I’ve been writing about becoming a trusted legal advisor to your business clients so you can get paid $750 to $5,000 per month per client, the way I do and our New Law Business Model lawyers do.
Read the past two articles here and here.
The big question I’ve been getting in response to this series is “what are the first steps I can take, if I don’t feel prepared to be this kind of a legal advisor to my business clients.”
I’ll be sharing all the details about how you can become a trusted legal advisor to your business clients and create a recurring revenue based practice of your own, so you aren’t starting each month off at zero, and so that you are truly providing your clients with the guidance and support they need without leaving income and impact on the table.
In this article, I’ll share the three places you may need to start right away, if you want to shift from the one-off transaction to creating a law practice serving business owners that truly makes a difference in their (and your) lives.
1. Clean Up Your Own Legal, Insurance, Financial and Tax Systems
Sadly, this is the number one biggest issue I see with most lawyers, even and especially maybe, business lawyers!
You must begin by getting your own legal, insurance, financial and tax (LIFT) house in order. If you don’t have your LIFT systems handled, it’s unlikely you can truly help anyone else with theirs.
And, yes, as a business advisor, you do need to understand and be aware of not just the legal parts of the business, but the insurance, financial and tax systems as well. If you want to set yourself apart from the do-it-yourself online legal services and commodified lawyers who incorporate a business for someone and then don’t guide them on how to actually build that business with the right foundations.
Getting your own LIFT house in order means:
- that your law practice is incorporated,
- you are paying yourself a salary through payroll (likely as an S-Corp so you can pay your payroll taxes on just the salary part and save yourself big bucks by taking the rest of your pay through profit distributions),
- you’ve got agreements with your team members as either properly paid employees or independent contractors,
- you’ve got agreements with vendors and partners,
- your intellectual property is dialed-in,
- you’ve got business insurance, malpractice insurance, and personal insurance (and you understand it all),
- you are reviewing financials weekly, profit and loss statements monthly, and have quarterly financial reviews with yourself, and
- you start planning for your taxes in October of the prior year (rather than filing your taxes late, in October each year).
These are the things you’ll be guiding your clients on as a trusted legal advisor, and not just a document preparer or one-off transaction provider.
2. Immerse Yourself in the Industry of Your Ideal Client
The first thing I ask any business lawyer when meeting them is what types of business owners do you serve.
Invariably, I hear back anyone with a business.
To become a trusted legal advisor for business owners who will happily pay you $750 per month up to $5,000 per month for counsel and guidance, you need to focus in on a specific industry.
Then, immerse yourself in the industry. Get to know the players. Get to know the business models. Get to know the opportunities and pitfalls.
Attend their events. Go to their tradeshows and expos. Read their industry publications. Become seen as the lawyer who actually cares about what’s going on in the industry.
The good news is you get to choose the industry (or industries) you focus on, so choose one that you enjoy.
I serve online business owners (and those who want to be) because I’ve been in the online business industry for ten years. I understand the business side, not just the legal aspects. I’ve been a business owner in the industry. They know I get them.
Denise Gosnell, our Law Business Mentor for the Business Practice Bootcamp, serves digital publishers. She goes to their events, networks with the biggest names in the industry, and as a result is the go to lawyer in the digital publishing industry.
We have several lawyers in our program who serve the small brewer market, a couple who focus on the growing market of cannabis business owners, one or two who focus on restaurant owners, and another who focuses on coaches, authors and speakers.
Choose an industry you think is interesting and exciting and start hanging out with the business owners who are in business there.
3. Learn to Truly Listen
And, finally, learn to truly listen. Most lawyers have no idea how to ask the right questions, be curious and listen in a way that has their clients feel understood. I certainly didn’t when I first started out. I wanted to be the one who knew it all, and didn’t need to ask questions.
Learning to listen in a way that created the space for my clients to feel more understood than they ever had been before, and tap into their best thinking as a result, was not a skill that came naturally to me.
I don’t think it does to most lawyers.
And, it’s one of the skills you can invest in and learn with relative ease that will set you apart the most from the other lawyers in your community.
Here’s where you can read a recent email I received from one of my clients explaining how working with me is different than any of the other lawyers they’ve worked with, and I think it will help you understand what I mean.
“Over the last 13 years, we’ve had thousands of clients. And, although we’ve had a handful of challenging client situations, none has been more challenging than the client that we’re dealing with now. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, so I called around to get advice from several attorneys. Every attorney I spoke with thought our client was a bit crazy and assumed I was calling to see how I could get this client to go away as quickly and quietly as possible. Ali operated within a totally different paradigm. She asked a lot of questions before giving advice. And, the first question she asked, after she heard an account of what happened, was: What is the outcome I wanted? Seems like such an obvious question, but none of the other attorneys I spoke with asked me that question. Because they were operating inside the paradigm of, how do I help you win and make this pain-in-the-a** client go away. Ali was operating inside of the paradigm of: Within conflict are great gifts and the potential for huge growth. Let’s uncover those gifts, and handle the behind the scenes aspects of your business with the same integrity that so many of us leaders say we live by. This was exactly what I was looking for. An attorney whose values match the values that we’ve infused into our incredibly beautiful and powerful community of coaches and holistic practitioners. Because, I have seen in my own life that if I don’t get the lesson the first time, it will likely revisit me in another (possibly more challenging) form. I was committed to extracting the lessons and the growth from this situation, so that I could leverage it to step into a new level of leadership and success. And, Ali was right there to support me. Ali was compassionate. I felt safe enough to express anything to her, and safe enough to discover my deeper truths. Ali was bold. She was willing to ask the tough questions and to encourage integrity over “winning,” and compassion over being right. She did her best to truly understand me… and she also did her best to understand my challenging client… who she was, what her needs were, and what outcome she was truly looking for. She also took into account the complexity of the situation and didn’t try to take a hammer to a situation that called for a much more delicate instrument. Ali was a breath of fresh air and gives me hope for the entire attorney industry. She understands the old paradigm of the court system and can help you navigate your way through it. But she also infuses your situation with a new paradigm that is based on integrity, compassion, listening, and truth. Ali is like having an intuitive counselor, business coach, compassionate friend, and savvy attorney on your side. Ali is not for everyone. If you just want to hire someone to try to make your headaches go away, Ali may not be for you. But, if you want someone who is interested in not only having your back (but listening to your heart) she is your gal. If you want someone who will be in your corner, and help you grow through challenging situations, and show up as the leader you say you are, then she is your gal. I hope that Ali is able to infuse the attorney industry with this new paradigm of addressing conflict. It may be one of the most important gifts the world could use right now.”
When you have learned to truly listen, and your prospects and clients leave their meetings with you saying, “wow, I’ve never had that kind of experience with a lawyer before” you’ll know what it feels like to experience true success. Fulfillment. Meaning. The reason you went to law school.
And, your clients will be happy to pay you handsomely for the privilege of meeting with you, when you do.
Are you ready to create the law practice you always dreamed of? Start here: