Reinventing The Law Business: Goodbye, My Readers

I have now been writing this column for Above the Law for over two years. Indeed, this is my sixty-ninth article. And this will be my last article under the Reinventing the Law Business name.

While I have enjoyed coming up with new ways to look at law firms and the legal industry (and will continue to do so for my own firm, Duval & Stachenfeld LLP), I also want to share my thoughts on another passion of mine – marketing. It is at the heart of what I do, day in and day out, and I would like to share my ideas with other lawyers. This is something I am quite good at, and I think I could be very useful in helping people at all phases of their careers to become excellent rainmakers and business builders. So I will be starting a new column – in two weeks – that  will be called:

Power Niche Marketing

So if you like what I write, you will still have me around. And if not, you will not be rid of me so easily.

To conclude this series of articles – and leave you with possibly the most important and all-encompassing thoughts about the law business – I submit to you the following:

The law business is unique in that there are really “two” customers to satisfy:

First – of course, there are the clients. If you don’t make them happy, then you have a serious problem.

Second – and not as obvious – there are the lawyers at your firm. If you don’t make them happy, you have a serious problem of a different sort.

The question might then be asked, which is more important of the two?  I believe most law firms believe the clients are more important, but I beg to differ. This is because a well-run law firm with high-quality lawyers (i.e., “Talent”) can always seek, and usually obtain, more clients. But when the high-quality lawyers – the Talent – leave, there is nothing left to sell – it is game over.

To paraphrase Peter Drucker, lawyers are so-called “knowledge workers.” They carry the means of production between their ears. If they aren’t happy, they can easily leave.

And this is the essence of the great mystery of the law business. On its face, it is SO simple; you just buy hours wholesale and resell them retail, at a marked-up price. What could be easier?

However the trouble is as a law firm you usually own nothing at all, since there are no non-competes and the lawyers are free to leave any time, and take the clients with them. So all you really own is the desire of the lawyers to stick around.

Which brings me to the conclusion I stated above: namely, that your number one mission should be keeping those lawyers – your Talent – on the team. If you can do that, your law firm will succeed, and if you cannot, your law firm will fail. As Dr. Seuss says, “Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed.”

Indeed, I believe in my heart that the reason my firm has succeeded so well, so far, is that we make our mission “ATR,” i.e., Attract, Train, and Retain Talent. When we focus on this mission, everything else falls into place so easily….

I hope this article – and my previous articles – have been helpful to my readers and to the legal profession as a whole.

I take this opportunity to thank Breaking Media and www.abovethelaw.com for the chance to address the legal community through their esteemed media outlet.

I will see you – my readers — in a couple of weeks in my Power Niche Marketing column.

My sincere best to everyone.

Millennials – Lazy And Entitled – Tired Of It!

millennial lawyer happy businessperson in a suitEveryone knows that millennials are lazy and entitled – it is common knowledge!

I really hate it when people say that kind of thing. It is just the same sort of stereotyping that you hear about races, religions, and other groups of people. Stereotypes, as we all know so well, don’t just insult people; they are worse than that because they start a harmful cycle of a self-fulfilling prophecy in a negative direction.

It is the opposite of the wise Dale Carnegie’s advice – given close to 100 years ago in his amazing book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (affiliate link). He says:

“Give a person a fine reputation to live up to.”

Negative stereotypes do the exact opposite.

So for some reason, some people – who I assume are from my amazingly wonderful baby boomer generation — have labeled millennials as lazy and entitled. I have one word to say about that:

“Fiddlesticks.”

We all do our best not to fall into traps laid by others and make our own decisions and determinations. As for myself, I am confident in saying that I have personally interacted with a great number of millennials, both in the workplace and in my personal life. Some are indeed lazy and entitled, and some are super-hardworking people who want to set the world on fire. But I don’t see any reason to believe the dispersion between lazy and entitled versus super-hardworking is any different from my (truly extraordinarily wonderful and amazing) baby boomer generation.

And – let’s be honest – what did our parents think of us baby boomers when we were growing up? Didn’t we get the odd butt-kicking to get off our lazy asses and mow the lawn?

Bottom line is that millennials are just people like everyone else. There is absolutely no reason to group them in the first place. However, if you feel the need to group them and come up with some stereotypes for millennials, for heaven’s sake please follow Dale Carnegie’s advice and come up with some good things to say.

This is a bit of a rant – and I am sorry for that – however, I really see something needlessly negative going on, and I think we all have enough to think about and worry about without creating needless troubles for ourselves and others.

Finally, I conclude with a recommendation to read Dale Carnegie’s book. It is a treasure. If you don’t believe me, ask Warren Buffett, who (it was reported in a biography of Buffett) read it over 100 times, and he hasn’t done that badly.

Reinventing The Law Business: An Introduction

By way of introduction, I am the founder and managing partner of Duval & Stachenfeld LLP. We are a 70-ish lawyer law firm in midtown NYC that focuses strongly on real estate; indeed, we refer to ourselves as “The Pure Play in Real Estate Law.”

As managing partner I have spearheaded numerous unique initiatives that have distinguished us from other law firms. Many of these ideas were very scary when we tried them out — there was always a fear that we would not only fail but, worse yet, be laughed at. Some of these ideas did not work out so well, I admit; however, the ones that succeeded have been the fulcrum to attract both lawyers and clients to our firm and indeed been the bedrock of our success.

As a relatively small firm playing with the big boys and girls, one would think that our size could be a disadvantage. But that would be incorrect. Smaller players can be flexible and move in different directions. We can take risks and seize opportunities that large law firms cannot logically capitalize on….

Unless you live in a cave you have seen a plethora of criticisms of Biglaw, how lawyers practice, and just about everything else. People beat up on us lawyers a lot for just about everything. It doesn’t have to be that way. One can run a law firm where both the lawyers and the clients are really happy and getting what they seek out of the relationships involved.

This column will focus on innovative strategies for successfully running law firms — both large and small firms. Instead of just throwing out ideas because I suspect they may be accurate, I will instead give real-world examples and relate these ideas to things that we did that proved amazing and other things that we did that turned out to be failures.

Also, along the way, I will take the risk of opening our strategies up to our competition and I will give my thoughts on how best to succeed as a law firm in this competitive world.

Ultimately, my goal with this column will be to prove a basic point: That to be successful in the law “business” one must be creative and innovative and not be afraid to try out ideas and, yes, fail sometimes in order to succeed in the end.