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- 15 Myths of Small Firm Practice
1. The goal of marketing is to get more work.
The goal of marketing is to get the right work. With the right work, you can be more profitable with less stress. But until you have identified the work that is right for you, marketing will be a waste of resources and may even be dangerous.
2. Lawyers don’t need to do market research.
The market for legal services is surprisingly diverse. However, most lawyers make their marketing decisions on the basis of conventional stereotypes, not professional market research.
3. Single-shot advertising strategies can work.
Single-shot ads are a waste of money because marketing is a long term process.
4. The more files I have, the more money I will be able to take home.
If you don’t have the human and organizational resources you need to get the work done, billed and converted into cash–all three are critical–and if you get so wrapped up in responding to crises that you neglect management, more files can mean less money in your pocket.
5. If I am competent to do work that I am offered, I should do it.
As a young lawyer, you should try many different areas of practice. However, within a year or two, you should start narrowing your focus. That means leaving behind areas of practice you can do, but shouldn’t because they don’t lead toward your goals.
6. If I don’t take this file/client, I may never get another file/client.
This is an understandable anxiety in a lawyer starting a new practice, but it becomes a disabling myth in the case of an established lawyer. If you haven’t run out of work for several years, you can confidently turn away inappropriate files and clients.
7. I can fit it in.
Sometimes you can, but usually you can’t, except at the expense of something else that is more important.
8. Lawyers are capitalistic and entrepreneurial.
Most lawyers are stuck with a pre-industrial-age handicraft mentality. They repeatedly re-invent wheels instead of building practice systems that efficiently produce documents and services at lower unit costs. In addition, most lawyers are very risk-averse. Instead of seizing on an risky entrepreneurial ideas and running with them, they spend an inordinate amount of energy hedging their bets and keeping their options open.
9. To succeed as a lawyer, I should find out what other lawyers are doing and do the same thing.
This is a formula for mediocrity. To excel in a competitive market, you need to differentiate yourself.
10. The value of my work is determined by my time multiplied by my hourly rate.
Time times hourly rate only gives you a cost, which may be unrelated to value. To determine the value of your work, you have to take into consideration the differences your client perceives that your work makes in his, her or its life.
11. To be profitable, I have to keep my overhead down.
If you keep your overhead too low, you may shoot yourself in the foot. Overhead increases are justified when they contribute to profit increases. Your goal should be to manage your overhead relative to the type of work you do and the revenue you can generate from it.
12. There are correct answers to practice management questions.
The answers to practice management questions are experimental, tentative, empirical. The “correctness” of an answer will depend on the intelligence, enthusiasm and commitment with which it is implemented.
13. A computer can organize my practice.
Only you can organize your practice. A computer is a tool you can use to do that.
14. If I do good legal work, I deserve to succeed financially.
Good legal work is a necessary, but it is not a sufficient condition of financial success. The practice of law is not a morality play in which virtue triumphs. It is a professional services business in which those who make sound business decisions flourish, and those who don’t, languish.
15. I can always start a solo practice.
Many lawyers tuck this myth in the back of their minds as a fallback position in case what ever they are trying doesn’t work out. But in today’s competitive market, you need the right temperament and small business acumen.