Consulting Practice: Mixing Practical Business and Legal Advice

Q: An attorney I know is thinking seriously about developing a consulting practice where he mixes practical business and legal advice into a "where-the-rubber-meets-the-road, "been-there-done-that, here-are-the-legal-pitfalls" presentation. He could speak on a wide variety of issues. Do you know any legal consultants who do this? Is there a good consulting agency to hook up with? He is in a very large metropolitan area, has a number of specialties and a wide variety of hands-on work experience, including owning his own companies for about 10 years.

A: Lawyers face special challenges in selling their experience as business consultants. First, many colleagues offer their speaking services without a fee as a marketing tool or as a bonus to loyal clients. Second, businesses that do pay for presentations on legal topics generally turn to the law firms that represent them for speakers and advice.

Despite the difficulties, though, I know many lawyers who have transformed their legal background and business savvy into successful consulting and speaking businesses. Some work for large consulting organizations--Altman & Weil, Hildebrandt, Anderson Consulting and Price Waterhouse--that offer services to law firms.

Others have turned their legal knowledge and oral communication skills into thriving business-to-business speaking enterprises. Patricia S. Eyres of Litigation Management & Training Services in Long Beach, CA, is a training resource on such legal issues as sexual harassment, EEO compliance, and liability avoidance for environmental and workplace safety violations. Rita Risser, of Santa Cruz, CA, has written a book entitled, Stay Out of Court!The Managers Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She helps audiences across the country become more law savvy. You can read more about her business at www.FairMeasures.com. Another speaker is H. Lee Hetherington of Jackson, MS, who offers The Law School for Corporate America, and deals with such topics as liability avoidance, trade identity protection, information law and negotiation skills. You can read more about him at www.pathstarcom.com.

I suggest that your friend do some independent research on the subject. He can locate other former practicing lawyers who peddle their knowledge to corporate audiences through the National Speakers Association. He might also speak to business owners, human resource managers and corporate trainers to see if they hire experts to provide business/legal advice, and, if they do, how much they pay.