The Business of Practicing Law


We trial lawyers often pooh-pooh the importance of business skills. “I’m a professional,” the thinking goes, “not a businessman. I need to be spending my time honing and exercising my skills rather than running a business.”

The problem, of course, is that the business end of the law practice doesn’t take care of itself. If the business isn’t running smoothly, we face distractions that make us less effective advocates for our clients.

Business skills are a force multiplier. An hour spent making the practice run better can make a lawyer much more efficient and effective at practicing law.

A specific business skill particularly deprecated by trial lawyers is marketing. In some legal circles, “marketing” is a dirty word. But it doesn’t have to be — marketing can be focused on determining what the clients need or want and how to provide it to them.

Look at it this way: are the clients better served by knowing about who you are and what you do, or worse?

If we attend consciously to marketing our practices, we can do it ethically. We can better find those clients who most need us, and can provide them with the services that they need most.
The same applies to advertising. We can advertise ethically and truthfully, broadening the group of potential clients while educating the public.

On the other hand, if we don’t attend to marketing or advertising, somebody else is going to, and that someone may not share our ethics. If we don’t market ourselves and advertise, the clients who need us most are going to hire people who don’t share our ethics — people, for example, who advertise deceptively, and people who think it’s okay for a lawyer to pay a ghostblogger.

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