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Why a Law Degree is Actually a Business License: Why Attorneys Should Treat their Legal Careers Like a Small Business

published June 30, 2021

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This article talks about the idea that your law degree is actually a business license. Unfortunately, not many attorneys think of it that way, but if you do, it can really help you advance in your career whether you work in a large firm or small law firm, in your own private practice, as in-house counsel, or in any other legal profession. It doesn't really matter whether you work for someone or you are on your own; your legal career is your small business, you as an attorney are the product of your small business, and you are trying to sell your legal services to your customers, i.e., clients, employers, law firms, companies, etc.

If you can approach your career as a business and learn the facets of how to run it successfully, you can take your career far. If you can't, you are likely putting your career on the line and risk running out of business, which in this instance means being unemployed.


As a legal recruiter in this industry for years and helps legal professionals pursue and advance their legal business careers daily, you can find my most important tips and tricks below.
 

Creating a Product for Your Legal Business You Can Market and Sell Easily


Law Schools and Law Firms Develop the Product - You


The first thing your law business needs is a marketable product. In this case, it is you. And just as with other products, many factors go into creating a product that customers want.

Every legal career starts with the right education. To get into a law school, you first need to obtain an undergraduate degree, and, in some cases, even a master's degree can help you. If you want to go into patent law, what you study can increase your marketability greatly. Having a degree in engineering, artificial intelligence, or something else related to technology will, without a doubt, increase your value on the market. It is not that important for other practice areas; however, the quality of the college or university and your academic results there will decide which law school you can get into, which affects your marketability later on.

Law school is another step toward creating the best product. Part of it is academics, but you can also increase your value with extracurricular activities, such as contributing to a law journal or internships. Depending on the law school you went to, and how you did there, you will market yourself at different places after your graduate. The better your school and results are, the better position you are in. Once you can sell yourself to a law firm, another employer, or just found the jurisdiction where you plan to do your business, you have to finalize your law license - pass the bar exam in your state. It might be more difficult in some jurisdictions than in others. The bar exam in California or New York, for instance, can be challenging to pass, and it might take a while. However, when you do this, you can freely do business.

All of this helps create your brand early on. Different law schools where law students get their legal education and law degrees, different training, different performance in these schools, practice area, location, and even the current economic situation all decide how successful you will be in selling yourself right after you graduate, including how much you can charge, which firm you have access to, etc.

However, even if you didn't start on the best foot, went to average law school, or many law school graduates did much better academically, it does not mean the end to your career. It might just be a setback initially, but you can work on your marketability throughout your career.
 

Maintaining a Marketable Product


The legal profession (just as any profession) is about staying in the "business" and, if possible, even grow. Throughout your career, you will be forced to make decisions about firms you will work at, clients you take on, investment, and pay, among others. The industry as a whole will affect your marketability, and you want to make the right decisions that will help you in the long run.

Even if you have made some mistakes, nothing good will come out of ruminating about what you did in the past and the choices you made about your university, law degree, law school, or the firm where you started. Instead, your goals should be to utilize your skills and constantly work on getting new clients, new cases, and working hard on doing your best.

You need to understand the product you are offering and the audience you are offering it to. If you are in litigation, you need to get into court every opportunity you have and win cases which you can then use to further market yourself. If you are in corporate law, you have to gain access to the most successful corporation in your area, and you have to keep up to date with the latest regulations and rules to give them legal advice.

You have to figure out how the economy, market, location, and practice area relate and work together. Finally, you have to constantly strive to improve yourself as a lawyer, person, and business person.
 

Creating a Brand for Your Legal Business


Thanks to my extensive experience as a founder and legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search, I have helped many lawyers restart their law careers. Most of the work comprises figuring out the lawyers' brand and then finding a way to manage and market it to law firms and other legal employers.

Being able to develop and manage a high-quality legal brand has huge importance for generating business. Lawyers have to develop it over time, and sometimes, it doesn't take just a few years, but whole careers. Creating a unique brand for a lawyer includes the law schools they attended, the law firm they worked at, legal training they got, clients they had, and other lawyers they collaborated with. Better, more established, and successful brands attract more clients and can charge more money.

The important thing about brands is that they have to be constantly curated. You have to have a clear vision of how you want your business to be perceived, what type of people you want to attract, and how you want to be viewed by potential employers.
 

Marketing Your Legal Business for the Best Outcome


When an attorney brings money into a firm, they generally get maybe a quarter of the amount they generate. Unfortunately, that is just how it works in the industry around the world in most cases. You can, however, build up your brand and market it to get better pay. You can, for instance, increase the amount of business you generate, which will not only automatically increase your pay but could be used as a negotiation incentive for the leadership. You could also focus on gaining bigger clients or switching to a better and bigger firm with better conditions to double or triple what you earn and gain new experiences.

The brand you create for your law business and how you market it determines how much you can charge, what types of clients will want to be represented by you, how busy you will get, and how far in your career you can get.

Even if you don't start at the greatest spot - you didn't get a law degree from the best law school, you didn't start with working in large markets, you didn't have access to the greatest cases at first - you can work on improving your brand or even rebranding, and you can still get far in your career. I personally know many lawyers who started of without huge ambitions at average law schools without shining academically that went on to create extremely successful brands earning millions. Of course, some lawyers tend to find their calling later; not everyone has to go to the top college, get a law degree from the best law schools, and start at the best firms. As a matter of fact, most attorneys do not go to the best law schools or start at the best companies. But, if they figure out how to market their brand, they can overcome almost any setback.

The most successful lawyers became experts in marketing, marketed their brand, and that is how they found their success. And you should do it too. Learn how to package what you can offer to the people who want it, and you will find success as well. And it doesn't have to be focused only on large law firms. For example, you might want to work in a smaller local firm. If you know how to market yourself in that situation, you can get what you want. You can market your services to get a job in government. You can open your own practice and market your legal services directly to clients. The options are endless, and you can reach any of them if you learn how to market yourself and your brand.

You have to start finding answers to questions like, "How do I look like the best product? How do I stand out from the crowd? How do I not become a commodity that gets pushed down by the market?" Then, when you immerse yourself into studying marketing, you start to figure out all these important things slowly, and you can build up your brand and business.

One important point you have to keep in mind when advertising your product - you - is that you have to appeal to others on a rational, pragmatic level and emotional one. Also, if your product is you and the law services you offer, people look for the most similar attorneys because they believe that they will understand them the best.

That is also why a large law firm prefers certain attorneys and certain types of clients. An attorney who fits perfectly within a big firm probably wouldn't fit in a small firm in a rural place. In those places, mostly local attorneys find success practicing law. They know most people personally, know how to talk to them, and gain their trust. That is all part of successful marketing. In larger firms in big markets, a young associate must first share a lot of the credit for work they have done and wait until they gain seniority. Only after that will they be able to get more personal relationships with clients they choose. So, the marketing strategies will be very different in those different settings. Each law firm, businesses, and other employers are different, so they require a different approach.

That is what we do at BCG Attorney Search for lawyers every day all around the country. We have years of training and experience in finding the best angle for every attorney to have the best chance to succeed in the practice area they choose. We know how to package the lawyer's skill set, experience, and background into a good brand, and we also know which law businesses and firms to market their brand to.
 

Conclusions


One of the most important things you can learn as a lawyer is to realize that your career is a business, and you and your services are the product you are selling. Therefore, the best investment you can make for yourself is to learn about how to market your product, which is you. If you can learn that, your past, universities, and law schools don't matter that much because you will be able to find success everywhere you go.

See also:
 

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