Want to Succeed in Law? Adopt an Ownership Mentality

Today's post comes from guest blogger, Laura McClellan, Partner, Thompson & Knight LLP

One of the keys to long-term success in a law firm (or, for that matter, any other business) is having an “ownership mentality.” Below are some thoughts on what it means to evidence an ownership mentality and specific behaviors that would evidence such a mentality.

First, having an ownership mentality means thinking constantly about how to ensure the business’s success.

  • An owner focuses on both the long-term, big-picture components of success, and the day-to-day issues of running a business. That is, an owner thinks about both the long-term task of building a practice and the day-to-day matters like how the electric bill will get paid
  • An owner’s thoughts about the business don’t stop at the end of the work day
  • The difference between an employee mindset and an owner’s mindset: An employee worries about losing his or her job; an owner worries about the business failing

Second, owners take personal responsibility for the business’s success. An owner knows that the business’s success will require his or her personal investment of time and money. Owners know that the buck stops with them. They don’t look to someone else to make things work.

  • Think as if you have no partners and the business’s success is entirely dependent on what you do. If you were practicing on your own, with no one to “get” work for you, what would you do on a day-to-day basis to make sure your business succeeds?
  • Owners are proactive. They don’t (because they can’t) wait for someone else to initiate business-building activity, but take the lead

Third, Owners constantly seek to understand their clients or customers and to look at the business from the client’s perspective. Owners understand that clients are the company’s reason for existence and therefore are indispensible to the firm’s success, and the company’s success or failure directly impacts the individual’s success or failure. Because they pay attention, owners know what clients want: top quality work product at a reasonable price. Owners are personally concerned with understanding and meeting each client’s needs. They pay attention to providing high quality work – giving every piece of work product their best thought, their best drafting, their most careful proofreading. In the law firm context, owners know that clients are concerned about the high cost of legal services; in response, an owner will work hard to spend an appropriate amount of time on the file by working efficiently.

As opposed to an employee mindset, an ownership mentality follows this overarching guide: Treat this business as if it is yours to inherit. Because it is.

Laura McClellan is a partner in the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight LLP, where she focuses her practice on real estate and realestate finance. She is a fellow in the American College of Mortgage Attorneys and has been named in The Best Lawyers in America® by Woodward/White Inc. (Real Estate Law, 2012). Laura blogs from time to time at Real Estate Law Blog and can be reached at