Sans titre (15)

[#SERIES] Profession: Entrepreneur lawyer #1

Profession: Lawyer and businessman – The definition of his offer – #1

On the occasion of a series of several articles, Maître Chloé Schmidt-Sarels, user of Jarvis Legal, tells us about her vision of the lawyer, an entrepreneur above all. 

avocat entrepreneur

Presentation and introduction of Master Chloé Schmidt-Sarels.

After graduating from CAPA in 2012, I did not want to practice as a lawyer at all. So I started my professional career as the legal manager of a start-up company.

After a very enriching experience, a need for autonomy and a certain nostalgia for public law led me to settle down as a liberal lawyer.

But what to do? Having never been through the collaboration box, I still had this crazy idea to set up my own account.

The few internships I had done during my studies in Paris were far from what I expected as a new lawyer in a city that could be described as a judicial desert and within a very small bar (100 lawyers, 300 times less than in Paris: another world!).

No experience, no clientele, no network: was I going to be one of those lawyers who hang up the dress after a year?

To get out of it, I had to get out the oars and adopt a sort of entrepreneurial approach.

Even if this is tending to change, I regret that the term « entrepreneur » is not necessarily in the DNA of our profession.

However, it seems to be one of the secrets to the success of our older brothers and sisters. This is how Corinne Lepage responded to a journalist who asked her if she should manage her law firm like a business leader, that she did not know « how those who do not do it do it ».

This sentence clicked in my mind and guided me a bit.

This is why I am happy to be able to share my experience as an entrepreneurial lawyer.

I am therefore proposing a series of articles that I hope will help you succeed in your installation, whether or not you have been a collaborator.

I will share with you my state of mind and my state of mind, the way I have defined my offer, the communication levers, the management tools that make my daily life easier and the way I manage the financial and administrative part.

Defining your offer, the first essential step

You’ll see, the clients will choose you », « You’re going to have to take all the files that come in« , « You’re going to have to take all the files that come in ». These are the benevolent and/or worried comments that some of my colleagues have made to me.

In spite of my limited experience, I knew why I went to law school. I also knew what I couldn’t and especially didn’t want to do. It was out of the question for me to go into criminal, commercial, labour law.

I had not set up as an independent lawyer so that my clients could dictate my choices.

So I told myself that I would do everything to make sure that the cases I dealt with would suit me and that my activity would not be shaped by my clients but by me, in the service of my clients. So I decided, step by step.

The first questions to be asked are: « who am I and what drives me? what is my initial training? ».

Who am I? What drives me?

The idea of practicing in urban planning and environmental law quickly came to me.

Shortly before I moved to this small town located in a semi-rural area in the midst of massive urbanization, I had become very aware of the environment and had made a (nearly) zero waste shift in my daily life.

As lawyers, in all areas, we are lucky enough to be able to sometimes put ourselves at the service of causes (or people) that will give more meaning to our profession.

Each one of us necessarily has something that is close to our heart and that could give a particular color to at least part of our activity by allowing it to differentiate itself. By the way, this coherence is a good way to be happier every day and more efficient 🙂

What is my initial training? Do I need to deepen certain aspects?

Up to the master’s degree, we are all generalists. We specialize a little at the master’s level. Obviously, my training in general administrative law, followed 6 years earlier, would not be enough to allow me to practice in urban planning and environmental law.

As soon as I settled in, I therefore decided to train in rural law by taking a university degree and then to go further by taking a second master 2 in urban planning and environmental law.

These trainings gave me self-confidence, opened many doors and made me meet great people.

Differentiate yourself

A precise and specialized offer sets you apart. It will reassure you as much as it will reassure the customer.

The time of generalist lawyers is over. Increased competition and the growing technicality of many subjects simply no longer allow it.  Let’s not forget that the cases we accept involve our credibility and our responsibility towards the client.

Once the « dominant » for your firm’s activity has been defined, go further, detail it: by type of case (advisory or litigation), by type of client (companies, individuals, local authorities, associations…).

We are fortunate to be independent. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to choose the area that best suits us and that we are most interested in.

Of course, it will then be a question of making sure that your desire answers a request or a need! I will talk about it in my next article


Leaving the Liberal collaboration and settling down in 5 steps

The lawyer is increasingly mobile in his career and there are now as many practice methods as there are profiles of lawyers. While some choose to install individually, others prefer to create a structure with colleagues, if not with other regulated professions (as part of an EPS). Finally, other lawyers choose to pursue a career in a firm and, eventually, to claim the association.

If for a very long time the classic scheme was to « do his classes » for a few years in a firm, the new generation of lawyers who arrive on the market seems to want to emancipate themselves and settle down as a lawyer more quickly. However, it is necessary to ask the right questions before installing.

Anticipate your installation as soon as you collaborate

The installation anticipates and often involves a lifestyle change for a lawyer. Leaving a comfortable fee transfer is a risk that many lawyers fear, especially if they have not been able to develop their personal clientele within a firm.

In order to overcome this fear, it is necessary to prepare its installation since its collaboration. The aim must be to gradually detach oneself from the image of his firm and to assert his own identity and skills. Thus, the first step may be to create a clean website with own offers before settling down. This allows:

Build your offer and differentiate yourself

The arrival on the market of other players (legaltech, accounting experts, associations, etc.) requires lawyers to build a solid and differentiated offer before settling down. Indeed, the lawyer can no longer simply « lay down his plate » and put forward a classic legal expertise.

Formalize the needs of your customers and your target and build an offer that meets their expectations.

Instead of highlighting general legal expertise on your website (areas of law), try to package your services and problematize your areas of intervention according to the needs of your clients. Also, don’t hesitate to offer online services and automate low-value-added tasks in order to save time and be price competitive.

Finally, a firm can be as innovative in the ancillary services that the lawyer can offer to his client, for example:

Mobilize different communication levers

In order to sell its services, it is necessary to be identified and identifiable in the market. A communication strategy involves mobilizing different channels to showcase its expertise.  

– First of all, a minimalist approach is to register on a platform for connecting lawyers and clients. There are now about ten linking platforms, each with specific features. Some platforms charge the lawyer, others do not. Registration on a platform allows, at a minimum, to be referenced on the web and generate a few calls. Thus, the analysis of existing solutions on the market seems to be an indispensable first step in preparing its installation (in this sense, see the video « Find a (good) lawyer #1 (battle of legaltech) »).

– Then, it is necessary to have a proactive approach on social networks. These new media allow you to create a community (1), generate a lead base (2) and improve your SEO (3). The goal is to be identified as a specialist around one or more expertises. The first step is to analyze the behavior of its target (individuals, professionals, etc.) and register on the most relevant networks in order to reach them. If LinkedIn is the professional network of choice, we should not underestimate the strength of other networks like YouTube and Instagram. A proactive approach on networks involves publishing content very regularly, whether from the background (articles, infographics, videos) or storytelling (intervention at conferences in particular). Post at « peak times » in each network so that your publications have the most impact and feel free to collaborate with other professionals by tagging each other in each publication. Highlight your ecosystem and it will return it to you!

– Finally, don’t hesitate to offer free content to your community. The time invested in this process will validate your expertise and will be a product of appeal in order to offer your services. In order to have a return on investment, the proposed content must be quality (1), accessible (2) and innovative (3). First of all, your content must be legally supported because it is the basis of your credibility in the market. In addition, the content must be educational in order to be understood by all litigants (avoid « notwithstanding » and other legal legal turns). Finally, offer a format that goes off the beaten track. Many lawyers are exploring new formats such as legal design infographics (Kristina Lazatian), Podcasts (Elise Couintet) or even youtube videos (Arthur Sauzé). These formats will be better referenced than traditional articles. Offer to send your content to your community via a newsletter to build up a lead file.

Organize to work effectively

In the first months of installation, it is rare to have fixed and closed offices. Many lawyers choose to start working in coworking spaces dedicated to lawyers, partly with a colleague and generally multiply the trips. This mobility requires the lawyer to have access to his files and documents all the time while protecting his clients’ data. Thus, a private cloud solution with local replication is ideal for being autonomous, mobile, perfectly secure and non-internet dependent.

In addition, automating a number of low-value-added tasks (for example, billing) saves a considerable amount of time in case management.

Build customers and follow your matters

Generating customers and turnover is often painful a lawyer who settles down because this commercial dimension has not been envisaged at the University and the EFB.

The first step, once defined its positioning and established its business plan, is to rely on its network. Your personal and professional relationships are your first support and know many potential prospects. Help them, inform them, explain to them what you are proposing.

Also, a simple solution to generate customers is to outsource files. In fact, small structures often face an overload of files and are looking for young colleagues to outsource files. Outsourcing is a way to maintain a minimum level of remuneration, while benefiting from the flexibility of the installation. Such a solution limits the tedious phase of prospecting and directly has a few customers.

Above all, have a 360-degree view of your prospects and adopt an organized business strategy. Register all your prospects, communicate your offers and don’t hesitate to relaunch them.  Using SaaS business development solutions (e.g., Nomination) helps identify opportunities to connect with prospects that matter to you and engage the relationship. Once your first leads are converted into customers, follow them and catch up frequently to identify new needs.