Law as business? You bet.

I ran across an article titled Why Attorneys Hate Marketing and What You Can Do About It.  It’s written for law firm marketers, to help explain why those who encourage lawyers to work on marketing can expect resistance, and how to help lawyers help themselves.  Marketers and marketing-averse lawyers need to work on understanding one another’s foreign mindset if anything is to change.

I used to keep a list of reasons I’d been given by lawyers who dislike business development work, but I quit maintaining it because it got to be so repetitive.  The article lists all the reasons I’d heard in the past, but one surprised me.

  1. “I went to school to practice law and not to run a business.”

Most lawyers who’ve shared some variation of this objection to business development with me have focused on sales: “I went to school to practice law, not to sell something.”  That attitude is difficult enough: the truth is that we all sell all day, every day – just think of the times you “sell” someone on your point of view, on your preferred approach, or even on a product or service you choose for your office.

But distinguishing the practice of law from a business? That’s a fatal mistake.  The practice of law is a profession, certainly, and should be accorded that respect.  However, failing to recognize that it’s also a business is the fastest way I can imagine to destroy a practice.

Law practice as business is perhaps most obvious for sole practitioners and those in small firms, but it’s applicable for every single lawyer.  Even if you’re a brand new associate in a megafirm, you can be sure that someone is watching the business, and your survival depends on your fitting within the business structure.  The lawyers laid off in 2008 and 2009 (and continuing even today, though in much smaller numbers) probably weren’t bad people or bad lawyers, but they were expendable from a business perspective.

What should you be thinking of in terms of the business of law?  Client retention and acquisition is certainly one key aspect of the business of law.  Cash flow, systems and process management, staff management, business strategy, and more come into play when evaluating the success (and even survival) of any kind of business, law practices included.  And sales are central to any business.

Check your own temperature on the business of law.  Do you look at your practice as a business?  Do you check for profit centers, for income streams, for client pipelines?  Are you comfortable (or comfortable with being uncomfortable) when it comes to landing and keeping the business required to keep your practice afloat?

Get in the habit of looking at your practice as a business or as a line of business within the larger business that is your firm.  It’s a non-negotiable in today’s world.  Even if you don’t, someone else is, and you may not like what they see and the decisions they make.

#5 is just one of the top 10 objections lawyers make to marketing, and one that grabbed my attention because the underlying belief is fundamental to the success (or failure) of a law practice.  You may find one or two that sound familiar to you, and even though the solutions are intended for law firm marketers, you may find a perspective shifter there.

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