Read These 10 Secrets To…..

open secret
Did that headline get your attention?  Shame on you.  This means you are reading this post to either learn some deep dark secret to growing ‘your multi-million dollar solo practice working just one day a month’ OR you were going to read it to mock me.  The point is these stupid headlines have the power to draw you in and that is what the newest parade of internet carnival barkers, snake oil salesmen and the latest hard core hit-and-run product/service people will be throwing at you to extract your hard-earned solo dollars.

I’ve reached my tipping point. With the worst housing depression, the highest long-term unemployment, and the most chronic credit squeeze ever recorded, these hyenas can smell the fear in your sweat and they are swooping in to offer you ‘the secret’.  And it is starting to really frost my cupcakes.

See, in another life I was educated at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and went on to work at both large and small advertising agencies.  I understand the psychological pull of phrases like ‘the secret’.  It is emotional and compelling language and we are drawn to it like a moth to its death by the allure of the flame.  So I’m going to use the word now but in a sentence you may not like:

There are no ‘secrets’ to a successful solo practice. And if there were…it would be these:

1. You must learn to be a good lawyer
2. You must have tools and support which will increase your productivity
3. You must learn to use these tools for maximum effectiveness

There are no secrets to creating a thriving and healthy solo practice.  The methods are as old as dirt. Only the tools have changed.

But I will use an analogy near and dear to my heart.  Imagine you want a baby.  It is indisputable, undeniable, physiologically impossible to have a healthy baby without the baby being permitted to grow for the required nine months (preferably in a human woman’s womb.)

1. Some people are very fortunate and on the first attempt at conception – Voila! Pregnancy.  Yet there is no shortcut around carrying that baby to term.  They may not have morning sickness and be blessed with a quick and painless labor. But in order to have a healthy baby – nine months.

2. Some will have trouble conceiving, need assistance from fertility doctors, an understanding spouse if one is in the picture, health insurance which will cover the procedure or an equity line of credit. The road will be more difficult and the key to success will be finding the right information, referrals leading to (reputable) assistance.  If and when it happens, the baby still has to be carried those nine months.  Only this mother may have all day sickness for nine months, be on disability and full bed rest and need a c-section and additional recovery time.  But the baby still needs to grow for nine months. The end result, a baby.

3.  Others won’t be able to conceive, may have to hire a surrogate, so someone else will do all the heavy lifting. Some how the wanna be mom finds a way to afford it.  But even with a surrogate, it still takes nine months to produce the baby and this road to parenthood comes with a whole different set of issues.

4. Then there is adoption.  Still nine months but someone else is doing all the work for you. At the end of the process (which can be far longer than nine months from start to finish), a baby.

We can take the analogy all over the place but let’s not.  The circumstances to birth this baby will play out differently for every parent but nothing changes this fact:  in order to bring home a baby it needs to grow for nine months before a parent can see the end result and experience the joy of a child that is theirs.

(And then comes the parenting regardless of how you got the baby.  I’ll stop with the analogies now.)

There is no ‘secret’ to building a successful solo practice.

However, it is #2, #3  and #4 which open the door to both reputable people and products that can help you achieve your goals and the not so reputable who will simply tell you what you want to hear while relieving you of your money and possibly more.  And in this economy, if they work it right, your desperation will have you forking over your dollars to anyone who promises you the world and the ‘secret.’  The real ‘secret’ is the one these people know – it’s called ‘the pain point.’  If they can identify your ‘pain’ they will gain because they will create a compelling message which will resonate with you.  And that message is one that usually plays to your fear, your greed or your sloth.

I am on many a so-called ‘gurus’ e-mail lists to see what happy horses$$t is being peddled because my clients will often ask my opinion. My e-mail is full of these wonderful ‘formulas’ for success asking from $5.00 to $12,000. (The $5.00 one is my favorite because if 1000 people send him $5.00 they’re not going to miss $5.00 but he’ll be $5,000 richer for a mass spamming of lawyers.) And they are usually e-mailing you from their luxury yachts on a break from their vacation or while jetting off to another exotic location where a group of sycophants are impatiently waiting to hand over thousands of dollars to learn ‘the secret.’ God forbid you miss your one and only opportunity to learn from the great one him/herself. And they are the same single endless scrolling page of conversational text with sentences  in yellow because their guru told them that’s the way to get your attention.  (Yes. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You probably have one in your inbox right now!)

There is no getting around the realities of building a solo practice. You must learn to practice law well. Pick your mentors wisely. Select with care the law practice management products and services appropriate in the 21st century, products and services designed to boost your productivity so you can hone your services while helping to  deliver your message. Then make sure you commit to using these tools to their maximum potential.

There are your ‘secrets’.  And it didn’t cost you a penny…nor did you have to deal with any highlighted text or a ‘call to action.’

(This post has been published before…but it’s more important than ever to read it, again! Oh, and I do periodically use the word ‘secret’ in my headlines, but for fun, not fraud.)

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3 comments on “Read These 10 Secrets To…..

  • Good post, Susan. My analogy is not babies, but weight loss. What works is well known: change your behaviors (eat better, move more) and implement these behaviors consistently over time. It works, guaranteed. But most people don’t want to hear that. They want to hear the “secret”, the magic pill or supplement, the latest ab machine, the latest fad diet, the thing that’s going to let them lose 30 pounds in 30 days without effort.

  • I come to this from a different perspective, reaching the same conclusions. After getting my JD in 1976, I practiced Public Finance law for an AmLaw 100 firm. I then switched to investment baking financing state student loan programs, universities and hospitals. I had no finance background, but had a very good career, including making Managing Director at two top firms.

    My secret? I would pick an area of finance, study it intensely and then work with decision makers to make sure they got all of their questions answered. I made sure that I learned enough about their industry to speak with intelligently about their financing options, and the impact on their operations.

    In short, I became a rainmaker, bringing in clients that would, ultimately, generate millions of dollars of fees. But I also stayed current and involved in every financing we did with my clients. When bad news had to be delivered, I did the delivering. When we had to negotiate a close issue with bond counsel, I did the negotiating. In short, I always tried to provide superior client service and performance.

    I replicated that model again and again, from student loans to universities to hospitals to public power issuers, to derivative products.

    I’m applying that model to my new solo pracrice, and it is working once again. Intense study of both the legal and business issues, endeavor to provide superior service to every client, and try to provide the best possible outcome. All while educating the client as much as possible, keeping them involved by having them responsible for part of every action (gathering facts for litigation, for example). And it is working again. I’ve added four clients this month and have not even been able to get my websit up yet.

    My point is first educate yourself on both the law and your clients key concerns, then immerse yourself in client service while producing a superior product.


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