Lawyers

5 Things Solo or Small Law Firms Can Learn from Entrepreneurs

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Global Entrepreneurship Week is celebrated this week from November 12th through November 16th. The international initiative aims to connect successful entrepreneurs with young people to help give them tips on how to succeed in starting their own business ventures. In occurs to me, though, that successful solo practitioners and small firms aren’t very different from successful entrepreneurs. Below I’ve considered how the advice five well respected entrepreneurs gave to Business Insider/Entrepreneur also applies to solo practitioners and small firms.

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

Spanx Inventor and Founder Sara Blakely told Business Insider that not being afraid of failure has been the key to her success: “Don’t be afraid to fail. My dad encouraged us to fail. Growing up, he would ask us what we failed at that week. If we didn’t have something, he would be disappointed. It changed my mindset at an early age that failure is not the outcome, failure is not trying. “

This is true for attorneys interested in exploring solo practice or in founding a firm. Indeed, for me, the hardest part of my solo practice may have been making the decision to make the jump in the first place. Once I did I’ve faced a variety of other hurdles, but that first step was probably the hardest.

Once you’ve made the jump you’ll find plenty of other occasions where you’re confronted with the fear of failure. Nonetheless, never be afraid to take a reasonable, well-calculated risk if it could help you grow your practice. This may mean stepping outside of your comfortable practice areas, reaching out to potential clients for business, experimenting with various billing options, or even considering novel ways to structure and run your practice. So long as it is ethical and legal, ask yourself: what’s really the worst that can happen?

You Don’t Have To Have All The Answers At The Start

Gurbaksh Chahal, Serial Entrepreneur and RadiumOne Founder told Entrepreneur that “Many [business] people focus on what is static, black and white. Yet great algorithms can be rewritten. A business process can be defined better. A business model can be copied. . . . When you have an idea, figure out the pieces you need quickly, go to market, believe in it, and continue to iterate.”

Many lawyers are also focused on what is static. If you’re planning on entering solo practice, figure out the most important elements of how you plan to succeed, but don’t be bogged down by the small details. Be dynamic and be willing to make changes to your practice as you grow.

Offer Better or Cheaper Services Than Your Competition

Jim Koch, Founder of Boston Beer Co. and Samuel Adams Boston Lager told Entrepreneur his theory on business success: “You have a viable business only if your product is either better or cheaper than the alternatives.”

This is true for your new practice as well. In order to succeed, you’ll need to offer clients either better service or cheaper service – maybe even both initially. As I’ve mentioned before, you can beat Big Law by making your legal services more responsive, more personable, and/or quicker service. If you can do most or even some of those things, you’ll have the foundation for a viable business model for your practice.

Be Patient

Meetup Co-Founder Scott Heiferman explained to Entrepreneur the virtues of patience when building a business: “Something worth doing might take a while, so really flesh out the potential of the business and be honest about whether it’s worth doing.”

The same is definitely true for small firms and new solo practitioners. Indeed, it’s been true for me and it has been true for nearly every solo practitioner or small firm attorney I’ve ever spoken with: building a full book of business takes time. When you first hang your shingle it will take time for people to discover you. Be patient, continue expanding your network, and stay positive.

Enjoy The Experience

Of all the tips I read, this one was my favorite. Barbara Corcoran, Corcoran Group Founder, told Entrepreneur: “The joy is in the getting there. The beginning years of starting your business, the camaraderie when you’re in the pit together, are the best years of your life. So rather than being so focused on when you get big and powerful, if you can just get the juice out of that… don’t miss it.”

I think this is true when you start your solo practice. It’s exciting, it’s scary, and it’s unpredictable. But building your own practice is also more rewarding than any work you’ve ever done working for someone else. Enjoy it.

About Matthew Hickey

Matthew is an entertainment attorney, blogger and music enthusiast. Having previously worked as an attorney in law firms both large and small, and now as a practicing solo attorney, Matthew believes that there has never been a better time to start a solo practice or small firm. By utilizing social media and new technology, small firms and solo attorneys can surpass their large firm counterparts in terms of marketing and providing clients with efficient, reliable legal services at affordable rates. When he isn’t wearing his “lawyer hat” he is humble-bragging about his extensive vinyl collection over at the food and music website Turntable Kitchen.
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