Friday, April 18, 2008

Does Focusing on "the Business" Lead to a Decline in Professionalism?

Two recent events have led me to ponder this ongoing debate of whether focusing on the business aspects of running a law practice in some way threatens the legal profession. Perhaps it's because my state tends to be more conservative because I don't read too much about this online. Some of it stems from more traditional attorneys feeling threatened by the use of technology to practice law, but I acknowledge that there are other issues at work here.

I attended a CLE sponsored by my state bar association where the topic of maintaining professionalism was discussed. The speaker noted with enthusiasm that we attorneys needed to remember that "this is not a business; it is a profession!"

Well, I think it's both and it serves our clients as well as ourselves for attorneys to treat the legal profession as a business, a business that maintains high customer service standards.

I respectfully understand the point that this gentleman CLE presenter was emphasizing. But as a solo virtual law practitioner, I sure wish the bar would sponsor a few more CLEs geared towards the business aspects of running a law practice. After all, this is not exactly something attorneys are taught in law school and it is critical to our success.

Practicing law from a virtual law office comes with the fun challenge of explaining to other attorneys why you have chosen to offer legal services online. A large part of chosing to run a virtual law office has to do with the fact that it allows me to run a healthy business as a professional. Surprisingly, the public, my clients, do not have any problem "getting it." My clients see what I see: convenience, low overhead at a time when the economy is floundering, flexibility to provide my clients with services when it's convenient for them, efficient and secure form of communication, etc.

Also this past week, I attended a practicum for a bright group of MBA students and had the chance to read through the team's business plan and critique it as business owner. Just reviewing and critically thinking about their business plan made me want to run home and rewrite and clarify my own business plan for my virtual law practice. I think it benefits our clients as well as our own law practices when we take the time to remind ourselves, through business plans or conversations with legal practice consultants, what our goals are in managing our law practices.

So that's my fun project for this weekend: Updating my business plan so that I stay focused on the practical as well as professional aspects of running my virtual law practice.

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