At the beginning of TBD2, the second edition of TBD Law, lawyers were asked to talk about their biggest mistake and what they learned from it. Sharing those mistakes and lessons with others helps ensure that they don’t make the same mistake too.
Mistake #1: Purple Squirrel
Believing that the (mythical, apocryphal, perfect) “purple squirrel” is likely to come by again.
What was learned? To understand the difference between “normal” and outliers. Don’t let those worst case scenarios guide you.
Mistake #2: Dog Food
“Not eating my own dog food” – not using your own product/tools.
What was learned? Needing to find an accountability partner who shares your values and can hold you to them.
Mistake #3: Not Letting Go
Not delegating to others and not detaching from a bad client or bad idea quickly enough.
What was learned? Letting go feels great.
Mistake #4: Chit Chat
Making too many phone calls for what feel like hand-holding purposes only and realizing that chit-chat feels like you’re not working on a case.
What was learned? What seems like a waste of time to us is loyalty-building for clients, but that can also be delegated when appropriate.
Mistake #5: Too Much Competition
Being hyper-competitive and spending too much time competing with business partners for more billing rather than working with them, coaching them, and trying to help them do better.
What was learned? The company makes more money, and you have better relationships with your partners if you focus on trying to help rather than kick their asses from a billing perspective.
Mistake #6: Too Much Importance
Making the case more important to you than to your client.
What was learned? Work to achieve your client goals within their financial and emotional abilities and time constraints.
Mistake #7: Freak Out
Allowing difficult people to pathologically freak you out to the point of inaction.
What was learned? You need to either confront the issue or get out of the case.
Mistake #8: Too Much Work for Too Little Pay
Effectively becoming the managing partner at the firm but not getting compensated for that work and seeing revenue suffer as a result.
What was learned? Managing a firm takes so much time and effort. It is better to be on your own and look for ways to delegate and automate.
Mistake #9: The Problem of “I”.
Holding yourself and your business back by doing all of the work yourself and not outsourcing or delegating.
What was learned? You need to see yourself as the business owner you want to be ten years from now. Then, ask yourself if that person would be doing those jobs or managing a team?
Mistake #10: Not Spending Wisely
Refraining from capital expenditures for time-efficient technology until many years into practice.
What was learned? Invest in wise technology early, but with due diligence, to bring efficiency to your practice.
Mistake #11: Not Enough Colleagues
Not spending enough time building relationships with other lawyers so you can grow.
What was learned? Block time off your schedule to connect and build relationships. Make yourself available to other lawyers too.
Mistake #12: Too Much Distraction
Falling victim to time sucks—the internet, phone notifications, and other districtions—that cause delays in work.
What was learned: Disconnect, turn off notifications, and create a space for focused work.
Mistake #13: No (Literal) Accountability
Hating financial management and making partner responsible for finances. Not keeping an eye on those—at all. The problems only came to light when cash flow became a problem.
What was learned: Even if you’re not the person accountable for the finances (or anything else), you’re still responsible for having an understanding of it. You’re the business owner!
Mistake #14: Not Knowing Your Worth
Underpricing a major flat fee transaction so that ultimately you end up making a very low per-hour rate of roughly $15/hour.
What was learned: Undervaluing your work is not only soul-sucking but also makes you angry at your client, which serves no one.
Mistake #15: Letting Clients Drive Your Finances
Not being consistent with billing and allowing a client to dictate terms rather than setting clear payment due dates. Related: keeping clients who severely fall behind on a payment.
What was learned: Set clear dates to take payments. Have clients sign payment plans with clear terms.