When you are a law firm manager or owner, it’s easy to say “yes.” When you say “yes,” you make others happy. You are pleasing others. You are making them smile. You are giving them what they want. Whether it be employees, others outside the firm, vendors, marketers, etc., saying “yes” makes is what most people want to hear.
But successful law firm managers or owners need to know how to say “no.” If you don’t know how to say no, you can roped into all kinds of bad ideas or poor decisions. Yes, there are times when you need to say “yes.” But, often, the answer you need to give is “no.”
If you don’t know how to say no, you can get your law firm into financial trouble. For example, you could end up spending money on various marketing efforts that might be expensive — and not helpful to increasing leads at your firm. You could get roped into taking on a lease that you will not be able to afford. You could get roped into an expensive copy machine contract you cannot afford. Financially, the list of problems a law firm can get into by not saying no is virtually endless.
If you do not know how to say no, your law firm can literally get side-tracked into a number of directions that really do not further the mission of the law firm itself. Certainly employees can sometimes bring their ideas into the firm that you should considering saying “yes” to because they are good ideas. Certainly some outside vendors might have some ideas that make sense. But very often, the ideas do not make sense. They may not make sense and run contrary to providing quality legal services to the clients of the firm. Some simply may not make sense financially or form a business, human resource or marketing perspective.
When you do not know how to say no, the policies and procedures of your law firm can also be pushed to the side. In other words, employees could begin coming in late to work or could begin leaving early. They might not hit productivity numbers that are critical to the financial security of the firm. Or, they could begin disregarding policies that are critical to providing competent, communicative and diligent representation to clients because you do not say “no” to their conduct.
Steve Jobs defined focus as the ability to say no. It was his position that Apple suffered for years from lousy engineering management. He complained that different engineers went into all kinds of different directions. And he explained that the total was less than the individual parts. So, he figuratively killed some of the ideas of others within the company, although it upset many.
Learning how to incorporate this philosophy in your law firm is really critical to having a successful law firm. While saying “no” can make others upset, angry, irritated or even make you unpopular, there are times where a shrewd law firm manager or owner simply needs to know when to say “no.”
Saying “no” can be very difficult from some law firm managers or owners. For some law firm managers or owners, saying “no” takes a lot of practice. It does not come natural them. They might need to work on their confidence. They might need to work hard to develop an attitude that it does not matter if others are displeased by them saying “no.” They might even need to work through their boundary issues with a mentor, counselor or business coach.
But make no mistake about it, a law firm cannot excel if a law firm does not have a manager or owner who has the shrewdness to say “no” when a good decision-making analysis requires it.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.