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- by Stephen Gustitis
How does the criminal defense attorney maximize their professional career satisfaction and earning potential? By thinking and acting like an entrepreneur. An entrepreneurial worldview includes the development of long-term plans for business development and the implementation of those ideas. So, the sooner we adjust our worldview, the sooner we can begin taking charge of our professional destinies!
I’ve never met an entrepreneur who didn’t want to enjoy more business success. A Bryan-College Station criminal defense attorney is no exception. However, to experience more business success we must learn to think strategically. “Strategic planning” is what the business gurus call it. And although being a good lawyer is important, it’s not enough. Many great lawyers are not good entrepreneurs and fail to strategically plan for success. If you aren’t also a good entrepreneur, you’ll never reach the earning potential and career satisfaction you aspire to achieve.
Fundamentally, strategic planning means thinking about where you’ve been, where you want to be, and how you want to get there. But what about the 24-hour day? There are only so many hours we have to invest in business development. We have only so much energy for the day-to-day tasks of lawyering, administering a practice, and enjoying a personal life away from the office. Nonetheless, all good entrepreneurs strategically plan. Consequently, the criminal defense attorney must begin to commit resources to their strategic business plan.
Understanding the varied and interrelated aspects of the business of law takes some years to decipher. First, we consider the marketplace and identify our competitors. Sometimes we don’t want to admit we’re in competition with our best friends. But believe me, they know they’re in competition with you! So what are they doing better than us? What’s our reputation in the marketplace? How do our fees compare? Are we charging too little, or too much? Who are the market leaders and what are they doing best? Do we have the right employees? Are we paying competitively? Are we using technology to our advantage? Are we getting work completed efficiently and effectively? How is our client service and how can we improve? What about marketing and our effectiveness in closing the sale? Where are our true talents and are we using them to best advantage? It’s a lot.
When thinking strategically we organize and prioritize our focus. For instance, we concentrate on improving 1-2 issues each business quarter. We generate realistic goals for improvement of systems and office procedures. Maybe we spend the time learning more about the Internet and how to optimize our law practice website. Maybe we commit to obtaining more positive online reviews from satisfied clients. We carve time from our busy days to learn how to more effectively close sales. Books written by selling masters, like Zig Ziglar, are invaluable. Maybe we create systems in our criminal defense office to provide more consistent customer service and to reduce mistakes and oversights. Simply committing to returning phone calls more quickly can boost our reputation in the marketplace. The list goes on and on.
The point is identify business issues, plan to improve, and then implement those ideas. Including others who have an ownership stake in the firm can help with accountability and motivation. A team approach is really fun. Monitor progress and communicate with others. But whatever you do, begin to think and act like an entrepreneur. It will improve your bottom line and your long-term career satisfaction as a criminal defense attorney.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.