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The #1 concern of new lawyers considering starting a law firm is usually how to get clients. It is a perfectly reasonable concern, but for some it becomes nearly all-consuming. These new lawyers starting new practices are so laser-focused on marketing that they are likely to get blindsided (clever girl) by the other essential parts of a law practice: lawyering and running a business.
The results are predictable: their practices do not usually last very long.
The One-Person Show
Lawyering is, to a great extent, a one-person show. This is obviously true for a solo, but it’s also true for any lawyer at any job. You are responsible for your own work as a matter of law, ethics, and fact. You are also responsible for your clients — and often for getting them. You are responsible for doing administrative stuff like tracking time, and if you are a solo, for managing back-office tasks like balancing your accounts and licking stamps.
If you devote an inordinate amount of time to marketing, everything else will suffer. And you can’t afford to ignore those other things.
If you neglect your finances, you are more likely to slip up and violate some obscure trust accounting rule. If you neglect your education (not law school or even, necessarily, CLE, but actually learning how to be a lawyer and run a business), your business will get out of hand. And if you neglect the actual practice of law, you will never develop the skills that you need to represent your clients, or that will enable you to get more efficient so you can handle more clients, or that will enhance your reputation so that people want to refer more clients to you.
Moderation in All Things
There are three things you should be working on at all times — three velociraptors you need to keep track of — in this order of importance:
These aren’t equally important, but you do have to do all of them in order to have a successful law practice.
Take care of your existing clients. This is the #1 most important thing you need to be working on. Be a good lawyer. Second, take care of administrative tasks, like paying your bills, balancing your bank accounts, and ordering new office supplies. This stuff is usually tedious, but it just has to get done. Third, take care of marketing. Network, write blog posts, work on your website, and manage your ad campaigns.
Although they are not equally important, you do have to do all of them. If you don’t work on your clients’ matters, you will be missing the whole point of being a lawyer. Plus, you won’t be earning your fee, and issuing refunds won’t help your bottom line. If you ignore administrative tasks, your business will crumble, so you have to find time for that, too. And if you don’t market, you won’t have any clients next month. Any one of these velociraptors can land you in hot water with the ethics board, your clients, or your balance sheet.
That’s three velociraptors to keep track of. (Okay, two if you work for the government or in-house or in public interest and don’t have to think about marketing.) Don’t miss the one in the bushes off to your left. It will eat your
head law practice
Originally published 2012-09-24. Last updated 2014-09-16.
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