For all the quality instruction and education that modern law schools provide these days, when it comes to teaching prospective attorneys the tools necessary to build a successful practice, faculties are falling ruefully short.
Major law firms, insurance companies, and large corporations who recruit interns and junior attorneys right out of law school aren’t generally interested in teaching new associates the path to success, either. As a result, brave junior lawyers who decide to hang their own shingle tend to experience a hard time as they learn the ropes. What law schools are failing to address is what the practice of law essentially comes down to: running a business. This is a reason why new attorneys are often advised to study business subjects in school, or to even go back to college to earn a Master in Business Administration degree.
Just because an attorney decides to start a solo practice does not mean that he or she must have to endure a lethargic period of business or limited success. Solo attorneys already have what it takes to practice law; what they need is some entrepreneurial moxie to ensure a steady flow of clients. Here are five ways for solo attorneys to build up their practice into a successful business enterprise:
1 – Check Your Attitude
Different clients will have different expectations from the legal practitioners they retain. Some will want aggressiveness, particularly when it comes to high-stakes civil lawsuits. Others look for smooth operators who are well-versed in courthouse politics. There is, however, a common expectation shared by all clients: affability. It is fine to be a bulldog when it comes to defending the interests of clients, and it is also a good idea to be a mongoose in the courtroom when the occasion calls for it; but when it comes to dealing with clients, attorneys must be respectful and gentle.
2 – Showcase Your Skills and Experience
Every courtroom victory, successful negotiation or satisfying settlement has a unique story to tell. Even if it is a simple traffic infraction case in which the client ended up going to driving improvement school in lieu of a fine and points against his or her license, or an amicable divorce with equitable relief for both parties; there should always be an exceptional aspect to highlight and tell new clients about. Naturally, this must always be done without revealing personal client information.
3 – Foster a Solid Professional Network
A new walk-in client who is looking for a criminal defense attorney and walks into a family law practice should never be turned away without a place to go to. Solo attorneys should expand their professional network to include different practitioners and specialists that can help with different issues. Exchanging referrals across a trusted circle of professionals is a way of providing a valuable service; something that clients never forget.
In the past, building professional networks involved spending a lot of time out of the office, attending social events and work-related conferences. That is no longer necessary, as vibrant online social networks like LinkedIn have proven highly effective to bring members of the legal community together in cyberspace, without having to spend too much time away from their office.
4 – Embrace Technology
Old-fashioned attorneys aren’t particularly in vogue anymore. Some major full service firms tend to include certain terms in their marketing literature like conservative and traditional, when in fact they are hi-tech practices. In the past, attorneys were expected to keep up-to-date on important issues surrounding their profession by attending Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars and reading professional journals. These days, solo practitioners are expected to go online and never fall behind on major legal developments.
5 – Find a Unique and Comfortable Niche
For solo practitioners, a niche should refer to a certain subset of clients, rather than a special area of practice. A solo attorney, for example, may decide to dedicate all efforts towards business law, a wide aspect of the law. A niche would be to narrow the scope to more specific clients, such as bar and restaurant owners or marina operators.
By approaching your law degree as an opportunity to create a business, it will give you a niche that will help you go farther, faster. Take the time to research your options before accepting a position and you may just find the best choice is to go out on your own!
James Thomas is a writer who suggests that you click here to learn how to make a website and earn extra income.