This article is written by Suman Chatterjee, Team LawSikho.
People settle on the legal profession for a handful of reasons:
- To bring forth equity and justice in this big, bad world.
- To carry on the legacy of their lawyer parents and grandparents.
- To earn a boatload of money, in the form of retainers and bonuses.
- To gain access to power and create safety for themselves and family members
- Or, maybe something else for that matter.
If you are in it for the third reason though, this email is for you.
A lot of people can’t admit to themselves that they want to make a lot of money. They want to look good and claim that they do not care about it. If you genuinely do not care about money it is fine, but if you do, there is no point in pretending.
You are unlikely to stumble onto riches. It can only happen by design. And you can do so absolutely ethically. We will get to how shortly.
If you secretly despise money, you are most likely not doing the things that lead to riches.
If all you can think of is “how to become rich as a lawyer”, I will share a secret that I learnt a long time ago.
It was before I joined LawSikho and before I started my short stint as a litigation lawyer.
Yet, I understood the true meaning of it when I entered my work life.
It so happens that I came across a particular saying by Socrates one day, “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”
Ok, I know. Too complicated. Let me make that easier to understand. Socrates is saying that when you seek knowledge, start from looking up definitions. It is a very helpful habit.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is money? We need to define this term first.
As per Merriam Webster, money is defined as: “something generally accepted as a medium of exchange, a measure of value, or a means of payment.”
In other words, money can be anything that someone grants you with in exchange of the VALUE you provide him or her with. To gain money, you need to provide VALUE in return.
Cool. What the heck is ‘value’ now?
Let’s hit the dictionary again. Value is defined as: “something of worth, utility or importance.”
If we fuse these two definitions, we get at the following:
To gain money, you need to provide something of worth, utility or importance in return.
Ponder on that thought for a few minutes.
If you want to make a lot of money, you need to be able to give others a lot of value in return.
Does that answer your initial question—“how would you become rich as a lawyer?”
To get rich as a lawyer, you need to focus on providing lots and lots of value to your clients.
How can you do that?
Here’s a 3-step method that I recommend:
Find out how your clients define value
Value can be in terms of expertise, pricing, customer support, package offers or anything for that matter. You need to determine that beforehand.
However, clients actually do not pay for any of that.
Clients only pay lawyers when their problems are solved. Sometime, they pay in anticipation that their problems will get solved.
This means if you want to generate a lot of value, you need to start by discovering problems of clients first.
Clients value their problems getting resolved. And if you can reduce the number of hoops they have to jump through in order to get to the solution, they will choose you over other lawyers.
How can you solve more problems for your clients?
If you provide contract drafting services to the existing clients you have, who may be used to getting some other service altogether from you, will that be beneficial for them?
Can you apprehend the labour and employment law issues your clients will face in the months to come and begin to warn them about those issues? Will that be valuable for them? Will that solve some kind of problem for them?
Should you lower the price of your services during COVID-19? Less cost solves some kind of a problem too.
Should you make it easier to access your products and services online? Will that make life easier and more comfortable for your clients? That may make them choose you over those who do not make their lives easier.
But most importantly, we can’t solve inconsequential problems. That would lead to inconsequential value. We need to target the big, hairy, scary problems. Problems where a lot is at stake. That is where you can generate enormous value for your clients.
You need to understand your target market like the back of your hand, because you need to know their problems better than any other lawyer does.
This is often a weak area for most lawyers who struggle a lot to make money. They do not spend enough time discovering the big problems of their clients. In the business world, this is called market research.
Launching a product or service without doing market research in the world of business will be considered suicidal. Market research does not mean you ask your uncles and seniors from college or other lawyers for advice. Market research requires you to interact with potential clients with potential problems, and discover what they think about the current solutions available to them.
Your success will start from you identifying and defining a target market – a market where there is a problem that remains unaddressed and clients dissatisfied.
You begin to make serious money when you figure out how to solve this problem, at a price your market can afford, and do so at scale.
Let me give you an example from LawSikho. We spend a lot of time understanding the challenges faced by our learners, which could be practicing lawyers, law students, in-house counsels or large companies or law firms in need of legal training of their staff.
Every category of our clients have a different problem. For some, they need to land their dream job and they are not making progress for various reasons. Others may be struggling to grow in their career and not making progress as fast as they wanted to. Others are trying to get into new practice areas or trying to refine the management of their law practice.
And to get their attention, we have to establish that we understand their problems. We have to show all the people for whom we have solved similar problems in the past. We have to explain to them step by step how we will help them to solve their problems. And that is when they come to us.
But it all started from a deep dive into market research. We have to talk to hundreds and hundreds of potential learners from different categories and learn about their dreams, nightmares, and every day challenges so that we can define our products and services right.
We have to understand where other courses fall short in addressing these problems. And then we were able to design very different kinds of online courses than anything else that existed.
Even now, competitors cannot keep up with us because we are always evolving, based on feedback from our students.
When we begin to understand the problem our target market is facing, we begin to get everything else right. And that is how we have grown as an education company by leaps and bounds.
It is not all that different if you are trying to build a thriving legal practice. Start by gaining a deep understanding of the problems your potential clients face today, and figure out how you are going to solve those problems in a manner better than what everyone else is currently doing.
Build up capacity to deliver value
This is of utmost importance. You must equip yourself or your firm to be able to deliver value (that unique object of importance and desirability) to your clients.
Do you have the skills that are in short supply in the market?
People have problems and you need skills to solve those problems.
Are you ready with the skills part?
When you are ready, you also have to worry about training your juniors in the same skill.
Otherwise, you can’t solve the problem at a scale.
Building a team is hard. You may have to get technology tools and other resources as you grow so that you have the machinery you need to deliver massive value to clients at scale.
One way to deliver value is to cut expenses, create a lean, mean efficient system and focus on providing high-quality services at market-beating rates.
If you don’t want to participate in the price war, you can find other ways to provide value.
Very fast turn around maybe?
Can you offer a flexible payment schedule?
Lawyers are not allowed to guarantee results or link payment to success, but could you create a clever model where the client can pass on some risks to an organization which in turn hires the lawyers?
Maybe you can arrange some third party funding for your clients?
Can you be super specialised in a growing niche that others have not yet discovered?
Can you build a very strong brand for ethical and friendly client relationships that would make clients more comfortable to work with you?
Can you build a track record of producing consistent results in a difficult area of work that others struggle with?
Any of these things will need you to build a system that works. It takes time, but that work is worth the effort.
Position yourself apart from your competitors and give your clients what they are direly looking for. And it is not planning and strategy. A lot of it is building and execution. A lot of it is maintaining and keeping the system together. First, long enough for it to produce results, and then long enough to make money because systems always tend to fall apart for one reason or the other!
And then you may have to build an even better, bigger system.
If you build capacity to deliver value that is hard for others to deliver, it will be noticed and rewarded by the market.
At LawSikho, even during the lockdown, our team has grown by leaps and bounds.
Today, we are over 80 full time people working on one single mission, while there are many part time professionals and freelancers contributing a great deal to our capacity to deliver value as well.
We have teams to research the latest trends in the legal market, create lessons accordingly, and deliver those learnings effectively through our courses. We have senior lawyers offering classes, course anchors managing learning outcomes, evaluators helping you to improve your skill by giving in-line personal feedback on what you did right and where you need to improve, and even writing coaches telling you how to improve your articles and get published.
We even have a dedicated placement office for you, with 4 lawyers working full time to secure opportunities exclusively for our students, and even find client opportunities! We help our students with their CV, with interview preparation and even profile building over several months targeting specific roles!
With capacity like that, we are able to produce results that are unheard of in the online education industry. And that is why, hundreds of lawyers and law students and other professionals trust us every month and put their careers in our hands, with the goal of getting to the next level.
Convey the value you offer to your target market
Last but not least, you need to convey your offer to your prospects. Your prospects are facing a serious problem. You are proffering the best available solution there can be. Common sense says that you should make your target audience aware of it.
Since the Bar Council of India frowns upon promotional practices, the optimum marketing approach would be to go indirect—through content marketing.
Legal content is an industry waiting to explode in the coming times. I predict that this industry will employ a large chunk of young lawyers and marketers in the coming times. It is easily a 100 crore market in India.
My advice to every young lawyer and law student is this:
Start a blog, conduct webinars, host podcasts, do something. But whatever and whichever medium you choose, give it everything that you have got and provide value.
For inspiration, head to this Bloomberg article, Nathan Tankus is a 28 year old with no degree and an expert in Economics. He is a widely known commenter on economics and finance. He writes about the Federal Reserve System of the United States. He is followed on Twitter by journalists, economic think tanks and Wall Street economists. He is earning USD 45K a year by letting people subscribe to his newsletter.
The one excerpt from the article that I wanted you to read was this:
“Tankus’s diploma-free rise is interesting in part for what it says about the economic and finance debates taking place on the internet. Establishment credentials matter there less than ever. Tankus has taken full advantage of the lack of gatekeepers on the web, where a sharp and quickly delivered argument on the topic du jour—whatever that may be—can have more impact than a peer-reviewed article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, say, or the American Economic Review.”
Once people get value from you, they will make an effort to learn more about you, and even contact you when they need legal help. And because you have already provided them value, it is easier for them to trust you.
Make sure you have a good website that can give them the information they need to make up their mind. Try to keep the relationship going through a newsletter wherever possible. If you want, check out this article on how to make your legal website awesome.
In the world we are today, you could choose to spread something of value to a motley group of people who knows the true value of it, and you could succeed with that. This is while the rest of your peers might spend more time quibbling, virtue signalling and attention seeking on social media. You can build an empire if you want, but not that way.
You must have realised by now why we spend so much of our time writing blogs, holding webinars, writing long emails like these. We have built a formidable reach amongst lawyers and law students, across social media, YouTube, email lists, and our iPleaders blog.
We have built a community of people like us, who believe in growth, industry and seizing the day. We do not apologize for our drive and ambition, and we probably work harder than anyone else in the room. We invite you to join us and be part of this.
It ain’t gonna be easy
All these steps I wrote about above, are not for the faint hearted. It is a lot of work. It will require patience, investment, and blood and sweat.
We have no solutions if you want easy money. We just know how to get value by producing and giving away 10 times more value to the rest of the world.
If this does not suit you and if you want a quicker, easier way, you will have to look elsewhere.
I do not find all these work very hard because we truly enjoy the work on building this institution, this machine that we see as a force of good.
I will tell you something that I hope you will remember for the rest of your life
A few lawyers know how to follow the money while most don’t.
You follow the money when you find unsolved problems that are causing losses and holding up progress. And then you have to set out to solve them at scale.
Your job is not to say that there is a dearth of work for lawyers nowadays.
The situation is what it is.
Complaining will change nothing.
However, there are always opportunities in every situation, and you have to look for them. It is not that case that all legal problems are adequately addressed in today’s India. People are suffering with many problems. Every problem is a potential goldmine!
You have to find a solution and find a way to deliver it at scale. If you are on this path, check out this program, would be useful: https://lawsikho.com/course/join-master-access-grow-your-practice-rapidly
Easier said than done? We are here to help
If you are feeling confused and lost as to where and how to start, why not give our career counsellors a call on 011 4084 5203 and have a chat?
Don’t want to call?
Reply to this email with your phone number and a message “I need help with my career.”
We will reach out to you.
If you already know that the next best step for you is to up-skill yourself in a specific legal niche with a specific LawSikho course, you can sign up for any of the courses here that are open for enrollment right now:
Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
Diploma in Cyber Law, FinTech Regulations and Technology Contracts
Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions)
EXECUTIVE CERTIFICATE COURSES
Certificate Course in Capital Markets, Securities Laws, Insider Trading and SEBI Litigation
Certificate Course in Labour, Employment and Industrial Laws for HR Managers
That’s it for today.
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