10 best books to read before starting your own law firm

If you surveyed 1,000 attorneys, I’d wager that 999 of them have fantasized about starting their own law firm at one time or another. The appeal is understandable. With your own firm, you can choose your own clients, set your own hours, and reject all of the policies and procedures that drive you crazy with your current employer.

That said, if you surveyed 1,000 attorneys who actually started their own firm (myself included), I’d wager that 999 of them found it was much harder than they anticipated. That’s not to say the experience isn’t worth it. With the right preparation, running your own firm can be both lucrative and rewarding. So, how do you prepare for something like this? Well, it never hurts to read a book (or 10) before you hang your own shingle.

Here are our top 10 book recommendations for those of you clamoring to start your own law firm:

#1: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

By Phil Knight

What does starting a footwear company have to do with practicing law? At first blush, not much. That said, Phil Knight’s detailed and sometimes-excruciating memoir of his rags-to-riches creation of Nike is a must-read for anyone looking to start any kind of business. There are many lessons to be learned here: from the benefits of failure to the rewards of taking risks. Told in a light-hearted, relatable tone, Shoe Dog can make just about anyone a believer in the power of entrepreneurship.

#2: Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits

By Michael B. Rynowecer

Many of the books on starting your own business (including law firms) are filled with personal anecdotes and useful fables meant to inspire the reader down a path to success. Not this book. In Clientelligence, Michael Rynowecer instead shares the details of his research and interviews of 14,000 C-Level executives. He turns all of that data into practical tips on everything from rainmaking to avoiding mistakes in dealing with clients.

#3: The Rainmaking Mindset for Attorneys: Attracting Clients, Winning Business and Increasing Profits

By Liz Wendlin

This book is a shot in the arm for those who want to start their own law firm but worry that they don’t have the skills to become a rainmaker. According to author and business development coach Liz Wendlin, anyone can learn to attract clients. Like any great coach, the author not only shows readers how to develop new business, she also acts as a sort of personal cheerleader along the way.

#4: The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide For Lawyers Who Hate Selling

By Julie A. Fleming, JD

Two rainmaking books back to back? Is this necessary? The answer is a resounding “yes” for a couple of reasons: (1) your law firm won’t last if you can’t bring in clients; (2) many of the personalities that wish to start their own firm (introverts, bookworms, etc.) are also the folks who are the worst at business development. Author Julie Fleming’s book is for those who disdain the very thought of it. She provides readers with a step-by-step guide that allows them to build a game plan that fits their individual needs.

#5: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What to Do About It, Michael Gerber

Author Michael Gerber and his E-Myth methodologies have been around for over 40 years. While this book is aimed at small businesses generally, he also has a guide specifically for lawyers (see The E-Myth Attorney). So why are we recommending this one? Quite simply, it is a great guide for understanding how small businesses work and, perhaps more importantly, why they fail. Start with The E-Myth Revisited for a general understanding of how to grow a business from a concept to a thriving entity, then turn to The E-Myth Attorney for fine-tuning of your law practice. Best of all, if you like Gerber’s strategies, he offers consultants around the world who will help you grow your business beyond your wildest dreams.

#6: Will It Fly? How to Know if Your New Business Idea Has Wings … Before You Take the Leap

By Thomas K. McKnight

This is a great book to read when you’re just starting to gather ideas about your new law firm and how it will differentiate itself from the thousands of other law firms across the U.S. In Will It Fly, McKnight offers a detailed assessment for everything from analyzing your own fitness for starting a business to developing an exit strategy if things don’t pan out. As lawyers, we’ve been taught to always be prepared. This book will prepare you for the wild roller coaster that is starting your own law firm.


#7: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

By Eric Ries

Many people know author Eric Ries as the voice behind the popular blog Startup Lessons Learned. He’s so popular, in fact, that his methodologies have been described as “somewhat of a movement.” Ries advocates for looking at old problems with fresh eyes. The book is a homage to this idea and will hopefully inspire creative legal readers to bring innovation and inventiveness to the practice of law.

#8: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

By Atul Gawande

In my humble opinion, this book is good for everyone in every business. Written by surgeon Atul Gawande, the book celebrates efficiency, consistency, and success through the use of simple checklists to guide everyday tasks. While it may sound boring, Gawande makes his point through memorable storytelling that leaves readers clamoring to create their own checklists.

#9: Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

By Seth Godin

This is another one of those books that is great for anyone starting any business. That said, it also has particular usefulness for attorneys starting their own law firms. Why? Well, because in The Purple Cow, author Seth Godin makes the case for how you can stand out when you’re competing with a million other people offering the same products or services as you. Sound familiar? When you’re done with this book, you should probably also subscribe to Godin’s blog because his daily tips on marketing are nothing short of genius.

#10: Alternative Fees for Litigators and Their Clients

By Patrick J. Lamb

One of the most wonderful things about having your own firm is that you don’t have to be locked in to the old, tired billable hour model of practicing law. Lamb does a good job explaining different types of fee arrangements and how they work for different types of lawyers.

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