Up until the Great Recession, if you were warm, breathing, graduated from law school, and passed a Bar exam, finding a relatively good paying job as a lawyer was almost a given.
This was true even if you didn’t own a professional wardrobe or couldn’t spell the word. These were decades of explosive growth in Law – in “Big Law’s” huge firms of hundreds of lawyers, and even small town law offices.
Like French farmers force feeding geese to make foie gras, there was a feeding frenzy among law school admissions officers. More and more students were admitted, everyone assuming there would be jobs for them after graduation.
“What mattered were numbers, ever increasing tuition, and hiring more faculty. For years I warned that we were doing our students and the profession a disservice, but I was patted on the head like a child and ignored,” the, now retired head admissions officer at a “Top Ten” law school told me, on condition of anonymity.
“When the economy took a nose dive, thousands of recently minted lawyers across America were lucky to find a job at a McDonalds,” she added.
The Making-of-a-Lawyer Mold was Shattered
“The public equates passing the bar and being sworn in as an attorney as a badge of competence, but in reality that’s far from the way it is,” observes attorney Anthony Geraci of Irvine-California based Law Coaching International.
“Law Coaching?” you are probably thinking, “Is this anything like hiring a life or business coach – someone who helps us navigate the challenges of daily living, or starting and running a business?”
Geraci answers in the affirmative and explains why there has been so much interest in coaching services for lawyers who are not doing as well financially as they would like.
“Unlike health care, where students work with real patients, law students are rarely exposed to the practical aspects of lawyering–the business realities–and that’s what takes place after graduation,” he points out.
“Apprenticeship – the historic path to learning how to practice law–evaporated in the Great Recession. Mentors who would teach the crop of new hires how to practice law were no longer able to do so, when clients refused to pay for the time to educate green lawyers in the skills of this profession.”
A Need to Fill a Gap that Law School Created – Lack of Business Skills
Graduating Chapman School of Law in 2005 and passing the bar on his first try, Geraci developed an expertise in non-bank, real property lending, and his Irvine-based firm grew to over 20 lawyers. Then, one day a phone call from a friend changed his focus.
“I was asked to help him with his law practice as he lacked the skills to reach his economic potential. He did not understand how to acquire clients in this internet age, the concept of being a rainmaker, of actively seeking out clients. And he was not alone.”
“This was a gap that law school created, and unless you figure it out yourself or learn under a senior partner who has those marketing skills, you will stare at your phone and wonder why it is not ringing. Law school does not train you in how to start or run your own firm. That’s the bottom line, and it is something that a law coach can help remedy with a lawyer who is willing to follow advice.”
Finding a Lawyer Today is Far Different than in the Past
Geraci observes that the way new clients find a lawyer today “is vastly different than at any time in the past, when it was by word-of-mouth and referrals from friends.”
Where is the first place we go to find a plumber, an electrician, physician, you name it, often it’s by going online.
“And that applies to the law as well which raises a new challenge to young lawyers starting out. A website is obligatory, but that’s only a beginning,” he underscores, adding, “and you need to accept the fact that possessing a Bar Card is only an invitation to get out there and market yourself.”
For lawyers, as with any occupation, it takes a certain amount of humility to admit that help is needed to build a practice. “Before hiring a legal coach, you’ve got to admit to yourself, ‘I don’t have all the answers,’ and for many lawyers, that’s a difficult statement to make,” he concludes.
It is clear that Geraci, like other legal coaching professionals, is on a mission to give what amounts to a “Marketing Transfusion” to those lawyers who see themselves as not reaching their potential. His website is lawcoaching.com and is well worth the time to study.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.