Lawyerly Lessons: From '$0 to $1,000,000 in 2 Years' (Part I) - Strategist
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Lawyerly Lessons: From '$0 to $1,000,000 in 2 Years' (Part I)

I'm a sucker for articles that tell you how to make bold, hard-working moves and get rich quickly. Though it rarely happens this way, part of the "American Dream" is that a person's reward should be proportional to the work expended.

These entrepreneurial articles became even more appealing when I graduated law school with an immense debt load and no job prospects whatsoever. And though FindLaw saved me from despair (and keeps me filled with granola bars!), I'm still inclined to click on any title on a reputable blog that promises riches for the bold and brazen.

That's how I discovered "How To Go From $0 To $1,000,000 In Two Years" on TechCrunch. It's not a "buy gold in the Caribbean markets" scam. It's simple advice pulled from the tale of the founder of Braintree, a credit-card processor to the currently-trendy startups. That advice, despite originating in start-up companies, could equally apply to those hanging shingles.

Bryan Johnson was a manager at Sears. Oddly enough, he was unhappy with his job. He took his past experience as a salesman in the credit card processing business and used that to line up a few start-up clients before leaving his job and setting up shop full-time. Within two years, he had made $1 million. Today, his company processes over $8 billion in transactions per day.

So folks, here is that advice, reframed for a legal context:

Rule No. 1: Take out the middleman. Today, you work for a another lawyer. You handle cases, start-to-finish, yet only take home $70k. How much does the firm (and its partners) take home? That's one middleman. If you've already opened up shop, client referral services, contract work, and online lead generation services are other middlemen that will take a hit from your profits.

Sure, you might be struggling to find clients initially, but your time is likely best spent in building a marketing presence that will pay off long-term instead of handling bargain rate cases with high referral costs.

Rule No. 2: Pick a boring business. I can think of no practice more exciting than startup company law, or negotiating movie contracts. To date, I've reviewed four entertainment contracts since graduation -- and all were unpaid favors. Paying clients, and regular clients, come from bread-and-butter practice areas, like divorce, criminal defense, or immigration.

Rule No. 3: Get a customer! Johnson didn't quit Sears until he had a customer base. Keeping in mind non-competes and the drama that could ensue if you solicit clients while working for another firm, if it's possible, have a few clients before you leave. Also, be prepared for the grind: it isn't open doors, get rich. It's open doors, work harder.

That's the start - but it's not the finish. You see, there are seven rules pulled from Bryan Johnson's experience. We'll have the remaining four pieces of advice for you tomorrow.

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