Entrepreneurs of all kinds in my humble opinion are the engines that drive the economic fortunes of this country. Through risk, guts and the confidence of their respective ideas, successful business visionaries are the backbone of capitalism within America. Part and parcel of the success of such individuals is the recognition that in order to financially succeed, sufficient capital outlay must be apportioned to allow for their business models to achieve the success they envision. How this initial investment is prioritized toward their respective independent ventures can be the key in determining whether the business will be grown toward long term financial success or unrealized potential due to misplaced investment priorities.
Unfortunately it is rare to find a marriage between lawyer and entrepreneur sufficient to realize long term financial success. Understandably those seeking the holy grail of a law school degree and bar membership often leave in their wake untold financial impediments in the form of unpaid student loans that can otherwise mute enthusiasm to further invest financial resources toward uncertain monetary gains in the future.
I understand this reality. Originally from Queens New York I was the first of any generation within my family to have secured a professional degree in any form. However, unlike those with a family pedigree of professional achievement I benefited from a family of business entrepreneurs and salesman. This background influenced my understanding of what it takes to earn a buck in the competitive world of business, and not law.
Once reaching adulthood and out of the bosom of educational institutions, success is validated through monetary success and no longer the marks of approval of a given professor. No matter prior academic achievement, once entering the working world all law graduates are no longer your competitors for academic achievement but the economic competitors for self sufficiency. It is within this competition that the lawyer with the requisite business acumen and not mere academic prowess will have the upper hand.
Not all individuals are cut out to pursue individual financial success through an independent law practice. Many, in fact most lawyers, prefer to be lead within structured frameworks whereby their passion for their respective field of legal endeavor can be unencumbered by the stress of how to earn a paycheck. For such individuals applying their talents within a large law firm environment is an ideal situation within which to apply their trade. Unfortunately, more and more lawyers are discovering each year that while such a model has worked for lawyers throughout a couple of generations, unreasonable expected hours of labor with diminishing available positions has reduced the prospect for such employment even if desired.
For countless numbers of lawyers now facing the prospect of considering the need to support themselves and/or a family depending upon them, resorting to thoughtful consideration as to how to best begin their own legal practice has become a necessity. However, Just what is thoughtful consideration? How one goes about answering this question and pre planning the potential success of an independent law practice goes a long way in determining whether the next few years will be a wasted pursuit of time and more accumulated financial debt.
An independent business venture whether in law or other business pursuit must be born out of passion. A recognition that you are not cut out to be lead by another individual. A need for your fate and future financial success to be based upon your visions, your efforts and your achievement.
Law is a business. As such, marketing your business and yourself must be accepted and embraced as a daily labor of love that must be fine tuned and improved throughout varying economic climates. Before throwing money aimlessly toward marketing your law firm, much less recognize the critical need to promote your skills, it is essential to take stock in yourself. Recognize through a self assessment whether your passion and need is to drive the financial success of your own legal business or whether you are launching your own “shingle” because you can’t find legal employment suitable elsewhere.
The conventional slogan for a lawyer to, “hang a shingle,” is one that I loathe. To me the proliferation of this slogan portends that the lawyer using it is destined for failure. It indicates a perennially failed thought process among lawyers that somehow arrogantly and naively believes that this all powerful “shingle” will serve as an effective marketing plan.
While you may think that such a statement is mere hyperbole on my part, and that no lawyer could possibly perceive a comprehensive marketing plan as merely hanging a piece of wood shingle, you would be incorrect. All states are littered with such failing practices and discontented lawyers who simply do not know a better way with which to achieve the self sufficiency they desired upon beginning their independent practice.
Marketing your law practice needs to be your number one daily goal. If you harbor any illusions about this reality I encourage you to turn back from the diving board before it is too late. If unwilling or unable to invest the time and/or resources to market your practice and believe that hanging a shingle is a successful growth strategy you will not succeed.
Being unwilling to invest in yourself from a monetary standpoint is most understandable. However, a lawyer must recognize that to make money as an independent lawyer, you must spend money. If you will not, your competing lawyers will be happy to fill the marketing needs of the community for you. It is the cost effective use of targeted marketing resources that will serve as your primary weapon against your competitors.
Once an office has been acquired, and monetary resources have been spent on office supplies, staff, copy machines, insurance, internet/phone service, etc. the endless list of expenditures can become daunting for the aspiring independent lawyer. It is at this point in the career arc that far too many lawyers become allergic with the notion of spending further money.
With past repayment of student loans or other prior expenditures to consider, the prospect of further financial burdens in the form of marketing a law practice sufficiently is not undertaken. Fateful economic decisions to initially prioritize purchasing fancy stationary paper and office furniture as opposed to cost effective targeted marketing too often serves as the initial fateful miscalculations of a failed legal law practice.
Law firm partners make more money than associates because in theory, they attract clients. Once you have crossed the threshold of deciding that an independent practice is your calling, the marketing of your practice in the most targeted financially effective way possible must become your first and foremost priority.