Jay Foonberg asks: Is the practice of law a business or profession?


Jay Foonberg is writing an update to his book, “How to Start and Build a Law Practice”. He posted the following on Facebook:

From the chapter “The Profession of Law is Not the Business of Law”

“In my opinion, those who call the profession of law a ‘business’ insult and demean the legal profession and you as a lawyer, in addition to simultaneously displaying their own lack of knowledge of the differences between a profession and a business”

Your thoughts?

One attorney said, “I strongly agree! We are here to find justice, or help a person in need.” Another said, “I agree with Jay Foonberg. I also think being a Human Being is not a business. Socrates, General Patton, Einstein, and Mother Theresa weren’t in business. But they advanced the human race.” Another commented, “If you want to sell stuff, go sell houses, or coffee, or cell phones.”

My comment:

“It’s both a profession and a business. If you are self-employed, you (the professional) work for the business (practice).”

That’s what I said, but what I wanted to say was, “are you nuts? Of course it is a business, and it’s naive not to recognize that reality.”

It’s a business because you sell services, pay your expenses, and earn a profit. If you don’t earn a profit, you’re out of business. You’ll still be a professional, but broke and looking for a job.

It’s a business because you have to bring in clients and if you don’t know how to market your services, you’re not going to make it, no matter how good you are as a lawyer or how selfless you might be.

It’s a business because you have to hire and manage employees, stay up to date with technology, and keep your expenses under control. If you don’t, there won’t be enough left over to pay yourself a draw and you’ll have to fire yourself because you can’t afford yourself.

You know what’s insulting and demeaning? Telling new attorneys that it’s not a business. Letting them think that all they have to do is hang out a shingle and be a good professional and the world will beat a path to their door. If they put other people’s interests before their own, their rewards will come.

That’s the wrong message.

When you’re on an airplane, the flight attendant tells you that if there is a drop in cabin pressure, you should put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Then, you can take care of others who might need help. You can’t help anyone if you lose consciousness, you have to take care of yourself, first.

That’s reality. On an airplane or in the business of law.

I went to law school to make money and to help people, but you can’t do one without the other. You can’t practice your profession unless your business is successful.

Many of the other comments agree that it is a business and a profession. And to his credit, Jay is seeking our feedback and “Liked” my comment.

The world was a simpler place when Jay wrote the first edition of his book. Today, we’re on a plane and losing pressure fast. We should all do our part to make the world a better place, but first, we have to pay the bills.

If you want to earn higher profits in your “business,” pick up a copy of The Attorney Marketing Formula.