Starting your own law firm will be one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging experiences of your life. As a “recovering” attorney, who has started her own business, I know first hand what it really takes to launch and grow a business. What I also know are the myriad of mistakes a new business owner can make, which often cause them to go out of business in the very first year of operation (trust me, I’ve made plenty of these mistakes!).
Here are the toughest 3 that anyone thinking about starting your own law firm is certain to face and will have to overcome:
Mistake #1: Clinging to Our B.S. (“Belief System” that is)
The average mind has about 60,000 thoughts a day and most of us believe about 99 percent of what we think(!). Some of our thoughts are products of our upbringing and the culture in which we grew up and live. Others are the product of our mind synthesizing observations into our own brilliant (or not!) conclusions about the world. Our thoughts help us make sense of our world and our life. Interestingly, we often hold our thoughts to be The Truth, while they only reflect what we believe to be true, our truth.
But the worst enemy of all can be our own beliefs, from which we then construct our Belief System, or as I also like to call it – our B.S. By definition, beliefs are explanations, conclusions and states of mind, which are formed by our own thoughts. When you believe something to be true, it affects how you see yourself and your world. In other words, your thoughts = your beliefs = your reality. And thus, the reality you see depends on what you believe 100%.
So this is where we often get into trouble. We cling to our B.S., even where it no longer serves us or it limits us. The danger of such limiting beliefs is that as long as we believe in these limitations we can never achieve anything beyond them. Our mind becomes our own prison.
A very common limiting belief among women, for example, is that “it’s harder for women than men to be successful in business.” I used to believe that. I would say things like, “Well, you know, it’s a man’s world out there” and really believe that it was true. It wasn’t. I see it now. After a few years of being in business I can confidently say that while men and women may have different styles, our gender differences do not predict how successful we might become. I know just as many successful women as I do men.
So what limiting beliefs do you have about yourself, your abilities, other people, the world that are keeping you from starting your own business?
Mistake #2: Making It About the Money
A few weeks ago I asked the following question on our business Facebook page: “What is the biggest obstacle to starting your own law firm?”. By far, the most common answer was MONEY, or lack thereof, to be exact. The interesting thing about money and starting a business is that it’s not always about the money (in fact, it’s almost NEVER a 100% about the money). Rather it’s about these 2 things: fear and lack of a transition plan.
Fear. Fear shows up in various forms, including fear of failure, fear of not finding enough clients, fear of not being able to make a sustainable living, etc. The funny thing about fear is that it’s almost always about some hypothetical future events that may or may not happen. Here are just a few phrases that would run though my head on a daily basis as I began to contemplate going out on my own: “What if I fail? What if nobody wants to work with me? What if I don’t know enough?” These two short words – “what if” – have the power to stop us in our tracks. So if having your own law firm is what you are after, finding ways to overcome your fears is your number one priority.
Lack of a transition plan. The best and most efficient way of getting somewhere new is to have a map that precisely charts your course. If you have that, then you know exactly which direction to go, which turns to make, and what obstacles to avoid. Naturally, having an accurate map helps you get to your destination more easily and more efficiently. A step-by-step transition plan does just that – it tells you exactly what steps to take, when to take them, and what outcomes you should expect. It prepares you for the challenges ahead and helps you stay focused on your goals. Makes sense, right? Well, this is where many people (myself included) often get stuck. They say, “I don’t have this transition plan, because I don’t know what or how to do it…”
This is exactly what my number 3 mistake is all about! Read on.
Mistake #3: Not Asking For Help
Even though this mistake is number 3 on this list, personally for me it was the biggest one. I’ve always had this “I can do it all by myself!” attitude, pretty much since I was a kid. And while this attitude did bring me a lot of positives (a sense of confidence, self-reliance, ability to push beyond my comfort zone), when it came to transitioning to my own business it was the worst idea.
Here is why: when starting your own business, the amount of things you do NOT know by far exceeds what you do know or have experience with. As a result, the learning curve tends to be very very steep. There are just too many things to figure out before you can start seeing real results – you’ve got to learn about marketing, and accounting, and business planning, and who your ideal clients are, and how to brand yourself and your business so that your ideal clients can recognize you, and on and on and on. Which is precisely why most new law firm owners get drowned in the ocean of overwhelm and quit, sometimes just weeks or even days from their biggest business breakthrough.
In my case, during the entire first year of operation I resisted the idea of investing into a business training or business mentorship program foolishly believing that (1) I was supposed to be able to figure it out on my own (after all, that’s what Google is for, right?); and (2) that my money was better spent on tangible purchases for my business (like marketing, stationary, etc.). It took me about 9 months of struggle and confusion and almost being ready to quit before I convinced myself that investing into a business coaching program was what I and my business needed.
Frankly, I couldn’t believe the results I was getting! No, I didn’t end up with a cookie-cutter type business, just because I followed someone else’s advice (which apparently was one of my concerns). Having my mentor’s experience and expertise to guide me along helped me master those things that I wasn’t already good at, which in its turn allowed me to focus on what I naturally excelled at. The result? A thriving business that I am proud of and a life that I get to live on my terms.
So if starting your own law firm is one of your dreams and something you’ve been contemplating for a while, I urge you to move past your fears and into action, even if it’s just a small, baby step. And don’t wait until that magical Someday – now is the perfect time to get focused and motivated for your future success as a business owner!
To your incredible success,