One day I came across a dhaba near Kolkata airport. People stood in queue outside on a Sunday evening to get a seat. The food was really outstanding and cheap, but I could not help but count the number of tables and did quick math on how much money this dhaba makes on a per hour basis.
Doing the math was a little easier for me because I have delved into the restaurant business in the past. According to me, the dhaba was making a profit of at least 3 lakhs on a single day.
What do you do when you realize that there is so much money being made by a roadside dhaba with very minimal investments? Do you open another one next to it? Wouldn’t you be tempted to do so?
Indeed many people do that. That is why next to every famous restaurant there would be a few more doing similar things. Near every famous bookstall, a few new ones sprout up. If one panipuri wala is doing very well, then some other ones will set up shop close by.
When we did well by starting online courses with NUJS, within a few months a few more companies started tying up with NLUs and began to offer similar online courses, and offered a cheaper price to corner the market.
Success begets competition.
Let’s say you bought x stock and made lots of money in the last 1 year. If you tell all your friends, many of them will go and buy it. Suddenly, the stock will be overvalued. Now, it is a really bad time to buy this stock. It was a good time to buy it last year when it was not a hot stock. Now that it’s being bought by lots of people, it’s too heated up, and those people buying late aren’t going to make money, in fact, many of them will make losses.
You should never buy a stock recommended on TV or newspaper because if it is so widely known that this stock is a good one and many people are already buying it then it’s already overvalued! You need to buy when it is yet to become popular, not afterwards, if you want to make money from it.
Here is the thing. The people who try to just copy the previous success rarely succeed. If a dhaba is doing unusually well, it is not just because someone opened the dhaba in that particular location alone. They have figured out other operational or service-oriented things that are much harder to copy than the location.
Surely you will make some money by opening a dhaba with a similar menu next door, but you may make much more money by opening an ice cream parlor or a bar. If you did your research, you will perhaps realize that there is a massive demand for a QSR restaurant in that area, which would also give you better margins.
If there is already a thriving school, instead of opening another school next door, it may be a much better idea to open a coaching centre for JEE or something else if there is a dearth of such services.
If you open another bookstore and succeed, next to an already successful bookstore, then at most you get half of the business of what the other guy was getting when he was alone. What about doing something where you can do even better? Perhaps opening a video game parlor would be more attractive?
You may wonder why I am talking about this in so much detail.
I need to tell you this because this is the most common thing that lawyers do. They see a successful lawyer and want to copy what that lawyer did to succeed in his practice and hope for the same results.
That is why you will see some of the areas of law practice are super crowded while their plenty of niches where it is very hard to find a competent lawyer even when you are ready to pay.
It is damn hard to find a good lawyer in district courts even if you are ready to pay more, while at HC and SC level there are plenty of good lawyers who will work for even less money?
What? Why? The answer is in status. Most lawyers think that working in Supreme Court is more prestigious than working in a tribunal or district court!
That is not the only way in which people seek status. They also seek status by copying an already successful niche law firm or a tribunal practice too.
If you are copying an already successful lawyer, such as someone who successfully built a thriving practice in a certain tribunal, remember that you are copying it too late.
What worked 10 years back is least likely to work now.
For example, 10 years back it was a great time to get an early entry into VC investment space as a lawyer. Yes, it has more volume than ever right now, but it may not be the best area to specialize in right now. Right now it is super crowded, massively competitive, prices getting undercut left, right, centre and a really bad place for a junior lawyer to start if you want to build a successful practice of your own in the coming 10 years.
Immediate job? Yes, VC investment space is ripe for that. Hidden opportunity for next 10 years? Look elsewhere.
On the other hand, patent drafting, filing and litigation has a massive space to grow due to increased inventions and investment around blockchain, AI, IoT, biotechnology and other such trends while there are too few lawyers learning the relevant skills.
Similarly, an increased number of investment deals implies that there will be a great number of shareholder disputes in years to come.
As there has been a massive push to build new infrastructure in fast modernizing India, it is a no brainer that there will be lots of EPC contracts to draft and many, many construction arbitration matters will arise in India.
Do you see too many lawyers clamoring to build a practice in these areas? Not really. However, early entrants in these markets who build a business carefully are likely to grow very big.
When it comes to opportunities, you cannot just see where the opportunity is today. You have to forecast what may be the next wave of opportunities a few years down the line and begin your work to position yourself to take advantage of the opportunity when it arises.
The other way to really succeed is to find an opportunity that exists today, that others have underestimated and therefore missed. Consumer protection, class action suits, money recovery for SMEs and medical negligence cases are perhaps such overlooked niches.
However, if something is working really well today, and as a lawyer you try to copy the same, it may be too late for you to begin. It will be incredibly hard to start a steel factory today and succeed big, just like it will be very hard to start a top M&A or capital markets law firm for a newbie. It would also be hard to compete with a Vakilsearch or Indiafilings. We are better off looking for blue ocean opportunities.
However, most lawyers see their seniors, successful peers or law firm partners and get enamored by what they do, and hope to do the exact same thing.
Some even try to copy the tropes of success and expect success to come based on the tropes!
Success is not being able to hire a secretary, having an office in a fancy part of the town or hiring a dozen juniors. A nice, well-furnished office or chamber may make you look like your practice is doing well, but the market will find out the truth soon. You can’t charge top rate just because you drive a Jaguar. You really need to add value to your clients, in a way that others cannot easily, and that would be your ticket to success.
So what is it that you can do for your clients that others cannot or do not?
What will be your competitive advantage over other lawyers or law firms?
What will make it more attractive to hire you rather than hire the other lawyer who charges less than you?
If you cannot answer these questions, it will be hard to succeed beyond a point. If you have really good answers, you are on your way to doing well. It is only a matter of time. Have patience, and keep adding to your repertoire of advantages. The longer is the lead you have, the better.
At LawSikho, we have implemented this exact principle. Instead of doing what everyone else has been doing in the online education space, we chose to be different and chose to solve a problem that nobody thought of solving. For starters, we focussed on solving problems of lawyers learning new skills rather than focus on giving some minimally useful courses to the law students as our competitors back in the day used to do. Naturally, we were forced to create courses of a much higher caliber and expected only lawyers to take them, but then the law students anyway followed!
A lot of people wanted courses of superior quality, involving more hands-on training, case studies, personal feedback, live instructor-led classes that they can attend remotely, and we provided that. Our students wanted us to help them with career opportunities and we did that. Our competitors were not willing to do much of what we did because that increases operations big time and reduces profitability. We didn’t care, we wanted to solve the real core problem of lack of skills that plague the legal profession. We were ready to lose our margin in order to create something that produces better results for the users, and that eventually put us in the market leader position in a matter of years. We have been multiplying every year since!
People wanted a solution that would reduce the time and uncertainty involved in learning practical skills in a new area of law, and we focussed on that problem instead of trying to give people government recognized or cheap certifications to mention in the CV as our competitors did. We moved the focus from certifications to actual skill training. And it worked spectacularly.
If we played the game everyone else was playing or tried to set up another law college, we would be in a very different situation today.
When you seek status, you see the most successful people around you and you try to get the same status. It is a grave mistake. It will prevent you from being successful altogether, and even if you succeed despite this misadventure, you would have walked a much longer and painful road.
When you seek opportunity, you do not care about status. You do not care about validation, and you are ready to invest your time and effort into ventures that others tend to overlook or ignore. You do not follow the herd, and therefore you are more likely to find the real opportunities that lead to outsized growth.
Most people want to join a big law firm or build one along the lines of a big law firm they have already seen, because they are chasing status. They miss the other opportunities which may lead to better growth and more earnings.
Did you really see if you can make more money working as a litigator in a small district court or doing tax law on your own? I know people who have done exactly that!
Most people are trying to become a senior advocate assuming that being a senior advocate will lead to more fees from clients! Whereas they may be totally ignoring or missing opportunities to grow their practices bigger and more successful in several other viable ways.
I also want to point out you that the behaviour and the choices of those who are seeking opportunity look very different from those who seek status.
For one, those who seek status only do what has already been done before, what is tried and tested. They aspire to replicate established models. However, they forget to account for the fact that they operate in a new environment and time, which affords different opportunities.
Those who seek opportunity make different decisions, as per the need of the hour. However, it is difficult to find exact examples and precedents that guide their decisions.
However, if you ask them why they are making a particular choice, they will give you very cogent reasons for this.
As you go through the reasons, you can identify that they are seeking opportunity and not status.
I invite you to consider if you are currently chasing status in your career, or truly seeking opportunities.
Examine the reasons why you want to make a particular career choice.
Is it because someone else who did this 20 years back is successful? Is it because a senior or a relative advised you to do this?
Or is it because you are aware of the opportunity that exists?
Do comment your answers below.
One of the questions we ask while designing any course is around the opportunities that will arise in that area. This is why you will find many novel and unconventional themes being covered in the syllabus of our courses.
Here are some courses that will open up incredible opportunities for you, check them out:
EXECUTIVE CERTIFICATE COURSES
Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skill.