How do you transition from lawyer to successful lawyer?

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Comes a question from a new-ish attorney who works for a firm in Kenya and wants to know how to transition from learning the law to applying what she’s learned and “thinking like a fee earner”?

It starts with acknowledging that practicing law is both a profession and a business and that you must wear both hats. Of course, that’s literally true when you go out on your own but its also true when you work for a firm because if you don’t bring in clients, you might find yourself replaced by someone who does.

It sounds like my Kenyan friend understands this. So, what’s the next step?

The next step is to educate yourself. Take classes, read books and blogs and newsletters on marketing and management. Learn something about sales. And work on your communication skills. Meet other lawyers who are one or two steps ahead of you and find out what they did to get there.

If you’re thinking about going out on your own, build a war chest. Save every penny so that if and when you make the leap you’ll have more staying power and more options.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for making the leap before you’re ready.

When I opened my own office I was hungry. Literally. I needed to bring in clients or I couldn’t pay for groceries. I had burned my boats behind me and to survive, I was forced to do anything and everything to bring in business.

Necessity is the mother (and father) of invention.

In retrospect, a lack of money wasn’t the biggest issue, nor was it a lack of experience. The number one challenge was a lack of contacts. So, if you do nothing else, focus on building a list of people who know, like, and trust you.

Do that and you’ll be golden.

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