one of the few left a lawyer that believes success and enjoyment of the practice of law may involve more than just sitting at home with some computer equipment and an internet connection, here’s a list of people, yes, real live people, that have been important in my practice:
1. The Accountant.
No, not your father’s accountant, but an accountant that has a few years on you and experience with lawyers. You know, someone like you that is building a business but in another field. I know, you have Turbo Tax or some other software you can type some numbers into on April 14th, but that’s not the reason for an accountant. Your accountant should know where you are financially and where you want to be. He should be someone you meet with at least twice a year and discuss your whole financial picture. Your accountant should be listening to the details of your finances, your thoughts about business, and giving you advice — not just putting numbers in to an 1120-S or 1040.
2. The Financial Advisor.
No, not the guy calling you with a “tip.” Find someone who is a certified financial planner that has been at the same brokerage house for over five years — not just someone with over five years’ experience. (Cue the blowback from financial advisors who find this advice bad for business). Why? I like someone that knows the philosophy of their firm and has some knowledge of their money managers. And I know, you have no money to put away or invest in the market, but if you build that great LinkedIn profile to start making money, you should. Maybe some advice from a financial planner will put you in a position to have a few bucks to put away, and soon enough you’ll have a killer defined benefit program. (I learned about defined benefit programs from my financial advisor.) Oh, and my financial advisor often sets up lunches for me to meet other professionals.
Who else should be essential to your law practice?
3. The Owner of That Restaurant Down the Street with the Private Room.
Do I really have to explain this? OK, at some point you may eat a meal with someone, or order some food to your office, or need a place for an event. It’s nice to be able to call that restaurant close by and talk to someone who knows you. If this type of restaurant is the type you patronize often, get to know the owner, discuss your business, and you’ll hear about the owner’s (legal) issues. Restaurants and their staff have every legal issue imaginable.
4. A Courier.
Routinely making a special trip to the clerk’s office yourself to file documents is the dumbest way to save money, but I see it daily. Find the courier that has a bunch of lawyers as clients. You can do this by contacting lawyers and asking who they use. Call ten lawyers, and three will give you the same name. Use that one. Use the courier for document delivery, gift delivery, everything that saves you time by not having to deliver it yourself. By the way, couriers can be a great source of business — because they don’t sit at a computer all day, they actually talk to lawyers and clients. They hear things.
5. A Few Real Estate Lawyers, Estate Planning Lawyers, and Family Lawyers.
In my career, these are the areas in which I’ve had the occasion to refer matters the most. Besides your personal need for these types of lawyers, you will have clients and friends looking for referrals when they are buying or selling property, dealing with elderly relatives or needing to do their own wills, and your college buddy will be getting divorced from that hot cheerleader you always wanted to date. I say “a few,” because besides financial concerns, if you live in a big city, you will find clients often want to use lawyers close to their home.
6. A Couple of Reporters.
This is a terrible time for journalists. Local papers are down to one or two “beat” reporters for law stories, and the pressure to cover cases and issues is immense. Reporters need help; they need sources more than ever. Reporters are generalists — they don’t know the details of court cases or legal issues that need covering. Get to know your local reporters. They’ll call you for ten stories and mention you in one. They’ll call and ask if you know anyone in another area. They’ll ask you if “this sentence” is accurate. They’ll be grateful when you email them that they wrote a great story or that they got the facts wrong, and they’ll call you when things are slow to ask if you have anything worth a story. When you file that big case, do you want to just send a press release, or send it after you’ve given the story to your new friend the reporter?
All the people I’ve mentioned above, they talk to lawyers all day. They can help you build your practice and your life, not only by the work they do, but with who they know that needs to know you.
Hope you’re enjoying the new iPhone 5.
Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.