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7 Traits of Highly Successful Law Firms

I’ve noticed a trend in our Practice Alchemy program that separates the attorneys who make rapid progress from the attorneys who do fine ... but haven’t really taken it to the next level.

The superstars have certain traits that help them excel.

I’m the first one to admit that I didn’t embody all of those before I really started working on my practice. But by the time I was done and things were running smoothly, I had all the traits that I want to see in our Practice Alchemy members.

Trait #1: Intellectually Curious

People who aren’t interested in their own future – who don’t think about what they can do to improve – typically don’t make much progress.

Some people are intellectually curious in the academic sense, but they aren’t intellectually curious about how to better their business to better support them. It's the difference between curiosity about the law, and about your business, as a lawyer.

Since you’re reading this article, I'll take it as a given that you’re intellectually curious. So let’s move on.

Trait #2: The Right Kind of Skeptical

As attorneys, we always have to ask ourselves, “Why won’t this work?”

That’s a very important question when we’re providing legal service to our clients. One of the reasons we're retained is because we can spot problems a mile away. Problems that the client won't.

Related: Bill or Build? How to Balance Clients and Law Practice Growth

When we’re thinking about our own law firm – our own business – we have to rephrase the question.

We need to ask, “What will work?”

Yes, there are a million reasons why any business initiative might NOT work. But let's face it - when you got into practice you acknowledged that you're doing something that might not work... but you did it anyway. You took a calculated risk.

And to grow a real business, you need to take calculated risks. Not throw every objection against the wall, treating the 1 in 10,000 risks the same as the real ones. Be thoughtful, but not paralyzed by fear. That’s the right kind of skepticism.

The wrong kind of skepticism is believing nothing can change. Or that every bad thing is relevant. They aren't all relevant.

There are other law firms focusing on the same practice areas that are doing better than yours. There’s your proof that it can be done. The only guarantee that you have is that if you do nothing, it won't get done for you.

Your firm can do better. But only if you believe you can do better.

So net of it, it’s fine to be skeptical and ask yourself critical questions about the best way to grow your law firm. But the wrong kind of skepticism that says, “I don’t have a hand in my own destiny” will keep you trapped.

Trait #3: Steady Freddy

This is the toughest trait to embrace for a lot of attorneys because our brains aren’t wired this way.

It’s easy to be elbow deep in client work because we know it’s our responsibility. We know it’s necessary to get the job done. But we don’t think the same way about growing the business.

You have to do the reps. Week after week, month after month, you have to do the right things, even if you feel like you don’t have enough time.

And it’s hard. We don't like doing the same thing again and again, especially if nobody else is telling us to do it. Clients are asking for the work, so we do it. But only we hold ourselves accountable to our marketing and practice growth. And let's face it, we're not terribly demanding bosses.

We need to prod ourselves into being Steady Freddy with our practice growth. Doing a little, all the time.

So where does this leave us? There’s good news and bad news about becoming a Steady Freddy.

The bad news is that this doesn’t come naturally for most of us. Which is why it can be hard.

The good news is that all you have to do to make it easier is create a framework, and build a habit. A framework that shows you what you have to do to grow your firm and when you have to do it.

Framework and a habit. Like, brushing your teeth (my four year old is still learning this one, but I bet you've got it nailed).

Framework: brush the tops and the bottoms, the insides, outsides, and tops. Habit: do it twice a day.

You do the same. But we let ourselves off the hook when it comes to our practices ... and for a while you can get away with it... until you realize that people aren't standing quite so close any more. Icky breath and rotting teeth, and all.

No different with your practice. Make it a priority to become a Steady Freddy. Every week of focusing on the right things for the business itself (not the clients) will put you one step closer to having the practice you really want.

Trait #4: Short-Term Pessimist, Long-Term Optimist

I talked about this above - this is a common trait among lawyers. We always ask, “Why won’t this work?” Then, we dwell on things that we try, and don't work.

But you can’t let short-term pessimism - for a "failed" initiative, or the risk of one - outweigh the long-term optimism that says you’re capable of growing a better business.

It can be a delicate balance to keep today’s defeat from making you think all is lost. Think of today’s setback as a nothing more than practice. A trial run. It's all a grand experiment. There is no failure. Only things you'll do differently next time.

With every 'mistake' you know something today that you didn’t know yesterday. And it means you’ll make one less mistake tomorrow.

Trait #5: Don't Think They're The Smartest Guy In The Room

Too many lawyers think they know everything. And can do everything.

That line of thinking keeps you from looking outside of yourself for guidance about how to make your business better.

The fact of the matter is, if there's someone who's done what you want to, and you haven't ... you've got something to learn. You may be one smart cookie, but lawyers who stay students grow their business much, much faster.

Related: An Organized Way to Grow Your Law Practice

If you have a cooperative mentality, and are open to learning, you understand that there are experts out there who have done what you’re trying to do. You seek out those people and cooperate with them.

Clients seek you out as an expert to help them solve a problem. So should you.

Are you so fiercely independent that you’re getting in your own way? It’s not too late to change and start getting guidance from people who can help you succeed.

Trait #6: Believe Accountability Leads to Success

This is actually one of the core values of our company ... and for the people we hire.

If you’re not accountable to yourself, and you don’t take responsibility for your own success, it will never happen. Period.

It’s easy to play the blame game. The economy. A competitor. Anything else that’s wrong in the world. But those things are irrelevant. The blame game is neither interesting nor useful.

The only things that matter are where you are today, where you want to go, and your plan to get there.

The buck stops with you. If you’re not willing to put in the time and the investment into yourself and hold yourself accountable, you’ll never succeed.

This is a trait that I can’t teach you. You have to figure it out for yourself... Or you’ll eventually find out the hard way.

Trait #7: Continually Learning

You’re intellectually curious. But that’s not enough.

You have to actually go through the discipline of learning. Go beyond casual interest, beyond the first skim, and beyond learning concepts. You have to make it real.

Learning is about taking those concepts and executing them. It’s about combining them with cooperation, accountability and doing the reps, and following this formula to achieve freedom in your practice.

Click here to get access to my free Law Practice Growth Guide that shows you how to grow your law firm predictably and create freedom for yourself.

Raj Jha