Thursday, April 5, 2007

Lord of the Fleas

I once started writing a fictional piece about a lawyer who became a multi-millionaire after using one of my business ideas. The piece was written from the perspective of a dying old man explaining how he had done it. (I was thinking "Little Big Man".....#14 on my 100 Favorite Movies List

I never did anything with the piece or the idea, because in a strange way, I thought some day I might do the idea myself. I now accept that I will not do the idea, so I will reveal it here, where no doubt thousands of hungry young lawyers will read it. Maybe someone will DO IT!!!! In any event, describing the idea may give someone SOME business inspiration. I don't want much for it, just.....let me know if I can help.


I'm that guy. The first lawyer to realize that setting up at a flea market would be the best marketing strategy ever. It came to me one Saturday morning at the Aqueduct Flea Market. I'm not sure why I went there, other then a vague notion that I needed sox for basketball. After buying my tube sox, I was done shopping, so instead of looking at the booths, I looked at the people. The Aqueduct Flea Market is in the parking lot of a racetrack in Ozone Park, Queens. Trolling amidst the vague odor of manure, were hundreds, maybe thousands of my past, present, and future clients.

Even on a Saturday, my idle thoughts always turned to my practice. I hated my mix of cases, and even worse, I hated the direction my practice was going......if "nowhere" counts as a direction. Twenty years in practice, and I finally had learned enough to really run a law practice. After many, many painful lessons, I knew how to evaluate cases. Knew which ones to take and which ones to run away from. Learned how to evaluate clients and their stories, how to size up the profitability of their proposed business. That’s all a law practice is, really. Hearing a person’s story, and making a business decision on whether they and their story are profitable business. No matter what anyone says, there is plenty of business out there. The real question, the one that separates the successes from the strugglers, is knowing and getting GOOD business, and staying away from BAD business.

They say Queens is the most ethnically diverse County in the nation. The Aqueduct Flea Market is like that. It's often suggested that young lawyers "join organizations" and "make themselves known in their community". I'm not knocking that, but in those places you mostly have "other young lawyers looking for business". You want business, go where the clients are. To me, the Aqueduct Flea Market looked like a client convention, with folks milling around while carrying their particular concerns with them.........immigration, divorce, real estate, estates, comp, accidents, wills, business transactions, criminal. Unlike most people I knew at "the Lodge" or "the Club" it did not look like most of these people had a lawyer in the immediate family. They looked like people ready to spend some time at the flea market, looking at things that interested them. I wondered how many of the thousands were shopping for a lawyer. It struck me that the flea market was like a Yellow Pages without the phone calls.

This is what I did.......I contacted the managers of the flea market and asked what was involved in "taking a booth". I made a list of the supplies I’d need: table and chairs, some signs, cell phone, laptop with extra batteries, yellow pads, pens, calculator, PalmPilot, bottle of water. I was sure there would be more, but knew I'd figure those out as I went.

Then I did something I always do when thinking about a new business idea. I got out my pad and pen and calculator and ran some numbers. I'm always amazed at how many lawyers DON'T do this. The thinking and the calculations are as simple as this...."If it costs $XXX to take the booth, and I am committed for Y weekends, h0w much will it cost? Are there any other expenses (I couldn't think of any other than my time and my lunch, which I have to eat anyway)? I then made four colums regarding potential income, I called them break even, make some profit, hit a home run, and hit a grand slam. I assigned dollar values to the first three columns but did not define grand slam.

The thing was a GRAND SLAM.

more tomorrow....

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