Earning $1 million or more in a year is not the norm for trusts and estates lawyers. Moreover, a number of factors are making their practices less, not more profitable. For instance, legal work is increasingly being commoditized. A good T&E lawyer can deliver the same solutions as another good T&E lawyer. Another complicating factor is that clients are becoming more astute and are increasingly looking to get value at the lowest cost.

While many T&E lawyers have reasons to be concerned, factors are also working in their financial favor. Probably the biggest positive factor is that demand for their expertise is considerable and growing. The number of wealthy—and more so, the very wealthy—are growing faster than ever before. This expansion is very likely to continue for years to come. Also, the wealthy tend to have considerable complexity in their lives, requiring sophisticated planning.

Extensive multiyear research of the wealthy shows that experienced and capable T&E lawyers who are adept at business development can earn $1 million or more. This level of income is calculated strictly on the monies they make because of their practices. Additional revenues from their equity interest, any administrative and related functions they perform at their law firms, or any outside sources of money is not included. Any revenues they earn by referring their clients to other lawyers in their firms are also not included.

Fundamental to this level of success is the ability to generate new business. Considering the research, it is clear that a large majority of T&E lawyers aren’t particularly adept at business development. While being even exceptionally capable technically is very important, that by itself does not necessarily translate into new opportunities. Astute application of methodologies, such as street-smart networking, targeted thought leadership campaigns and leveraging relationships with clients produce new business.

Street-smart networking is a process of garnering a steady stream of “ideal client” referrals from other types of professionals, such as accountants. The ability to strategically distribute high-quality thought leadership is effective in prompting prospects to take action and other professionals to consider referring their better clients. T&E lawyers can also help their satisfied clients introduce them to other people in their respective networks. It is very possible for T&E lawyers to be proactive, thereby regularly getting new introductions.

Looking to 2020, there is unquestionably an opportunity for many T&E lawyers to dramatically increase their income. That said, in all probability most of them will fail to do so. What tends to be required is a shift in thinking—from the belief that success is due to an “excellent knowledge of the law” to the realization that success is a product of business development with an “excellent knowledge of the law.”

T&E lawyers who implement these proven methodologies or other very effective business development processes can earn $1 million or more next year and the following year and on and on.

Russ Alan Prince, president of R.A. Prince & Associates, is a consultant to family offices, the ultra-wealthy and select professionals.