Monday, December 10, 2007

Survive the downturn

Law.com had a good piece about surviving the real estate slowdown...it's somewhat big firm focused but it contains some useful info. Here's a list of things to when there's no pending legal work:

*Use your newfound and unwanted free time to reconnect with clients that you have neglected during the busy times. When we are in our manic deal modes, we often wish we had the opportunity to spend more time on client relationships. Use this market shift as an opportunity to go through your Rolodex and identify clients and other business contacts with whom you should renew some friendship. Ask all of these clients what they are seeing in the marketplace, what they think is coming and what they view as their biggest challenges. Information is power.

*Educate yourself about the specific industry issues your clients and targets are facing. Read everything you can get your hands on about real estate industry issues, particularly those materials that your clients are also reading in specific asset classes, such as the retail, commercial office, multifamily, industrial and hospitality markets. Ask your clients what they are doing to stay informed and emulate their approach.

*Publish articles and speak at conferences about the issues of import to your clients and targets. Focus on how your clients can manage these issues and mitigate the associated risks. Identify areas where you can become a thought leader and then take the steps that are necessary to project yourself in that way to the marketplace.

*Refresh your skills at handling workout transactions. If this is your first real estate cycle, develop some workout expertise. Spend time with the bankruptcy lawyers at your firm and evaluate the possible scenarios and outcomes that your clients or targets might imminently be facing. Give thought to how to restructure deals that are heading south.

*Develop a new niche area of expertise that may be relevant down the road, as we live through and then come out of the downturn. For example, give thought to how legal issues associated with the "green" movement may affect the real estate industry. The world is changing at an incredibly rapid pace. New opportunities will inevitably arise, given the speed at which the global economy is shifting. Give thought to the new areas of opportunity that will likely emerge and how you might play a role in them from a legal perspective. It is critical for us to give thought to the horizon and to new areas of opportunity that may be coming down the pike, whether for your own practice or for others in your firm.

*Invest more time in your organization. Law firms are complicated businesses that take considerable brainpower and effort to successfully operate and nourish. There are numerous needs and possibilities for investing sweat equity into your organization to make it a better place. Identify something that has been troubling you or is in need of improvement at your firm and take the initiative to get involved in contributing to or even developing a solution for that challenge. It takes an entire village to build and sustain a successful law firm, and every contribution to that effort is meaningful.

*Do yoga and keep breathing. This sounds like a joke, but I speak the truth when I share with you that I have brought a yoga class into my firm's Washington office, and it has made a dramatic difference in reducing the stress level of those lawyers who have taken the risk to participate. Whether it is yoga, exercise or another wellness tactic that might resonate with you, engage in some activity that provides you with an outlet for the anxiety we all, inevitably, encounter in the face of a market shift that affects our practices, in particular one on a scale similar to the shift caused by the subprime meltdown.

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