Should Lawyers Have to Accept Responsibility for Their Own Success?
This is a pretty stupid question right off the bat, but there’s a stupid reason I raise the issue. I ran into a friend the other day, who told me he was about to leave his corporate job and hang a shingle. I offered him a chance to work with me on some traffic cases and find out more about the life-changing benefits of direct mail marketing, which I use to make my living, as do many of my colleagues. I was trying to do him a favor, but of course no good deed goes unpunished.
The first thing he said was, “I don’t know, I think the first few months I’m going to be very busy just getting up and running.” I kid you not—those were his exact words. I didn’t have the heart to tell him, but there’s some bad news headed my friend’s way: Getting “up and running” doesn’t bring in one thin dime. Oh, don’t worry, I get it. You have to lease an office and furnish it, set up phone and fax lines and hardware, broadband and computers, choose a website domain and get your site developed, all of which takes time. Problem is, every single one of those things also costs money, and you desperately need a little thing called positive cash flow.
Unless you have a huge pile of money to burn, you need
to have positive cash flow within 90 days of opening a company in order to avoid bankruptcy court. Trust me, I know; this isn’t my first business. I’ve stared into the dark abyss of a cash crunch, and there’s nothing looking back. There are ways to make it last longer than 90 days, and some poor souls do just that, digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole using credit cards and making zero income. In fact, they lose money every day they work—they pay their employees for the privilege of managing them and get nothing in return! Incredible.
Here’s the answer to the question: If you are an attorney, you will accept responsibility for your own success—whether you want to or not. Clients aren’t going to fall out of the sky and beg you to take their money. No government agency is going to approach you in recognition of your legal genius and offer you a lavish salary to sit around and look good. Unless you find a sugar daddy to put you on a very generous recurring retainer, you’re going to have to hustle. So if you are an attorney who has not yet reached the pinnacle of success, listen up and listen good: It’s time to rise and grind!
The good old days are over, gone forever. The bloated law schools pushed a glut of young lawyers into the market, and automation is taking the big business of consumer law and handing a large segment of the market to nonlawyers, such as LegalZoom.com. Partnership is no longer the safe and cozy refuge it always was. After seeing tens of thousands of lawyers thrown out into the street, including many accomplished partners, an already competitive industry became cutthroat overnight. It was every man for himself in a game of musical chairs on the deck of the Titanic. And the Great Recession continues unabated, threatening the entire global economy. What to do?
If I can get one simple idea through your thick heads in 2016, I hope it is this: You must market effectively to make it. Period. End of story. Lights out. You can accept that reality, or you can run and hide with your tail between your legs and your pointy little head in the sand. The universe doesn’t care which choice you make. You, on the other hand, will suffer or prosper based on your choice about this cold, hard reality. If you choose to market effectively and make the commitment to build a practice that serves clients at a very high level, you can do extremely well.
It’s a choice. Nobody’s going to force you to read The Ultimate Sales Letter
by Dan Kennedy or Great Legal Marketing: How Smart Lawyers Think, Behave and Market to Get More Clients, Make More Money, and Still Get Home in Time for Dinner by Ben Glass. There is no “homework assignment”