I announced Wednesday that I’m launching Blue Maven Law, LLC, a boutique law firm that will focus exclusively on small business mergers and acquisitions, while remaining with Evans & Dixon, L.L.C.
This post explains why I decided to start my own firm and what I hope to accomplish.
It’s no secret that the legal services industry is undergoing significant changes. The prevailing law firm model is under tremendous pressure: A number of well-known firms have folded. Experienced and effective lawyers have found themselves out of a job and looking for work. Equity partners have been de-equitized. Non-equity partners and associates have been fired. Secretarial ranks have been thinned. This is the result of the recent deep recession; it’s also the result of business reality forcing itself upon a reluctant profession.
Over the years, I’ve shared some of my views about the business of law, including that The Billable Hour Is Bad for Your Soul and why lawyers are so expensive. I’ve even discussed my desire for law firms to have real brand names. In short, I think there’s need for improvement in how legal services are delivered and marketed, how lawyers are trained, and the economic basis of how clients are charged.
Looking at things from a “business of law” perspective, I want to accomplish three things with Blue Maven Law: (1) establish marketing clarity, (2) allow business lawyers to thrive in their area of expertise, and (3) effectively train lawyers. I also want to put the firm’s economics, including how clients are charged, on a more rational basis, but so much has been written about that elsewhere that I won’t expand upon it here. Suffice it to say that the firm’s economic model won’t be centered on the billable hour.
Establishing marketing clarity
As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s difficult to match a client with an attorney who would be the best fit. An efficient market would funnel matters to attorneys who have the most appropriate experience and ability. But I don’t think that happens very often.
Probably the two most common ways business people find attorneys are asking people in their network for referrals and searching the web. Most people know at least a few lawyers, but they probably don’t know much about those lawyers’ true areas of expertise. And they most likely know very little about the expertise of the lawyers they don’t know. So if you ask someone for a recommendation for a good lawyer, what are the odds that you’ll end up finding the best lawyer for the job? And if you search the web, you’ll find yourself slogging through the nearly incomprehensible bullet point lists and blah blah blah that are the standard fare of law firm websites.
My solution is to create a firm that is highly focused with a laser-sharp marketing message. If I can successfully execute my strategy, Blue Maven Law will be very good at one thing and every communication to the market will convey a solitary message: “We’re the best legal-services provider for small-business M&A deals because we’re effective and user-friendly, and our fees are rational.”
Allowing business lawyers to thrive in their area of expertise
The law is vast and it’s complicated. No one knows it all. I practice in a handful of areas and have to rely on my colleagues for all the other needs my clients have. A lawyer’s competencies are like the layers of an onion. In the middle are the lawyer’s true competencies where he or she does truly good work. Outside of that may be some areas where the lawyer can function adequately with extra research, input from others, and the like. Outside of that? Malpractice.
My work is the most fulfilling when I’m operating within my core competencies. I also think that’s when I’m most effective and the best value to my business clients.
Blue Maven Law will give lawyers whose core competencies involve doing mergers and acquisitions the opportunity to thrive — to accentuate and improve upon their strengths and to truly deliver value to the firm’s clients.
Effectively training lawyers
Law firms have largely abandoned training lawyers. Law schools have never really tried (mostly they merely teach the law rather than teach lawyers how to practice law). Lawyers learn by doing — haphazardly — the hard, slow, and ineffective way. On-the-job training via the school of hard knocks is valuable, but if that’s the only training method applied, lawyers will not be trained effectively, or at least not efficiently. It’s an incredible waste of potential.
If I can successfully implement Blue Maven Law’s strategy, the firm will develop a purposeful, focused, and effective training program to teach lawyers the law that is important to M&A deals as well as how to effectively assist clients with buying and selling small businesses.
Will I be successful at establishing marketing clarity, allowing business lawyers to thrive in their area of expertise, and effectively training lawyers? Only time will tell. Ideas are only valuable when they are effectively executed. I’ve created what I think is a winning concept. Now it’s time to execute.