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Letter to the Editor: Real change involves business-building skills

Dear Editor:

In reference to “Culture Change Needed,” VLW, Sept. 11:

It is sad that so many good and skilled lawyers find the practice of law so stress­ful that their very health is adversely af­fected. I strongly encourage everyone to read the full report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, which can be easily found and downloaded from the Internet. Sadly, the report does not go far enough in its recommendations as it virtually ignores a prime reason for lawyer distress: the inability to actually build and run a profitable business.

For solo and small firm lawyers, one can achieve happiness, health and wealth when they figure out a number of important things for themselves (i.e. what their own purpose in life is; what legal work fulfills them; why they de­serve to be noticed in the market) and then learn to master general business principles like marketing for clients and cases that interest them, how to create systems that allow much of the practice of law to “run itself,” thus freeing up the lawyer to think, how to develop a firm culture that embodies that of the owner so that everyone is sailing in the right direction; how to hire and fire to create a team that can deliver a terrific customer experience; how to manage money in a way that won’t leave the firm high and dry, and how to create a base of raving fans who will evangelize for the firm, thus virtually eliminating the need for traditional (and expensive) advertising.

Some of the best (and least stressful) practices in the country are run by law­yers who routinely look at what other great (non-legal) businesses do to get and keep customers and say “how can I borrow those good ideas and use them in my law practice?”

Get these skills down and you can’t not be happy with your practice and your life. Regrettably, while lawyers can get CLE credit for attending seminars on topics that have absolutely nothing to do with their chosen practice areas, no credit can be obtained for a course which “primarily focuses on marketing techniques, client development or other general business topics applicable to any business.” (MCLE Reg. 103(c)(1)).

Sorry, but this is just dumb.

True culture change in Virginia will come only when there is recognition that general business building skills are at least as important as those nec­essary for the actual delivery of legal services. After all the “best” lawyer is no good if he/she can’t turn the lights on.

Benjamin W. Glass III Fairfax