Personal resources to improve your business competency

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Published on 7/17/06

This column often refers to "The Business of Law"® -- running a law firm in a professional, businesslike way. Many attorneys have difficulty with this concept because their training never provided or reinforced it. History and political science are typical undergraduate majors for lawyers, few law schools offer any kind of business training, and business education courses don't apply to CLE requirements.

Even so, if you want to strengthen your practice by improving your business competency, there are a variety of paths you can readily pursue on your own.

The Internet

Online resources include the many programs, publications and materials of the American Bar Association and the comprehensive online education programs found at the West Legal Education Center, which compiles business and legal education programs of the Practicing Law Institute, National Bar Association and many others.

General business programs and materials are available through the American Management Association, The Conference Board and the Professional Services Management Association.

Business schools

A growing number of university programs are targeting lawyers for "executive MBA"-style courses. Seyfarth Shaw, which has an office in Boston, sends partners to a three-day custom "Executive Education" program at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, while The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has developed a comprehensive business curriculum for lawyers of Philadelphia-based Reed Smith. Business schools around the country can customize similar corporate executive programs for law-firm use.

Leadership books

Creative approaches to businesslike thinking can be found in these books, which are recognized classics on the kind of innovative conceptualizing any professional can do to make an organization more successful:

  • Harry Beckwith, "Selling the Invisible" (provides basic, practical strategies to improve the bottom line in any business by perceiving and fulfilling a client's every need);

  • David Maister, "Managing the Professional Service Firm" (offers the classic exposition of how skilled managers combine true professionalism and bottom-line thinking);

  • Jim Collins, "Good to Great" (uses rigorous research and invigorating teaching to show how even the dullest of organizations can excel);

  • Jack Canfield, "Power of Focus" (gives you the success principles necessary to hit your business, financial and personal targets);

  • Alan Weiss, "Million Dollar Consultant" (shows how consultants can raise capital, reel in new clients, set fees, accelerate growth and achieve $1 million in annual revenue);

  • Blaine McCormick, "Ben Franklin, America's Original Entrepreneur" (applies the bottom-line thinking of Franklin's autobiography for modern times).


I've explained previously how one-on-one coaching can help any attorney have a more successful practice. Many coaches are available. If you have an interest in coaching services and resources, check out my blog (, which has links to numerous coaching resources.