"Everything you've been told about building
an injury law practice is wrong"

My Lifetime of Failure

This was one meeting I did not want to attend.

After a string of defense verdicts, my new law firm’s prospects were bleak. Our line of credit was maxed out (as well as my credit cards) and there were no “A” cases on the horizon for trial.  Things could not have looked worse, but I was looking for some sign of encouragement at a meeting with our law firm’s bookkeeper. When I asked, “Where do you think we’ll be in 12 months?”, our bookkeeper’s response was brutally honest, “I think you’ll be in bankruptcy.”

Ouch!  Hard to believe this could be true, but I knew this was not an unrealistic assessment of my young law firm’s prospects. I did what I had to do to survive: I went without income for 9 months (and sometimes had no money for lunch) and fought to survive. And a little at a time, our law firm’s prospects began to change.

Building a Higher Degree of Intimacy

This was not the first time I faced failure. Just to give you a sample:

  • As a young lawyer, I was fired from my first job…after 3 weeks on the job;
  • The senior partners of my former law firm laughed when I told them of my plan to write a book about law firm marketing and management (i.e., “The Power of a System”);
  • I was labeled as “incompetent” by the senior partners of my former law firm over the way that I handled a train wreck trial;
  • I was fired from a job that I loved at a prominent plaintiffs’ law firm, after almost 14 years; and
  • A family member told me that it would be a “waste of time” for my wife to run for Supreme Court Justice against long odds.

Why do I share my failures with you? Even though we may be total strangers, the sharing of my failures and faults builds our relationship. Perhaps you realize that I’m just like you, imperfect, and it might be okay if we acknowledge to each other that we’ve both made our share of mistakes.  In the process, our relationship grows stronger.

Share Your Fears, Faults and Failures

Why do you share this with you? By sharing your fears, faults and failures, you build a higher degree of intimacy with your co-workers, friends, jurors and the fans of your blog. Sharing your failures goes way beyond the common pleasantries exchanged by strangers (i.e., sports and weather), and builds a relationship based upon trust and credibility.

At a recent trial, I shared with the jurors the mistakes made by our client. I told the jurors that our client screwed up by failing to follow the doctor’s advice and he has no excuses. Perhaps the defense lawyer thought I was crazy for admitting the truth, but why not?  The admission of weakness and vulnerability builds credibility with the jurors in a way that nothing else can.

We avoid intimacy because having intimacy means exposing our secrets. Being intimate means sharing the secrets of our hearts, minds, and souls with another fragile and imperfect human being.

Intimacy requires that we allow another person to discover what moves us, what inspires us, what drives us, what eats at us, what we are running toward, what we are running from, what self-destructive enemies lie within us, and what wild and wonderful dreams we hold in our hearts.

Matthew Kelly, “The Seven Levels of Intimacy

Why not begin sharing by doing this with your spouse and kids?  When your kid screws up, tell him that you’ve done worse and share the details of your mistakes.  Your child will know that you’re not judging him and with some luck, your relationship will become stronger.

photo credit: ccPixs.com Crossroads: Success or Failure via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.