Lawyers make terrible business people. That’s nonsense. That’s an old belief that served lawyers when the law was a mysterious profession. The law is a business. Lawyers are entrepreneurs who chose solving legal problems as their product.
I’m a lawyer but I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. Some of my best and earliest memories are tied to my dad’s entrepreneur dreams. He worked as a custodian at a neighboring school district but ran his own floor polishing business on the side. He was responsible for the shiniest floors in Huntington, NY.
He dreamed of owning his own food truck. Unlike the mega food trucks we enjoy today, all he wanted was a simple hot dog truck. But he never did it. He felt unprepared to run a food business and didn’t know where to turn for help. My dad was so proud when I became a lawyer. He reasoned, ‘You’ll have a secure job for life!’ If only he’d known about the big glut.
Lawyer becomes Entrepreneur
I graduated law school just as the big glut was hitting the industry in the late eighties. There were too many new lawyers. People were scrambling to get any law-related job, forget your favorite practice area. It was shocking, and painful, to see some of Boston’s oldest, most respected firms adapt long-standing traditions to the new times. consolidate or simply disappear altogether.
Successful lawyers shifted their thinking and their practices to be more entrepreneurial, to try different pricing models and to pay attention to business practices outside of the law industry. Lawyers became entrepreneurs!
Lawyers learn Business
Law school does not prepare lawyers to run a law business. Until fairly recently, most lawyers were told worry about being a good lawyer and the clients will come. Law was an honorable profession for gentlemen, not a grubby business where you are forced to ask for money. Heaven protect!
Law is a business that must be effectively marketed and sold (gasp!) for it to continue to exist. You can learn about running a business in many ways, and you should. What you don’t know about automation and technology really can hurt you, as ethics boards increasingly see tech competence as an obligation.
Best Business books for Lawyers
Get into the habit of reading business books regularly. I read Inc magazine cover to cover when I lived in Boston, and not just because I was featured. I learned from other business how to handle the challenges of running a consulting practice.
Thanks to Polar Bear Soda I learned what to do with ‘excess capacity’. The owners also ran a ski resort. They wanted to boost productivity.
Tah Dah, night skiing is born. The resort runs day and night, skyrocketing their revenues. I took that idea and ran with it by offering my unfilled consulting time to non-profits. This worked amazingly well. The non-profits got high-end consulting at a price point in their budget. I got introductions to new companies and corporations since I worked at the senior executive and board level.
It wasn’t long before I didn’t have an excess anymore. That’s when I developed my charity policy, but that’s for another day. The point is you will find ideas, inspiration, and solutions in unlikely places to grow your law practice if you are open to looking there.
Here’s my list
Dina’s List of Business Books for Solo Lawyers
I consider these titles to be foundation books. These books shaped my thoughts around being a small business owner. I learned to stand my ground because the customer isn’t always right. But also to understand the customer’s journey so I can be as nurturing as welcoming as possible and use my emotional intelligence.
You probably noticed this. I wasn’t born to be unconventional. The straight path was rarely the one I was on. The upside of that is that I became curious, almost relentless, about finding more than one way to succeed. These aren’t the typical law practice management books. Then again, these aren’t typical times. Leave me a note in the comments about your favorites!
Small Giants: Companies that Chose to be Great not Big
This book helped me set the tone when I was a new consultant going up against corporate clients who liked to pay for invoices their time frame, not mine. I learned that I could and should set rules and policies to run my company. You are the boss. This book will help you begin to think like one, Lawyer.
(available in Kindle, Audiobook)
Most law firms and law practice, I know, are set up for the convenience of the lawyer. All systems billing, intake, communications are created so the lawyer can work for effectively. Problem is, times have changed. Clients no longer will put up with being treated poorly. Client experience sells. You can easily change yours by reading this book. Inside Small Giants are 4 simple questions that lead to a primo experience!
Brainfluence is my favorite sales book that isn’t a sales book. I hate sales like most everybody. So, I needed a way to do prospecting that felt right to me. Brainfluence gave me confidence. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that if you share one thing, even as insignificant as the first initial of your name, the other person is more inclined to like you? Anything to break the ice, right. Try the book or look for Roger Dooley’s blog on neuromarketing.
Will It Fly: How to Test Your Business Idea so You Don’t Waste Time or Money
A great idea has to be tested. But how? That’s why I love Pat Flynn’s book, Will It Fly? He explains the exact steps to take to determine if your digital asset idea will fly or fail. Pat is the real deal, y’all. I have been following him since his very early days through his Forbes cover for making 3 million online. He is not a hipster. Pat believes in solid planning and hard work. Why not use the book to validate your current practice?
I am a lawyer, not an accountant. I love numbers only for the results they give me. You know that a financial team is part of your essential team when running your law practice. You need a bookkeeper, accountant and wealth advisor. Happily, for me, my team uses Profit First to keep my business running. It’s the more sophisticated version of the three piles accounting when I started my training firm years ago. One pile for reserves. One pile for Uncle Sam. One pile for me.
Profit First explains it better and takes it a step further. If you do it right, your expenses go down and your profits go up! Needless to say, I can’t explain this but my team can. Join us on 10/10 when Billie Anne and Wendy will walk you through what Profit First is and how it can work for your law firm.
Keep reading. I have more books to share. There’s always time to listen as you walk or do housework, right?