As the owner of a law firm, you might think that waking up one morning and realizing that you don’t have a single client would be the absolute worst-case nightmare scenario.
But you’d be wrong. The true nightmare scenario is having the WRONG clients. The wrong clients force you to do work that you don’t like doing for people you don’t like working with. Do this long enough and you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you’re miserable, that you hate your job, and that you’d rather do just about ANYTHING than go into the office for yet another day of miserable, mind-numbing, unfulfilling work.
This is a trap that many law firms still in the first stage of firm growth fall into. And it’s easy to understand why. When you’re barely making enough money to make your mortgage payment, let alone actually taking your spouse out to a nice restaurant, you are inclined to take any work that you can get. If representing the Devil himself would cover your student loan payments… you’re probably going to do it.
But then you’re trapped.
Your devil cient may give you the income you need to just barely scrape by. But in the process, he will demand so much of your time and your energy that you’ve got nothing left. No energy to invest into growing your business. No desire to get up in the morning. And no time to think about anything other than meeting his demands.
What should you do instead?
Figure out what kind of work you want to do. Your work should energize you. It should leave you feeling good about yourself and what you’re doing with your time.
And then figure out what type of clients you want to work for. This refers to their occupation and position in life (i.e. small business owners or wealthy retirees)… but their personality is just as important. At How to MANAGE a Small Law Firm, we have a strict NO ASSHOLES policy. And your law firm should probably have a similar policy.
Once you know what type of work you want to do, and who you want to do it for… force yourself to say no to the wrong clients. This can be very difficult at first, especially when you need the money. But it’s one of the most valuable habits you will ever learn.
(There’s one important caveat: if you are going to say NO to the wrong clients, you have to have a plan in place to reach the RIGHT clients. That’s a big subject and more than we can cover in this blog entry… but take six minutes, watch this video, and you’ll know how to get started.)
Having the WRONG clients is worse than having no clients at all. Be honest with yourself. Are you working for the wrong clients?