If “yes” is the wrong answer, have the guts to say “no.”
When finishing a client engagement a few years ago, a member of the firm sent me a handwritten note that, in part, was a thank you for helping her learn to say no.
For a small word, “no” is mighty. Whether “no” is provided as a direct statement or as a softly imparted decline, saying “no” to what doesn’t work is a strategy that helps define your boundaries, both professional and personal.
For example, saying “no” can help turn aside work that is not within your wheelhouse, decline an action that is neither in a client’s best interest nor yours, help fine-tune your core practice, and solidify your reputation for sticking to what you do best as well as being true to who you are.
A reckoning is upon the legal market. Now is when firms of all sizes must find the strength to say “no” to what doesn’t work for them—and maybe never really did. In this respect, “no” may mean cleaving off practices that are outside the firm’s core strength or no longer profitable, as well as releasing people whose talents are best suited elsewhere.
While this may sound ruthless, saying “no” and electing to amputate can save the life of your firm or practice. It helps you focus on key markets and sends a message to clients that you’re getting smart about business. And it sure beats bleeding to death.
There are many people who want, need or will pressure you to say “yes”. But if “yes” is the wrong answer, having the guts to say “no” is a strategic and lifesaving skill.
Heather Suttie is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on legal market strategy and management of legal services firms.
For 25 years, she has advised leaders of premier law firms and legal service providers worldwide — Global to Solo | BigLaw to NewLaw — on innovative strategies pertaining to business, markets, management, and clients.
The result is accelerated performance achieved through a distinctive one of one legal market position and sustained competitive advantage leading to greater market share, revenue, and profits.
The effect is accomplishment of the prime objective — To Win.