Who’s in charge of your practice?
As a small business owner and solo practitioner, your immediate thought is probably, “I’m in charge, of course!”
For a lot of attorneys, though, that’s not the case at all. They may think they’re in charge, but they operate as if their clients are really running the business.
Whenever your clients say, “Jump!”, do you jump?
If so, you may not be running your practice. This has profound implications on you as a business owner and can affect in you in several ways.
1. Your Business Growth
It’s tough to be in control of your practice’s destiny if your clients are always calling the shots. When they call the shots, they’re guiding the growth of your business.
This is dangerous for many reasons, but ultimately, your clients aren’t responsible for the growth of your business. They don’t really care if you grow your practice because they have concerns of their own.
2. Your Vision
When you let your clients run the show, then you’re not being outcome-driven.
In our programs, we talk a lot about outcome-driven thinking — how to get from where you are right now to where you want to go. When your clients call the shots, the outcome you’re working for is the outcome they want, not the outcome you want.
3. Your Freedom
As attorneys, we’re in a service industry. The unfortunate byproduct of this is when attorneys equate “service” with being “subservient.”
These attorneys believe they should put the client's’ needs before and above their own needs.
The fact is, if you don’t serve your own needs and build a business where you have freedom of time and money, then you won’t make the impact you want.
Instead, you’ll make choices about which clients you take on and which legal matters you handle that you’d otherwise not choose.
Of course, we’re all going to do the best job we can to represent our clients. That’s our ethical obligation. But, if a client’s demands start shaping our practice into something we’re not comfortable with, the effort we put into our business will suffer.
The Power of Boundaries
So, I’d encourage you to think a little differently about your practice. Just because you’re in a service industry, it doesn’t mean you need to be in a subservient position.
To regain control, you may need to establish new rules of engagement and learn the power of saying “No” to clients.
For example, in my practice we wouldn’t take client calls after 5:00 PM and we refused to work on weekends.
These were the basic rules of engagement we communicated at the beginning of each client relationship, and they became incredibly powerful boundaries for both us and the clients.
A lot of attorneys hear this and think, “That’s impossible. No successful attorney could operate that way.”
That’s clearly not true. We had a great practice that followed the rules and maintained healthy client relationships that lasted for years.
So, challenge some of the thinking about how your practice delivers value and where you are in relation to your clients.
Your clients don’t have to be in the driver’s seat. In fact, if you’re spending the majority of your time feeling not in control, that points to a bigger problem you must solve to grow your practice.
One of the most powerful things we do in our Practice Growth program is showing attorneys the importance of taking control of their communications and calendar.
For instance, do clients have a ‘red phone’ where they can reach you 24/7?
If you’re in control, they shouldn’t.
If you’re going to create a practice that profitable, sustainable, and gives you free time, clients shouldn’t be able to interrupt your priorities. Their problems and priorities cannot become your problems, from a business perspective. Obviously, we have to solve their legal problems, but a client’s crisis shouldn’t become your crisis.
If this is helpful to you, visit practicealchemy.com/freedom and spend a quick 10 minutes with my Practice Growth team to talk about where you are now, where you want to go, and what areas you don’t have control over in your practice. If we can help you, we’ll be happy to suggest what next step might make sense for your practice.