Having coached hundreds of lawyers, I have observed that when the lawyer has been involved in sports of any kind they have valuable sportsmanship experiences that can set the foundation for a successful legal career and we can learn from them.

Meet Danielle R. Browne, a former Columbia University  four-year member of the varsity women’s basketball team. She was Columbia’s all-time leader in games played and is the second player in the university’s history to rank top 10 in scoring, assists, and steals. 

Today, Danielle has her own firm that focuses on Business, Trademark, Estate Planning and Entertainment law.

I asked her to share with me— What in your athletic training—discipline, drive and ability to deal with pressure has helped you be a better:

Lawyer – To succeed as an athlete you have to be disciplined and goal oriented. The same is true as a lawyer. I often create systems and workflows that I believe will give my clients a great experience with my firm. When clients have great experiences, its almost as if they join your firm as a sales associate. They rave about you to other potential clients and lead to other business relationships. If I don’t remain disciplined and follow the systems in place, I run the risk of a client having a bad experience with my firm and potentially missing out on future business with them and their network.

You have to strap yourself in and prepare for changing circumstances.”

Business Owner– As an athlete, you are self driven and don’t need extra motivation to get things done. You are used to pushing yourself in workouts and trying to take your skills to the next level. Of course, there are days that are harder than others but you are used to realigning and finding a new source of motivation (e.g. not wanting to let your teammates down). The same is true when you are running a business. You don’t have a boss to motivate you, so you have to motivate yourself to do things that will take your business to the next level. Additionally, athletes develop the ability to deal with pressure. Sports creates some of the most pressure filled moments. You have to be able to remain poised and calm. You can’t get flustered easily, if circumstances change. Similarly, entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride. You have to strap yourself in and prepare for changing circumstances. A great example of this is the COVID-19 outbreak. As a business owner, I couldn’t panic because business slowed down. I had to evaluate and shift my messaging and offerings to make sure I connected with potential clients in ways that they needed

Rainmaker– As a team player and captain, I had to develop strong interpersonal skills. I’ve played basketball with people from all over the United States and the world. As a result, I developed fluid people-oriented approaches and communication styles that I frequently adjusted based on which teammate I was interacting with. I literally would have to change approaches and styles in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds, to communicate effectively with a teammate. I had to read facial expressions and body language to gauge whether my message was getting through to a particular teammate. This translates directly to business development. All clients are different. Some want to hear about your process, some want to hear about your accolades and accomplishments, and others just want to know that you can get it done. My ability to hone in on subtle reactions and identify pain points for each client and then address those head on, has helped in my business tremendously. Lastly, no athlete can win every game. I learned early on in my athletic career how to bounce back from (perceived) failures. This resilience is key in business development. Not every client will engage my firm and oftentimes a lack of engagement will have nothing to do with my firm. I have to be able to keep things in perspective and be able to make adjustments, when necessary.

At the core of developing business is communicating the reasons that make you uniquely qualified to serve potential client’s needs. How do you communicate your points of differentiation? I communicate them on my website’s homepage, social media, in webinars, during consultations, and through referral partners.

And what are those points of differentiation? Because we are a flat fee based firm, we offer transparency and predictability. Clients don’t have to worry about unexpected bills. Additionally, for some services, we offer a payment plan. Another selling point is that I am a 3-time entrepreneur, who has also worked with major organizations. I am uniquely qualified to understand the business and legal needs of small to medium sized businesses. We are also technologically advanced. With the exception of the signing of estate planning documents, we can conduct all of our meetings, document sharing/signings and payments via your mobile device or computer. This works well for clients who can’t afford to or don’t want to commute to an office.

You have a series of logos on your website. Tell me what the thinking was behind putting them on the site? I want potential clients to see that major organizations have trusted me with their work. The logos speak to my credibility, experience and competence. They say that I am trustworthy because these brands have trusted me.

As a solo practitioner, I try to be intentional about the life that I am building for myself.”

And have they served that purpose? Yes, I have clients say in consultations that the reason why they have contacted me was because they saw that I worked with these other companies and their goals are to be as successful as those companies. I also have clients speak to my athletic experience. They trust athletes because they were former athletes and understand the skill sets that you acquire.

How does being a solo practitioner create a lifestyle to be able to do the things you love? I absolutely love to travel! Being a solo, allows me a level of freedom and flexibility that I wouldn’t have if I was working for someone else. I can schedule client calls and meetings around my travel schedule. Sometimes, I even choose to work in remote locations. This allows me to refresh and reset, which makes me happy and fulfilled, which in turn makes me a better attorney for my clients. As a solo practitioner, I try to be intentional about the life that I am building for myself.

The Takeaway

  1. Be disciplined in creating a client experience system, so every client becomes a raving fan.
  2. Learn how to bounce back from perceived failures.
  3. Whether you are solo or work for a big firm, it is a roller coaster ride—get comfortable with it.
  4. Know your points of differentiation and how to use them.
  5. Decide what lifestyle you want and build your practice to support it.