to, okay, so I have this notion of where my time was going to be and how I was going to fit in business development, and I encourage lawyers, you must fit it in somewhere, even though a lot of them sit in front of me and go, there is zero time, and I am like well, then, there is zero business, because at the end of the day you are busy now, but you may not be.
So really reframing time and business development opportunities and being brave enough to just be uncomfortable with saying, I am going to carve out an hour a month or an hour every week because it’s that important, it’s just as important as the substantive work I am producing.
And I know some lawyers are sitting there going, well, that’s just crazy, because we are so busy. I get that. I have been in your shoes. I have felt those pressures in all areas of legal profession. I am not Pollyanna at all about this, I am very pragmatic although I did hear Pollyanna died a happy woman. But the point is really being able to figure out that discomfort around time is okay, but prioritizing this concept of business development is about being a little brave and looking at your world around time differently.
Jim Calloway: Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is ‘What Lawyers Need to Know to Succeed in the Marketplace’, and our guest is Katy Goshtasbi, who is a Change and Branding Expert and Founder of Puris Consulting.
So what would you say Katy are the best business development moves that lawyers can make, because they are worried about that and I don’t think sometimes the moves they make are necessarily the best?
Katy Goshtasbi: Very good point. I agree with you. So often when lawyers come to me, I end up taking stuff off of their plate, because they are showing up in places and not getting any ROI and there is no point from a pragmatic place. We only have so much time and it’s limited marketing opportunity time, so you have to know where you are showing up. So in short, anything that aligns with who you are as a lawyer is going to get you huge bonus points and results from business development standpoint.
What am I talking about? Well, it’s exactly what we were talking about earlier; first you have to figure out who you are in order to develop a unique selling proposition point, that’s going to be marketable as a brand for you and then the business brand or your legal practice brand is going to ride off of that. So figuring out who you are at first is critically important.
And then business development wise, where are you going to show up? So for instance, what charity resonates with you, are you going to do community service at some level, are you going to do some activity where you incorporate your family. So any of those moves don’t have to be hours and hours a month, but they have to be well thought out and with intention based on who the lawyer is.
Jim Calloway: We are also busy, how do lawyers balance the need for hard work and long hours with their own health and happiness?
Katy Goshtasbi: Yeah, that’s always the quandary, right, how do we balance that? So I don’t look at it as balance, first of all, I look at it as harmonizing, because balance to me makes you more stressed, it’s like walking a tightrope. So I look at it as harmonizing, because life ebbs and flows, so there is highs and there is lows. And so the most important thing is to just acknowledge that hey, there are going to be good days and bad days, but regardless, I have an intention, I have a plan, I have my values, I have my own brand and I have a message connected to the business brand.
So I have a strategy. Most people don’t have a strategy so that adds to their stress and so they just keep working harder and longer, and guess what, it doesn’t make them happy or healthier and it doesn’t produce good results.
So always stepping back and looking at the big picture and saying, where am I on this calendar and timeline of how many hours I am working and what rewards am I reaping other than fiscal, financial rewards, and really serving my purpose, and that’s going to feel super uncomfortable, but that’s really the first step to coming to terms with what’s working and what’s not and then developing a strategy for doing things differently so you get better results.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, there is clearly a lot that lawyers need to know, but one question I have is how do lawyers best learn what they need to know, that’s a tricky thing all of its own?
Katy Goshtasbi: Absolutely. So the best learning comes when as lawyers, really when as humans we are open to change.
So one of the biggest things I teach, and I am always fundamentally trying to learn, because we are always teaching what we are trying to learn is how do I deal with change? I always tell lawyers you must be nimble and you must be willing to turn on a dime and evolve, otherwise you are going to be left behind. Brands that don’t evolve and aren’t open to transformation, which is really what we are looking at, like a change where you are never the same, you have evolved way past what you were. Then if you are not even willing to go there and look at that change, then you can’t develop a thriving business, you can’t get to the goals. You may get monetary success, but it’s not going to be a full picture of success for you, because there is more to it than that.
So the best way to learn is to really say, okay, I am open to trying something new and seeing things differently and I am open to change and growth.
Jim Calloway: Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is ‘What Lawyers Need to Know to Succeed in the Marketplace’, and our guest is Katy Goshtasbi, who is a Change and Branding Expert and the Founder of Puris Consulting.
Jim Calloway: In a world where it seems that competition is everything, what sets successful lawyers apart?
Katy Goshtasbi: Yeah, excellent question. So I always talk about competition in my keynotes and in my workshops and trainings and in my books and work with clients. So when we think we are in competition with other lawyers, it drives up our stress, it has to, right, competition is natural and normal, but it drives up our stress according to my formal and informal research.
So realizing that there is others that do a similar legal work is one thing, but really understanding who you are and your own particular uniqueness in terms of what’s your story, what’s your natural talent, what’s your purpose, what are your values, where are you choosing to show up, and what are you choosing to do with say your practice area, there could be many employment lawyers, but there is facets of you that’s unique to you.
So really spending time and realizing that is going to set you apart from your competition, because you are going to realize, no one is your competition, everyone is complementary to you, and that takes the stress off, that allows your self-confidence to go up, and that allows lawyers to truly start owning their own brand and their legal brand thrives as a result.
Sharon D. Nelson: All right. Well, now that we are coming to the end here, I know that our listeners would love to have three quick tips that they can immediately incorporate into their practice in their path to success. So what would you suggest for us?
Katy Goshtasbi: Yeah, so three quick tips, I have got so many, but if I was going to boil it down to three, the first one is to truly slow down. We find that lawyers are so busy and they are constantly running, running, running and doing, doing, doing, and legitimately so it makes a lot of sense, right, because we are all busy, but without being able to slow down and actually take an assessment of where the practice is, where your day is, where your hours are going, it becomes very, very difficult to intentionally grow the practice. So first thing is to slow down and take an inventory of your day, your practice and where you are headed.
Second thing is to see the big picture, like I was saying earlier, to really be willing to harmonize the highs and the lows and to really be able to look around you and see who is in your firm, maybe you just have an administrative assistant and that’s it, or maybe you are solo, that’s okay too, but anywhere you are you need to have culture built into place, to have a support system. So you have to be able to see the bigger picture in order to evolve and be able to harmonize the highs and the lows in the business.
And the third one may seem simplistic, but honestly they are foundational, is to have fun. Before anything else flourishes, as I teach it, the brand that resonates with everyone is happiness. Above 90% of everything you and I buy is not based on content, people aren’t hiring us because we are effective lawyers; they are hiring us because we emotionally resonate with them, meaning we make them happy. We don’t have to make them joyful, but we have to actually elevate their mood.
So in order to be able to elevate your client’s mood or somebody else’s mood, you have got to be able to have a little bit of fun and levity in your own life, otherwise everything seems very stiff and boring to people and your practice is that way for yourself too. So remember why you became a lawyer in the first place and remember that life is meant to be enjoyed and have a little bit of fun.
So those are my top three tips that literally you can implement right away.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, we sure want to thank you for being with us today Katy, it’s been great, and I am laughing about your three trips — tips there, excuse me, not trips; we have having fun, which I think I am very good at and the company motto is nothing but a good time; seeing the big picture, I have got that down, but oh my goodness, I wish you could get me to slow down. So I am going to take tip number one to heart and see if I can’t slow down a little, and I know that those tips will serve some of our listeners very well indeed.
And again, thank you for being our guest today. We sure appreciate it.
Katy Goshtasbi: Thank you so much for having me and I hope a little bit of content that I addressed today makes a difference for people, and if not, then there is plenty of resources out there and you know where to find me. And thanks for taking that slow down tip to heart, Sharon, that’s all I ask is that you have self-awareness and give it a shot. That’s all we can do, right?
Sharon D. Nelson: I live to obey.
Okay, that does it for this edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. And remember you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on Apple Podcasts. And if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us on Apple Podcasts.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Ms. Sharon.
Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails cowboy.
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