Six Essential Traits of the Successful Legal Entrepreneur

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

20140407 Successful EntrepreneurSometimes lawyers get so focused on honing their legal skills that they don’t recognize themselves as entrepreneurs. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Very few law schools have classes that actually teach a lawyer how to run a law practice. How can you know whether you will be any good at it? What if you aren’t graduating in the top 10% of your class? Does that mean you have limited potential for successfully running your own law firm?

Inc. magazine online shared advice from Steve Blank about entrepreneurism in a commencement speech to engineering students. It’s good advice for lawyers, too. He said:

“[G]reat grades and successful entrepreneurs have at best a zero correlation….You don’t get grades for resiliency, curiosity, agility, resourcefulness, pattern recognition and tenacity. You just get successful.”

In this post I want to talk about why those qualities are essential for a successful legal practice. Read more «Six Essential Traits of the Successful Legal Entrepreneur»

Finding Work: 8 Reasons for and 4 Warnings about using LinkedIn

LinkedIn logo“Why would I want a LinkedIn profile? I keep up with my friends and connections on Facebook.” That’s what young lawyers looking for work often say when I ask them about networking and how they use LinkedIn. Older lawyers often view any kind of social media as a waste of time. Whether “looking for work” means job-hunting or client development, LinkedIn can be a useful tool. Here are 8 reasons why.

1. Professional Focus

LinkedIn focuses primarily on business connections by highlighting companies and their employees and former employees. Although LinkedIn has a collaborative culture like most other social media, it provides a forum to strut your stuff tastefully, because participants tacitly acknowledge its self-promotional and business networking purpose. Clients, recruiters and employers come to LinkedIn looking for what you have to offer. Journalists also peruse LinkedIn for knowledgeable people to interview about newsworthy topics.

2. Resume on Steroids

LinkedIn invites you to flesh out your profile with everything you would include in a resume, and a lot more. The format keeps readers interested with links to significant categories of information. Your LinkedIn resume can include links to your website, blog, Twitter profile, groups you belong to and more. When you reconnect with an old acquaintance, it would be awkward or inappropriate to hand them your resume. LinkedIn does that for you.

3. Friends Cubed Read more «Finding Work: 8 Reasons for and 4 Warnings about using LinkedIn»

How Do I Decide Where to Locate My Law Office? Part 4

The 4 part series, How Do I Decide where to Locate My Law Office, winds up today. We’ve pursued the different types of law office arrangements and have been looking at the relative geographics. I hope that these articles help move you forward in the decision process. 

Small Town or Big CitySmall Town or Big City

With emerging technologies, lawyers do have a lot more flexibility in office placement. If you have a good internet connection and adequate broadband capacity, you might be able to practice almost as easily in the suburbs or in a small town as in a big city. Here are a few reasons you might choose to practice in a small town.

Usually the number of attorneys per capita will be significantly lower there, and the cost of living is lower, too. Lawyers I know in smaller towns describe a collegiality in the legal community that, sadly, seems to have largely vanished from the bigger cities. Many also report that experienced lawyers and judges took them under their wing to mentor them as they got started. With most law schools failing so miserably at actually teaching lawyers how to practice law, the opportunity to develop such relationships can be a significant benefit to someone setting up a practice straight out of school.

On the other hand, sometimes less populated communities can be rather closed to strangers. It may be important to have some family connections or a well-established sponsor there to open doors for you.

Most small town practitioners find it necessary to develop a general practice because their clients expect them to know how to handle everything, and there may not be enough business in any one concentration. If you like variety and aren’t afraid to venture into new territory, you can develop a fulfilling law practice. Rarely will you have the sense of working for an impersonal, uncaring corporation. You will witness first-hand how your services affect the lives and livelihoods of your clients.

Before you decide where to open your solo law practice, do your homework. Take advantage of the resources available to help you gather the facts. Attend your state or local bar conference and get to know lawyers from small towns or on the other side of the city. Ask them about their experience and for their advice. Be creative and keep your eyes open for emerging opportunities. It’s not your mother’s law practice out there today.

For the previous 3 posts in this series, follow these links: Attorney Demographics, Client Demographic Data, and Practice Focus.

How Do I Decide Where to Locate My Law Office? Part 3

Attorney DemographicsToday’s post, Part 3 of Debra L. Bruce’s 4 Part series on deciding where to locate your law practice, takes a look at the demographics of your peers/competition.

Attorney Demographics

Give some thought to where your competition is located, too. The SBDC (Small Business Development Center) can usually tell you how many other lawyers are located within a certain range of your proposed office.Does your state bar association have demographic information about lawyers in your state? You can probably guess that you will find more lawyers near a law school or a seat of government, but what are the practice area distributions?

The State Bar of Texas, where I’m licensed, publishes reports on demographic and economic trends for attorneys in the state. You can see the number of attorneys per capita in various counties, the median income of attorneys in different practice areas and regions of the state, and the median hourly rates there. A lot of other information is available. When combined with census data and other information that you can obtain on the internet or from the SBDC, you may be able to identify a trending growth region in your state that has not yet been completely inundated by lawyers in your preferred practice concentration. That can give you a chance to grab a foothold in advance of the tide.

My upcoming and last post in this series, Part 4, will take a look at locating in a small town versus the big city.  For the other posts in the series, follow these links: Practice Focus, Client Demographic Data, and Small Town or Big City.

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