Legal Entrepreneurship: What Is It and How to Remain Authentic while Experiencing it
Legal entrepreneurship is a concept which started to appear frequently in the vocabulary of the legal startup ecosystem. And it is true that the first thing we think about when we hear it is How is it different from mainstream entrepreneurship? And is it really?.
There is no doubt anymore what entrepreneurship, per se, is, and what does it stand for. However, when talking about legal entrepreneurship, there are new things that we must consider.
We must take into account the fact that the industry is a very conservatory one, in which the concept of entrepreneurship hasn’t existed but recently. For years, lawyers haven’t even considered that they activate into a legal market. There were only them and the others. The legal market, as we know it today, is a result of the “intrusion” of entrepreneurship into an extraordinarily regulated profession, to make it more accessible to everyone. To reach the aim of the legal work, namely, to be a partner in creating justice for everyone.
In the beginning, entrepreneurship was criticised for being a threat to the legal profession. However, this specific behaviour is what gave power to the concept and created new characteristics around it. From this particular behaviour, the legal entrepreneur was born, with its own challenges to face, its own battles to conquer and its victories to win.
Precisely because of these unique qualities, being a legal entrepreneur today is not an easy task. In a continuously developing market, like the legal one, it is easy to lose yourself into the vortex.
Authenticity remains a powerful asset for an entrepreneur in general, and when we talk about the legal entrepreneur, it is even more valuable.
What is a legal entrepreneur?
Lawyers are, in general, known as professionals who look to mitigate risk and prevent things to happen when there are no clear limits. On the other hand, entrepreneurs go for it and want to make things happen fast.
A legal entrepreneur sits in the middle of these two cards. Usually descending from lawyers, legal entrepreneurs face themselves a challenge which comes precisely from this dichotomy.
Therefore, a legal entrepreneur distinguishes themselves from a mainstream entrepreneur by the forces they are touched. A legal entrepreneur must usually face rigid regulations, too old customs and archaic market behaviours.
On the other hand, we have seen recently technology specialists entering the legal entrepreneurship game or even persons with no link to the legal world, but which have identified a problem in the delivery of the legal services and access to justice.
Because, on overall, this is the primary purpose of legal entrepreneurship as we know it in the 21st century - to open up the legal profession to make the legal services accessible to everyone, through technology.
I've put together five thoughts, which I experienced, about what to expect down the road of legal entrepreneurship and how can one maintain their self-focus and not get lost in distractions.
1. Anyone can be a legal entrepreneur, but it requires will and continuous work.
Anyone can learn legal entrepreneurship; it is like craftsmanship. The more you practice, the more you learn. The more you experience it, the more you’ll know how to react.
However, entrepreneurs need to be ready to work with their inner self. Because if they haven’t been raised in an environment which provided trust and encouragement, the odds are that they might feel uncertain about themselves. They might think that they always need to prove something to the people around them.
The beautiful thing is that entrepreneurs don’t need to prove anything to anyone. All they need to do is care about their customers and listen to them.
The legal entrepreneurs must get used to the uncomfortable feeling of knowing that they don’t know everything. Entrepreneurship is a process of learning, where one makes their own decisions. And these decisions are the ones that are the driving force for an entrepreneur.
2. You need to develop a great deal of resilience, especially into legal innovation.
The legal environment is not an easily forgiving one. In the legal industry, we are taught that we cannot make mistakes. We are continuously repeated that even a slight mistake can cause a great deal of damage. In entrepreneurship, on the other hand, we need courage - the courage to try, the courage to test, the courage to go there and talk to people.
And as cool as it seems to want to change the world, the people from a well-established industry will always look with doubt to the one that wants to change the rules.
We must find our strength to move on, even in those situations. Because if there is something that a legal entrepreneur wants to change and bring novelty and righteousness in the world, no matter the time spent on it, and no matter what others are saying, it gives an enriching taste.
3. Collaboration is the key.
When a legal entrepreneur is new in the game, they might feel a bit lost (and most surely they will!). However, an entrepreneur finds their own way of acting and builds their own world around it. They use their creativity to bring novelty into the field, to disrupt it and show that it can be done differently!
In recently developed industries, such as legal tech, the shift of mindset is particularly resistant. And this is why pushing forward with a team is so much more spontaneous! It is not just getting the knowledge needed! Also sharing the encouragement and the excitement with the team contributes to a particular fulfilment!
4. You give value to others by hearing their needs and not by looking into what you want.
Legal entrepreneurship means leaning towards your clients - independent lawyers, customers, legal professionals, in-house lawyers, corporations, etc. - listening to their real needs and coming with solutions based on those needs.
Therefore, sometimes, lawyers who want to become entrepreneurs do also uncomfortable tasks, such as asking people feedback (yes, in a general manner, for lawyers it is tough to ask others what they think about their work).
Yes, we might love the law industry, and we are passionate about change. However, down the road, a legal entrepreneur will do many other things than law. Especially in the beginning, they do marketing; they do the administrative work; they do the sales process. It is not ideal, but it is how things go.
Because, if they wanted to just stick to the law, why wouldn’t they just offer legal services? If one wants to do only the things that they enjoy, they need to be a specialist in a settled domain, not an entrepreneur.
Learning new skills is the power of an entrepreneur.
5. Learn from the mistakes, be accountable for decisions and overcome challenges.
Failure is not the only path to success. What is essential is to learn from your challenges. Failing as it is, is not the key.
In legal entrepreneurship almost every day we face challenges. But being scared of making mistakes will not help overcome those difficulties. It is the way legal entrepreneurs answer to them that matters - the way they iterate business models, learn, make decisions and are accountable for their choices.
What is essential is to reflect on experiences and learn from them.
Because legal entrepreneurs are in charge of their course of action, so they need to take responsibility for what they decide. They are not anymore working for someone else that tells them what to do. As much as liberating, legal entrepreneurship comes with commitments and consequences.
Entrepreneurship should not transform our body into a vessel to success. It should help us to become better persons, healthier, wiser, with more confidence in our inner self. And the legal industry is no different. We have to start seeing legal entrepreneurship in a brighter light and shift our mindset towards wholesome legal entrepreneurship.
Ana-Maria Drăgănuță Briard
12 January 2021