I decided to reprint this article from my December 2009 Solo Practice University Newsletter because it got such positive response from so many. Of course, I’m making a few changes and additions for this post. If you are not signed up and would like to read original articles, interviews and more you can join our newsletter here.
The other night I was listening to talk radio and I heard something which was both dismaying yet exhilarating at the same time. Bear with me. The show was discussing how two great professions, the medical field and the legal field, were now closing in on the least desirable professions to pursue. For the medical profession what was sited was the massive intrusion of the insurance industry dictating how one should practice in order to earn a respectable living. Next, an overall disrespect for doctors by patients who now believe they know so much more than the doctor after just one hour on the internet. And last, a massive drop in admissions to medical schools. Why? Because the average college student today does not want to invest tremendous sums of money or endless years of poverty and exhaustion before they can earn a modest profit and start ‘building’ their lives. Yes, those who are truly committed to the profession will do so regardless and we may be better for it but will the reduced numbers be capable of servicing our population after the current population of medical professionals leaves the profession for greener pastures or retire?
What was said about the legal profession? The number one upset by lawyers is lack of opportunity. The radio station quoted the Wall Street Journal and various ABA studies which I am paraphrasing: There is little opportunity for employment at large law firms, minimal opportunity for the partnership track. In addition, forty-four percent of lawyers would no longer recommend the profession AND one out of every five lawyers will suffer major depression.
This isn’t stunning to me. This is obvious. This is the same old tired perspective and it is this perspective which is crippling the legal profession. Forgive the broad analogy but to me today’s legal world is the same as the oppressed leaving England to discover America, free enterprise and capitalism sans the horrific caste system. For lack of opportunity to be highlighted as the reason not to be in the profession and using partnership track as ‘the’ defining opportunity is flat out wrong, but typical. It is now when there is the GREATEST opportunity for the legal profession to be rebuilt as the legal ‘caste’ system is crashing. And like the medical profession, lawyers don’t want to run the gauntlet known as the ‘partnership track’ before they can start controlling their lives. Some may argue it is a necessary price to pay and they have their supporters but it’s simply not a feasible model any longer. Now if we follow the analogy through, the settlers in America suffered harsh winters, hostile natives, famine and death and quite frankly, some simply didn’t know what they were getting into. It was not easy, but it was apparently believed to be better than what they left behind and were no longer willing to tolerate. This great country grew on the shoulders of these pioneers. And it was during this historic time in our country’s history that ninety percent of all those in business were entrepreneurs.
Back to the future: 2010. What I’ve described in the preceding paragraph is exactly where the legal profession is heading. Opportunity is everywhere because today lawyers have the tools they never did before to go small firm or solo and actively compete with the big boys both in quality and demographic reach. The economy is deconstructing and reconstructing. The clients don’t want ‘business as usual.’ The clients want something more and it is why we are ripe for massive change during this economy turmoil. Some may call it the perfect storm. The internet is making almost every client a shrewd purchaser even with misinformation. Why? Because even with misinformation they will come to you challenging you on what you know and why they even need you. After all, like the medical profession, one hour on the internet and a phone call to a friend and they believe they know just as much as you. So, you had better be prepared to educate and be creative in both delivery of your services and pricing.
Large legal services companies are crossing the moats and storming the castles of those who would shackle them to archaic methods of advertising and marketing…and they are winning. While we may not all agree this is good, our opinion is ceasing to matter. The fact is it is happening.
Opportunity truly abounds. In fact, it’s unlimited. The only thing limited is the thinking. But beware. As these nuggets of opportunity are strewn across our professional paths, these paths are ever more populated with carpetbaggers, thieves and opportunists who will peddle you useless wares while relieving you of your hard-earned money.
Yes, in many ways we are entering a brave new world in 2010. And it is very exciting. At least for those who realize this upheaval presents tremendous opportunity for those who don’t choose to be victims of a system gone awry.
On January 12th we will be having a special guest giving a teleseminar on the future of the legal profession. It will be brilliant, I promise. If you are a student or faculty at SPU you will be able to listen live. However, if you are not ready to become a student but would like to listen to this important teleseminar, you can do so for free by becoming a fan of Solo Practice University on Facebook. Just log in to Facebook and click here. After the teleseminar is recorded we will post to both SPU and our fan page shortly thereafter.
Enjoy your holidays and start thinking about where you want to be positioned in the New World Order. I’ll be back to regular posting after the New Year.