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How to run your law practice like Sir Richard Branson

How to run your law practice like Sir Richard Branson

He might not look or behave in a lawyerly like manner, but Richard Branson can teach lawyers a thing or two about how to build a client base, write Louise Woodbury and William de OraWhen you…

He might not look or behave in a lawyerly like manner, but Richard Branson can teach lawyers a thing or two about how to build a client base, write Louise Woodbury and William de Ora

When you think of Richard Branson, you think Virgin. Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Records. Virgin Cola. But you probably also think of Sir Richard shimmying down the bed sheets from a cage suspended high in the air. You might think of him driving a battle tank into New York's Times Square to declare war on Coca-Cola and Pepsi. You might think of him (a little reluctantly) doing a "Full Monty," dropping his pants to promote the launch of Virgin Atlantic in Canada.

Branson has made an art of the outrageous. But behind the publicity stunts are good business decisions, albeit often risky ones that usually pay off. He is the head of about 400 companies giving him a net worth of £2.58 billion or $4.2 billion or... does it matter? He's incredibly rich.

At first blush, there seems to be nothing in common between this crazy-ass knight and you, a staid lawyer. Think again.

Branson describes himself as shy and reserved, an image at odds with the public persona we know. Which is exactly the point. He has to push himself to give speeches, to shave his beard and squeeze into a wedding gown, to jump off a hotel roof. He does it because he knows the publicity is far better than any advertisement. Far better than doing nothing.

The same is true for lawyers. Why? Well, take a look. You work hard, you take good cases. And clients are beating down your door to hire you, right? If not, keep reading.

Think about some of the famous attorneys, like F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz, Johnnie Cochran. How do you even know about them? Because they took on high-profile cases. But also because they seek attention. And because they seek attention, they land high-profile cases.

It's true for all lawyers. The more you promote yourself, the more clients you will have, the more selective you can be and the higher fees you can charge. In other words, publicity = money. So how can you unleash your Invisible Branson?

Well, you could risk your life by flying across the Atlantic in a hot air balloon. You could ride a camel across the desert. You could hop in a submarine and go to the farthest depths of the ocean.

“It’s true for all lawyers. The more you promote yourself, the more clients you will have, the more selective you can be and the higher fees you can charge. In other words, publicity = money”

Louise Woodbury and William de Ora

I know you're thinking, I can't do any of that. I'm a lawyer, not a stuntman.

So, you could take a somewhat less risky approach and still get results. Take a page from Branson's book by writing one. That's right: write. Write a book about what you know - practicing law. By now, you know at least a little about the topic. The best thing you can do is to position yourself as an expert. Talk about the latest developments in your field. Share your expertise. Do it in the way that is most comfortable for you. Don't look at it as just self-promotion, but as a way to educate your peers and the general public.

Write your book, then promote it. Give talks about the subjects in your book, and build networks with others in your field. The more you do so, the more others will start to look to you as an authority. Your book, and your name, will come up in search engines, and you will have greater exposure for your practice.

You're the only one who can do this. And once you put yourself out there, people will start to come to you. TV reporters will be clamoring for interviews on celebrity cases. OK, that might take a little more work, but you have to start somewhere.

You could also take some notes from Branson about the way he runs his 400-plus businesses.

Branson has made an enemy of convention. He believes you have to take huge risks to reap huge rewards. This is why he bought an aging railway (British Rail). It is why he took on British Airways by starting a new, and perhaps better, airline. It is why he spat in the face of Coke and Pepsi and came up with his own cola. It is why he is taking people on space holidays with Virgin Galactic. At the outset, his business ventures seem foolish, even suicidal. But perhaps we all need a little Branson within us to succeed.

So, think huge like Sir Richard. Step outside your courtroom. Look up to the highest building and imagine building a giant waterslide from the top window to the ground, on which you will slide down in a Speedo with your firm's name on your backside.

You don't want to seem ridiculous. After all, you're a serious lawyer. Be serious about your work.

But in promoting what you do, think of shy Richard splitting his pants as he plays Spiderman. Think of him as a blushing bride. Think of him dropping his drawers. All of this seems outrageous, but you know who he is.

And if you've always had a secret yearning to flash people in public, Full-Monty style, go for it. You'll certainly get publicity. And hey, if you get arrested, at least you know a good lawyer.

Louise Woodbury and William de Ora are the authors of The Invisible Branson: The Definitive Guide To Becoming A Business Rock Star

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How to run your law practice like Sir Richard Branson
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