I have to credit my friend and business coach, Leslie Malin for the title of this article – it was the title to an article in her E-zine and it brought up so many great thoughts related to managing and marketing a law practice that I had to share it.
I do a presentation on mistakes lawyers make in managing and marketing their practices, and Leslie’s title relates to a lot of them. So many lawyers think they have to do everything on their own and be all things to all people, not realizing that they’re just shooting themselves in the foot. I don’t know if it’s the way lawyers are educated or the type of people that gravitate toward the law, but that tendency to try to ‘prove’ that they can do it all is pervasive.
Believe me, I’m not knocking lawyers, being one myself, and I know I have this tendency also -trying to do everything myself and having trouble asking for help. Or being afraid that nobody else could possibly do it as well. Maybe the problem isn’t just lawyers, it’s our society as a whole. Perhaps it’s that American individualism that prevents us from realizing that it’s relationships and community that are the true keys to success.
Although I do believe that everyone is responsible for their own career, whether they work as a solo, in a firm, in the public sector or in a corporate environment, being responsible for your career includes knowing when, where and how to ask for help. For some, that ‘help’ comes in the form of hiring staff or other employees. Sometimes, it means giving up the idea of trying to do everything yourself and hiring and training other to do the work, and, most importantly, trusting them to actually do it. Unfortunately holding so tightly to everything and believing that you have to control every detail can have a negative effect on the bottom line of your practice, not to mention morale of your associates and staff if they feel they’re being micromanaged.
Other solutions to the ‘one person sport’ syndrome may include outsourcing work or hiring a ‘virtual assistant.’ It may mean banding together with a group of attorneys to discuss issues that relate to your practice. Realizing that trying to do everything alone doesn’t work may lead to hiring a coach or a consultant to help you sort out technology, accounting, marketing, or other aspects of your practice so that you can do what lawyers are meant to do – practice law and provide clients with solutions.
Speaking of clients, forgetting that the clients, and not the lawyers, are the crux of any law practice, is another way that many lawyers try to make success a one person sport. No lawyer can be successful without clients – particularly happy, paying clients. To get the clients to come in the door requires that lawyers focus their marketing message on the client’s needs and on the benefits the lawyer can provide to the client, rather than focusing solely on the lawyer. Sometimes, that may mean turning down or turning away work, regardless of how difficult it may seem.
Trying to be the one lawyer who can represent everyone often leads to an impression of the ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ Accepting that you can’t be all things to all potential clients can lead to strategic alliances with other firms that have expertise in areas your firm lacks, and can result in strong referrals. For solos, rather than fearing that someone else will ‘steal’ clients, it’s worth it to remember that having a backup can be invaluable.
It occurs to be that the reference to sport is particularly appropriate while the Olympics are ongoing. Although many of the athletes are competing as individuals, none of them got where they are alone – they all have coaches, trainers, other athletes with whom they train and compete, and support of all kinds – physical, emotional, mental and financial.
Even for the Olympic gold medalist, success is not a one person sport. Take their cue and build your own ‘team’ of supporters who can inspire you and each other to ‘go for the gold.’
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Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices
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