Lessons from a judicial rock star: How business development is like preparing for a Supreme Court argument

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor officially has reached rock star status with the crowds she is attracting for her book tour around the release of her memoir, My Beloved Life. I had the privilege of listening to her speak Sunday night at the University of San Diego, where she offered the perfect mix of wit, wisdom and inspiration to a standing-room only crowd.

She spoke for about 20 minutes but spent much of the time answering audience questions, one of which was about preparing for arguments before the Supreme Court. Her advice: “Engage us in a conversation.”

She explained to the crowd that when a case goes before the Supreme Court, the justices are prepared. They have read every piece of paper relating to the case and they understand the arguments. So to go before the court and engage in argument is not effective. Instead, the key is to listen to the judges and try to understand why they are asking the question that they have posed. Then, draw upon the arguments that you have made in the papers to address that concern. Have a conversation with them.

This advice bleeds into business development as well. Clients don’t want to know how smart you are or how successful you’ve been. They want you to listen to what they are saying and provide insight that will help them address their concerns. In doing so, you will demonstrate all of your other qualities. It is conversation, not validation, that prospective clients want from you.

Take it from a judicial rock star.

Posted on January 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

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