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The best lawyers are often the most creative lawyers. But that doesn’t mean they are, or even want to be, labeled as “creative.” Creativity has a certain connotation to it — and it’s traditionally been a term associated with, well, creative people like artists, musicians and writers.But that’s changing. Creativity is an increasingly valued attribute in all fields and industries — synonymous with problem-solving and innovation.
It’s critical to think creatively and act creatively — not only to solve daunting legal challenges but also to market yourself and your law practice effectively.
Embracing your inner creative isn’t always easy. Logical, rather than creative, thinking is ingrained in us from the beginning of our legal careers. We are taught to think vertically, and work through a problem to a single solution. Lateral thinking, which involves coming at a problem from many different angles, doesn’t come as naturally for most lawyers. But it’s the type of thinking that is required for creative breakthroughs.
And there’s a lot of inertia in the legal industry. “Different” is frowned upon. Experimentation without judgment is rare. “Worrying” is a state of mind. Firms are managed by partners with differing views and committees that are slow to act.
But that doesn’t mean you must follow suit.
You may be apprehensive about thinking and acting creatively. That’s natural. You may assume you’re not creative. That’s common. There are many ways to express your creativity, but there’s one surefire way not to: Doing nothing. You’ll never know what innovative ideas reside within you unless you try.
Once you’ve embraced the idea that creativity is not a skill or attribute reserved for “special” people, start putting it into practice to build your practice.
Here’s an idea to get your creative juices flowing: Think like a beginner.
Eyeglass maker and creative juggernaut Warby Parker encourages employees to approach the world with a beginner’s mindset as a way to embrace curiosity and enhance creativity. This idea, inspired by Buddhist principles, is that while companies are made up of groups of experts who have solutions to problems at their fingertips, sometimes it’s better to think like a beginner who has questions that may lead to better, newer solutions.
Lawyers spend their careers working toward expert status, but adopting a “beginner” mindset can bring a fresh perspective to your practice.
Just because you’ve always billed by the hour, sent a card at the holidays, and published that quarterly newsletter doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do so in the future. One of the best ways to find out what clients want is to ask them. Experts often think they have all the answers. Beginners like to ask lots of questions, so think like a beginner once in awhile.
You have the power to unleash your inner creative. Start small. Take some risks. By harnessing your creativity, you’ll stand apart from the pack. And in the legal industry (naysayers be damned!) that’s a good thing. By bucking the status quo, you can create an interesting and profitable practice that makes you indispensable, rather than expendable, in the minds of clients.
You can go from being one of many to one of a kind.
Jay Harrington is co-founder of Harrington Communications, where he leads the agency’s Brand Strategy, Content Creation and Client Service teams. He is the author of the new book, “One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Law Practice,” and he writes weekly dispatches on his agency’s blog, Simply Stated. Previously, Jay was a commercial litigator and corporate bankruptcy attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Foley & Lardner. Follow him @harringj75.
Almost every lawyer wants to command higher rates and attract more clients. But many are stuck perusing ineffective strategies. Others don’t even know where to start. In his new book, lawyer-turned-legal marketer Jay Harrington lays out a path for lawyers to build a profitable practice. Grab your copy from the Attorney at Work bookstore and get practical advice for building a more profitable practice!
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