Required Reading: 5 books for rethinking the practice of law

For the last several months, I’ve been refocusing my service offerings around ways I can help law firms and individual attorneys build law practices that will be sustainable beyond the next five years.

In doing so, I realized that several books have become fixtures on my desk. Two are directly related to the legal industry. The others have a broader focus. Combined they provide compelling insights about how to respond to the changes taking place throughout the legal industry.

Here they are:

1.  The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber: For an overall framework about how to think about your law practice as a business, this is a must read. There is a lawyer-focused edition of the book as well, but I recommend starting with the original.

Favorite theme: Focus on you business, not in your business.

2. The Art of Managing a Professional Services Firm, by Maureen Broderick (with research and interviews conducted by my good friend Carol McAvoy). This book outlines insight and best practices from some of the worlds best professional services organizations with particular focus on the unique issues that make service-oriented firms different from product-based businesses.

Favorite Theme: The passionate belief that values and culture are the bedrock of the organization and that clients are the “reason for being” when it comes to professional services.

3. The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. The Challenger Sale debunks the myth that relationship builders are the most successful sales people when it comes to complex sales, like legal services. Instead, the book outlines a new framework for solutions selling focused on providing insight to clients that naturally leads them to your services. This book is important for two reasons: 1) It provides a choreography for creating conversations that lead to business opportunities. 2) More importantly, it provides insight into how organizations at an institutional level can set themselves apart from the pack when it comes to defining what their true differentiators are. It could be game changing for the legal profession.

Favorite Theme: Once you eliminate “innovative,” “customer-focused,” “solutions-oriented,” “market leader,” “great people,” “trusted,” and “rich history” from the list, defining the specific set of capabilities that truly make you different can lead you to a pretty dark place. But then you can roll up your sleeves and set about the hard work of identifying real capabilities that only you can offer.

4. End of Lawyers? by Richard Susskind. Susskind offers up his prognosis about where the legal profession is heading as a result of globalization, technology and commoditization. It’s a slow read and you may not agree with all his conclusions, but the book makes you come to terms with the fact that the practice of law is going to change and offers one perspective on what it means for lawyers.

Favorite Theme: Most lawyers act like ambulance drivers showing up at the scene after something bad has happened. What clients really want is for someone to help them avoid that bad thing from happening in the first place. This is a huge market opportunity.

5. Networking is a contact sport by Joe Sweeney. A great book to rethink the way you approach relationship development and networking. Sweeney takes a purposeful approach to building relationships — both in terms of how he does it and whom he targets.

Favorite Theme: Networking is about seeing what you can do for others, not about what you can get.

Posted on February 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

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