View your practice as an entrepreneur.

One of the keys to building a successful law practice is adopting an entrepreneurial approach, regardless of your practice setting. In other words, whether you’re a sole practitioner or the newest hire in a gigantic firm (or anywhere in between), you must recognize that you “own” your practice, and you must act accordingly. That means:

  • You take responsibility for building your book of business. You actively work to avoid relying on doing or inheriting work for someone else’s client
  • You take responsibility for your career advancement. You determine what additional skills and experience you need to grow as a practitioner and you make it your business to acquire that.
  • You take responsibility for the experience that your clients have with you. You decide (perhaps in concert with others on your team, if appropriate) how quickly you respond to client inquiries, how and when you proactively provide updates about client matters, to what degree you lead and collaborate with clients, and so on. You consistently look for ways to build value for your clients.
  • You take responsibility for making necessary adjustments based on changing circumstances. You watch for trends in law, in business, and in the economy, and you work to adapt your practice to navigate those trends and to help your clients do the same.
  • You take responsibility for your satisfaction in practice. You know that there’s no reason and no value to staying in a practice or a job you dislike. You understand that you won’t love every moment of your work. You stay attentive to be sure the positive moments significantly outweigh the negative, and if you find that untrue, you make the necessary changes.

If you need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, let’s talk.

If you have the entrepreneurial mindset, read this article by Jonathan Fields, a former practicing lawyer who’s now an author, entrepreneur, and producer of Good Life Project. Titled Why Do So Many Entrepreneurs Hate Their Lives, this article will get you thinking about who you are and how you bring that to your practice. Even if you’re happy with your practice, I guarantee that this article will give you important food for thought. As Fields writes, when you consider the questions posed in the article, “you’ll start to cultivate the level of self-knowledge needed to build something that not only makes money and serves a need but also serves you and the life you seek to create.” Read it (and do the work) now.

It isn’t what you said, it’s how you said it.

I confess: I’m one of the thousands and thousands of people who can’t get enough of the show “Friends”. The early seasons were especially clever, taking all kinds of language out of context for comedic effect. (Stick with me, I do have a business development point here!) In one episode, Chandler accuses Joey of becoming too feminine thanks to the influence of his new female roommate, which makes Joey pout. Chandler asks what he said wrong, and Joey answers, “It isn’t what you said, it’s how you said it. (And thousands groaned, having heard exactly that charge somewhere along the line from a significant other.)

Somewhere through life experience, we’ve all learned the lesson that language can make a neutral concept unpleasant or aggressive. As a middle school teacher put it, “Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don’t say it mean.” Language has power, so we know to choose words carefully to avoid tainting a message with unintended connotations.

How often do you pay attention to the language you use to describe business development?

I recently led a workshop for a small group of lawyers who’ve been tapped as high-potential leaders within their firm. I started the workshop, as I often do, by asking what feels uncomfortable about business development, and one answer guided a large part of our conversation:

I don’t like having to sell myself.

That comment kicked off a conversation that can’t be replicated in a short article, but…


  • Do you feel like you have to “sell yourself” to build your practice? How does that feel? Does it change your perspective on your task to think of it as selling your services, helping someone to find a solution to a problem, securing new work, or in some other words?
  • How do you feel about networking? How do you feel about meeting new people, making new connections, or talking with people about things that interest you?
  • Do you enjoy following up with a new contact? What about keeping the conversation going or checking in?
  • What comes up when you think about having a sales conversation? Is it different if you think about offering to help solve a problem, asking for the business, or suggesting the next steps?

Language is generative, and the words you choose carry a certain power or energy. Choose your words so that you don’t get stuck in a particular way of thinking. Substituting selling your services for selling yourself won’t magically transform your business development activity or results, but I guarantee you’ll approach the job differently if you can make that shift. (And if that’s a change you need to make, read the book Selling the Invisible, starting with my review.)

Panic to Profit

The practice of law is a business. We all know that, and yet many lawyers also prefer to focus on practicing law rather than focusing on managing the business.

Today’s article comes from Brooke Lively, founder of Cathedral Capital, a team of CFOs and Profitability Strategists who help attorneys with fast-growing firms across the country turn their companies into profitable, thriving businesses so the owner can create the life they want. Brooke knows business, and her article will help you to understand the Key Numbers you need to know to support the business of your practice.

Knowing Your 6 Key Numbers®

Imagine you are vacationing at a beautiful island resort with no phones or internet, and the only contact with the outside world is by way of a supply boat that comes once a week. What three pieces of information from your law firm do you need to know to decide if you can stay another week?” Wow.

Somebody asked me this question in a meeting one day. I was overwhelmed. Surely, I needed more than three pieces of information? Did I want information about my cash? My people? What about the sales process? And within those categories, what actual one piece of information would I need? And which ones would give me an accurate enough idea of what was going on to allow me to make a decision about staying in paradise for another week?

Over the next few years, my team and I started answering these questions for ourselves and for our clients. We found that there are six areas that have critically important information—the type of info you need when you are sitting at a fabulous island resort. And while all firms are different, we know there is one Key Number in each section that applies to your firm. The Key Number is almost always forward-looking—meaning it tells you what is going to happen. And when it isn’t forward-looking, it tells you how to get back on track. Here’s a quick synopsis of the areas, components, and what we consider to be the 6 Key Numbers®.



Cash is king, and no firm can survive without an ample amount. More than anything else, you need to know about the cash you have—and the cash you are about to need. Your Cash Flow Forecast (CFF) allows you to look forward, make decisions, and plan in a measured, reasoned, and proactive way, instead of reacting to a new crisis every week.

The question we are asked most often is, “How much should I be spending on … ” The good news is that we have the answer. We use a ratio to determine that called the Rule of Thirds – 1/3 goes to payroll, 1/3 goes to overhead and 1/3 goes to profit. Law firm owners work much too hard to be the last ones to be paid. You are taking the risk and should be reaping the financial reward. For this reason, we always monitor the owner benefit—and look for opportunities to increase it.


At the end of the day, if your law firm is not producing legal services, it will close. The trick is to learn how to incentivize your people through goal setting and understand what the capacity of the firm is and how much of that capacity you are using. WIP (Work in Progress) is the key number for production. Today’s WIP is next month’s revenue.

Budget vs. Actual

The Budget vs. Actual report is a standard report in all accounting software and serves two purposes. First, it means you have a budget. The Budget vs. Actual report lets you know if you are straying off course and gives you the ability to course correct.

Marketing and Sales

Understanding how clients get to you is vital. Once you start tracking your conversion cycle, it highlights places in marketing where your message is not in alignment with your firm. Ultimately, the Key Number we track is the number of sales calls booked. With that one number, we can predict how many new matters will be signed in the next month.

Case Management

I realize no case is “normal,” but your matters do have certain similar characteristics. Your average case length and value paired with the Net New Cases key number gives us lots of insight. By knowing the number of Net New Cases (cases opened minus cases closed), we can predict how much work is in the firm, the pressure it will put on your team, and next month’s revenue.

I get it, attorneys don’t like numbers – that’s why you went to law school, right?  However, a little work will net you enormous gains.  And it doesn’t matter if you are sitting on an island or struggling to keep your firm going, the 6 Key Numbers® that you need to know are the same. These numbers help you gain control, chart a path, and achieve your goals.


For more information on the 6 Key Numbers® and how to implement them for your firm, read Brooke’s new internationally bestselling book, From Panic to Profit: How 6 Key Numbers can make a 6-figure difference in your law firm.  Now available on Amazon.  You can reach Brooke through her website at or by email at

Craft a more persuasive message

Regardless of your area of practice, you almost certainly spend a big chunk of your time persuading someone to do something. In addition to persuading a decision-maker (a court or opposing party, perhaps), during the course of a day you probably attempt to persuade colleagues about a plan of action (or a destination for lunch), administrators about research, or other assistance, and so on. Great. Let’s assume that persuasion is among your top skills.

I’ve observed that the skill sometimes falls by the wayside, however, when it comes to business development. I recently talked with a client (a successful litigator) who told me how difficult he finds it to strike the right balance in talking with a prospective client. How much is too much, how little is too little, and what should the content be?

I read this article from 2015 that will help: How Doctors (or Anyone) Can Craft a More Persuasive Message. The article centers on the distinction between the message and the messenger, which is certainly critical, but it also offers three simple factors that you can use to form a more persuasive message.

  1. Expertise. Convey your expertise using “authority cues.” For a doctor, those cues might include a display of medical diplomas or the choice to wear a stethoscope. How does your office cue the perception that you are an authority in your field? What about your presence? Pay attention to both where you choose to have a conversation with a prospective client and how you present yourself.
  2. Trustworthiness. Generally speaking, you won’t be able to present an approach as a 100% ironclad certainty. The article suggests sequencing your message by sharing uncertainty just before delivering your strongest argument. How else might you convey that you’re trustworthy? For a potential client, think about the message you send when you’re on time for an appointment (or not), when you’re able to talk easily about your client’s business and/or legal situation (or not), and when you exhibit strong leadership presence (or not).
  3. Similarity. How can you signal that you and your prospective client are similar, without undermining your expertise? Language is important here: using legal terms of art with sophisticated legal consumers, for example, and more ordinary language with those less accustomed to addressing the legal issues at hand. You might also seek ways to demonstrate shared business values as well as other sources of common ground.

Read the article for insight on how you might communicate more persuasively. And where you have a choice in forming a team approach to a business pitch, consider especially the article’s question about who’s likely to be the most effective messenger.

Avoiding a lawyer’s top obstacle

A client recently shared his worry about taking on new marketing approaches, which included an effort to become credibly visible in a variety of marketing channels rather than centering all of his efforts on a single marketing avenue as he had in the past. Nothing especially shocking, but my client (risk-averse, like so many lawyers) was almost paralyzed.

Seth Godin blog post casts light on that client’s situation by untangling risk and uncertainty:

Uncertainty is not the same as risk… Uncertainty implies a range of possible outcomes. But a range of results, all uncertain, does not mean you are exposing yourself to risk.(Emphasis added.)
If you’ve ever found yourself hesitating on doing something new (and who hasn’t), read Godin’s full post. I suspect that you’ll come away with a different view of risk, one that will help you to avoid standing still.