The Age of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer

Entrepreneurial lawyering has come of age. Not fiction. Fact. I’ve just come across LexisNexis’s Bellwether Report (2014), Brave New World, which focuses on sole practitioners, independent lawyers and small law firms and the extent to which they are rising to meet the industry, economic and business challenges in the present and future. The report identifies new working practices, increased optimism and the emergence of a new breed of entrepreneurial lawyers: “Practitioners are emerging business-savvy, resilient and fiercely independent, with more confidence in the future of their practice than ever before.

Rising above the pack, a new breed of entrepreneurial lawyers are embracing the emerging opportunities – and achieving impressive results.” In relation to performance, growth is higher (55%) amongst the “emerging breed of dynamic entrepreneurial lawyers with top tier pedigree” (13% more than the average respondent.)

It looks like the dynamic independent lawyers who are really shaking things up are focusing on building their business through the smart use of marketing, networking and technology: “These entrepreneurs are networked, dynamic and ambitious.

Often niche specialists with superb credentials, they’ve set up their businesses to compete directly with the major industry players, and they’re frequently winning due to their agility and top-class customer service. Always thinking at least one step ahead, they’re utilizing every tool at their disposal to hone their competitive edge—from strategic partnerships and gaining ABS status, to outsourcing for increased efficiency, to harnessing the latest technologies to run their firm and connect with new clients.”

IMHO Cloud-based Law Practice, Legal Case Management Software and legal CRM systems are one of the best innovations (and latest technologies) in recent years and the ideal choice for entrepreneurial lawyers. Clio and Kulahub are certainly worth a sneaky peek for the aspirant and established entrepreneurial lawyer and business of law.

My personal entrepreneurial lawyer journey began in 2008 when I devised the ROAR sales model befitting for an ambitious and dynamic lawyer in this digital age;  it involved honing my niche, the creation of my personal brand (Chrissie lightfoot—The Entrepreneur Lawyer), building a referral network online and offline and delivering extraordinary customer service using technology and the internet. I danced into the offline and online legal and business worlds and online social network scene as an entrepreneurial lawyer serving the entrepreneur of tomorrow, today.

The activities I undertook resulted in a global sales success story. I quickly realised that I had to share the secret; the world (and not just the legal world), after all, in 2008 Q4, had just taken a nose dive off Mount Everest with no financial safety net. We were experiencing a global recession of the kind we’d never seen or felt before. And so, in 2009 I wrote a series of blog posts and articles suggesting that we lawyers need to become more entrepreneurial and to ‘get naked’.

The release of my best-seller book The Naked Lawyer in November 2010 covered exactly this; HOW we lawyers can become entrepreneurial with a step-by-step guide in how to get more clients (and more from existing clients) through mindset-shift, self-awareness (emotional intelligence), devising a niching, creating a personal branding, networking (by building a referral network and via social media and social networks), providing outstanding customer service, possessing business savvy, smart use of technology in the marketing and sales process and constantly innovating. I have been so very touched and feel hugely blessed and privileged to have received (and still continue to receive) many messages of appreciation, thanks and enquiries from a wide range of readers across the globe who expressed how The Naked Lawyer (together with my articles, blog posts, EntrepreneurLawyer website—and company, EntrepreneurLawyer Limited—and consultancy) has helped them.

Invariably it has culminated in prompting and influencing law schools, universities, associations, legal publishers, consultants, IT/Practice Management/CRM suppliers, law firms and lawyers around the globe to innovate in lots of areas; for example, legal entrepreneurship; legal education; law firm operations; marketing; sales; customer service, finance; pricing; business planning & strategy; legal IT; artificial intelligence and robotics in the legal world.

It has been a pleasure and honor to be asked for the 4th year running to be an entrepreneur mentor and advisor to the brightest, most ambitious and innovative legal minds in 20+ Universities (and law schools) across 20+ countries as a member of the Law Without Walls (LWOW) initiative. LWOW sprang up in 2009/10 as a community of entrepreneurs, legal practitioners, law professors and law students which focus on innovating in the legal sector.

Student participants work together on teams with the guidance of the LWOW community on projects aimed at innovating the practice of law, and education across the world. It has been featured in Time Magazine, The Financial Times, Forbes, The National Jurist, and more. It will certainly be interesting to see how the LWOW’s entrepreneurial essence pervades the psyche and influences and motivates the actions of the new breed of entrepreneurial lawyers graduating from its dynamic law schools thereby influencing legal service provision and innovation in this field throughout the world in years to come.

I also recall being interviewed by Preston Clark, a New York based attorney, business consultant and creator of TheLawInsider.com law blog (Top 15 Most Influential Law Blogs.) who wished me to share some of the content of The Naked Lawyer with his readers, and to convey my thoughts on what lawyers need to be doing to ensure their livelihood in the present and future. This was my advice: “… to develop key entrepreneurial, intrapreneurial (being entrepreneurial within the workplace), technological/digital, commercial and rainmaking skills as quickly as possible.”

In the current brave new world of independent lawyers and sole practitioners, assisting entrepreneurial lawyers to navigate powerful competition and regulatory upheaval with agility, I feel hugely privileged (no doubt alongside many of my friends, colleagues, clients and thought-leaders in their fields of expertise) to have been involved in this new wave of re-inventing lawyering; obviously for the better since these dynamos are out-performing and tearing strips off their peers (research and report here again in case you missed it, courtesy of LexisNexis).

Here’s a huge thumbs-up to you if you are reading this and you are one of them. Your clients will love you, as will Uncle Sam and UK PLC… The UK economy and that of Europe is predicted to be strong throughout this year and next. Similarly, the USA economy is looking positive along with China, predicted to grow over 7%, meaning global growth of 3.5% overall. Arguably, never has there been a better time for the entrepreneurial lawyer to start-up, whether within a group of like-minded souls or solo, particularly from home using some of the entrepreneurial techniques and technologies described herein.

There are Government backed initiatives to assist too. Here in the UK there’s a plethora of entrepreneurial success stories, particularly with regard to home-based businesses; so much so we contribute £300bn to our economy. If you hadn’t already guessed, yes, I am one of them… Yesterday/year (September 2008) I was a lawyer, serving the entrepreneur of tomorrow, today, in a traditional mid-tier law firm ivory tower in Leeds, Yorkshire, England.

Today (September 2014), I am an entrepreneur, serving the lawyers of tomorrow, today, from my luxury apartment home and globe-trotting around the world. Since my journey began, five years ago, we appear to be witnessing a tsunami of entrepreneurial lawyers throughout the world. The Age of the Entrepreneurial Lawyer has arrived. Albeit back in 2010 I wrote in The Naked Lawyer that “Entrepreneurs are from Venus and lawyers are from Mars,” I am delighted to be proved wrong.

About Chrissie Lightfoot

Chrissie Lightfoot has been involved in various entrepreneurial, innovative and commercial activity, experience and successes throughout her career to date, primarily in the Legal, New Media, Management Consultancy and Sport & Leisure (inc. health & fitness) sectors. As a serial entrepreneur, sales and innovation have been her forte and passion. Whilst training as a solicitor Chrissie was interested in the future of legal services, providing extraordinary client service and increasing sales. She was proactive in innovating the quality and delivery of legal advice and was the brainchild of the firm’s business start-up legal package, e-commerce proposition, in-house corporate knowledge hub and entrepreneur and employee share scheme niche focus. Chrissie was the first trainee solicitor in the UK and globally to devise a unique personal brand, Chrissie Lightfoot, The Entrepreneur Lawyer, which achieved impressive sales and marketing results. In 2013 she was nominated and honored as Legal Professional of the Year 2013 and a Top 100 International Executive; as published in the International Top 100 Business Magazine.

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