I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but if you are running a law firm and you’re looking for a life of job security, you are in the wrong business. I’m not saying you can’t or won’t become wealthy. I’m simply saying if you’re going to succeed in this business, you must learn to be comfortable with uncertainty. Clients come and go, sometimes for no apparent reason. A change in the law could force you to revamp your entire practice. If you work on a contingency basis (e.g., as a personal injury attorney), the uncertainty is amplified because your very income depends on a judge’s ruling or the willingness of other attorneys to settle out of court.
All that said, the variables involved with running a law practice don’t mean you have to live at the mercy of chance. By accepting the variables as a fact of life and learning to be comfortable with them, you’ll begin training yourself to anticipate change in such a way that your boat won’t be so easily tossed by every rogue wave. The following tips may help.
The key to success amid uncertainty is to streamline your business to thrive in lean times as well as good—starting with operating with as little waste as possible. Law firms that with too high an overhead can find themselves in instant crisis the moment a high-paying client leaves. You can mitigate this effect by keeping things lean and mean around the office. Don’t be afraid to outsource or hire help when you need it, but make sure you’re not wasting resources, either.
Create a Financial Pad
When you experience your first inflow of success—and you will—don’t change your lifestyle or throw all the profits into expansion right away. Instead, take some of that extra revenue and create a reserve fund to help sustain you through the next lean period, if and when it comes. Learn to see times of abundance as prepayment for the times of slowdown, and you’ll sleep much better at night.
Never Stop Marketing
One of the most common (and dangerous) mistakes young law firms make is to slow down their marketing once they reach a client load they’re comfortable with. Remember, the key to thriving in an uncertain climate is anticipating the ebbs and flows. Client relationships almost always have an expiration date, and you should always working to bring in new clients to replace those who will eventually fall off. If you have more incoming clients than you can handle, either make plans to expand or create a wait list. But never stop marketing efforts to create brand awareness for your firm. You always want that phone to ring, even if you have to say no once in a while.
Running a law firm is not for the faint of heart, but bear in mind that there really is no such thing as job security in this business. Even if you have a lucrative position in a large law firm, you have no guarantees that you won’t be fired. Uncertainty is part of this business, and at least when you’re running your own firm, you have the opportunity to control your own response to the ebbs and flows. For those who learn to get comfortable with the uncertainty, the rewards are well worth the risk.