Why Entrepreneurs Need Lawyers & Why Lawyers Need Blogs (Or Other Innovative Business Practices)

Can lawyers be entrepreneurs, too?

Well, as we’ve already discussed, lawyers are successful entrepreneurs when:

  1. Their law firm practice stands the test of time;
  2. Their law firm practice earns more than it spends;
  3. Their law firm practice creates an impact on the industry;
  4. Their law firm practice earns public recognition; or
  5. Their law firm practice achieves its mission or goal.

How well a law firm manager improves the firm’s training scheme, ameliorates his personal leadership style, and advances legal technology used by associates will ultimately impact the number of clients he attracts and new business he sustains.

Luckily, this job just got easier.

The Virginia Supreme Court in Horace Hunter v. Virginia State Bar ruled on the extent to which law firms can promote their practice and previous legal wins via a blog or website.

“The Virginia majority held that Hunter did not have to seek clients’ permission to discuss past closed cases, even if there was a possibility that the clients would suffer embarrassment or some other harm by the public airing of their affairs. The court also ruled that Hunter’s blogging about past courtroom successes on his firm’s website constituted an advertisement, even though he also included commentary on the criminal justice system. As a result, the majority said he should have included a standard disclaimer cautioning against too much reliance on past results.” (via Above The Law)

When it comes to non-legal entities, like (ironically) the blog reporting on this blog ruling, not all legal blogs represent commercial speech.

Above The Law reports, “The opinion was kind enough to put our personal legal questions to rest by citing Above the Law as the sort of legal blog that transcended the strictures that apply to Hunter’s blog. According to the Virginia Supreme Court, ATL is not legal advertising because we have commenters. Thanks y’all.”

But, that’s not all.

Not only are courts smiling fondly on legal blogs these days, but the blogosphere itself is promoting legal work. Consider, for example, a recent post on the Harvard Business Review Blog. It reads, “Ready to Innovate? Get a Lawyer.”

As it turns out, lawyers can be entrepreneurs. And, entrepreneurs—in turn—desperately need lawyers.

Just as quickly as breakthrough innovations take place, laws are put in place to take them down. Scottish scientists closed a sheep named Dolly and then President Bill Clinton issued an executive order banning federal funds to do the same.

Fledgling start-up website Napster was shut down the same year incumbent music conglomerate Apple launched iTunes, reports HBR. Patent trolls roam the Internet putting a stop to innovators who license their intellectual property too late.

Just as new technology crops up, so does corresponding litigation.

“Now, more startups are even opening their own policy offices in Washington, Brussels, and other lawmaking capitals. Only four years into its existence, for example, Twitter opened a D.C. office headed up by a former senior Congressional and FCC staffer. Facebook’s D.C. office has almost 30 employees,” writes Larry Downes for HBR.

“Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other Silicon Valley brand names all have their own, often extensive, government operations. For the new breed of disruptive innovators, it’s a necessary evil.”

Although calling law practice a “necessary evil” is certainly not what clients want to hear, lawyers—for their part—should be relieved to know that the business world is looking out for them. Entrepreneurs and lawyers need one another.

So, if your paid TV advertisement hasn’t reached the ears of potential clients yet, rest assured that bloggers are marketing your legal services free of charge.

In the end, Downes is addressing start-up companies and entrepreneurs in his HBR post. But, lawyers should also pay attention to his message. “When a single case can make or break your business, there’s no such thing as too much innovation—or too much lawyering,” Downes concludes.

In reverse, for those lawyers who resist change, fondly preserve “the good ole boys club”, reject new technology, or refuse to improve their firm management style, remember: when a single case can make or break your business, there’s no such think as too much innovation (period).

Don’t be stuck in a rut. Write a blog. Or, read more about innovation within law firms here.

-WB

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