Part 1 – Weathering the Storm: Tips to Managing Your Legal Practice

December 16, 2011

It’s always hard to change course and steer in another direction – especially when it comes to a career. Sometimes we just get stuck in a rut and don’t proactively make a change; we just let our days continuously play out like déjà vu all over again.

As a crew member on a sailing team during my law school days in Chicago, I sailed many races on Lake Michigan. I sailed in calm waters and in storms. However, I learned how to adjust my sails and to effectively change course depending on the conditions.

Just like a tempest on the open seas, the current economy is dictating that we will all probably face change sooner rather than later.  As evidenced in news sources daily, the continued economic downturn is impacting the way small law firms conduct or maintain their law practice. Although we are seeing a slight uptick in the economy, firm layoffs and consolidations, if not firm closings, are still unfortunate common occurrences.  So how can you and your small law firm adjust to stay afloat?


Merrilyn Astin Tarlton’s article “Figuring Out Your Place in the Race”, published in the American Bar Association Law Practice, presents innovative solutions for law firms given the current recession. In this feature, Tarlton states, “Competition will define the future of law practice. Getting ahead of the pack will require difference, not sameness. Think innovation, not precedent.”  To that, Tarlton offers seven new business models for enterprising lawyers to reinvent themselves and the way they practice.  

The seven new business models include the “Virtual Firm”, the “Retail Firm”, the “Legal Line”, the “Teaching Hospital Firm”, the “Firm’s Firm”, the “Drive-Up Mediation Firm”, and the “DIY Firm”.  Her article is complete with the pros and cons of each model and also gives clear suggestions on how to get started.

Speaking of innovation, try WestlawNext free for two weeks It’s the next generation of legal research…equipped to navigate your practice out of the current economic storms.

Check back next week for Part 2 covering more tips to stay afloat – diversify your practice and alter your course altogether.