You’re a great lawyer, but you’re working for someone else. You know you could make a difference for both your clients and yourself if you had your own practice.
But it’s a scary thing to start your own practice.
Most lawyers make the leap more difficult when they skip important steps early on - and end up with a practice that doesn’t quite work right. Usually because they started with the wrong model in the first place.
They continue to practice the same old way. Instead of gaining traction, they just dig a deeper hole.
It’s time to challenge some incorrect assumptions that do nothing but create obstacles to building a successful practice.
Myth 1: It’s about the legal work.
You may be staring at me cross-eyed for saying this, but there’s a difference between being a good lawyer and being a good entrepreneur.
If you’re really in this for the legal work, go work for someone else.
Running a business—and that’s what a law practice is—is hard. You get paid handsomely if you do it right, but make no mistake, it’s not easy to run a business.
All businesses, law firms included, exist to get clients. Sure, the legal work matters. But it’s not the most important thing. In fact, the best scenario is to find someone to do the legal work for you.
The most important thing is getting the client. Without the client, there is no firm.
Business ownership means owning a machine that finds clients and then provides a valuable service. The better you get at finding clients, the faster everything else will fall into place.
Myth 2: When you’re new, you must compete on price.
Starting a new practice does not mean price has to be your biggest selling point. Competing on price is always a losing game.
It means you’re getting clients who care not about the quality of service but getting the cheapest possible service.
These crummy clients will then refer other crummy clients who value cheapness above all else.
The winning move is to not participate in a race to the bottom, which is exactly what price competition is. The only reasons lawyers charge less in the early years are a lack of confidence and the fact that they see every other lawyer doing the same thing.
1.2 million other J.D.'s doing it wrong doesn't make a right.
Just because other lawyers start out at a low price and hope to increase to a high price over time doesn’t make it an economically sound strategy.
Why start at the bottom of the economic pyramid when you can start at the top?
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Today’s client doesn’t know what yesterday’s client was charged. You don’t have to start with low rates. You don’t have to discount. You don’t have to climb slowly.
Instead, start with rates that support the kind of law practice that can spend a little extra to delight your clients.
Myth 3: More practice areas means more clients.
I’m not getting enough clients. If I add more practice areas, I’ll cast a wider net and eventually catch more clients.
I see this all the time. An attorney hangs their shingle to do estate planning, but there isn’t enough work coming in.
But their friend’s sister’s brother-in-law all of a sudden has a personal injury matter. And they smell an opportunity.
Well heck, now they’re personal injury lawyers and estate planners. And let’s throw in divorce for good measure!
As practice areas are added to the website, it starts to look like an odd, disjointed collection of the last few cases they handled.
Without exception, every lawyer who opportunistically adds practice areas for individual clients, and then presents themselves to the world as being that kind of attorney, is less successful than the attorney who holds the line and says “no.”
In my practice, we turned away more work that we accepted because it wasn’t exactly what we did for exactly the kind of client we serviced.
It’s counter-intuitive when you have the mindset that you can serve more people and get more clients if you do more things. Problem is, those people won’t choose you because they won’t think you’re an expert.
In reality, it’s better to serve fewer people who will gladly pay you far more for your expertise.
Deal with the short-term pain of saying “no” and the long-term gains will be more than worth it.
There you have it. Three myths. Jealously, closely held beliefs for most lawyers.
But myths nonetheless. And until you take a hard look at those sacred cows, your road will be long.