OK, you should now have a good idea about the law practice you have. The chances are that the data provided some surprises. Now Its time to do some thinking about how you want your law practice to change. Take some time to envision your practice 5 years from now, 10 years from now. What do you see? To get there you need to become clear about what you want. It is important to be proactive and manage your legal career.
There are two steps to the process. First, determine any changes to make in the areas of law in which you practice. For each practice area ask yourself whether you really want to continue or not. What is it exactly that you like or dislike? Be specific. For example, what is the income potential, degree of self satisfaction, challenges, competition, stress etc. Often it is helpful to set up a matrix to grade each practice area by your criteria. Are there any current areas of practice that do not justify your continued efforts? If so, eliminate them. Be ruthless, its your law practice and your life. Focus on what feeds you and makes you happy. Of course you have to pay the rent so you need to be reasonable but, if the legal practice area is a bad fit, you won’t enjoy the work, you probably won’t do your best and chances are that the area won’t be all that lucrative for you. In addition to considering practice areas it is a good idea to take an overall look at your law practice. The Lawyers Life assessment can help.
Second, in addition to examining your current practice areas, consider any new areas that interest you or that you believe have potential. First, make a list of the candidates. Don’t self-censor or make assumptions. If it is a possibility, put it down. Look at the list over a few days to be sure you have covered all possibilities. Next, investigate each area to determine whether it will work for you. Research will include online searches but, in addition, you should talk to attorneys who actually practice in the area. Most lawyers are more than glad to share their experiences. If it would be awkward to talk to an attorney in your geographical area, contact someone out of the area who would not be a competitor. Learning all you can about a potential practice area is vital. Don’t shortchange yourself here.
Now you know the law practice you want: the current practice areas to keep, any to drop and new areas to add. How does this look to you? Is it in keeping with your 5 year and 10 year vision of your practice? If not, you need to examine why. If it is, great. Now you know the practice you have and the practice you want, the next step is bridging the gap.
This is Part 2 of a 3 part series: “Upgrading Your Law Practice.”
Part 3 of the series: “The Law Practice You Want” will publish January 17, 2011.