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Why Your Law Practice Is a Hamster Wheel (And What to Do About it)

I just came back from a two-week vacation. Completely unplugged. This isn't the first time, I've done this for years. Me gone, clients being delighted by others.

Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine spending two days out of the office, much less unplugged. But I eventually realized (because of newfound family responsibilities) that every day I went to the office, I had a choice.

I could either go into the office, do the work in front of me and leave with tomorrow's mountain of work sure to be waiting, or I could create a law practice that would someday be much more than that.

Choose to work for today and build nothing, or work for tomorrow and build something that not only supported me financially but supported taking time off with my family.

For most lawyers, the money stops coming in when they step off that hamster wheel. When they stop working. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s how they set up their business.

If you’re going to choose what you want to do on a given day, doesn’t it make more sense to build a long-term asset that allows you to earn even when you’re sleeping or on vacation?

Oil Well or Hamster Wheel?

Every time you make a choice about what to do on a particular day, you’re choosing one of two things: oil well or hamster wheel.

Hamster wheel activities take you no closer to your goal. You start running, get exhausted and stop running - at the same place. You're worn out. And you've gotten nowhere. You may be making money today, but you’ve done absolutely nothing to improve your business tomorrow.

Oil well activities are the opposite. Oil wells require an investment of time and money, but once they’re set up and pumping, they become a reliable source of cash flow.

Other businesses - non-law businesses - all understand oil wells. They buy inventory. Machines. But we don't, and us lawyers suffer for it because we just don't understand that to create something, we must invest.

If you want to improve your business, at some point you have to jump off the hamster wheel and start digging your oil well. That’s a really, really (really) hard thing for most attorneys because there’s never enough time to do the digging and the rewards don’t come quickly enough. Because, as I say, we don't have to understand it to start.

We just have to understand it to succeed.

In most cases, an attorney will stop digging after a month or two because they didn’t see any results. But if they had just kept digging for a few more months, they would have seen the benefits percolating up from those efforts. And even in some cases, a geyser of benefits.

All you have to do is focus and commit to the long-term plan instead of short-term gains. I'm not saying it's easy, but it is simple.

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.

Knowing Where to Drill

Spending a lot of time and energy on long-range goals and benefits is great – if you spend your time on the right things.

You have to know that you've used a map, and that you'd not just be drilling random holes in the ground, hoping to strike oil. Trying to get better at things that aren't going to make a difference. As Peter Drucker said, "There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all."

That’s one of the major reasons why attorneys join our Alchemy Mastermind coaching program. It tells them exactly when to drill and how to drill so they can accomplish more in less time. Stop the hamster wheel. Actually move forward.

I used the same strategies to take me from just showing up every day, to a firm that I was proud to say supported my family not only financially, but personally. Because I had time to be a dad.

To be fair, every attorney has to spend some time on the hamster wheel while their practice reaches a certain level of business maturity. It's the realization that you need to invest the time, and invest in getting the knowledge, that stops most of us. Like I said, it isn't easy. But it can be simple.

But when you make the switch from hamster wheel to oil well, you’ll transition from "doer" to "owner," and you’ll transform your practice from a place to work and collect a paycheck to a valuable, long-term asset.

Raj Jha