People don’t like lawyers. I don’t blame them. Not only are we the cosmic killjoy of society but we’re pragmatic, logical, and boring. We don’t take risks and we hate uncertainty. But these are not traits that society rewards. Today’s entrepreneurship is all about taking risk and having an attitude that says “I know what I’m doing and I don’t give a d%#n what you think.” Clients are attracted to the bold. So you would think that most lawyers would launch their solo career boldly by screaming about it from the rooftops…. Unfortunately most don’t.
Ever since Business Insider published an article I wrote in 2013 on how I started a law firm, lawyers across the nation have been contacting me for advice. After speaking with hundreds of people on how to start a firm I’ve unfortunately learned that the majority of attorneys who go solo fail soon after they launch. Why? Because they set themselves up for failure right from the start.
The Mind Games of Law Firm Start-up
First, many lawyers never fully commit to going solo, they mentally only go halfway. Starting a law firm is not something you can do halfway. You need to commit like you commit when you go skydiving. When you jump out of the plane, there is no going back. The same principal applies to starting a business.
Second, many lawyers never risk humiliation. A lot of people simply don’t tell their family and friends that they are starting a firm. They do this because they are worried that if they fail, then they will look silly. This is devastating. Your family and friends are your best source of referrals. If you’re not bold enough to risk being humiliated then you will never be an entrepreneur.
My Two Million Dollar Mistake
Third, new solo’s get discouraged far too easily. When I first started my firm I would get horrendously discouraged when I learned of bad facts in my cases. I would automatically think that the case was garbage. I once backed out of a case because I learned of bad facts. That case went on to settle for two million dollars! Ouch.
Let me give another example. Last year I tried a case with the best employment trial lawyer I know – Lawrance Bohm. Mr. Bohm has had the kind of success that most people only dream about. During our trial I had the pleasure of watching him deal with adversity. I was amazed how little bad facts or bad judicial rulings affected him emotionally. He brushed past them almost as if they didn’t exist. The judge could have said, “I think your client is a liar” in front of the jury and I don’t think he would have cared because he has total confidence in himself and his strategy.
Three Tips to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy
So how do you avoid all of this mental nonsense and launch your firm like a boss? Here are three tips:
1. Preparation builds confidence – Ever heard the saying that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” It’s true. When I launched my firm I was scared out of my pants. But I had spent countless hours preparing for that moment. I wrote an entire business plan and had it critiqued by lawyers who had successfully started their own firms. That was extremely helpful and laid a foundation that I could build upon.
2. Before I launched I told everyone that I was going to start a plaintiff’s employment firm. I had made friends with people who occasionally get employment cases. Over beers, lunch, or coffee I asked them to send me work when my firm went live. They came through. Having friends and family to support you dramatically boosts your confidence!
3. Doubt is the devil. It will tear you up inside if you let it. Therefore, if you can’t get past your doubt about being a solo practioner remember this quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – “When in doubt, do it.”
There are a million other things I could say on this subject, but brevity is good in our profession. I just hope that when you hang your shingle that you hang it boldly. Recognize your doubts and fears but move beyond them with confidence. You don’t want to be your own worst enemy! You are your greatest asset and the sooner you get out of your own way the faster you will realize your dreams.