January 3, 2021

Don’t Pitch Lawyerspitch clients

If you have a great idea for how to improve law practice, don’t pitch it to lawyers. Pitch it to clients. Clients are fed up with law practice. Lawyers are quite comfortable, thank you. Though of course everyone complains.

When you start beating other lawyers for business, some of them will catch on. And by that I mean they’ll copy you, if they can. Not tell you you’re right, oh so right, and submit to your greater wisdom. Because law is a profession that sells on a market. A competitive, if highly distorted, market. Pressure doesn’t come from without, as a rule. The bar takes care of that by restricting supply, via licensure. The pressure comes from within, from others holding licenses.

None of this is to say you should ignore would-be collaborators. Team up, share ideas, proofread, test, and refine. That’s been essential to nearly everything I’ve done improving my own lot. But expect the number of potential coconspirators to remain small. One or two hands small. Large table at a restaurant small. Functional working group small, thank Learned Hand.

To fill your dinner card, look to general counsel and other high-level in-house lawyers. Look to independently positioned private hacks, be they solos, small-firm lawyers, or big firm goons with highly personal practices. Look for lawyers who mostly hang out with businesspeople, rather than other lawyers. Look for people who can’t hide behind the way things get done now, or have the freedom and enough screws loose to decide not to. The more a lawyer acts like a client, the more they will care, dare, and speculate.

Of the few you’re likely able to round up, an even smaller number will have time, energy, enthusiasm for any given project, at any given time. Even if they see its potential clearly. The number one source of time, energy, and enthusiasm is a client in need. There’s a world of difference between something a lawyer might sell to a client, and something a client is already looking to buy.

The stronger the competitive advantage you can amass, the stronger the lead you and your crew can develop in new business development, the more compelling force your novelties will accrue. Even if they’re demonstrably better from a thousand feet up. The proof of better is engagement letters, bills, and credits. Anything else is unproven speculation, a put-on, a pipe dream. Tell the legal world you’ve got a better way, you’ll struggle for an audience to do more than nod along until you’ve preached your gospel. Beat them with a better way, they’ll figure out what you’re up to in a hurry, whether you tell them or not. Whether you want them to or not.

This is not an ironclad, empirically validated thesis statement. This is a pep talk. But it’s one I’d like to have heard a lot earlier. And I don’t usually go for that kind of thing.

Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome by e-mail.

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