Nobody would condone someone practicing law without a degree and practical experience in their area of expertise. The years spent in law school and early days as a clerk or associate are important to setting the ground work for a body of knowledge that is needed to be a successful lawyer. But most would agree that the educational process does not stop once they receive their JD or complete the first few years of practicing law.
The countless number of laws and statutes can be complicated and confusing. Additionally there are constant changes that are always happening and new precedents being created in our complex world. Attorneys are required by their State Bar Associations to continue their learning throughout their careers. States have required Continuing Legal Education (CLE) hours that must be completed each year to maintain a license to practice law.
Education is important and paramount to success. Yet this attention to detail in gathering knowledge should not stop at the edge of the law. To run a successful business (and a legal practice is a business regardless of if the attorney works inside a firm or hangs their own shingle) a lawyer must know more than what is admissible in a court of law.
Administration/management, accounting, HR, customer service, purchasing, sales and marketing are all necessary pieces of operating a business, but too many attorneys have never taken the time to learn how these operations positively impact their firm's success. Properly learning about the functions and execution of these areas is just as important for a lawyer as is their legal education.
Without marketing and sales, there is no business. It takes money in the door to pay salaries, rent, professional fees, and other necessary expenses. This basic fact should make the study of business development, marketing and sales a top priority for lawyers, but too many look the other way and hope it will all come together if they simply do good work.
No lawyer would tell a corporate client to fire all their sales and marketing people (after all, these folks are paid well and do not have JD's), and then get their senior executives to take over these functions when they have time, if they feel like it, and regardless of if they have experience. Yet this is how many law firms approach their marketing.
Most large firms have marketing and business development teams (in house or consultants) while smaller firms do not have the ability to hire professionals to assist in these efforts. However, everyone who provides professional services must take personal responsibility for their own client development. You cannot outsource your brand and reputation.
The most successful firms of all sizes take this seriously. They invest in educating their partners and associates on the business skills needed to grow a company/firm. Sometimes partners scoff at training associates, as they fear they will take the knowledge and join other firms (or start their own). But this is short sighted. Yes, some will move on, but without proper business education those who stay and become partners are under-prepared to add to the growth of the firm.
Embrace education (for yourself and your team) beyond legal skills and you will find you will have more victories in building a long-term legal practice.
Have A Great Day
Thom Singer is experienced in legal marketing and business development. He regularly speaks at law firm retreats inspiring attorneys to embrace their brand and increase their sales. He also teaches lawyers ways to improve their presentation skills as the firm's secret weapon for business development success. More information at www.ThomSinger.com.