How to Conquer Your Fear of Starting a Law Firm

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conquer fear starting a law firmWe are all afraid of something.  Personally, I am deathly afraid of snakes.  My wife hates spiders.  I know other folks that are scared of heights, water, etc.  The list is endless.  Heck, we even have a friend that is scared of cats.  CATS.  I’m not kidding. According to her, “you just never know what they are going to do…”  What does this have to do with starting a law firm, you may ask?

Well, it is ok to be scared of all these things.  Honestly, I have no interest at all in overcoming my fear of snakes.  But if you are scared of starting a law firm, and that is holding you back from taking action, then that can become a problem.

Before I get into the three steps you can use to conquer your fear of starting a law firm, take a couple of minutes to watch this great video of Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance.  This is a TED talk he gave about turning fear into fuel.

In order to conquer your fear of starting a law firm, you have to go through three steps.  First, you must identify and acknowledge that you have a fear that is holding you back.  Second, you must find a way to work through and process that fear.  Finally, you must attack the fear with action.  I will go through each of these steps in more detail below.

Identify the Fear

Before you do anything else, you must admit to yourself that you are afraid. It’s ok. We are all afraid of something or another. This fear typically manifests itself in procrastination, which keeps you from taking any action to move yourself forward. Next, identify in your mind the worst possible things that could happen. Take out a sheet of paper or open up a word processing document and make a list of all the potentially bad things that could happen that are keeping you from starting your firm.

Here are some examples that commonly arise:

  • I won’t get any clients.
  • I won’t be able to pay my bills.
  • My family will be upset that I left the “security” of my firm job.
  • I don’t know enough.
  • I’m not a good enough lawyer.
  • I don’t know how to market a law firm.
  • I’ll commit malpractice.

Once you have admitted to yourself that you are scared of starting a law firm, for one reason or another, and have begun to identify what those fears are, you can move to the next step of the process and begin to process those fears.

Process the Fear.

There are several ways to process the fear.

Write about the fear. Writing is one of the best ways I have found to process information. I’ve started using a writing program called OmmWriter on my Mac to help me get clarity and stay focused on my writing. You may want to try a technique that I use, called Free writing to start.

Talk about the fear to a trusted friend. If you decide to go to a friend with your idea about starting a law firm, I recommend you choose carefully. If you go to the wrong person, they may inadvertently reinforce your fears about starting a law firm, rather than encourage you to pursue your dreams. If you don’t have someone who you can talk to about this, feel free to fill out the contact form for my website – I would be happy to set aside some time to talk you through your fears and help you process them.

Visualize the worst case scenario. Think for a minute about what the absolute worst-case scenario is for you to start a law firm. What is the worst possible thing that could happen. Now visualize that scenario and how you would handle that situation.

Destroy your fear with preparation. One of the best ways to conquer your fears is to over-prepare. Before I started my first law firm in Florida, I spent the better part of a year developing a business and marketing plan for that firm. I wrote out the types of legal services I would provide, the expenses I could foresee, and how I would market my firm. I even put together a pro-rata income statement showing what my earnings would be for the first five years. I did best, worst, and average-case scenarios. I looked at the worst case scenario and determined that even if all my worst fears came true, I could safely afford to move forward with starting a law firm. Now, 9 years later, I am glad I did.

Determine what you don’t know and fill in the knowledge gaps. You don’t need to know everything about starting a law firm right now. And sometimes that is what holds us back – we are afraid of what we don’t know. But you can easily figure out what you need to know now, and learn the rest as you go.

Pull from your past successes. Let’s face it. If you are reading this blog and thinking about starting a law firm, you have had some success in life. You graduated college. You graduated (or are working towards graduating) law school. You have or will pass a bar exam. You have already had a great deal of success in your life. Now is the time to draw on these successes and accomplishments. Remind yourself how successful you have been in the past and use those successes to drive you forward. You’ve been successful before and you can be successful again.

Let go of that which you can’t control. You can’t control everything about starting a law firm. But there are a lot of things you can control. Go back to that list from step one and supplement it with additional fears you might have about starting a law firm. Divide this list into two separate lists – things you can control and things you can’t control. For the items you can control, create a list of things that you can do to take action and nullify those fears. For things you can’t control, you need to start to let them go. You can’t control everything.

Consider the opportunity cost of doing nothing. Picture yourself in five years. In one scenario, you are working at the same firm you are at now, doing work that you don’t enjoy, working more hours than you can imagine, making a ton of money for the firm but not nearly enough for yourself. You don’t have the time to take vacation, and you barely see your family. In the other scenario, your firm is growing. You work with clients that you enjoy and who value your advice. You work when you want on the files that you want. You can control costs and earn enough money to take care of you and your family, while still getting home for dinner at night and not working weekends. Many times the cost of not taking action and starting your law firm is much higher than the cost of taking a step outside of your comfort zone and taking that leap of faith.

Take action despite your fears.

The final step in conquering your fears about staring a law firm is to actually take some action. If you have decided that starting a law firm is what you want to do, the time to start is now. Decide what you need to do next, and do it. Once you start moving yourself forward, you will find renewed energy in your choice and will the world will conspire to assist you in overcoming your fears and pursuing your goals of starting a law firm.

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