Are You A Tiger?

Kathy Fortin

July 1, 2019

Book Review of:

“Tiger Tactics- Powerful Strategies for Winning Law Firms”

Ryan McKeen, Billlie Tarascio, William Umansky, Theresa Degray, Jay Ruane (2019)

 Do You Want to be a Tiger?

 The five authors of this book are seasoned lawyers deeply engaged in running their respective law firms. They are passionate about lessons they have learned on how to manage their firms effectively and their shared enthusiasm makes for an engaging narrative.

“Tiger Tactics” is not a standard how-to guide. It does not contain checklists or forms. Instead, it reads like a memoir. Throughout each chapter the authors offer their experiences, challenges, failures, and successes in running a business. All of them are dedicated to the belief that effective law firm management is the key to a law firm’s success.  Clearly they do not aspire to mediocre results. As they say, “Show me a well run law firm, and I will show you a well run business.”

This book is a collaborative project of lawyers from Florida, Arizona, and Connecticut, with law practices that include family law, personal injury, and criminal defense.  What are their Tiger Tactics?  We first think of the tiger as a formidable hunter. The Chinese Year of the Tiger identifies those born in this year as possessing self-confidence, competitiveness, and bravery.  All of these traits can apply to the target audience for this book. It is aimed at helping those lawyers looking to grow a sustainable and thriving firm that serves the needs of its owners, employees, clients, and community.

The topics covered, their "battle-tested principals for success,” may not be entirely new to most lawyers. Vision, Planning, Goals, Marketing, and Client Service, are some of them. Though these may seem like commonplace aspects of law firm management, the candor and first-hand confessions of these authors are what make this book different from the typical books on law firm management.

Their comparison of a lawyer to a restaurant owner offers an analogy many lawyers may relate to. Imagine the one-man restaurant owner who is also the chef, manager, buyer, bookkeeper, dishwasher, custodian, and server all at the same time. “Many of us are the solo restaurant guy, working insanely hard, making minor miracles happen, all the while making little money and occasionally disappointing customers.”

Individually, the views presented are valuable and instructive. Collectively, their views offer convincing and powerful messages. On the topic of creating a Firm Vision, Jay Ruane says, “The key to vision is to have one. It can change…but you need to be working toward something.” Unfortunately, most lawyers gloss over this, says Billie Tarascio. After going through a process with a facilitator, her firm’s vision has become “the law firm constitution.” Theresa DeGray says, “You wear a million different hats and one of them is undoubtedly labelled “visionary.” William Umansky tells us he has learned that without a vision, “You will bounce around the universe of law in chaos. Your future will be based on random events and you won’t know how to best respond when an opportunity presents itself to you.”

If you happen to enjoy analogies, Ryan McKeen offers another excellent one.  Ryan planned to leave his employer and go out on his own. Others got on board. They planned every detail (or so they thought), and the new firm opened. “If our firm was a boat, it was a nice one. But a nice boat means very little if you don’t know where you are going.”  For him, “nothing was as hard as cracking the vision nut.”

The suggestions offered by each author are practical. They range from approaches to your firm’s financial management, tips on client intake, hiring methods, and finding balance in your career. They advise two forms of marketing are necessary. While on-line marketing is important, in-person marketing and meeting people is essential. In recommending that lawyers set aside $5,000 each year for their personal development, they recognize that what each lawyer will decide to do what is most meaningful to them. Whatever the choice, taking the time and making the effort can influence, directly and indirectly, a lawyer’s thinking and outlook on the business they are building.

Theresa’s advice sums up what all of her co-authors have learned on their own. “Work on the business instead of in the business once in a while.” It makes perfect sense and may even be a call to some firms to take urgent action, especially if they consider the authors’ view that every law firm falls into two categories— rising or falling. Whichever category your firm may fall into, this book will inspire you.