WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer has decades of business and marketing experience, alongside nearly 20 years of teaching experience. Read Professor Bauer's blog, which originally posted on SoloLawyerByDesign.
Professor Bauer recognizes there are many characteristics of successful solo practitioners. In this blog, he talks about Natural Enthusiasm. Bauer explains how, although enthusiasm may appear to be natural, it is really the product of many things, including hard work.
Natural, or just truly enthusiastic
The reason it appears to be natural is that it arises naturally and predictably from all of the hard work and planning that precedes it. That enthusiasm is contagious. It leads to greater business opportunities for those who do the legwork. We often see attorneys who are “threadbare” when it comes to their attitude and approach to their craft. Check your attitude at the door if you cannot be enthusiastic about your craft. Your speech, posture, inflection and attitude project your feelings whether you intend to do so or not. When I ask someone about their areas of practice, their responses are telling. The enthusiastic practitioners will tell you stories about their clients and how they have helped them achieve their goals. The less enthusiastic practitioners will describe their areas of practice from a list (usually too long) and without commentary. Often it will be accompanied with some negative impressions about a judge, client, collections or other technical issues.
If you find yourself among those who find the practice of law to be a “daily grind,” I have three tips on how you might alter the negative perceptions that others may have of you.
First, review your areas of practice and reduce your scope of representation.
Either limit the geographic range of service, client demographics, or subject matter that you cover. This might seem counterproductive, but I have found that limiting yourself can result in much greater efficiency in the time you spend to generate revenue. Find a niche. Look for an area of practice that you enjoy and are passionate about. If you do, your clients will find that you are more focused and accessible. You will not need to be in as many courts. You will not have to stay abreast with as many diverse areas of law. Nor will you need to market your practice to as broad a range of potential clients. You can focus like a laser on the population that you care to reach putting your message where they gather, project it in the things that they read and tune it to address their needs in a much more focused manner.
Second, dedicate time each week to meet with another attorney to conduct a week in review with that person.
Brainstorm how you might change your behavior to be more efficient, to fire clients who are troublesome or to define your areas of practice to refresh and invigorate your approach in practicing law. Having someone to talk to allows you to unload some of the negative feelings you are having in a safe environment rather than internalizing those feelings and projecting them for the public. Find someone you know will be honest and, at the same time, encouraging. Choose carefully until you find the right person. You will know him or her when you see them. Ideally, it should be another attorney, but it could be a law student or other person associated with the legal profession who is invested in learning how they might do better as well. Give each other homework to complete during the week and to share the results in subsequent meetings. Try to set the meetings up in an environment that is fun or engaging for both of you.
Third, go online and dedicate time each week to search using terms that relate to your most challenging situation for the week.
Your search could be related to the subject matter you practice, different legal strategies, technology, marketing, or greater business efficiency. Take notes and plan to use what you learn in some manner in the following week. Set goals and follow through with them. Having a plan and executing that plan will help you feel that you are more in control of your circumstances. Do a search for developments in technology, the law or other changes going forward. If you keep an open mind, you will be able to anticipate changes in the law and new demands of consumers.
For example, for three years I have been telling my students to consider “drone law” as an area of practice. One morning driving to work I heard an interview about developments in technology that meant that consumers would have access to more sophisticated and reliable drones in the future. As I listened, I could see the potential for that change in technology creating opportunities for attorneys to counsel others on trespass claims, disaster recovery, agricultural applications and so much more as I thought about the potential applications. Everyday I see opportunities for new and potentially lucrative areas of practice if you just look about you. Use your weekly sessions to share some of those developments. This will freshen your outlook and help you to feel greater excitement about your practice.
These are just three tips to help you find and express greater enthusiasm for your practice. This approach is not foolproof, but if you find yourself wondering why you practice law and do not find it to be fulfilling – you need a different approach. This approach is a low cost and low risk method for you to refresh and reinvent your practice and find greater excitement and project enthusiasm for your craft.