When You’re Part of A Herd, No One Can See Your Blue Eyes

Starting a business is a journey.

Sometimes you start things with the best of intentions.

You get an idea. You plan it out. You market and sell it. Then you do the work.

As time goes by, sometimes you realize that what you are doing is just not working for you. It’s not what you really want to do.

And then one day you ask yourself: What am I doing? Why am I doing this?

Well, on December 29, 2011, as I was planning for 2012, I asked myself those questions.

And the answer came back (very strongly) that I am not doing what I should be doing.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being an attorney. I love intellectual property, and I stand by everything I write in my blog. And that’s the problem.

What I realized when I asked myself the questions is that I am not living my message. I write and talk about my passion for intellectual property, strategy, and management, but my actual practice centered on drafting documents. What a shock it was to find out that I am not practicing what I’m preaching.

I started my own law firm, IP in focus, 3 years ago. At the time, I wanted to slowly step back into the work world after staying home with my daughter for 18 months. I had definite thoughts about how I wanted to practice, who my clients should be, and the type of work I would do.

I wouldn’t be the traditional IP solo attorney. I wanted to use my 8 years of in-house experience managing large intellectual property portfolios to help companies maximize their return on investment in their intellectual property. I would be an advisor to small technology companies, teaching them how to handle their intellectual property and avoid the pitfalls so many of them face. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to package and market that.

At the time I started the firm, I knew what I wanted to do. I just didn’t know how I was going to provide those services. So, rather than figuring out how to bring my message to the masses, I did something that set me on a 3 year path to boredom.

I marketed myself as a run-of-the-mill intellectual property attorney.

It began innocently enough. When I went out to network, I would tell people ‘I’m an IP attorney’. When anyone asked me what I did, I would tell them ‘I’m an IP attorney’. This translated into ‘I handle trademark applications, copyrights, and licensing.’ And guess what? I attracted clients who needed trademarks and contracts, but not the consulting I really wanted to do. (Hey, I got what I asked for!)

This turned into a string of clients who are in need of trademarks and simple contracts. There’s little strategy or counseling involved. While I try to provide advice, most of my clients just want to know how much it will cost them to do X or Y.

This is not how I envisioned my practice. Not only did I have the typical struggles most solo practitioners have, to get clients and to get those clients to pay me, but I couldn’t find the enthusiasm and motivation to enjoy the day-to-day job. I just didn’t like the work.

And that brings me back to that fateful December day when I realized I had become what I didn’t want to be, a low-cost document provider.

New business owners are told to do what you love. I was not doing what I loved.

How could I do what I loved? Do something different.

So, I have spent the last 5 months reconnecting with my initial dream when I started this firm. I have spent hours learning how to do business, how to create and package my services, and how to market those services. I read about entrepreneurship and starting a business. I follow business thought leaders through their blogs and on Twitter. I even paid someone to teach me how to write less like a lawyer.

I am redefining my practice, and in the next 6-8 weeks I will be rolling out my new-and-improved vision, a vision I could never have imagined when I started IP in focus in 2009.

My new practice will focus on what I love and what I believe. It starts with a simple premise. IP is a valuable business asset and businesses must treat it with care and respect. I will express my passion for teaching intellectual property through workshops and webinars. I will help my clients get the most out of their intellectual property with one-on-one counseling. Someday I hope to teach intellectual property attorneys how to provide better client service to their corporate clients.

I will stop being a mere document provider. I will put passion back into my practice. I will be a counselor again.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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One comment on “When You’re Part of A Herd, No One Can See Your Blue Eyes

  • Of course, I am in agreement with you. As a professional legal coach, I have worked with many attorneys establishing how important it is to conseptualize their purpose and direction FIRST. This saves so much time and stress. I have also found that some attorneys do better with having a personal mission statement as well as a business mission statement. In this way they can keep their eye on what’s important in each area. All my best for your success.

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