Throughout my schooling and work experiences thus far I have always contemplated the importance of being a self-starter. Being motivated and having the ability to motivate others, working towards pre-set goals, and focusing on nurturing relationships are all components of this. The overarching theme, however, is having that ‘entrepreneurial spirit.’
But what does entrepreneurial spirit really mean? More importantly, how is that relevant for us as future lawyers?
I believe it is very important and highly relevant! The practice of law is such that you are your own brand. Therefore, you will be perceived in the manner that you portray yourself as an individual. This is true, regardless of the firm you work for. Whether you come from one of the national firms or a small to mid-sized firm, you the lawyer are the service provider. Therefore, building your own brand is very important. The key to this is being cognizant of this fact before you enter the practice.
I believe your personal brand and having a sense of entrepreneurial spirit are two sides of the same coin. I have read many books on personal development and the common thread between them is the importance of building daily practices for yourself to ensure long-term success. Building habits that support entrepreneurialism and integrating these behaviours into daily life should be the first steps to building our practice.
Your Personal Brand
Now what does that really mean? As Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon famously said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
As I mentioned earlier, it really comes down to your personal interactions with a client that make all the difference not necessarily which firm you work for. Whether or not a client wants to do business with you is based on the experience they have had with you and the service you have provided. So it is important to focus on your own core values and build disciplines to create your own unique personal brand.
I suggest taking some time for yourself and really thinking about what it is that you really want from your practice, where do you see yourself in a few years, and most importantly how do you want to be known? You don’t need to have any business knowledge or background to know that building and nurturing client relationships is key to any prospering business’ success. But what will set you apart?
In a non-law interview I had a few years ago, one of the interviewers asked me to describe my ‘personal brand’ in 3 words. This was an interesting question and really got me thinking – so perhaps this is a way for you to start thinking about this idea as well. These are some questions you can ask yourself to help you in determining what defines you:
When others see something as a problem, are you that person who sees the opportunity? Are you that person who is willing to step out of their comfort zone to really gain the most out of an experience? Are you focused on pushing paper or really digging deep to provide the best value to your clients?
To the point about providing the best value, one of my favourite authors, Robin Sharma says it well, “the market place rewards value delivery.” I believe this is a very key insight. Once we begin practicing law, if we concentrate on providing the most value to our clients, we can really set ourselves apart! Along with trying to provide the best value, Robin suggests focusing on your “craft” and gaining mentors along the way to help pave your path for a successful legal career.
Which leads me to my next point: surround yourself with people who understand your vision, who can help you reach your goals and help you become an expert in your area. A mentor can really assist in shaping your future. They can help you determine what your strengths are (personal brand) and keep you motivated to achieve the highest levels of success.
This phrase may be overused, but it is relevant to the field of law. Whether you are working at a big law firm, which may not require you to seek out your own clientele (yet) or whether you are at a smaller firm, eventually you will be required to establish your own client base or contribute to the existing client relationships.
In my opinion this is a great opportunity and also very exciting. You will be able to focus on your set of clients and provide them tailored advice. The way to get a head start is by developing values that push you to really think like an entrepreneur.
There are a few reasons to develop an entrepreneur’s mindset. First, it will separate you from the rest of your cohort, who may not have yet thought about the future and the realities of the legal field. Second, you may eventually decide to drop out of the mid-to-large sized firm and create your own legal business. In which case, it is absolutely essential to have that inner confidence to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities in a ‘business-oriented’ manner.
Here are some ways to go about this: Read a book on a successful self-made entrepreneur, listen to unique leadership speakers (Robin Sharma is great), or just take the time to self-reflect. This is not an overnight realization, nor is it only for those that are already ‘business savvy’ – this is a life-long pursuit and you can begin working on it today!
As we approach our careers, these skills will help us build a strong foundation and will be useful in the challenging but hopefully rewarding legal practice.