Why I Serve Lawyers ….

Whenever you embark on a transition of your company from one stage to the next, it’s important to reconfirm your why. Transition is hard. Far harder than you expect it will be.

It will bring up everything you’ve been working your whole life to avoid. Like your fear of being alone. Your fear of running out of money.  Your fear that there is something fundamentally wrong with you.  Your fear of … name it – transitioning your company from one stage to the next will bring it up. Big time.

As I take my company through a major transition from Stage 2 to Stage 3, I’ve had to ask myself why.

Why am I making this transition? Why not simply let it be?  Or why not move on to something else and give this intense, massive, taking everything I’ve got to make it happen energy to the two other businesses I’m growing?

It takes a HUGE amount of energy to jump from one stage to the next.

In this case, it has required me to replace nearly my entire team.

And through all of this transition, the same question kept coming up – why? Why make the transition?  And why continue to serve lawyers?

This second question  – why serve lawyers – has been asked of me by

… fellow marketers who insist they would never serve lawyers because they are too difficult to deal with,

… my own lawyer who advised me to get out of the lawyer market because lawyers are too difficult to deal with,

… my coach who has also worked with lawyers and says they are too difficult,

… and my banker who gently suggested it might be easier for me to focus on serving the general entrepreneurial market.

And so in honor of National “Be Kind To Lawyers” Day (which was actually yesterday, but I ran out of time to write this post yesterday), this is why I serve lawyers:

First of all, let me say this – there are a lot of lawyers I don’t like.  They are negative, unhelpful, mean, pessimistic, curmudgeonly, out to get as much as they can for themselves and pretty much the ones who give all the rest of us a bad name.  Those are not the lawyers I serve.

In fact, those lawyers, wish I would go away.

The lawyers I serve went to law school to help people.  They want to make a positive difference in their client’s lives.  They are lovers, not fighters.  They are grateful.  And giving.

They deserve to have a sustainable business model.

When I left the big law firm in 2003, I felt scared, lost and alone.  I rented office space from lawyers who had been doing it for 10-25 years and their lives seemed almost worse than the newest associates at biglaw.

They worked constantly and never seemed to get ahead.  Scrambling.

I prayed for a day when I wouldn’t have to worry where new clients would come from.  A day when I could quote my fees without feeling sick.  And that when I did, my prospects would get it.  Say yes.

Most importantly, I prayed for a day when I would feel really great about what I did.

Because for a long time, I didn’t.

I knew that the work I was doing was most likely going to be a waste.  I knew that the expensive stacks of paper my clients signed were just that – stacks of paper.

I knew that at the end of their lives or when they faced a lawsuit or in the midst of some other crisis, those documents wouldn’t work.

Why?  Because they were pieces of paper that oftentimes were out of date within weeks of my clients walking out of my office.

I wouldn’t hear from those clients again until something happened. Something bad.  And then, it was oftentimes too late.  My hands were tied.

I felt helpless.

I knew I could really help me clients if only I could be proactive.  A real counselor. I mean that’s why I had gone to law school, right?

But, how could I do that?  The business model had me constantly focused on bringing in the next new client.

I wanted to get to know my clients and help them make meaningful decisions throughout their lifetime.  But I wasn’t getting paid for that.

I was getting paid to draft documents.

I began to question my own value.  Which of course made it impossible for clients to value me.

So I told the clients my documents were better.  More customized.  At the time, I didn’t realize that’s something lawyers say, but is actually total B.S.  The more “custom” the documents, the more chance for error.

Then I began to talk about lifetime relationship.  Because it’s what I really wanted.

But when I looked around at the reality of my practice, there was no lifetime relationship.  I was a solo lawyer with one part-time team member and constantly trying to bring in my next new client.  Where was their room for lifetime relationship?

So, I began to give away my time for free.  When clients who had paid me for legal documents would call, I’d talk to them on the phone, hear their problems, make recommendations and not charge them.  Because it was only for a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

Those minutes began to eat up my life.

Then, I got resentful.  I was giving away so much for free.  So much value.  And yet I still had trouble helping clients understand why they should pay me double what they’d pay the guy down the street just providing a set of documents they could have gotten online or on QVC.

I knew something was broken, but I didn’t know what.  I just knew that I wanted more.  More for my clients.  More for my family.  More for myself.

I wanted to feel great about what I did.  I wanted to have time to spend with my family.  I wanted to make a deep and lasting impact in my client’s lives and for them to feel grateful to write me a check.

To make that a reality, I realized I’d have to change everything.  I’d have to build a business model that worked.  I’d have to buck the norms.  Go against the traditional advice.

I’d have to risk it all.

So, I did.  And as I was doing it and I was scared and I didn’t want to do it anymore and I wanted to turn back, I perservered because I wasn’t just doing it for myself.

What kept me going was thinking of the other lawyers out there, suffering as I was.

I thought of them and I kept moving forward.  I thought of them when I wasted money on things that didn’t work.  I thought of them when I cobbled together the systems and had to do it all manually and without anyone to show me the way for years. I thought of them when I invested huge money to learn from consultants, coaches, and other business owners outside of the legal industry.

And I thought of them when I figured it out.

The year I hit 7 figures of revenue in my law firm, had thrilled clients and I did it working only 2 days a week in my office, I thought of those lawyers, and their families and their clients.

It really was possible to have a law firm that really did make a difference for clients, that didn’t require me to work 6 days a week and that supported my family.

I couldn’t keep that to myself.   It’s too important.  For all of you who are currently working with lawyers who aren’t really serving you.  And for the lawyers who care.

So, that’s why I serve lawyers.


  1. Shelley DunstoneThursday, April 15, 2010 at 3:52 am 

    Hi, Alex. I like your “why”. I find that lots of people want to work with lawyers, because they perceive that lawyers must have lots of money to spend. But that is often not true at all. Lots of lawyers are not doing well financially, plus the work can be really soul-destroying. Makes a lot of sense to cater to a particular segment. I cater to the ones who are looking for more meaning in their career and life – who want to do more than make billable units, who are looking to use their unique abilities, not just do white-collar factory work. Good on you for working to improve people's lives.

  2. Steve SponsellerThursday, April 15, 2010 at 4:13 am 

    As a lawyer, I understand your desire to serve the legal industry. I've worked for big firms and have seen the problems those attorneys face. As you mentioned, the problems and stress often get worse with more experience. I know several senior attorneys with high billing rates – they are struggling in this economy. Lawyers need to look at alternate business models and different ways to serve their clients.
    It's nice to see you supporting the legal industry and providing some viable alternatives.

  3. CharlesSeymourJrThursday, April 15, 2010 at 3:09 pm 

    Great article, Alexis. The day my lawyer stopped an unscrupulous former vendor from stealing my database (and stopped his “bodily-harm threats), I stopped with lawyer jokes. So many of my friends who are attorneys work ungodly hours and deserve better… just as you say.

    So I studies attorney… and accountants, and therapists, and doctors, and other “professionals” and found many are in the same boat. Trading hours for dollars they are on the TimeTrap Plateau only glimpsing the summits of their careers and never getting to the DreamDestinations they once envisioned when starting the journey of their career.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have a few others in my new book (I sent Dave a copy of it yesterday) and wish the best to all professionals.

    Charlie Seymour Jr
    This link is to a free download to our new book (limited time only): http://bit.ly/agPT49

  4. drjimsellnerFriday, April 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm 

    Uumm. interesting judgements people have about lawyers as if they are some weird breed.
    After being a corporate psychologist for about 40 years Lawyers, doctors, CEO's, etc., etc., etc. are people too.
    So my judgement when i hearing people complaining about clients is, ta da! there goes another projection.
    Whenever i am having a difficulty with a client or beginning to get resentful toward him or her i go chat with my mentor to get my blinders removed.
    And to find out what incompetence in myself have I just exposed.
    And to find out what entitled, arrogant expectations do i have that are disrespectful to my client's humanness.
    Because … my assumption is, any negative (and sometimes +ve) emotional reaction I'm having with a client niggles away at my blind self.
    Thanks for the insights, Alexis.

  5. TheSotoLawGroupFriday, April 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm 

    Alexis, you do serve those lawyers who want to make a difference in the lives of their clients! I did take a huge step both professionally and financially when I jumped into my own practice, just months ago! Your guidance and mentoring has been wonderful. It has given me the confidence and tools to forge ahead.

    I appreciate all you do… you are making a difference in the lives of lawyers Thank you.

  6. alexisneelyFriday, April 16, 2010 at 7:49 pm 

    I love what you have written here. You have reminded me that everything I see is an external projection of my own internal consciousness. That's a helpful reminder.

  7. alexisneelyFriday, April 16, 2010 at 7:52 pm 

    DeDe, thank you. It's for lawyers like you that I do it. Your clients are so lucky to have you.

  8. lindahardyptMonday, April 19, 2010 at 8:34 pm 

    I live in Worcester County, MA and am in need of an honest, discretionary lawyer. Can you be of help in referring me to one. Thank you.
    Linda Hardy, PT

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