Practice Tips: On profits and paradoxes 

by Dave Bilinsky, Practice Management Advisor 

When I meet a lawyer, I am often told that theirs is a “general practice.” Implicit in that statement is the (unspoken) assumption that they must appear to offer a wide range of legal services in order to stay in business. There is a fear component implicit in there as well — that they might find their income falling if they were to portray themselves differently. Yet in the same breath they will be asking how they can improve their profitability as they seem to be going nowhere fast. The answer, paradoxically, is to let go of their assumptions and turn to face the light.

Lawyers typically have difficulty in embracing strategic planning. There are good reasons for this, not the least of which is that, in many cases, it has only resulted in wasted time and effort. Other times they have moved directly to tactics without laying the proper groundwork first. But that does not take away from the proven successes of those who have done it right and who have reaped the results.

Ask yourself this question: What is your core business objective? If you have difficulty answering, then imagine how your marketing message appears to the public. The paradox here is that, by being clear on what you are not, you are coming closer to what you are. Consider if you will, a physician. When you have a problem, do you wish to see a generalist or a specialist? Now you may say that there isn’t enough work where you live to support a specialist lawyer. The paradox here is that there are many examples of lawyers developing a tightly focused practice in smaller communities (and in larger ones) that attract clients from all around the province and elsewhere. The ingredient that is necessary is vision combined with an astute appraisal of business opportunities and a marketing message that reaches out to your target clients. The internet is, of course, one of the major factors in being able to reach out to a wider client base than one limited by geography.

Planning means precluding options and embracing those that have the greatest potential for profit for you.

You have only so much time, energy and resources. If you spread those out in too many directions, you don’t have any resources left to push in any particular direction, which leaves you going nowhere fast.

There are many factors to consider — demographics, economics, business trends, your skill set, staffing, training, technology and finances — to mention a few. Certainly start with small careful steps, but make those steps all line up towards a definite goal. Measure your results and embrace your successes. Mostly, realize that no one else is responsible for implementing your plan except yourself. And embrace a strategic direction that has the greatest potential to last.