From time-to-time, I read a post or blog article by a so called “expert” in the field of legal business. The article, entitled, Going Solo Does Not Automatically Make You An Entrepreneur, by Susan Cartier Liebel was a recent example, and it just rubbed me wrong.
Now, for those of you that read my blog, you may recognize that I usually limit my posts to technical aspects of the law…a list of “how-to’s” from immigration law to first degree murder. This article is a little different, as it hits the core of our practice. How do you run a legal business?
Ms. Liebel did get it right when she extolled law schools to teach more about entrepreneurship. However, she got it wrong when she indicated that:
Solo and small firm practitioners for the most part are not entrepreneurs. They are self-employed.
What Ms. Liebel has missed is that to survive in the current “service industry” environment, you must be an entrepreneur. There are few if any solo-practitioners (a term she uses to mean a non-entrepreneur luddite) that survive even a year in private law. This does not include feeding from the breast of the government (i.e. lawyers who are paid by the government to provide services to indigent clients — a steady and constant payment stream). Either you learn to find clients and push the envelope of “employment strategy”, or you perish.
Interestingly, though, that’s okay! The field is bloated with lawyers who are looking for clients to just appear. A good culling process is welcome. Remember — your lawyer should be good interfacing with clients and developing business just as aggressively as defending you.
It would be great to have more training in law schools about running a business — that is absolutely true. But to say most solo-practitioners are just self-employed…that’s nonsense. Spend a day in the trenches, Ms. Liebel! If you think that any law firm (solo or otherwise) can survive for more than a “minute” without being entrepreneurial, you are exceptionally wrong.