The Starting Point

My name is Barbara Nelson and although I’m not a lawyer, I’ve been helping lawyers transform their practice. I know the difference between the dreams of practicing law and the reality.

Having spoken to (and helped) dozens of lawyers, I might just be able to help you transform your practice as well.

Now let me say this. I hate scarcity and “hard-sell” techniques. What I’m going to share with you may connect with frustrations about your practice. So it might be an idea to create some space to read this message and focus. I promise you will learn something of value.

If what I’m about to share reflects even part of what you are experiencing in your practice, I’m going to encourage you to read every word. But if what I share does not resemble your day-to-day experience; please feel free to click away.

Frustration Number One: Being A Good Lawyer Isn’t Enough

You probably love the law and what you do. You know you are a good lawyer and can fully engage and represent your clients’ interests. But you’ve probably discovered that creating a legal practice is much more than just opening an office and putting a sign out.

Yes, law school can prepare you for the technical aspects of your practice. Your insights can help your clients win cases or get through entanglements with “the system.”

And you feel really good about your choice of the law except…

Only a fraction of your time are you actually doing what you love. Most of the time it’s a good question…

Are you running your practice or is your practice running you?

You spend far more time at the office than you ever expected. You start your day filled with plans about what you are going to accomplish. Yet hours later, you’re at your desk wondering where your day went.

There’s research to be done. Documents to prepare. Responses or pleadings to file. Possibly depositions or court appearances.

It’s the bread and butter of your practice – if only you could get to it!

Between clients calling to ask about their case, new client calls, and instructing your staff re what to do, by the end of the day, you’re frustrated because the work still isn’t done. And you’re sitting in the office staring at your to-do list.

And it’s longer than when you started the day.

If this even vaguely sounds like days you’ve had (perhaps regularly) I have a solution for you. I’ll share more about that in a moment.


If you’re like most of the lawyers I’ve worked with, the constant interruptions have become ingrained in your practice. You end up like the juggler trying to keep the balls going while some sadistic creature keeps adding more balls to the mix.

And at some point it hits you that unless you do something, the situation is likely to continue. And the frustration that follows will accompany you unless something changes.

But if you are lucky enough to get some time to think about it, you’re going to realize that this is your foreseeable future.

When you escape your office at the end of the day, the balls will start falling the next morning again. The interruptions will continue.

At some point, you’ll probably want to read a book about “time management.” By the end of the first chapter, you’ll realize the person writing the book never saw a working law office in his life.

You’re so busy trying to catch the balls, you ignore one of the most important aspects of your practice. Oddly enough, even though it’s the foundation of everything you do –no one ever taught you how to do it.

I’m referring to building, developing, and expanding your practice. And that leads to the next frustration I find.

Frustration Number Two: Good Lawyers Shouldn’t Have To Market Themselves

Most lawyers I meet cringe at the idea of marketing themselves to grow their business.

They see ambulance chasers marketing themselves on late night television. These people treat their practice like it’s the latest device that slices and dices. You can probably imagine the way they handle their calls…

“And that’s not all. If you sign up as a client today, I’ll toss in a set of free ginzu knives.”

This gives lawyers everywhere a bad name. Lawyers worry that this is what they must do to build their practice. They silently vow, “I’ll never do this.”

Frankly, I can’t blame you.

Most lawyers I know put their heart and soul into their practice. And they have a silent belief they keep to themselves: I’m a good lawyer and I shouldn’t have to market myself.

They don’t want to plaster their names all over busses, city benches, or chase ambulances for clients. Walk around handing out business cards and asking for referrals.

Every time they see this they feel like they need a shower. It feels unethical.

By turning their back on using these tactics to market their practice, they are making a simple error. They are assuming what they see is the only way to market their practice. It’s not the case at all.

Let me give you a simple analogy. A young couple is dating and having a good time. Secretly they both hope it leads to something deeper, more fulfilling and more lasting. But unless one of them opens up and reaches out to the other, the relationship isn’t going anywhere.

The key is…

Discovering How to Ethically Grow Your Practice

You’ve probably discovered by now that your practice can support your lifestyle. But any business must bring in new clients to grow. And with the way the economy is headed, it’s not enough to just “get by.”

If you’ve taken a look at college tuitions, they’re heading up to fifty thousand a year. And you’re probably hoping to assist your children with graduate school as well.

And did anyone say “save for retirement?”

So if what I’ve been sharing seems to match even part of your experience, stay with me because I’m going to reveal a solution.

How the hell did a professional woman with a successful corporate career and a Chicago MBA end up helping lawyers build successful practices?

After eighteen years making change happen in corporate environments, it stopped being challenging.

I’d hired coaches for people who worked for me, and I loved what they did. When I decided to jump off the corporate ladder, applying my skills to coaching lawyers was the only option I considered.

The best thing about coaching lawyers is the immediate connection between my work and their success and happiness. Lawyers take action. I’ve had great success coaching lawyers. I’ve selected the small-firm lawyer niche as my ideal target.

At this point, about 9 years into working with lawyers, I think of NOT being a lawyer as a key advantage. I “get” lawyers, as my clients say.

But precisely because I’m NOT a lawyer, I’m able to help my clients change and grow.

What’s so special about lawyers? What are the patterns I’ve discovered?

Lawyers are perfectionists. They always believe they can do more. They constantly want to do even more research. They consistently want to produce one more draft. You can’t be a perfectionist and a successful lawyer at the same time.

Lawyers tell me they “can’t get anything done during the work day.” They feel guilty doing anything but client work during the week. The idea that “working on the practice” is part of their “work” is a radical idea.

Most lawyers don’t have business plans. They don’t plan where growth is going to come from. They watch revenue but don’t connect it to the bottom line. Some lawyers have made a lot of revenue and still considered bankruptcy, because they weren’t watching the cost of the revenue.

Lawyers would rather “do it themselves, because it’s faster.” Typically, they aren’t sure about when to hire, what skills to hire, or how to hire. Most know very little about performance management. They keep the wrong people for too long and they lose good people because of their management skills. This can be a huge problem area for many attorneys.

Lawyers think their practices are “different.” They believe traditional business practices don’t apply to them. They have difficulty setting goals or predicting income. And when they do set goals, they are far below their potential.

Self-discipline and procrastination are key areas they need help with. Lawyers are smart. Many of them are easily bored, and they tend to use external deadlines to create the energy to get things done. They’ll say they always do best when they wait until the last minute.

Many lawyers don’t know how to prioritize to have personal lives, and they settle for too little time on one hand and not enough money on the other.
Lawyers often feel alone and isolated. They wonder if they’re the only ones who feel as they do. They crave community and flourish with the support of a group.

Here’s How I Can Help You Grow

I’ve designed a 6-month program called The Practice Target. I’ll personally guide you through a transformation of your business. By the end of the course, you will have gone through a series of significant changes to your business.

The key point I’d like you to remember is that I’m there with you during the entire process. Each step is part of a gradual process that will result in an entirely new legal practice.

Copyright © 2013 Barbara Nelson Coaching