How to Create Your Blue Ocean in Law. Overcome Your Fear of Finding New Customers.

Are you afraid the legal market is already full of successful entrepreneurs? Feel like they have already invented everything and have all the customers?

Great news. You are not alone. Fear of finding new customers is a massive barrier to budding entrepreneurs. It may not seem like it, but the world is big enough for everyone. Especially you, and your dream of leaving big law and starting your legal business. Have you heard of the blue ocean? I’m going to talk about it. It’s not woo woo. It’s strategic and written just for you.

The competition is fierce. You lack resources. How can you compete?

Many lawyers feel having your own business means competing with the big players. Compete or die. It is survival of the fittest.

It is a very conservative way of thinking about entrepreneurship and success. It creates a scarcity mindset where running a business is a zero-sum game. To succeed, someone else must fail. Disruption means destruction.

Let me tell you that this is a myth. It is a self-limiting belief.

My friend, it’s keeping you stuck in the jungle.

Yet there is another way to do this. An approach called the blue ocean. Where creativity, imagination and abundance are the order of the day.

So what can you, an ordinary lawyer do? The one without the big-law firepower or money. But huge dreams of her own law business.

How can you compete?

Where can you find new customers when you feel like all the opportunities are gone?

 

Make your competition irrelevant

The secret to winning is to make the competition irrelevant.

You are not signing up for the competition. You are finding your niche, your customers and your unique way of serving them.

In strategy books, we call this: creating your blue ocean. That means you can find your branch where other law firms have not even thought to look.

There is no need to change the rules of the game or the logic of the legal industry, but you do not have to follow them either. You can come up with your own rules and rationale. And thrive.

Most companies are swimming in the red ocean, fighting for survival amid constant pressure from their competitors. The blue ocean businesses are those that do not yet exist, waiting on discovery.

Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim changed the world view with their bestsellers: Blue Ocean Strategy and sequel Blue Ocean Shift. The books provide concrete steps for finding your blue sea, as well as many case studies on inspiring businesses who have built their blue oceans.

If you want to leave big law and start your own legal business, pop these gems on your must-read list.

It starts with crushing the self-limiting beliefs and the fear.

Here are the three shifts in perspective that Blue Ocean Shift recommends for you to start your new business:

1. Look outside of the legal industry

Ready? Grab a box and put your existing legal industry mindset inside and hide it in the top of your cupboard. You will not need it.

Why? We are not going to follow the examples offered by existing law firms. It may sound strange. You might think: if you want to do something well, look at the experts in the industry. They are successful. It seems natural to look to them for inspiration. But we won’t.

In the legal industry, we all know (and often suffer) the traditional, entrenched ways of doing business. A cookie-cutter approach: how they operate, what they look like, the services, and how they serve their customers. These law businesses exist thirteen a dozen. All exact copies of each other. You know how they look. How they smell. All very austere and quiet. And very intimidating for the little person on the street. You were probably scared on your first day as well, right?

The market in these legal businesses is very crowded. The legal machine is a red ocean, full of bloody competition for the same customers.

How could you ever find your place there? No stress. Because you do not need to find your position there, no need to even try. If your dream is to leave big law and be the lawyer you want to be, why would you start repeating what you dislike? Don’t let an existing dysfunctional culture determine what you do.

See the shift in your perspective happening? Start looking for inspiration outside the legal industry. What is the logic in other sectors? How do they innovate and serve customers? What could you learn from them?

This shift will move you from competitive thinking to creating your new niche. You do not need to think about competing against anyone or replacing anyone, because you are serving a whole new market. A market that has not even existed before.

Workbook cover - 4 steps to start your business without leaving your day job

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4 steps to start your business without leaving your job

2. Ask the customers who reject the legal industry

When you are unsure about how to design your business and services, ask customers. But not just any customers. You want to ask the customers who don’t use the legal industry.

Because if you ask for advice from customers who use traditional law firms, they won’t give you solid answers. They will likely replicate what already exists. Their feedback will drive you to compete on price and do more with less: traditional competitive, red ocean thinking.

Focus on the customers who are not buying legal services. Why don’t they buy it? What is their frustration? What should change in legal services for them to buy? Boom. You have found your hidden treasure.

As I wrote in my earlier post, there is a potential market of billions waiting for you: Legal Market of Billions is Waiting For You.

It’s a scary fact supported by research, look at for example the reports of Global Insights on Access to Justice. The majority of people and businesses do not buy legal services even when they need it. So the potential is enormous. Go and ask them! Imagine the niches you can fill. There is an ocean full of customers who are turned off by the traditional model. Think of the pain points you can serve. You’re getting closer to your niche, my friend.

Turn those customer pain points to your opportunities. Their unserved needs open limitless prospects for your own law business.

3. Let go of the trade-off between value and cost

The third shift in perspective is to break the value-cost trade-off. You separate the value experienced by the customer from the cost of the service.

Most of the law firms out there think the cost of legal service is something they can’t influence. The value experienced by the customer correlates to the cost of providing the service. In law, this usually means the number of billable hours. Following this same logic, it’s impossible to provide a valuable service to a customer at a lower cost.

Traditional industries and companies follow this rationale and are stuck with it. Value and costs are inherently connected. In the legal world, this is the billable hour business model. More value means more hours, that is, more cost.

This is not true.

So why would you want to continue being a cog in the traditional model?

Why would you sell your customers time when you can sell them value? Think about it for a minute. Why would you sell your customers time when you can sell them value? It’s a game changer.

If you want to know how you can kill billable hours, check out my previous post here: How to Productize Your Legal Expertise and Kill Billable Hours.

Next step? Gear up your confidence and head to the next level

Running a legal business is not only analytical thinking, decision-making, and cold strategic moves. The roadmap and an idea of your destination are not enough. The confidence to act according to your plan is the key.

Do you dare to see what doesn’t exist yet? It is an inspiring and terrifying thought. I get it.

Entrepreneurship evokes all kinds of emotions, tremendous fears and internal blocks. The journey to entrepreneurship is one topsy turvy, endless roller coaster. It’s normal (and fun). Enjoy the ride, because I am here to support you.

The secret ingredient in your blue ocean strategy is you and your people. As a whole, with all your emotions and human reactions. Fears are a natural part of you and your journey. They prove you are an authentic person: human and approachable. Not to mention, a good decision-maker. Because you understand you make the most important decisions with your heart. Not with your head.

I’ve written before about finding your people, you can read more here: Unlock the Secret to Finding Your People When Taking the Leap from Big Law.

Your own business starts the same way you eat an elephant. One-piece at a time. The same as learning anything else, entrepreneurship is less daunting when you break it into small digestible steps.

Taking smaller steps is much easier than taking a bungee jump into the abyss. And baby steps allow you to build the self-confidence and faith you need to create your beautiful blue ocean legal business.

I can see you swimming in blue water. You look fulfilled and happy.

Want to know how you can get started today? Download my free workbook that will guide you step by step on how to get started on making your dream come true.

Workbook cover - 4 steps to start your business without leaving your day job

FREE WORKBOOK

4 steps to start your business without leaving your job

Image of Hannele Korhonen Legal Designer

Who’s writing?

Hi, I’m Hannele. I am an ex-corporate lawyer, legal designer, pioneer in legal tech, serial entrepreneur and blogger.  I am the founder and teacher in Lawyer’s Design School.

I’m here to teach you new skills and mindset of legal design to thrive in the future of law.

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