Location! Location! Location! It's Not Just About Real Estate
Connecticut Law Tribune/Law.Com - August, 2005
One of my very first law students was a New York policewoman who left the police force on a disability pension. She was from a rural town in upstate New York, owned property in a small blue collar community with a declining population due to the loss of manufacturing jobs by the largest area employer. She was committed to caring for an elderly aunt and had to go back to her hometown. When we did a situational analysis it was actually an ideal environment for her to open a law practice. She took what would appear to some as lemons and made lemonade. She converted an old barn on her property into an office. The lone other attorney in town was older and close to retirement. Clearly, he couldn’t take on all business in town. By establishing a collegial relationship with him and becoming someone to whom he could refer cases, upon his retirement she may buy out his business. She is in her hometown, near her relatives, friends and those who know her best. This is where she has chosen to make a life. For her, this real estate is "prime" because it satisfies both her personal and professional needs for decades to come.
Before you can even make a decision about location, you have to fully digest and totally internalize three very important concepts:
First: You are the product. Clients are buying you, your personality, integrity, enthusiasm, compassion and commitment to advocacy. Once you truly understand the importance of the statement "You are the product" only then will you realize everything else is overhead, changeable, expandable, portable but most importantly, expendable. Your product and business travel with you, are an integral part of your persona and therefore, by definition, not tied to a physical location.
Second: 62% percent of your business will be referrals from friends, relatives and coworkers. Whether you realize it or not, all your life you have been conducting a marketing campaign. The people who know you best want you to succeed. They are proud to say they know a really great lawyer. They are the people who will forever be marketing the "product", you. They are your family, friends and coworkers past and present. The qualities which have attracted your friends, spouses, business partners to you and helped foster familial relationships are the very qualities which will encourage your friends, relatives and coworkers to refer their friends, relatives and coworkers to you when a lawyer is needed. Understand where your business comes from and market you, the "product" to this receptive and supportive referral base. You are marketing yourself twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Never forget this
Therefore, in the legal business it naturally follows location has little to do with securing the priciest real estate to impress people you have yet to meet. It has more to do with being in close proximity to those who already know you best.
Third: Successfully locating your practice has everything to do with achieving balance in both your professional and personal life. You need to select a location where you want to build a personal life or where you already have an established lifestyle for you and your family.
If you are like most people, you will ultimately choose to build this life close to those you have grown up with, whether relatives or friends. Start your practice close to your support system, emotional comforts, recreations, and pleasures.
If you don’t create balance and stay true to your definition of professional and personal success you will be like the 50 percent of all lawyers who leave the profession. The huge bonus you get working for yourself is being able to carefully create this balance.
Not everyone will have the freedom to choose the perfect location. Commitments, financial or familial, may force you to a location less than your ideal but no less workable for your overall goals. The rewards, however, of being your own boss will certainly outweigh any perceived shortfall in location selection. Remember, the key to selecting the right location for you is fully embracing the three concepts outlined above.
Susan Cartier-Liebel is solo practitioner, adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a business consultant for solo and small firms. She can be reached at SCartier_Liebel@comcast.net. Copyright © Susan Cartier-Liebel (2005) All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, transmitted, posted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of Susan Cartier-Liebel.