If you love the legal profession as I do, nothing beats the actual practice of law, to the point that one can forget sometimes that a law practice is also a business. But there is no getting around the fact that law is simultaneously a business and a profession. If you run your own law practice, it’s essential to stay on top of the rapidly evolving business landscape of the 21st century.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a lot of valuable business guidance between the pages of books, particularly concerning how to anticipate and benefit from change. Here are some of the publications we recommend to lawyers who are committed to staying on top of the game as the century races onward to tomorrow.
“The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services” by Richard Susskind. This is the book that catalyzed my thinking about the future of the practice and how lawyers need to adapt to evolving technologies, the internet and a sometimes tumultuous economy. In fact, this is the book that led me to start the Attorneys Creative Roundtable. I think “The End of Lawyers” should be required reading for every law school student. And, don’t forget Susskind’s follow up book, “Tomorrows Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future” which describes a new legal world of virtual courts, Internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice. Both books are must reads and should serve as guides for lawyers looking to build a business for the future.
“The E-Myth Attorney: Why Most Legal Practices Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael E. Gerber. In this book, “the World’s #1 Small Business Guru” applies his E-Myth theory to lawyers, stressing the importance of systems in a law practice. There are any number of components in a practice that can be systematized, which not only reduces costs, but also creates a better client (read “customer”) experience. As a follow up, we also recommend Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited.
“StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Tom Rath. Many solo practitioners are forced to open their own practice just to survive and often have no sense of strengths and weaknesses. An old lawyer once told me that a solo practitioner is an unemployed lawyer. This books helps you identify the areas in which you excel and improve those in which you are weak.
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Two visionaries discuss how technology is increasingly affecting our economy and the way we do business. As a result, we need to closely examine our business paradigms and adapt new rules that will keep every person economically viable in a time of increased automation.
“Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think” by Peter Diamandis. You won’t find this book on any other lawyer reading list. Diamandis’ book talks about the exponential escalation in computer speeds and how this technology explosion is creating new opportunities.
“Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means” by Albert-László Barabási. An expert in the emerging science of networks, Barabási takes us on a compelling voyage to show that social networks, corporations, and living organisms are more similar than one would initially think. He then argues that this knowledge can help us improve our business structures, as well as improve the lot of humanity in general.
“The Cluetrain Manifesto” is a compendium of blogs by several authors that examines how the Internet is a new marketplace that offers a unprecedented freedom of expression. This disruptive cyber forum forces businesses to listen and converse with customers on a real level or face business extinction.
“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell. A popular best-seller, “Outliers” may also be one of the best business books ever written. From his unique point of view, Gladwell explores why some business owners succeed, but others never reach their potential. What is it about their background and families that allows them to thrive? Gladwell believes some people have hidden advantages that propel them to high achievement.
“Traction” by Gino Wickman. Zooming in on the most common bad habits of entrepreneurs – such as piling on too many tasks – Wickman offers six key components for running your business more efficiently. This book provides a framework that can help a lawyer quickly get to a better place as a manager.
“The Goal” by Eliyah Goldratt. The late Mr. Goldratt is well known as the originator of the theory of constraints. In a departure from the self-help format, the former physicist lays out his relatively complex topic in the form of a thriller. Goldratt’s “bottlenecks” principle applies to virtually type of business and the novel is a fun-ish read.