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The Happy Lawyer bears the tag line, “How to gain more satisfaction, suffer less stress, and enjoy higher earnings in your law practice.” Who doesn’t want that? The book is a quick 188-page read, full of exercises to help clarify the practice and the clients that will allow you to create a satisfying practice. It then continues with suggestions on how to create that practice once you’ve identified it, how to attract the clients who will appreciate your efforts, and how to engage in a happy practice. The bottom line is not terribly surprising, though I like the way it’s presented: to be a happy lawyer, figure out what you like about practice and then find ways to get more of that.
Schreiter identifies several key concepts, such as:
– Finding the “Seeds of Satisfaction” (what’s right in your practice?)
– Identifying “YES! Clients” (what kinds of clients do you enjoy representing?)
– Claiming an “Arena of Preeminence” (in what areas of practice are you or would you like to be an expert?)
– Creating a plan to regain control of your practice (define and develop your ideal work/life balance and financial outcome, then determine how to get there)
– Attracting a sufficient number of “YES! Clients”
– Building trust with clients by using “Breakthrough Communications” (delivering exceptional client service based upon excellent client communications skills)
The benefit of Schreiter’s approach is that he identifies in broad strokes what a lawyer must have to be a happy lawyer, and he then offers a path to personalizing those broad desires for each reader. Since every lawyer will find different parts of practice satisfying, different kinds of clients fulfilling, and different areas of expertise appealing, there are no shortcuts to the answers.
The exercises are the backbone of the book: there’s little point in purchasing this book unless you intend to complete them. If you’ve ever considered coaching to support your developing a satisfying practice, this book is a nice middle ground. And if you’ve purchased this or a similar book and not done the exercises (which are important but not urgent, to use the prioritization framework I describe in 5 Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys), you might consider engaging a coach to help provide accountability and reflection so you can get to your answers.
For those of you who are beginning to work on business development, the questions Schreiter asks are foundational to knowing how to market yourself. Though The Happy Lawyer is not designed to teach rainmaking skills, it’s worth noting that “happy lawyers” (as Schreiter describes them) are likely to be better rainmakers. That’s primarily because knowing what kinds of clients you’d like to represent in what kinds of matters defines who your targets are. A secondary factor is that “happy lawyers” who apply Schreiter’s approach to client communications are likely to deliver high-quality legal services and thus to get repeat and referral business.
In summary, if you’re just beginning your practice or if your practice is beginning to feel stale, Schreiter presents ideas that will likely help, if you do the necessary work. Those who attended the teleclass that Monica Parker and I recently offered, Should I Stay [in Law] or Should I Go? will find many echoes in The Happy Lawyer. While The Happy Lawyer doesn’t offer a cure-all solution (nor would such a solution be credible), it does offer a valid approach to developing or reengineering a practice.