Identify and hone practical business skills you didn’t learn in law school.
Law schools are typically not the best at teaching the basic business skills necessary for running a successful practice. It is a perennial problem that is slow to change course, which is ironic considering a law practice is a business at its core.
Even if clients come in droves, the way in which your practice is managed can determine whether it prospers or fails. Here are three tips to help you improve on essential business skills:
#1: Define the Vision for Your Law Practice
The days of hanging out a shingle and watching clients come are all but over. Every successful business you can imagine has a vision that drives every decision.
Think about your goals. Where do you want to be in five years? How about ten? Don’t be afraid to dream big. Some lawyers may not think that far ahead, focusing instead on day-to-day operations,but, that mindset can lead to mistakes and wrong turns. Your vision creates the foundation of your business plan and helps you stay on the right path. If you have this vision, your journey to success will have fewer twists, bumps and dead ends.
- Write down goals
- Determine the number of clients to achieve them
- Determine which mentors, business consultants, peers and other professional connections can help
- Identify your personal markers of success; they’re rarely defined the same way by two people
#2: Apply Your Work Ethic to the Business Side of Your Practice
In every line of work, there’s inception, action and results; and in the middle is where all of the hard work happens. If you apply the same determination and self-discipline to practice management as you do to drafting a contract or brief, you will be on the right track.
It is easy to put off marketing, sales, accounting or any other comparatively mundane task, but remember, if your caseload is the lifeblood of your solo practice, business savvy is its heart. Work toward setting business goals and then stick with them. If you are not comfortable with your skill set, carve out time to polish it. Clients may change, but the operation of your business will always remain.
- Build a schedule of vital, routine business tasks, such as marketing, sales and accounting
- Network with other lawyers to learn what works for them
- Challenge yourself to work outside your comfort zone
- Every day, tackle one task that you would rather avoid
- Embrace, don’t resent, being in control of these responsibilities
#3: Develop and Strengthen Your Firm’s Brand
Some people love the connection between business and brand, and some people hate it. Purists might think that branding is just another additional, trendy corporate term. However, in this digital age, every person, every business and yes, every law practice, is a brand.
No matter what you call it, your brand is what comes to mind when people think about you and your practice. It is your personality, work ethic, track record and even your professional niche; and it is not just defined by you, it can also be defined by those around you. That is why it is important to ask for, and listen to, feedback and reviews. If that sounds scary, remember this: others typically define you based on their experience. You have the power to course-correct and control that.
- Learn as much as you can about brand building and awareness
- Have an active, professional web presence
- Maintain a blog and post regularly
- Join professional associations
- Take on speaking engagements
Building a successful law practice can’t be learned in a day or even through one professional business course. It is a continual journey that requires no shortage of hard work.
Ordinary business skills are essential, however, the success of your firm will boil down to determination, good decision making and the flexibility to adjust your vision and business plan as you gain new insight.