This week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about whether you may be suited to take a less traditional attorney path as an entrepreneurial lawyer.
I don’t watch a ton of t.v. shows. But, one show I never miss is Shark Tank. I love seeing innovative new products and learning about price elasticity, franchise models, or advisory shares. I like to read business magazines, and I’m always tinkering with new business ideas.
After years of watching Shark Tank and reading business publications, I’ve noticed that a lot of businesses are founded by lawyers. It makes sense. Lawyers have a certain skillset that lends itself well to founding businesses. And, lawyers also tend to rise to challenges and be quality problem-solvers.
Could you be the next great legal entrepreneur? Here are signs you might make a great business-founder:
Entrepreneurs tend to like to be in control. How often have you worked for someone else and wished you could be in the driver’s seat? If that’s the case, then you probably have already considered starting your own business. Keep in mind, however, that being in control may be appealing, but once in control, you would also be responsible for all of the overhead, problems, and issues. Being in control has its pros and cons.
With any business, there will be ups and downs. There are busy seasons, and then, there are seasons of scarcity. The economy may be up one day and down the next. Clients may rave about how you handled one case, yet disparage you for a different case. And, as much as you may want to be in control (see above), there will always be situations (like the economy) that are out of your control. Going into business for yourself and staying happily in business for yourself requires resiliency to manage the ups and downs.
Founding your own business takes a great deal of confidence. When you work for someone else, the success or failure of that business is someone else’s responsibility. But, when you step out on your own, the entire fate of the business is ultimately up to you. The person who can take on that kind of responsibility is one who must be confident.
It is undeniable that as an entrepreneur you will face challenges regularly. Often, when you go into business for yourself, you are the first and only person who is able to solve those problems. To successfully manage those conflicts, you will need to be a superb problem-solver. Part of your legal training prepares you for this. As lawyers, our job is to consider the worst-case scenarios and help our clients prevent those situations. For example, when you draft a contract, you need to think about the issues that could arise so that you can draft terms to prevent those issues. Entrepreneurship is similar. Consider the pitfalls proactively so that you avoid them altogether.
Strong People Skills
As an entrepreneur, you will likely spend a lot of time on your own, particularly if you have a solo practice or if you aren’t able to bring any employees into the business until the company gets off the ground. Even though you may not regularly work with other employees, as an entrepreneur, you need to have exceptional people skills. The idea that you work for yourself is really a fallacy. As a business professional, you work for clients, customers, or others who employ your services or purchase your products. Bad people skills could mean bad reviews or lost customers. But, good people skills may help get you better deals, land major accounts, or otherwise have greater success in your business.
Good With Money
This one probably goes without saying, but it’s important enough that it should still be said. No entrepreneur could be successful without being able to properly manage money. A business that spends more than it earns will not be open long. But, your law degree can help you take this skill a step further, because you are trained to understand things like changing tax laws. Using your legal skills to stay up to date on financial policies will help you manage your business’s finances even more successfully than the average entrepreneur.
Is Entrepreneurship Right For You?
Only you can know if entrepreneurship is right for you. It’s important to assess the foregoing qualities of successful entrepreneurs and determine if you feel you possess some or most of those qualities. Also note that these are just a few of the qualities that help an entrepreneur become successful, and no business professional possesses every single one of the ideal entrepreneurship qualities.
That being said, your law degree does give you some advantage over other entrepreneurs. Three years of law school trains you for thinking analytically and critically, which helps you anticipate and solve problems, a key skill for any entrepreneur. Think of other ways in which your training might lend itself to a successful career as an entrepreneur. Between your training and your own personal skillset, do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?