Legal Practice is what You make it!

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything either as a blessing or a curse.”

Dan Juan, Tales of Power

This is my favourite quote from Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Revisited. If you haven’t yet bought it or obtained the excellent CD version (I have both) then I would strongly urge you to do so.

The central theme, and one that most lawyers fail to grasp, is that you have to stop working in the business (as a technician) and work on the business with mesianic zeal.

More lines have been written over the last year about the threats to legal practice than probably in the proceeding 10! The pace of change will only increase.

For most lawyers trying to take themselves away from the coalface is exceptionally hard (there may be a business critical need for them to stay there!) but coming up with a winning strategy, particularly when the partnership has so many competing demands, is inordinately difficult.

Having a planning day is one thing, even putting in place a comprehensive business plan will place you ahead of a lot of firms but the key issue, holding back most firms from committing, is the risk of picking the wrong area of practice to compete in the market.

Your background is not in change management, HR or finance. You trained to be a lawyer and even the most progressive law schools will not have equipped lawyers to work through all the complex issues and come up with a workable plan. But that is what you must do. Come up with something that everyone or the majority believe in with all their heart and soul. You need to marry up the work areas with the people. There is no point selecting an area for growth but then finding that the people you have picked to drive things forward are completely ill-suited. I have seen many instances where firms are keen to promote a growth area but they don’t consider enough if the right people are in situ. Very often they are not.

If you find yourself in a position of stasis then the only consolation is that so are most firms.

My advice is this: There are no sure fire or dead cert areas of law.

Property has been upended.

Litigation has not grown at the rate expected.

Legal Aid is a mess.

Corporate has flat-lined.

But other areas like private client has stood up well.

IP/IT is still a vibrant sector, even though the fees may have to be reviewed to make them competitive.

Injury work if you can navigate Jackson and funding still has potential.

And commercial work, if you pick the right areas, will be a solid area.

It stands to reason that people and businesses have gone into defensive mode and are not going to want to spend oodles of money on external advice if they can get away with it. Perhaps you should develop a theme around preservation, protection and leverage?

I am not saying these areas are any better than others – I don’t know your market well enough – but you should have a good feel for things now and perhaps you ought to start backing a few more of your hunches.

Your strategy will be determined more for what you do on the ground than trying to follow to the letter the written form. You just need to make sure that you do things better than you ever done them before. Set the bar as high as possible.

I use the word EXCELLENCE in this blog because I can think of nothing more apt to drive home this point.

Excellence is inspiring, game changing, iconic, beauty personified and tangible.

You know when you touch or experience something that is excellent.

If your practice was so way out there excellent then frankly you could almost forget about marketing. Your practice and more particularly the people housed within its operation would be the best machinery you are ever likely to have. However, if you are only middle-of-the-road, mediocre, OK, Ho Hum, or we deliver a good service, then be prepared for some upstart to come along and take business from right under your nose.

Enough of my rant. I honestly and fervently believe in the profession of law. It is sacred. But not so that it should not try change its delivery. I am not blind to the the moral paradigm but start playing to your strengths and who knows you might just see the opportunities opening up before your very eyes.

~ JS ~

2 responses to “Legal Practice is what You make it!”

  1. Mark Smith says:

    Great piece Julian. Now is the time for firms to re-examine their business model, but many are taking the ostrich approach!

  2. Mark Smith says:

    Great piece Julian. Now is the time for firms to re-examine their business model, but many are taking the ostrich approach!

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