Best Business Advice for Lawyers

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I was listening to after-show of Episode 10 of Back to Work. Merlin Mann has what I consider the best and simplest advice for anyone in business.

Here’s Merlin is voicing some people’s problem with Apple.

‘I don’t understand: why does Apple only make this costly stuff that only people who like Apple buy? It’s crazy, it’s almost like they don’t care about the people who don’t buy their stuff. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. Don’t they understand that I’m never going to buy their stuff?’

And that, I think, is a pretty good summation of how a lot of businesses see the world.

‘Why don’t you care more about how much I’m never going to buy your thing. Why doesn’t that bother you as much as it bothers me? You should care so much more about how I’m never going to buy your thing.’

And instead they’re not going to burn cycles on that. They’re  gonna go like, “Yeah, we’re a company! Yeah, we’re gonna do lock in. Yeah, we’re gonna do dumb shit. But, yeah we’re going to do that for people who have a fuck ton of money who are really happy to give it to us instead of making 35 tablets who don’t run that well and then make you feel bad about it.

What does this have to do with running a law practice?

Don’t try to make people who are never going to buy your services happy.

And, if you are blogging, you see this every day! 

Why don’t you answer my legal question?

Why don’t you evaluate my case in the comments on that post?

Why are you even blogging for if you’re not going to tell me how to do my case for free.

Well, get over it and don’t bother trying to make everyone happy. You know why you can’t do this:

  1. These people are asking for legal advice.
  2. You don’t have enough information to provide a competent answer.
  3. You have no idea where they are and may be practicing outside of your jurisdiction.

It’s opening up a Sam’s Club sized can of malpractice, and you know it! Trying to explain that is a loosing proposition because the people asking for legal advice in comments are typically not interested in understanding why you cannot give it to them. They just want help. And I am not putting them down for that. Wanting to solve a problem is good and fine and natural. However, what lawyers, and especially young lawyers or lawyers new to Social Media often miss, is that trying to provide legal advice in comments, or god help me, tweets, is dangerous. And here is the kicker, you are not going to get hired because you put your head on the chopping block by providing shoot-from-the-hip legal advice. So just don’t do it.

If you want to be successful (and even respected), you have to say “no.”

  • No. I cannot address that matter since it requires making a legal opinion.
  • No. We do not handle those matters.
  • No. We do not handle cases from out of state.

You have to stop taking every call. You have to stop “I just have a quick question” calls. What do you do instead, paraphrasing Merlin’s comment from earlier in the show, “sell good legal services at a reasonable price.” There are people you can help and who want to pay you money for your knowledge and experience. Those are the people you need to target. They are the ones that will let you keep your doors open, pay your staff, and put braces on your kid’s teeth. The people who aren’t happy that you are not doing everything for free WILL NEVER HIRE YOU!

However, they may well sue you. So, stop courting them. You are running a business. If you feel that the law is a calling and that you have a duty to serve? Great, more power to you! Speak, write, and help educate the public. Just know when to stop before general information becomes legal advice and don’t let it take over your business, or you will be out of business.