Is the practice of Law at risk of being forgotten?
In all the (endless) chatter about business development, social media and technology, is the practice of Law at risk of being forgotten?
I am not someone that would wish to see the legal world shrouded in mystique – I hate Ivory Towers – but if it was so bloody easy that you could palm everything off on Google, then the profession would long since have been blown to smithereens!
My foray into law (which lasted nearly 20 years) wasn’t driven by the need to be this supremo, all-rounder. No it was premised on being the best in my practice area.
I also wanted to do something that would keep my interest, and stretch my intellect, rather than doing the same thing week in week out. [Caveat: if I had thought of myself as just another money-making machine, then I may well have been more questioning about the long and arduous road ahead.]
Right now, save for the odd remark about a noteworthy case, espousing your incisive legal brilliance appears to be frowned upon. You not only have to wear your learning as lightly as possible, but you are forced to speak in sales language that is alien to the sine qua non of legal practice.
[I don't remember learning about closing sales at Law School!]
I know that I have been rigorous in my scrutiny of the need for you to spread your practising wings and become more entrepreneurial, but not at the expense of being the best lawyer in your practice area.
How do you measure up?
Are you confident that you are spending enough time on the law, or have you plateaued and forgotten what it feels like to be exposed to something new?
In many ways, the drive to the top (or bottom) line elides the enjoyment of practice. That is not to say that you are not in business to make money, but not at the expense of everything else.
Many people don’t want to be bothered with business development, let alone social media; but, the trouble is, there is less work to go around, and you have to be prepared to raise your profile to compete on level terms.
If you are still fascinated by the Law, don’t keep it to yourself.
Even the suggestion of these platforms may seem contradictory the import of this post, but think about it.
You love the Law.
You know it inside out.
And you have a clear track record of helping people. Why not see how you can tap that emotional force, leverage off of it and use your existing contacts to garner more work.
You can’t keep your light hidden forever.
If you feel your legal knowledge is being drowned out by all the business development ‘noise’, then it is as well, from time to time, to remind people that absent a sound/remarkable knowledge of the Law you can’t possibly be expected to generate word of mouth referrals. After all who wants to instruct someone who sucks lemons or sits on the fence all the time.
The only caveat to this (slight) rearguard action is the fact that clients don’t know the difference between two lawyers in the same practice area. They assume that the bar is set equally between the two of you, and, often, make their decision to instruct you based on far less cogent reasons than your learned brilliance.
If you are going to major in the Law as your winning business development strategy, then it is far better that those who are in a position to influence the decision to purchase inform the putative buyer: “S/he is the best at what they do” rather than you or someone in the firm continually crowing about your brilliance.
When it comes down to it, the business of Law has not yet developed the methodology to provide legal services without lawyers. Yes, there will be less of you in the years to come but you can’t expect to keep your place in the queue based on your billing prowess. You have to constantly get better at the Law and make sure that the reach of your reputation continues to grow.