The 2 Biggest Myths Lawyers Believe About Entrepreneurship

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The 2 Biggest Myths Lawyers Believe about Entrepreneurship

It's Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook's fault.  Sara Blakely from Spanx is to blame.  Or maybe it's all of that Shark Tank you're watching.  

 You watch it all the time don't you?  Me too.

You watch it all the time don't you?  Me too.

We need more entrepreneurial lawyers in our profession, but the stories we've internalized about the founders of Facebook and Spanx, and the pitches we hear on Shark Tank, among other things, have led us astray.

Many of us lawyers still believe two big myths about entrepreneurship:

  1. You have to be an entrepreneur to be entrepreneurial; and
  2. You have to have a big idea.

Myth #1:  You have to be an entrepreneur to be entrepreneurial.

Despite all of those episodes of Shark Tank you've watched where the guy quit his job and bet the farm, you can be entrepreneurial but not have to clean out your desk.  The trick is to become an "intrapreneur" where you work--leverage the tools and mindset of an entrepreneur to the benefit of your organization.  I argue you will be a happier and better lawyer as a result.  You can be entrepreneurial but still keep your W-2. 

You can be entrepreneurial but still keep your W-2.

If want to learn more about how to be a successful intrapreneur, check out David Williams' great Forbes article.  I also share some thoughts on why practicing lawyers should choose to be more entrepreneurial in my post on how to bring more diversity and inclusion to the legal profession.  I tend to believe, however, that many lawyers will have no choice but to be entrepreneurial, as noted in Keith Lee's Above the Law blog piece called "Stop Saying Lawyers Should Become Entrepreneurs." 

Myth #2:  You have to have a big idea.

This is where Zuckerberg from Facebook and Blakely from Spanx come in.  So many of the stories about successful entrepreneurs today are about some young gal or guy who came up with a billion dollar idea for a new and unique product. 

 You don't have to create the next Spanx to be a successful entrepreneur.

You don't have to create the next Spanx to be a successful entrepreneur.

But most entrepreneurship isn't like that. Most entrepreneurs aren't super young overnight successes who created some never-seen-before product. Most successful entrepreneurs iterate on an existing product rather than create something totally new (e.g. the iPhone and iPad were awesome iterations of existing products).  Most successful entrepreneurs are most likely to be older than 25 (Blakely is 41 by the way, and came up with the idea for Spanx, an awesome iteration on the girdle, at 27).

So you still have time to make your mark, and you can iterate like Sara Blakely rather than create from scratch like Mark Zuckerberg.  The irony of all of this is that now billionaire Sara Blakely originally wanted to be a lawyer like her dad!

Lawyers, don't believe the hype. 

Don't believe the stories.

Don't believe the myths. 

You can be entrepreneurial without being an entrepreneur.

You don't have to have the brand new big idea. 

What do you think? Are there other myths out there that are holding back lawyers? 

-- Calvin