I think that I am very lucky that I learned to be an entrepreneur early on. I look at law practice from the point of view of an entrepreneur. MBAs are not all that different.
How do you think an MBA will plan a legal practice or a law firm?
I have that experience. When I was starting ClikLawyer, I thought of it as a startup and not a law practice, though in hindsight I realize that it was just a super-specialized, hyper-systematic law practice, if I set aside the semantics and legal structure. Technically, it was not a law practice, due to regulatory compulsions.
It is a pity that most lawyers do not think like that while setting up their law practice or building a law firm.
My friend, an MBA INSEAD, who had worked with companies like P&G and Amazon, and built and sold an edtech startup for significant money, helped me to conceptualize what we were going to do and how it was going to happen.
We wrote down all the high margin high volume legal work targeted at common people on a whiteboard. We ended up with 15-20 of those before we stopped.
Then came the question, which 3 we are going to choose and focus on for now? We forbade ourselves from doing anything else.
Then we experimented and researched. Which types of cases could be wrapped up first at a low cost at our end? Which types of matters are likely to require protracted litigation (contrary to what most lawyers prefer, we wanted to avoid them)? Which cases would give us easy and quick wins? Who were the clients? How did they come to know that they had a problem? Who did they go to when they had a problem? What were traditional lawyers doing? What was the deficiency in existing services? Were clients dissatisfied? How did they make a decision on what service to buy?
Basically, we did a market study. We figured out what were the most profitable matters and we figured out how to find them in bulk.
We found out the communities where our clients could be found in large numbers. We built a relationship with other professionals who can refer work to us.
For example, we wanted to work on a certain kind of non-payment to vendors where goods were already delivered. Who would know of such situations? CAs and accountants of course. They can see books of their clients. We went and set up referral relationships with accountants in our network first, then even others.
We figured a few industry associations where there are many members who have these problems too. We began to tap them one by one, organizing educational sessions for them, distributing brochures, infiltrating those networks.
But before anything we could offer that truly worked, we had to understand the target group at a very deep level. And this is what most lawyers never do!
What they want is something like this – I have set up a practice and hung my shingle. Now clients will find me and come to me.
Good that if such an approach works for you.
I have heard that this used to kinda work 10 years back.
However, if you are a young lawyer trying to build a practice in 2019 (or afterward), I doubt that could work very well.
What if you thought like a startup entrepreneur or an MBA rather than a lawyer about building a law practice?
Then you will not obsess about your skills, your experience, your fame, your reputation at the bar etc., as most lawyers have to. Sure, those things are pretty important, but those are not things that you start with. Those have to come later.
If you think like an MBA, you will start with a problem. If you think like a startup entrepreneur, you will start by looking for an under-serviced segment, or a gap in the market.
There are lawyers out there for big industries who help them with compliance. They have in-house counsels and law firms to lean on. What about SMEs? What about SMEs in manufacturing? Who is helping them with compliance? How are they doing it? How much do they charge? Could you do it better? Could you make it more hassle-free? Could you make it more transparent?
If you are in family law, you may think of adoption. It is a complex process. Maybe you figured that there are no good lawyers working on that in Jaipur or Lucknow. What if you specialized in it? What if you did a stellar job and delivered a hassle-free experience to adoptive parents, who are otherwise made to run pillar from post?
When you are starting a business, what is the first thing you do?
You find a problem to solve. That is the first step.
You may solve it with a product or a service, but there has to be a problem in the first place. The problem must be serious enough that people are ready to pay something to solve it.
You cannot afford to assume that there is a problem. You need to actually enquire and experiment and figure out whether there is enough demand for what you want to sell. Do clients think that the problem is severe enough that they will be willing to pay tens of thousands of rupees or even lakhs?
Important to figure out first, isn’t it?
However, what do lawyers do?
They are like hey, I want to study competition law and become a competition lawyer. Or a criminal lawyer. I want to practice family law.
Great, now what?
Once they get a degree, diploma etc, or quit a job to start a practice, they try to find work in the area of their choice. Or worse, just say that I can do any given work. Just give it to me!
If there is a demand for a certain skill at the moment, and the lawyers with that skill are looking for a job, they have a high chance of getting that job. It is the dynamics of demand and supply. Not all lawyers though.
A lot of times I see people going abroad and doing specializations in fancy-sounding subjects and coming back to find that there is no demand for it in the market. Public international law and world trade law are good examples of the same. The market for these skills is so minuscule that you have a higher chance to find a teaching job rather than an actual legal position where you can put your specialization to some use.
However, still, the job market is a bit easier to figure out. Either there are jobs, or not.
Starting a law practice is more complicated. You have to spend more time and effort in understanding the market.
However, lawyers just hope that they can emulate what their seniors have been doing and be as successful.
Can I follow the footsteps of Narayan Murthy and build Infosys today? I doubt. It was a product of market forces at a specific time and situation. Global realities have shifted since then. So have technological underpinnings of what enabled Infosys to become a giant.
However, it is still possible to build giant global technology companies out of India, as has been done by Zoho and Freshworks. They responded to a different market need with a different kind of products and services.
Lawyers really need to learn this lesson from businesses. The legal profession has not remained as simple as it used to be. Long back, you could just open a chamber of a doctor or a lawyer just like you could open up a grocery store in any neighborhood and prayed that enough people showed up. It often worked.
Those days are gone.
We are in the age of intelligent businesses, where your positioning in the market, your business model, and competitive advantage as a service provider really matters.
It is no different for a CA, CS, doctor or management consultant. They are also waking up to the new reality. Lawyers need to realize the shift in the winds too.
We better be problem solvers, if we are going to thrive in this new economy.
Do you know a lawyer who focuses on solving problems of a specific nature? How do they do it? Tell me more about it. I will give you more examples in the next mail.
All our courses are built to enable you to solve specific kinds of problems, and that is why you hear lawyers who do our courses rave about them. We have done the hard work ahead of you and figured out what are the problems in the market for which clients are ready to pay. Then we teach you how to do that work efficiently.
You would probably learn more once you hit the market. Tell us more when you do. We will help you to do that work as well. We keep adding and upgrading our courses, and you get access for the next 3 years, even to all the updates!
That’s the magic of lawsikho courses. Take one and try it out and soon you will be wanting to do all of them because it’s profitable to do so. We are so confident that we backup our courses by a crazy refund policy, where you can fully use our course for a month and then get your entire money back!
Also, here is a course that can help you to build a profitable law practice.
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