Are you a “Survivorman” Lawyer?

By Steve Fretzin


There’s a show that I watched years ago and just began watching again called Survivorman. You know how it is with a million options of things to watch, we seem to trend back to stuff we know is good. In this show, Les Stroud, handles a variety of survival situations using his knowledge of himself and the environment around him to get through even the hairiest of survival situations. One of the things that makes this show unique is that Les doesn’t have a crew to film him. He actually takes the equipment around with him to film and narrate what’s going, which is another level of amazing. So, you may be asking yourself, “Hey Steve, thanks for the tip on a cool show, but what the hell does this have to do with growing a law practice?” So good of you to ask my dear reader…


Regardless of what area of practice you are in or the size of your firm, you need to be a “Suvivorman” when it comes to protecting and growing your law practice. Let’s look at Les’ formula for success out in the wild and see how it shakes out for you in the wilderness of the legal marketplace.


Lawyer Survival Tip #1. Take stock of what you have.

In every Survivorman episode, Les takes stock of what he has on him that is useful in the environment he finds himself. In a jungle, mosquito netting and a machete are useful, while in Alaska, a flint to make fire is critical. He scavenges whatever he can to better his chances no matter what the environment.


For you as a lawyer, it’s similar to consider what you have that might better your odds of growing your law practice and personal brand. Ask yourself:

  • What skills to I have that would lend themselves to growing my law practice?
  • Do I have clients, friends and a network to lean into for new business opportunities?
  • Do I enjoy writing, speaking or posting authentic material on social media?
  • Do I have a mentor, coach or partner who can advise me?
  • Is there plenty of work in your practice area or do you need to learn another one?


Taking stock of what you have may be the best way to maneuver through your own survival situation to get ahead.


Lawyer Survival Tip #2. Take stock of the environment around you.

Once Les has looked at his own stuff and what will be useful, he then moves on to look around him to see what his situation really is. Does he need to sleep off of the ground due to snakes and biting bugs or does he need to walk towards a water source to ensure hydration.


As a solo, small firm or big firm attorney, or in a certain practice area, there are advantages that need to be flushed out. Your ability to see the good and bad in every situation will help you fix the bad or run towards the good. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a recession coming, and if so, how would that impact me, my firm or my practice area?
  • Is there more or less business happening in my space and how can I obtain a larger slice of that pie?
  • Am I leveraging my large firm’s power for cross-selling or my small/solo firm for referral business?
  • What’s happening in my state, country or the world that would impact my area of law?

These questions should be helpful in some of the decisions you need to make on marketing and business development. Remember, how you spend your time with purpose and intelligence may be the difference between success and failure as a successful legal rainmaker.


Lawyer Survival Tip #3. Go where you can get nourishment.

Once Les has taken stock of what he has and what’s around him, he goes towards the necessities to survive, including food, water, fire and shelter. Without these essentials he may struggle with starvation, dehydration or hypothermia, again, based on his environment.


What are your essentials to have a successful and thriving law practice? For many of the attorneys I interview for coaching services (yes, I’m interviewing them), it’s how they spend their days and weeks. If a lawyer is wasting time on admin duties, email jail and doing everyone else’s work, we need to create a plan to get focused on where the business is and how to effectively go after it. The best questions to ask yourself are:

  • Where’s the low hanging fruit (clients, friends and past/existing referral partners?
  • Who is most likely to run across the work I do and is open to referring it to me?
  • What are the top players in my space doing and can I emulate them?
  • Are there cross-marketing opportunities at my firm to get new origination business from other attorneys?


Lawyer Survival Tip #4. When you find nourishment, leverage it.

In one episode where Les was right near the ocean, he found an endless supply of clams. While he still looked for other food, he knew the clams were all he really needed to keep his energy up and not starve on his survival mission.


Once you’ve identified where the business is coming from, double down and really go after it. If you are in estate planning and find divorce attorneys are in need to refer you, go find another five or ten of them. If you know that networking at manufacturing associations is the key, go find another similar group elsewhere. Ask yourself:

  • Where is my business coming from?
  • What did it take to acquire that business?
  • Who can I disqualify and stop investing unproductive time with?
  • How can I expand what I’m doing to grow even more?




The key to successful legal rainmaking is to find what works and lean into it.


Lawyer Survival Tip #5. How to not only survive but thrive.

While not all of Les’ adventures go well, in some instances he totally crushes it. He looks right into the camera and talks to how he could live like this for years if necessary. Keep in mind he started with almost nothing but may have scavenged for trash to find resources.


For you, the busy lawyer, it’s important to stay consistent with whatever you are doing that’s working. As soon as you take things for granted or slow up because you are too busy, business may start to go elsewhere. Ask yourself:

  • What do I have to delegate to stay on top of my biz-dev efforts?
  • Who else can be doing things that are taking me away from growing new business?
  • How do I best maintain and retain these relationships?
  • How do I stay accountable to myself to build, grow and sustain my book of business?


Without an unswerving plan and execution, it can be a roller coaster ride that may not be enjoyable. Take the time to work on your plan and yourself to improve every single year.


Ultimately, whether you are surviving in a challenging environment or at law firm that doesn’t support your goals, only YOU can make the changes necessary to be a lawyer Survivorman. Take stock of things, make an action plan and execute to ensure you not only survive, buy thrive as a lawyer in today’s very challenging environment.

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