The Legal Practice Model Canvas

A bit of a mea culpa here: This is a post I started working on months ago and then never published because I didn’t think I’d gotten things quite right. As longtime readers will recognize, this is fundamentally inconsistent with the Lean Startup principles I espouse–better to put the darn thing out there and see what people think about it than to let it languish while I noodle on potentially unimportant details.

And with that explanation, here I post my version of the Business Model Canvas for lawyers and law firms that I’m calling the Practice Model Canvas.

It is useful for a few different scenarios: it is a great alternative to long-form business planning when you’re thinking about hanging a shingle for a new law firm, it is useful for scoping out ideas for launching a new practice area or legal service offering, and it is a fantastic way to think through productized legal services like flat-fee, subscription, or portfolio offerings.


Click the image above for a larger PNG, or you can download one of the PDF versions below.  Any of these files will scale to smaller paper sizes, but if you have access to larger print formats, like at an office store, I recommend them. I’ve used the “Engineering Prints in B&W” option at to good (and inexpensive) effect, and I’ve also used the large format printer at my local OfficeDepot for same-day prints.

A few simple instructions/recommendations:

  • Print one of these out and hang it on your wall. Maybe more than one if you want to explore different offerings, but limit yourself to one thing at a time.
  • Use sticky notes to fill in 1-3 items in each box. It is meant to be dynamic and malleable, so don’t worry if you make changes. If you have different people working on it, you can use color to indicate differences.
  • Use a fat pen, nothing smaller than a regular sharpie, to write on the stickys. The point is to generate ideas & draw insights, not delve into details.
  • Try to go in rough order of the numbers in the boxes, but don’t let them stop you if you’re inspired to work on something out of sequence. Notice that there are two number ones. Do those both first: they’ll be your customer/problem pairs.
  • Use time-boxes to limit how long you spend on each section: set a timer and move on when it rings. Try to fill out an entire canvas in a single sitting, say 30-40 minutes. Then you can go back and revise.

If you want to know more about the Business Model Canvas and its progeny, there’s much on the internet about it. Ash Maurya’s 2010 post is my favorite starting point, but the true original is Alex Osterwalder’s version. Also, both of them offer software/apps, but I highly recommend you do your first few on a physical sheet on your wall. Then you can move to software once you get the hang of it.

Finally, please let me know how it’s going. You can email me at [email protected] or tweet at me at @jegrant3.

Have fun!

Oh, and if you want to remix this into your own version of the Canvas, ping me and I’ll share the Google Draw file with you.

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