Most people in South Africa, when asked, can immediately tell you about Cyril Ramaphosa. He is the current president of a country with one of Africa’s biggest economies. Some might be able to tell you he is also a successful entrepreneur, owning controlling interests in a vast range of industries from restaurants to telecommunications. But not many people will tell you he began his career in law. In fact, Ramaphosa is merely one of many extremely successful businesspersons who began their professional careers as lawyers before moving into business. But what is it that makes lawyers such good entrepreneurs?
Building a Career
Going to law school is not cheap. To achieve their dream many lawyers spend months searching for and applying for scholarships and grants to cover school tuition fees which can rise to an average $50,000 a year in private schools. In public schools the figure is nearer $30,000. In most cases, candidates take out loans to cover tuition costs and living expenses. In doing so, they display many of the skills required to successfully build a start-up, namely, looking for funding and backers and managing debt in order to eventually make a profit. Law school, in this respect, is a great way to develop some of the most fundamental business skills.
Trained to Negotiate
Attorneys are very experienced negotiators. Negotiating with the other party in a court case and negotiating costs with clients are daily tasks. Many of the tactics you might deploy in settling out of court could equally be used in closing a business deal. Experience at the negotiation table inspires confidence when approaching deal making as an entrepreneur.
Taught to Analyze
Attorneys are taught to approach a problem through thorough analysis and methodical thinking. Problem solving is such an important part of starting a company that these skills can prove to be invaluable when taken out of the courtroom and into the corporate world. Additionally, the research skills that lawyers have enable them to conduct thorough market analysis, and explore new ways to undercut rival businesses. Entrepreneurs need to have open minds and understand the market they are launching their business into. Rather than just focus on day to day running, big picture thinking is needed to find gaps in the market. Legal experience can offer this big picture perspective, drawing on informed research and the facts.
Keeping it Legal
Law is a huge part of running a business. Ensuring you keep abreast of changing tax rates, workers’ rights legislation and financial regulations is vital if you want to maintain a profitable (and legal) company. Since many attorneys create businesses in their fields of specialty, there is often an additional bonus of knowing the ins and outs of the legal side of running a business in that industry. Many attorneys turned entrepreneurs were legal experts in the field they later started a company in. Business and mining lawyers open mining companies, data attorneys often start their own digital focused companies and, in some cases, lawyers create start-ups specifically targeted at their own profession.