Why Lawyers Make Incredible Entrepreneurs

lawyer entrepreneur

I have been reading a lot recently about how lawyers make uniquely terrible entrepreneurs. How law school trains you to be successful in the legal profession but sets you up for failure in the business world. How everything that makes lawyers great at lawyering seems to work against developing and growing a successful business. These articles are making claims like

  • LAWYERS ARE RISK-AVERSE. THEY LIKE TO KNOW ALL POSSIBLE OUTCOMES BEFORE TAKING BIG LEAPS.

  • LAWYERS ARE USED TO OPERATING WITHIN CERTAIN PARAMETERS AND CAN’T THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.

  • THE DREADED “IT DEPENDS,” KEEPS LAWYERS FROM MAKING A DECISION AND STICKING TO IT.

It seems like the bottom line of each of these warnings is

Lawyers just aren’t creative

Maybe it’s just me, but these so-called challenges that keep lawyers from being highly successful entrepreneurs all read as strengths to me.

  • Lawyers are risk-averse says to me: lawyers do their research. They will take the time to fully develop a business idea, do the necessary market research, and build a business or a practice that directly solves their clients’ problems.

  • When I see “operating within parameters,” I think IRAC. I know, not the sexiest entrepreneurial skill, but knowing how to create a system that is replicable, scalable, and efficient is an incredibly useful tool for business owners. As an entrepreneur, you may often find yourself looking at a blank slate. Creation time. Being able to create and implement systems is an essential quality for a great entrepreneur.

  • We all know that saying. Ask a lawyer a “Yes or No” question, and they will always respond with “it depends.” Well, what’s wrong with that? I don’t see that as a failure of commitment. I see it as the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, step outside of habit or what has worked in the past, and re-evaluate. Another great quality.

So, I guess what I’m saying is No. No, I don’t think being a lawyer makes it challenging to become an entrepreneur. In fact, I would go so far as to say, lawyers make incredible entrepreneurs. Why? Precisely because they are outside-the-box-thinking, problem-solving creators. They have everything they need to be successful right from the get-go.

Which leads me to the question I have been thinking about a lot lately: why do so few attorneys choose to build businesses of their own? Whether solo practices, legal businesses, or enterprises outside of the practice of law, why isn’t entrepreneurship the norm? Certainly, I don’t think it’s a problem with the kind of people who become lawyers. As we just discussed, lawyers are actually uniquely qualified to be great business owners. So, what then?

Truly, I think it’s a challenge of communication. In part, it’s a problem with the way we talk about being lawyers. Another part is the way we talk to ourselves about being lawyers.

When we talk about the profession to outsiders or with our colleagues, the conversation tends to circle around a few narrow definitions of success: one that necessarily includes limited sleep, long hours, no vacation, and high-stress. If you worked through the weekend, even better. You must be on your way to success. When we talk to ourselves, the problem is even deeper. We tell ourselves we are never working hard enough, achieving enough recognition, billing enough hours, making enough money.

So, I’m going to issue a challenge to you this week. In the coming days, listen to yourself and to those around you. Make note of those conversations over a Monday morning cup of coffee when you compare how little you slept with a colleague. Observe how you describe your work day to your loved ones. Most importantly, listen deeply to the way you speak to yourself. Are you telling yourself that you aren’t smart enough? That you don’t work hard enough? That you don’t have enough experience? Are you focusing on all the reasons you can’t create, think outside the box, take a leap?

For now, that’s all I want you to do. Just listen and observe. Lawyers have all the tools to be great entrepreneurs. In future weeks, we are going to be talking about all the ways to leverage those skills to build profitable businesses you love. But until we can change the way we talk and think about lawpreneurs, we won’t be able to fully embrace how impactful these businesses can be. If you want to chat about what is holding you back, feel free to reach out to us or drop your thoughts in our Facebook Group.

Let’s start changing the conversation together and talk our way into lawpreneurship!

Megan Wakefield