Posted by Jay Kamlet on Aug 24, 2017
How modern lawyers, especially independent ones, are reinventing law firms
Ask your non-lawyer friends to tell you what the word “lawyer” conjures for them. Chances are the responses will include positives like smart, educated and driven. However, people will probably also choose adjectives like exhausted, stressed or overworked. Both the positives and negatives apply to the profession, but many lawyers are changing that reality and reinventing law firms across the industry.
The old way
A somewhat depressing entry in Thrillest last year outlined all the reasons lawyers might have been better off choosing a career in burgers:
They might not get to expense dinner on a corporate card, but In-N-Out managers are privy to a wealth of benefits too. Perks to working at one of America’s most popular burger chains include strong job satisfaction and even this rare unicorn known as “work-life balance.”
It turns out, In-N-Out managers can often earn as much as a lawyer and receive great benefits and perks. In contrast, lawyers contend with student loan debt, long hours, low job satisfaction and higher rates of depression.
However, we suspect that this dreary view stems largely from the old way. Traditional law firms tend to force lawyers into a more rigid business structure, which can leave lawyers feeling hemmed in. With a focus on billable hours and playing the partner-track game, lawyers at big firms can fall victim to burn-out.
The new way
Many of today’s lawyers choose to launch small law firms where they define their own success. They create flexible business models that actually allow for a personal life. They create billing models that meet their clients’ needs and structure their workdays to maximize client service without sacrificing personal time.
For today’s lawyers, the key to happiness might just be the opposite of the traditional law track. According to a 2015 survey, as reported in the New York Times:
…the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being.
The survey showed that the happiest lawyers were the ones in public service fields, such as public defenders. Law professor Lawrence S. Krieger attributes that happiness to “feelings of competence, autonomy or connection to others — three pillars of self-determination theory.”
In our experience, independent lawyers tap into a greater sense of career satisfaction for just those reasons. The freedom to operate a law firm their own way gives them a sense of controlling their own destinies.
Even better, when these lawyers can find a community of peers and mentors who support their efforts, they feel more deeply connected. For example, lawyers who office at LawBank get the best of both worlds: running a law business autonomously, but working alongside likeminded business owners each day.
To learn more about building an independent law practice among a community of your peers, contact us. We offer office space and coworking space to lawyers in Denver.