Are You an Entrepreneurial Attorney?

By | Aug.23.11 | Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Management, Legal Careers

Even though you went to law school and have spent your career so far practicing law, the truth is, you actually run your own small business—regardless of the size of your firm. And while you may like to think of your practice as a runs-itself enterprise, your long-term success depends on your ability to think and act as an entrepreneur (in between practicing law, that is). Take Mike O’Horo’s quiz to assess your entrepreneurial comfort level.  

What Do You Mean by “Entrepreneur?”

Let me ask, are you an entrepreneur? As lawyers are fond of saying, “It depends.” Okay then, first, what do we mean by the term? Here are definitions from various sources:

  • “… a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and accepts full responsibility for the inherent risks and the outcome of a product.”
  • “… an innovator who establishes a new business … strong beliefs about market opportunities … willingly accepts a high level of personal, professional and financial risk.”
  • “… the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control, with confidence that you can succeed, with the flexibility to change course as necessary, and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”

What do you think? From my perspective, looking at lawyers and law firms, it seems almost too easy to draw some conclusions about whether or not you are entrepreneurial. For example, I’d have a hard time calling most lawyers in large firms entrepreneurial. There, you are essentially an employee and your only real risk is getting fired, which is no different than with any other job. Granted, you do take emotional risks whenever you step outside to try to make a sale, but still. If you practice solo, on the other hand, it seems you have to inherently be an entrepreneur. It’s your capital, everything is at risk and you definitely have to set your own course.

But what of lawyers in law firms with five or 10 or 20 lawyers? Or 50? Is there really a bright line? Or is it all about individual lawyers and their personal approaches rather than firm size?

Here’s a short quiz, based on information from The Entrepreneurs Guild (yes, thankfully, there is such an animal), that will allow you to assess your own entrepreneurial tendencies.

The Entrepreneurial Attorney Quiz: Agree or Disagree?

While there are obviously shades of grey, for the purpose of this quiz just see if you mostly “agree” or “disagree” with the following statements:

  1. I’m great at and enjoy networking.
  2. I’m optimistic about positive, successful results.
  3. I need to do it my way.
  4. Results derive primarily from my own behavior and actions.
  5. I thrive on innovation.
  6. The most important thing is achieving the goal.
  7. I have a plan, and work my plan.
  8. I’m comfortable with change, ambiguity and uncertainty.
  9. I’m self-motivated.
  10. I’m a risk-taker.

In early 2010, the Guild reviewed and categorized the first 10 pages of Google search results for “Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs.” The first 38 articles yielded an unwieldy 318 unique characteristics. Helpfully, the Guild distilled those to the 18 most frequently cited. If you found that you mostly disagreed with the quiz questions above, you should look at this list of the top ranked and rated traits and skills of successful entrepreneurs, and then explore ways to become more comfortable with the behaviors of an entrepreneur. It makes a difference.

Mike O’Horo is a serial innovator in lawyer training. Over 20 years he has trained more than 6,000 lawyers in simplified sales processes by which they have generated $1.5 billion in new business. His current venture, RainmakerVT, is an interactive virtual business development training tool for lawyers. Earlier, he developed ResultsPath, the an integrated sales training program and TeamPath, a litigation-analogous people-process program. Mike can be reached at

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