It’s the age of the legal entrepreneur – the time for the law-trepreneur to shine. With technology providing a golden opportunity for the legal industry to offer legal services in new ways, review pricing models without compromising profitability and bridge the access to legal services gap, it’s the perfect time to try your hand at the legal innovation game.
So what does it it take to innovate, to disrupt, to transform? Well, a bit of chutzpah, the ability to wear many hats, some serious balls and a “let’s just jump in” approach for starters. And a bit of quality ‘startup’ reading doesn’t hurt either which is why we’ve listed 9 great books for you to devour on your path to being the next legal Mark Zuckerberg.
1. Tomorrow’s Lawyers (Richard Susskind)
This book is a must. A futurist and pioneer in the legal technology space, Professor Susskind predicts that High Street firms will die out in the near future and lawyers will be required to take on new, emerging roles in the industry such as legal project manager and legal knowledge engineer. The future of legal service, he says, will be neither Grisham nor Rumpole and instead it will be a world of virtual courts, internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, legal process outsourcing and web-based simulated practice. The final part of the book focuses on the prospects for aspiring lawyers and equips young lawyers with questions to put to the future employers. A great read for budding entrepreneurs and law students wondering what the hell they are going to do next.
2. The Lean Startup (Eric Ries)
“Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.”
A bit of a bible in the startup industry, this book by Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Eric Ries, takes a scientific approach to finding what works in the most efficient way possible when creating and managing successful startups. With an emphasis on fast iteration, a big vision and strong customer insight, The Lean Startup is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products. Mr Ries tells us to learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want and believes that if you cannot fail, you cannot learn.
Ries believes that what startups have in common is a mission to penetrate the fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business. So make sure you adapt, adjust, innovate continuously and, as Eric would say, move fast: “The only way to win is to learn faster than everyone else”. Eric’s new book ‘The Leader’s Guide’ has now been released so you might want to jump on that too!
3. Running Lean: How to Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works (Ash Maurya)
A fave of our co-founder, Stevie Ghiassi, this handy road map for entrepreneurs offers the promise of finding a systematic process for quickly vetting product ideas and raising your chances of success. In an age of unparalleled opportunity for innovation, when we’re building more products than ever before, we need to be able to complete what we set out to build and not waste valuable time, money and effort building the wrong product. Ash Maurya inspires us to make sure the product is fit for the market. A great read and great advice for anyone looking to start a company.
4. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business (John Kaufman)
“You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.” (Will Hunting – Good Will Hunting).
Yep, Will Hunting would have loved this one. If you don’t want to refinance your home to get an MBA, this one’s for you – a neat little book that is designed to give you the 101 on business basics and dramatically increase your business knowledge on your own time at a fraction of the cost. It covers:
- How businesses actually work – in practice, not theory.
- How to evaluate new business ideas: what really matters, and what doesn’t.
- How to start a new business from scratch.
- How to improve any existing business, whether it’s a solo venture or a Fortune 500 corporation.
- How to use business-related skills to accomplish your personal goals.
This tome takes essential ideas and concepts and breaks them down into one easy manual. Hey, who needs Harvard when you’ve got this trusty little source?
5. Rework (Jason Fried)
“When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”
How true this is! Work out your vision, mission and why – it’s so important for entrepreneurs and business owners, especially as your business goals grow and evolve. An intriguing book about collaboration, productivity and rejecting traditional business models written by Jason (co-founder of project management tool, Basecamp) and David Heinemeier Hanson, creator of Ruby on Rails, this one’s an inspiring and unorthodox read for anyone who hates their job, wants to create a business or simply wants to think outside the box. And I especially like his tips about getting the most out of meetings:
- Set a timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.
- Invite as few people as possible.
- Always have a clear agenda.
- Begin with a specific problem.
- Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room. Point to real things and suggest real changes, and
- End with a solution and make some responsible for it.
A quick quote from Jason on business goals and remaining flexible: “And you have to be able to improvise. You have to be able to pick up opportunities that come along. Sometimes you need to say, “We’re going in a new direction because that’s what makes sense today.”
6. Zero to One (Peter Thiel)
“The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”
Stanford alumni, investor, entrepreneur, and co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technology, Peter Thiel, is on a mission to change the way we think about innovation. Teaching a computer course at his alma mater in 2012 became the genesis of a book on how to build a future for your company. Focused on the power of originality, Thiel tells us that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create and shows us how we can find singular ways to create those new things.
Provoking our thoughts with quirky lessons like “What Einstein never said but should have” and “What Tolstoy can offer startups”, Thiel’s main lesson is that when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1.
“Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace; they will escape competition altogether, because their business will be unique.”
So take a leaf from Thiel’s book and ask yourself: what valuable company is nobody else building?
7. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Clayton Christensen)
Written by well-known Harvard professor and businessman, Clayton Christensen, suggests that successful companies can put too much emphasis on customers’ current needs, and fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet their customers’ unstated or future needs. The terms “disruptive technology” (later described as “disruptive innovation”) stemmed from this gem of a book which won Global Business Book Award shortly after its release in 1997 and was named by The Economist as one of the 6 best business books ever written. Even though it’s an old one, it’s still relevant today and perhaps even more relevant than it was in the late 90s.
8. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (Robert M. Pirsig)
“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
Rejected by 121 publishers, Robert Pirsig persisted and persisted: his timeless book went on to sell 5 million copies worldwide. The reason you should read this book is because it is a book about living an authentic life, it’s not just about the business and science of it all. Brad Feld, an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over 20 years and co-founder of Foundry Group, says: “Anyone who is creating anything should read this book, slowly, and savour it.”
Towards the end of his book, Pirsig writes: “We do need a return to individual integrity, self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption. We really do.” Gumption like Arthur Abbott in ‘The Holiday’. Gumption. What a great word.
9. Lean in – Women, Work and The Will to Lead (Sheryl Sandberg)
At the BlogHer conference before 1000s of bloggers in 2013, Sandberg said: “[The] next time you want to call your daughter bossy, take a deep breath and say, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills,'” Sandberg said.
The famous CEO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, who sadly lost her husband recently, is all about women realising their right to be on the stage. Describing the ways in which women hold themselves back and offering practical advice on how women can achieve their goals, Sandberg wants women to sit at the table, instead of sitting on the sidelines. In her book, she recalls a meeting at Facebook with the former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner where all the men were seated around a conference table and the women sat in chairs off to the side. The women appeared as spectators, rather than participants, Sandberg noted. Well no more sidelines, says Sheryl and I’m with her all the way. Let’s change the conversation from what we can’t do to what women can do. Bravo, Sheryl. A must read for aspiring female entrepreneurs.
So that wraps up some great reads for our law-trepreneurs. What books inspire you?