Book Review: The E-Myth Attorney
By Jason Kohlmeyer – May 9, 2012
The E-Myth Attorney: Why Most Legal Practices Don't Work and What to Do About It
Michael E. Gerber, Robert Armstrong, and Sanford Fisch
Let me start out with a confession: I love reading business-management books. I love reading attorney-management books and practice-management articles, and I even love attending law-practice-management CLEs! I think I have reread most of the popular business-management books, and Michael Gerber's The E-Myth is truly one of the classics. The original book was published in 1988, and the title is short for "the Entrepreneurial Myth." The myth is that while most businesspeople think they have what it takes to start and run a small business because they are good at what they do, they still lack the entrepreneurial spirit to actually succeed. Gerber has written about 17 books since the original, and, in recent years, he has branched off even further to coauthor E-Myth books for specific areas of business, including construction, health care, accounting, dental care, and law. The book reviewed here, The E-Myth Attorney: Why Most Legal Practices Don't Work and What to Do About It, was coauthored by Robert Armstrong and Sanford Fisch, both of whom are attorneys who appear to have years of experience in small-firm management.
My criteria for a good business-management book are that it must motivate me to improve my practice and give me at least two good ideas. I am disappointed if I put a book down without having specific, concrete ideas to pursue. A great example is in the recent episode of The Office, where the office puts on a small-business-success seminar, and the phrases "If you can dream it, you can achieve it" and "Think what you want, then double it" are heard again and again. I want more. I want concrete, practical solutions to the problems, I, and most small law offices, deal with daily. In this regard, The E-myth Attorney succeeds, and it does so wildly.
The book starts out with examples of a two-person law firm and covers some basic business concepts. It starts with the concept of an income statement—a monthly statement that shows how much you are taking in and where it goes. Gerber suggests it should be looked at daily, weekly (at a minimum), and even hourly.
The next and probably biggest point is that you need to systematize. He spends a considerable amount of time discussing the importance of systematizing the entire firm. Where the book falls a little short is on exactly how you do that. I bet we all have a best-practices manual, but most of us don't actually use it. While some details are given as to how to create it, it is a little lacking in true nuts and bolts.
The biggest complaint with the book is that there are no forms/checklists/good examples provided to assist readers. As lawyers, we all look at one anothers' work, take it, tweak it, and call it our own. I think this would be a huge improvement in the next edition. Even without these helpful pieces, however, the book is so well written that it can be forgiven.
My suggestion is that you should buy it, read it, and have your law partner do the same. And finally, have someone in your office be the e-myth person—the one who asks every day if goals are being met.
Keywords: litigation, solo practitioners, small firms, The E-Myth Lawyer, book reviews
Jason Kohlmeyer is a founding partner of Rosengren Kohlmeyer in Mankato, Minnesota.