During the first week that our law firm opened in March, 2013, I attended a marketing seminar in Arizona. During the morning of the first day of the seminar, I met a friend who I had not seen in a long time and he inquired about our new law firm. I told my friend that, “Today is the first day of the opening of our law firm.” My friend could not believe my answer and delicately asked if a marketing seminar was the right place to be on the first day that our law firm was open. I responded, “There is no better place for me to be.”
Why would a marketing seminar be the best place for me on the first day that our law firm was opening? Simply put, nothing is more important than mastering marketing. If you don’t get the clients, you will have no business. Very few lawyers accept this reality.
Since opening our law firm 10 years ago, I’ve invested most of resources into business development. This consists of internet marketing, referral-based marketing with lawyers, community projects and media relations. Most of what we do fails miserably, and that’s okay. Doing something is a lot better than doing nothing.
Over the last 10 years, there have been defense verdicts, sleepless nights and the occasional victory. I now realize that you have to be a little crazy to run your own business. Your family is depending on you to pay the bills and there is no safety net.
These are my reflections from 10 years of running a plaintiff’s law firm:
#1: Struggle Builds Character: Running a law firm is a lot harder and more expensive than I thought it would be. We began with $205k in our operating account and it wasn’t nearly enough.
Struggle, challenges and defeat make us who we are. By going through fire and surviving, we become stronger and almost invincible. You should embrace struggle and challenge.
#2: The Best Team Wins: It’s all about the people. Surround yourself with team members who believe in the cause that you’re fighting for and excel at what they do. When you have a team of true believers on your side, you can’t fail.
#3: Never Give Up: During our first year, our law firm lost $72k and we took 3 consecutive defense verdicts. Many lawyers would have given up, but that was not an option for us.
I told our team, “We don’t have a Plan B or Plan C, this is it—either we succeed or fail. And I am going to give everything I’ve got to make sure we succeed.” Your team needs to know that failure is not an option.
#4: Culture Matters Most: Refuse to work with employees who work for a paycheck. You must insist on working only with team members who believe in your mission. Executive management guru, Bill Biggs, calls them, “true believers”.
When you work with true believers, you can overcome almost any obstacle. You and your team are not working for money; you are working for a cause.
#5: Be a Unicorn: You must be different from every other law firm. You must have a niche practice area, e.g., birth injury, that tells the world that you are a specialist and you are the best at what you do. Otherwise, you will be just another law firm for consumers and you will spend your career chasing clients (rather than having clients chase you).
Even 10 years after opening our law firm, I have to admit that running a law firm is still very hard. The challenges and struggles haven’t gone away. But it feels damn good to work for my family (rather than an employer), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you for staying on this journey with us over the next 10 years.