This is the next post in my discussion on why attorneys should start their law firm. My last article looked at the attorney bubble

I’m going to use this article to look at a big mistake that many attorneys make when starting: 

They fail to leverage their most valuable asset. 

Wondering what the most valuable asset is in any new law firm? 

Take a look in the mirror, and you’ll see your most valuable asset looking back at you, just like this guy is doing:

Man looking in a mirror

You’ve got it. Your most valuable asset is YOURSELF

Many attorneys have traditionally been able to get by without leveraging their own efforts and abilities. 

As I’ve mentioned before, however, the legal profession is changing quickly, and a significant number of lawyers are finding themselves far behind the competition. 

This isn’t an impending disaster for many firms, it’s something that’s already happening.

Over the last year, I’ve had an increasing number of attorneys call to inquire about our law firm marketing services who tell me about how they’ve traditionally done reasonably well — but that their firm is now failing. 

The best advice for any attorney starting his or her firm is to understand the value of your own value; you can unlock that value by leveraging your abilities properly. 

Let’s take a look at what this means.

Attorneys Can Unlock Their Value By Doing Things For Themselves

Imagine this:

You’re starting your new law firm. You have no money, no clients, no reputation, no contacts or referral sources, and nothing of value to your office. This can, and should, leave you nervous and biting your nails just like this woman:

Woman biting her nails

Many new law firm owners think that the best approach is having everyone else do things for them. But here’s the thing: You need to get as much value as you can from that aforementioned most valuable asset – yourself. 

Here are some common examples of this mistake:

  • New lawyers with no clients hire a part-time employee (sometimes a relative) to help answer the phones, file documents, etc., even though the lawyer has few, if any, clients. (This one is especially bad when you consider that over 50% of prospects expect you to be available outside office hours, not your relative.)
  • New lawyers often hire a third-party service, such as Ruby Receptionist, to answer their phones rather than taking their own calls directly.
  • Many new attorneys to try to get an intern or contract with a law student to assist them with drafting motions, etc.
  • Many pay others to draft website content, such as blog posts, for them rather than doing it themselves.

I see new firms doing these types of things all the time even though they don’t have clients or work to do. This means that the lawyer sits twiddling their thumbs while others are doing their work for them at a cost

Think about it: If you don’t have the clients to support this type of overhead, you’re purposefully digging yourself deeper into the red.

When you’re just starting — you need to be doing things for yourself (except for a runner service).

I understand why many startups feel they need these services/assistance. Many new lawyers feel that when they’ve just started, clients will come rolling in, and they’re going to be so busy building their empire that they need this help. 

The problem is that this type of thinking is putting the cart before the horse. 

Many lawyers who take this approach find that they don’t have the empire they thought they would, they don’t have as much money as they want, and they feel as if they’re struggling to get their practice out of first gear. 

These struggles can often be traced back to not leveraging themselves in the beginning, both for the reasons explained above, as well as the reasons explained below. 

Want your new firm to be successful? Then roll up your sleeves and be prepared to do the dirty work.

Doing Things For Yourself Now Means a More Efficient Future

Nothing kills a law firm’s profits like having employees and staff who do things improperly and inefficiently. 

As the boss, it’s your job to make sure people are doing things correctly. 

So ask yourself the following question: How are you going to train and supervise people in tasks that you haven’t performed yourself? 

The answer is that you’re not. 

I’ve consulted with a number of firms that have a history of having employees figure things out,” particularly with the tasks that the attorney doesn’t know how to do. This can include administrative office tasks, legal tasks, and other things around the office. 

This creates a situation where the employee comes to them and says that “task X” was completed in two hours. Then, the attorney has no frame of reference for knowing if that was a reasonable amount of time for it to be completed. 

If you think you’re going to be profitable without a deep and hands-on understanding of what your employees do, then you’re about as right as this person’s math skills:

woman with bad math skills

Want to be the successful attorney that people look up to? Then you need to be hands-on and leverage your own skills; stop focusing on the tasks that waste your time and consider the following if you’re just starting out:

  • There should never be an administrative task performed in the office that you haven’t performed yourself at some point
  • When a new legal issue comes up, you should be the one to research it and write the brief — don’t try to outsource it
  • It would help if you were writing your own content for your blog and not outsourcing it, at least in the beginning.

Why do you feel so many attorneys try to leverage others before they leverage themselves? Feel free to chime in through the comment form below.