In law, a frequently asked question is: “Can Lawyers Be Entrepreneurs, Too?”
Success means different things to different people. If you’re trying to build a successful law firm, the first step is to define what “success” means to you.
Some measure success by the longevity of the business.It makes the closure of companies like Hostess Brand Inc.—famous maker of Twinkies and baker of Wonder Bread—after 82 years of business serve as a warning beacon.
For the business of law, the past 30 years have experienced a steady drop in the share of young firms compared to all firms, according to a report by the Kauffman Foundation report based on new U.S. Census data.
This trend persists, and those companies that were less than five years old in 2010 comprised just 35 percent of all firms, down from 49 percent in 1982, according to the same data.
In a recession, starting a new law firm or even maintaining your old one is a badge of honor and of success. So how can you keep your doors from closing?
A classic philosophy measuring success touts the benefits of a diversified portfolio.
Law firms, for example, have been reaping the benefits of an oil-rich Gulf. Attorneys with a background in oil and gas industry affairs are seeing the job offers roll in.
“On his first afternoon at a new law firm, with his Oriental rug still unrolled and files still in boxes, Scott Schwind took an unexpected call. On the other line: a recruiter, asking if Mr. Schwind would be interested in moving to a rival firm that hoped to open a Houston office.”
“I don’t know how they knew I was here,” Mr. Schwind, a 41-year-old who specializes in international energy deals, said to the Wall Street Journal.
“I’d love to be flattered by it, but frankly it’s a reflection of what’s going on in this market.”
Although mergers-and-acquisitions field are still sluggish since the financial crisis, high oil prices and a boom in U.S. drilling the past decade have increased the number of energy deals. Now, 13.5 percent of mergers-and-acquisitions volume revolve around oil and gas, as opposed to just 5.3 percent a decade ago, according to Dealogic (via WSJ).
To survive—nay, succeed—maybe it’s a good time to consider opening a Houston-branch of your firm.
Finally, speaking of well-oiled machines an easy measure of success within the field of law is pure wealth. Liquid businesses keep their doors open.
And, law firms flush with cash can often attribute this success to highly-accredited accountants.
- Knowledge of taxes, business budgets, and payroll.
- An understanding of the business and daily operations of the field of law
- Versatile job function (accountant, attorney, and litigation consultant in one!)
- Higher degree, so higher billable hours to clients
- Constant and steady stream of work (there will be no lulls for this employee)
Instead of questioning whether or not lawyers can compete with the legacies of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, William Penn, or even Oprah Winfrey, why not innovate by re-drawing your definitions of success.
You may find that drafting a clear vision for your business is the only line to seperate your law firm partners from the next generation’s biggest entrepreneurs.