Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Business of Law

Shawn Matlock recently posted about his "Love of the Game." Shawn stated he was not a criminal defense lawyer for the money, rather he was in it for the client. Shawn rightly criticized the hypothetical "Weinstein" for being money centered rather than client centered. Shawn went on to say:
I realized that I simply do this for different reasons than Weinstein. The Weinsteins of the world think of themselves as businessmen. The client is a fee. The practice of law is the practice of making money.
Although I agree with Shawn's premise the client should come first in the practice of law, I don't believe Shawn intended the practice of law should not be run as a business. In fact, the worst mistake I see criminal lawyers make is not managing their law practices as a business. A business is designed to make money and compete in the marketplace by providing a superior service or product. In fact, making good money and giving clients excellent service go hand in hand.

Years ago I learned "there is always room at the top." "It may be lonely there, but there is plenty of room." In short, work very hard for your clients, charge them a premium fee, provide excellent service, and make a good living. There is nothing wrong with making a good living representing folks accused of crime. In fact, a premium fee should motivate the lawyer to excellence. Regrettably, our love of the game can only take us so far. With families to feed, retirement to fund, weddings and college to pay for, the criminal defense lawyer needs to develop their business both for the client's sake and their own.

The lawyers who have grown their practices into successful businesses are in demand. People want to hire successful people. Not because the lawyers lie and make promises they can't keep, but because they provide excellent service - excellent service motivated by a premium fee. The premium fee creates healthy expectations from both client and lawyer. No problem there. The criminal defense lawyers with good business models are providing what the clients need. No problem there, either. When I treat my law practice like a business my clients reap the benefits. What's the problem with that?

So although I appreciate Shawn's "love of the game," I also appreciate the value of running a good business - the business of law. Don't worry, the Weinsteins will be found out. But without the business there would be no game, for very few of us would practice law just for the fun of it.

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