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Solo & Small Law Firms

Ben Glass – Why What I Do Matters to the Profession

Why What I Do Matters to the Profession

By: Ben Glass, Fairfax, VA www.greatlegalmarketing.com

In May 2005 I sat in the back of a room at a Renegade Millionaire conference hosted by Dan Kennedy, hearing story after story of how people in different professions and businesses were making a difference in the lives of others in their profession or business by teaching them how to built profitable, successful businesses. I knew that many lawyers struggled mightily with the business side of their practices—Good lawyers who had gone to law school in order to be able to do good for others, in some cases to change the world, but for whom the struggle was mighty because no one ever taught them how to run a law practice as a business. In some cases, good lawyers who wanted to do good for others had been defeated and run out of the profession by the lack of basic business skills.

As I sat in that conference for three days, Great Legal Marketing was born in the notes I was taking. GLM, as my friends and I affectionately refer to it was then officially launched in February, 2006, and as it is reaching its third birthday your contest has given me reason to reflect back on the impact that it is having on the lives of solo and small firm lawyers across the United States and Canada.

As I write this essay, we have 81 lawyers and law firms in our coaching program and 28 in our high level mastermind. (And, the answer is “yes” to the oft-asked question, “do you still practice law? “Yes,” full time. “Yes,” and its fun. “Yes,” and the law practice is providing for the financial security of my wife and seven children.) Ninety nine percent of lawyers who are members of Great Legal Marketing are in firms of five lawyers or fewer.  I am changing not just practices, but lives, and I have written testimonial after written testimonial to prove it. Those GLM members who pay attention, interact with other members and who take action have not only vastly improved the economic side of their lives but actually like the practice of law again. The spouse of one of my mastermind members told me recently that Great Legal Marketing had changed their lives because it greatly reduced the stress and anxiety associated with running a solo practice. Another was able to move out of a very stress producing high rent “traditional” big city law office an hour from his home and that he thought was essential to attracting clients and into a smaller office fifteen minutes from his house where he is now attracting the type of client that he has always dreamed of and making and keeping more money for his family.

Why the attraction?

These lawyers know and understand that neither being a “good lawyer” nor wanting to “to good for others” is sufficient to having a profitable, solid business BUT having a profitable, solid business is necessary in order to continue to being a “better lawyer” so that we can “do good” for the community. These lawyers also know that it is the marketing of the business; good, effective, ethical marketing that is the engine that both drives the enterprise and fulfills each lawyer’s ethical duty to educate the public about the law and about the availability of legal services.

Through newsletter, coaching calls, mastermind meetings and seminars I give lawyers permission to build the perfect life/practice/client in their heads, teach them how to do it largely by creating marketing that attracts that perfect client to build the perfect practice so that they can enjoy the perfect life while doing well in the profession—right now—not at some future date when they have labored for forty or fifty years and now deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor. And we show them how to run that practice as a business so that they can be heroes to their families by getting control of their lives—so that they can contribute to their local economy by being able to buy goods and services and to employ others (if they choose) and so that, most importantly, they can take their passion and the talent they were born with—serving others—and give it back to the world without worrying about whether they can afford to open the doors and turn the lights on and next week.

Great Legal Marketing members realize that the legal industry is a competitive world and that competition is good for all. Competition forces us to never rest on yesterday’s success.  As a result we must work hard every day to increase our knowledge not only about how to be a better lawyer but also about business, marketing and practice building. If we do not…then market forces will replace us. If we allow market forces to replace us because we lack business skills then we have fallen down on our duty to serve others with our talents. Being a good lawyer and hoping the clients will hire us because we are a good lawyer or because we really, really want to do good is not a proven recipe for success. To the extent that law schools and state bar organizations teach this model they are dead wrong and they are hurting the growth of the professionals they teach.

To a certain extent solo and small firm lawyers are in a battle against the leaders of their own profession. The entrenched members of the bar, many of whom have never had to actually create and build a business from the ground up, make many of the rules that would appear to limit the kind of marketing, advertising and practice building that is essential to survive in order that our service can be given back to the world. In most instances it is not the public that complains about how lawyers market but those in ivory towers—legal ethics theorists whose job, it seems, is to stifle creativity, entrepreneurism and capitalism itself.

Here’s the really cool part: what I teach lawyers in terms of marketing and practice building their practices works in every state of the United States and in every province in Canada. It works because it relies on the lawyer fulfilling his or her ethical obligation to educate, and not flashy advertising with pit bulls, fistfuls of cash or gory accident scenes. It works because when done well, it establishes the lawyer as the wise man/women at the top of the mountain in the community and it builds a core of raving fans who will, because they see you as a leader,  talk about you, read and respond to your marketing and refer others to you. When they do, you become not only their hero, but your family’s hero.