Before we get into a discussion about the business of veterans law, let me make some candid points about the business of law in general.
Anybody can hang out a shingle and start a small law firm representing veterans.
There are so many resources available that it would be hard to fail at this endeavor.
Bar associations provide law firm startup kits.
An abundance of blogs and books and videos and webinars flood the internet.
In a country where tens of thousands of lawyers open a new law firm every year, the opportunity to learn from others is plentiful.
Starting a law firm is just step one, though, isn’t it?
Once you start your firm, you have to sustain it. Then you have to choose whether to grow it.
And if you are really good, you may want to scale it. I call these the 4 stages of law firm growth:
Stage 1: Start
Stage 2: Sustain
Stage 3: Grow
Stage 4: Scale
Those last 3 phases of growth command the least attention from the legal community.
Perhaps lawyers are too guarded about how they become successful.
After all, success in the law is often financial, and lawyers are notoriously uncomfortable discussing their finances.
A good portion of this is a "shame" element - somewhere along the way, it became tacky or shameful for lawyers to make a good living. A doctor can get rich in just a couple years because she helps people get healthy....but a lawyer who protects a client from personal, financial, or criminal ruin? Well, they're just greedy.
We know this to be the stereotype among judges - 5 years ago (in 2012), a judge at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims wrote this rhyme painting attorneys as money grubbers in a case involving the extent of the court's jurisdiction - there has been neither apology nor retraction (click here for the full poem at page 19-21):
The majority wets the vets' ammunition
by retarding their right to petition.
The undeniable effect,
a barrier they erect
to obtaining relief with expedition.
Oh, yes, I have read their tome.
But well enough should be left alone.
Precedent was not heeded,
a final decision once was needed,
but now it need not be shown.
For some the case is of import;
over the din, their voices report
lawyers shouting with glee: "We can now charge a fee
when before we would come up short!"
We all remember from law school how competitive the practice of law is, too.
We all remember the law student classmate that sent everyone an email saying, “Hey, I found Professor Smith’s study guide for his property exam, would y’all like to share it with me?”
Actually, none of us remember that. That law student didn’t exist.
In the “Practice Building” section of the VA Form 21 Blog, I will work to show you how to start, sustain, grow and scale a law firm. In a phrase, I will teach you the business of veterans law.
11+ years of experience.
Since 2006, I have grown my veterans' law firm from a small office I built into my garage in Dallas (all great businesses start in a garage, I was told) into a nationally recognized brand in the veterans advocacy community.
I’ve learned the business of veterans law from my success: I found ways to shorten the cash flow cycle for lawyers representing veterans, and grew my firm to include offices, attorneys and staff in 4 states.
Where most accredited VA attorneys were struggling to get decisions in 3-5 years, our firm was able to shorten our cash flow cycle to an average of 11 months.
I’ve learned even more about the business of veterans law from my failures, too: fast growth is unstable growth. Not every practice area can or should be scaled to a national level.
Over the last 11+ years, through all the success and the failure, I have come up with a business model I now use in my own practice to grow my firm each and every year.
The formula for success in the business of veterans law, simply said, is this:
Define my vision, then leverage relationships to build and scale my brand through calculated, methodical and unrelenting progress.
I am going to teach you what I’ve learned about the business of law along the way.
* Are you tired of winning cases for free? I'll show you the solution to that common problem.
* Need more predictability in your cash flow and revenue stream? I’ll share my “lessons learned” about profitability verse cash flow with you.
* Are you ready to eliminate inefficiencies in your prospect and intake process and start finding the clients you WANT to work with? That’s going to be a recurring theme on the VA Form 21 blog, to be sure.
We will talk about marketing your firm to get the clients you want and the cases that will sustain your firm.
We will talk about how to grow your firm, and how to build a team that can help you grow.
We will explore the newest technology available to lawyers out there - and how the internet and the cloud have leveled the playing field for solos and small firms trying to compete with the big veterans law mills.
We will meet some of the leading experts helping lawyers to build sustainable law practices: how to practice law without having to surrender outside interests or time with your family and friends.
I will review some of my favorite business and productivity guides and books, and share the resources that have enabled me to build a sustained law practice representing veterans without having to surrender my sanity, my soul, or my family time.
Whatever stage of growth your veterans law firm is in, I hope you benefit from the knowledge I share with you about the business of veterans law.
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