Melting Brains: The Agile Attorney, Part 1

I have four homeschooled kids right now. Often, when I want to discuss an issue with them, I use the Socratic method. I’m nicer about it than the dude from Paper Chase, but it still drives them crazy.

My kids call it “melting brains.” It definitely makes them think, but they usually feel like I put them through the spin cycle. After a day with John Grant (who I’ll tell you more about later), I feel about the same.

We touched on a lot during our full day meeting, and I’ll keep writing about it as long as it’s in the front of my mind. Today, I’ll let you know a bit about the experience and why you should hire someone like John (preferably John) as soon as possible.

Caveat: I really like John Friggin’ Grant, so I’m totally and completely biased. You’ve been warned.

You Need To Step Back

We all get caught up in the daily activities of our law firms. A full day meeting with John took me away from it all and allowed me to think about what I’m doing.

Often, we adopt the business models of lawyers who’ve gone before and barely question what we’re doing. Often, however, we’re not very happy with the result.

Why do we keep going with a system we feel isn’t working? Maybe because we don’t know how to make it work, or maybe because we don’t think we deserve for it to work. For me, it was the latter. I’ve accepted for too long that I can’t run a practice the way that I want, that misery is just inherent in the business and I need to get over it.

This is not an uncommon sentiment. The Curmudgeon Crowd on Twitter (ask me sometime and I’ll let you know who that is) often derides young attorneys for [*gasp*] wanting to be not miserable. Suffering is the mantle we wear, basically, and to expect otherwise is to misunderstand the job.

There certainly is some of that. We aren’t selling snow cones in Tahiti. This is a hard job, and customers pay us a lot specifically because it’s a hard job.

But what if it’s more about the business model we’ve adopted? What if our “roll with it” plan is the problem?

John’s method is to cut back to the essentials of the work you do and to ask what of it helps clients and helps you. It’s like pulling all of the junk out of the closet before sorting it and putting it back correctly. John will get rid of some of the junk, and much of it he’ll help you reorganize and prioritize.

This Is Not Your Model

Throughout the day, John questioned why I do things the way I do. We started by identifying what I want out of this thing and what clients get from me. We broke down a process for a single product, giving me the tools to design every step of my customer experience. And then we talked about how to get more clients through the door.

We designed a business model from the ground up.

In fact, we talked about business models a lot. During one long exchange, we talked about what we get from law school. He said that they don’t give us a business model in law school. I disagreed and said they do, it’s just a poorly defined business model that we’re not sure we accepted.

A fundamental distinction I try to help lawyers draw is whether they are a freelancer or a solopreneur. A freelancer is someone who “takes cases,” someone who really is the product; a solopreneur is not the product, but provides vision and planning and market communications.

Neither position is better, but acting as if you are one when you are the other, or blurring the lines between the two, can really mess you up.

As with most lawyers, I’ve been mixing the two roles. We do it that way because it has long been that way, like the country lawyers who “read law” and take cases. But then we read stuff that tells us we are entrepreneurs and put pressure on ourselves to do Facebook ads or hire a bunch of people so we can “manage.” This role confusion really hurts us.

I told John that I wanted to stop being a freelancer and start working as a solopreneur. I want to build a “law business.” I needed John to help me design that.

If you want to be a freelancer, don’t let anyone make you feel like that’s less (or more) than the solopreneur approach. But you’ll hire differently, you’ll collaborate differently, and you’ll measure success differently. These are the hard choices John can help you with.

You Need Accountability

It probably sounds funny for me to hire a law firm coach, as I’ve done some coaching myself. Because of my background in logistics, I have a good grasp on systems and can make solid plans. But John is helping me implement, which is so much more important.

When I asked John to help me with some coaching, he didn’t hesitate. He said, “Oh yeah, you need a you for you.”

What he meant is that, even though I know what needs to be done, I need someone like me to make sure I get it done. A smart pest. I couldn’t imagine anyone better for that than John Grant (I promise that’s a compliment).

John came to my town to break down what I do, why I do it, and how I should do it better. He used the Socratic method to help me arrive at my own answers. And we’ve mapped out a follow-up process in the coming months to make sure I stick with my action plan.

You probably feel like you know what you need to do in your firm. You certainly feel like you should know what you need to do. It’s very un-lawyer to ask for help and to admit ignorance. We fake it til we make it as a professional habit. But you can’t hold yourself accountable.

Get someone like John to come help you. He’s smart, insightful, and really cares about whether your firm succeeds or not. That comes through every time.

Who Is This John Grant Guy?

First, let me say that I’m getting paid nothing to promote Mssr. Grant. I just really like him, and I know he’s smart. And I like you and you’re smart and I want you to connect. It’s that simple.

You see, John is my kind of people. As a logistics guy, I draw the analogy between supply chain management and law so we can learn from smart businesses. John’s just gone all in, even becoming known as the Agile Attorney.

Let me be clear here: there are a lot of fake lawyer gurus. They use terms they don’t understand to advise things they’ve never seen work. I hope it’s not too bold to say I know what the heck I’m talking about because of my pre-law background, and I can say with confidence that John knows what the heck he’s talking about. “Agile attorney” is not just a tagline to sell you stuff. There’s meaning there.

So what does John do? Here’s the answer from his site: “My mission is to help legal teams harness the tools of modern entrepreneurship to build profitable, scalable, and sustainable practices.”

That’s big. Probably too big to get your brain around. And it’s only sort of true. The truth is that John meets you where you are and helps you take the next step. Not all the steps, and not skipped steps, but the next step.

Just talk to him. Seriously. There’s absolutely no harm in it. In the next few days I’ll share with you some of the things we discussed together and you’ll see how mind-melting he can be. I know you’ll be inspired to do better, and I hope that’ll make you check with the source.

Here’s John’s info:

Twitter: @JEGrant3



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