A simple way to get rid of clutter


I know someone who’s computer desktop perpetually looks like it was the site of a bombing run. Every inch is covered with shortcuts, downloads, documents, and set-up files. She has multiple copies of jpegs and pdfs, because she wasn’t sure if the original downloaded properly, or she couldn’t find it.

I don’t know about you but I couldn’t function that way. I’m not a clean freak. I just find it easier to get things done when my work space is reasonably uncluttered and organized.

And yet there are times when my desktop gets messy. When that happens, the first thing I do is gather up everything and put it in a new folder.

Out of sight, out of mind.

The next step is to clean out the folder and put things where they belong. I might do this right away but I usually do it later, when I have some downtime.

Doing it this way allows me to quickly get back to work. When I’m ready to tackle the folder, I’m able to take my time and make better decisions about what to keep and where to put it.

Okay, maybe I do have some issues.

Anyway, if you find clutter distracting or it impairs your productivity, you might give this method a try.

You can do the same thing in the physical world. When you have too much clutter on your desk–papers, files, books–put everything into one or two piles and when you’re ready, chop those files down to size.

If you have a messy closet, put everything into boxes as the first step. Later, go through the boxes deliberately, putting away the things you know you need and getting rid of everything else.

You can do the same thing on your smartphone. If you have too many apps, put them all into digital folders or push them to another screen. Or delete everything. Only put back (or re-download) the apps you know you will use.

De-clutter first. Organize second.

I keep my digital world organized with Evernote


How to overcome procrastination and train your brain to resist distractions


I was watching a video about how to overcome procrastination. The presenter talked about the Pomodoro technique which I sometimes use to help me focus, particularly on tasks I’m avoiding.

Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes (or whatever you choose) and work until the timer goes off. You then take a break for five minutes and go at it again. If you’re still not done after three or four sessions, you take a longer break and then get back to work.

The idea is to get ourselves to focus with the promise that we only have to do it for a short period of time. It gets you started, which is the hardest and most important part of getting anything done.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself procrastinating on certain tasks, get yourself a Pomodoro app or use your kitchen timer and give it a whirl.

But here’s the thing.

Even though you have promised yourself to keep working until the timer sounds, if you’re like most people, you will be tempted to stray. You’ll feel the urge to check your email or take a peak at social media. Or you’ll realize you need another cup of coffee. Or the phone will ring and you’ll feel compelled to at least see who is calling.

You know you must resist these urges but sometimes they get the better of you.

The video presented a simple technique for conquering these urges and resisting distractions. Have a sheet of paper handy, or open a text file, and whenever you feel tempted by the urge to do something else, write it down.

Writing it down allows you to acknowledge the urge and postpone it until your next break. It helps to dissipate the urge and release its hold over you.

It also allows you to identify things that typically distract you. You can then take steps to eliminate them before they can distract you by doing things like turning off your phone or closing browser tabs that don’t relate to your work.

Write down (and postpone) your urges and you will become their master instead of their servant.


A simple way to dramatically improve your next presentation


In any presentation, you want to engage your audience. You want them to think about and remember your words and feel an emotional connection to your message.

What’s the best way to accomplish this?

Carmine Gallo studied 500 of the most popular TED Talks and found a pattern:

  • 65 percent personal stories
  • 25 percent facts and figures
  • 10 percent information to back up the speaker’s credibility on the subject

In short, the key factor for better presentations is something I’ve been telling you since day one: stories.

But note that Gallo said “personal” stories, meaning stories that involve the speaker. Since you want your audience to know what you do and how you help people, when you tell stories in your presentations, articles, blog posts, or anything else, look for ways to include yourself in those stories.

Here’s a template for a client story you might use that shows you doing what you do:

A client had a problem and came to you. Opposing forces (other parties, the law, factual issues, etc.) worsened the problem and/or made it more difficult to resolve. You worked hard, overcame difficulties, and solved the problem.

As you tell the story, turn up the heat by describing the client’s pain–how the problem affected them emotionally, financially, or physically–and the relief they felt when you eventually solved the problem.

If possible, also describe how you felt. Show your empathy for the client’s situation. Mention how you struggled with some aspect of the case before you conquered it.

Yes, this type of story is easier to tell when you’re dealing with litigation but with a little effort, you can also tell an effective story about a simple transactional matter.

If a client wanted you to review the lease for their new business, for example, you can talk about the problems they might have encountered if they hadn’t had you review the lease, and the excitement they felt about their new business, which you helped them start.

Make sure your presentations include stories. Because facts tell but stories sell.

Need more referrals? This will help



The best law firm marketing list money can buy


Have you ever rented a mailing list?

If you handle estate planning, for example, you can rent a list of AARP members in your area and mail a letter inviting them to your seminar, offering them your ebook on estate planning essentials, or simply offering your services.

If you handle small business matters, you could rent lists of subscribers to publications that cater to start-ups or inventors or small business management issues.

You can rent lists based on public records, buyers of certain products or services, members of designated organizations, or people who have asked for information about just about any subject under the sun.

There are email lists available, too.

Ask Uncle Google or Aunt Bing to show you what’s available for “mailing lists” or “mailing list brokers” and see for yourself.

Not all lists are created equal, of course. Some are great and will produce many clients for you. Some won’t produce any. But you can test any list by mailing (or emailing) to a small portion of the list to find out. If you get a good return, you can roll out to the rest of the list. If you don’t, you can try something else.

Of course, the best lists are the ones you create yourself. They are usually much more responsive and profitable than any list you rent.

Here’s why.

Everyone on that list knows who you are and what you do. They came to your site and asked you to send them information. That means they’re either interested in hiring a lawyer who does what you do, right now, or they’re interested in the subject of your information and might hire you at some point down the line.

Some of the people on your list are ready to make an appointment. Others have questions and want to talk to you on the phone. Some aren’t ready to do anything but will be in six months. Some may never hire you but will send you referrals.

The people on your list can also help you build your list even bigger. They will share your website content, for example, with their social media friends and followers or their customers or clients.

Your list could bring you several new clients each month. Or more. All you have to do is send them the information they asked for and stay in touch with them.

Now, if a list like this were available from a list broker, how much would it be worth to you?

A pretty penny, me thinks.

If you think so, too, start building your list. You can use ads or social media, blogging or SEO, speaking, writing, networking, and many other methods of driving traffic to your law firm site or a separate one-page site specifically for that purpose. Visitors fill out a form, providing their email address, and you send them the information.

You can learn how to do that here and here


Inspiration is its own reward


I’m a “how to” kinda guy. When I read a book or article, watch a video or listen to a training, I’m looking for information I can use to improve my business or personal life.

I want to know what to do and how to do it. The steps, the tips, the details. I take notes and file them (in Evernote) for future reference.

I’m not overly demanding. Even one good takeaway will satisfy me and justify the time spent. But when I’m done, if I haven’t taken any notes, I’m usually disappointed.

But not always.

Last night I listened to an interview with someone who wrote and published 15 books in the last few years, despite the fact that English is not his native language and he is anything but fluent.

In fact, his wife repeatedly tried to steer him away from writing, ostensibly trying to spare him from humiliation, even going so far as to tell him that he was a terrible writer.

He persisted because he was unhappy with his tech job and had always dreamed of being a writer. He was interviewed because his books have been favorably reviewed and sell well, allowing him to turn the page on one chapter in his life and start a new one.

He credits a good editor, and a steady diet of personal development books, which helped him to improve his self-image and develop the confidence to keep going.

When the interview was done, I realized that I hadn’t taken a single note. No tips, no how to’s to file away.

But I didn’t feel cheated. His story put a smile on my face. It was a reminder that we can overcome our limitations and achieve our dreams.

His story was the takeaway.

In our quest to improve our knowledge and skills, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss pure inspiration. A story that makes you feel good or that reminds you that the struggle is difficult but worth it provides its own value.

And that’s something we can all put in our notes.

I use Evernote for everything


If you aren’t better, be different


I often talk about the value of showing prospective clients how you are “better or different” than other lawyers who do what you do. In The Attorney Marketing Formula, I show you how to do that, and how to construct your “Unique Selling Proposition” (U.S.P.)

Writer James Clear did a post recently with another take on this subject. He calls it, “Layering Your Skills,” and quotes Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, for explaining how someone who isn’t markedly better than their competition can stand out by being different:

“Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.”

As you consider your strengths, don’t ignore those that aren’t obviously relevant to the practice of law. Include your undergraduate fields of study, businesses and industries you’ve worked in, sports you play or avidly follow, your hobbies and other outside interests. They can also help you stand out, especially in many niche markets.

I’m not the best chess player in the world but I am better than most people. Even if I wasn’t, if I was practicing today I could use my knowledge of the game to relate to and attract other chess players. I could appeal to tournament directors, coaches, and vendors. I could attract the attention of bloggers, editors, and meeting planners who cater to those markets.

I could become one of the best-known lawyers in the chess world, without being the best chess player or the best lawyer.

What are you good at and how could you combine that skill with other skills to show the world how you are different?

Show the world how you are better or different


Focus and grow rich


If you can remember getting interest on your savings account (if you can remember savings accounts), you recall that compound interest, as opposed to simple interest, allowed you to earn a bigger return because you earned interest on the interest.

Compounding gave you more bang for your savings buck.

The same principle applies to investments you make in your marketing.

One reason I preach the value of targeting niche markets is that by targeting small(er) niche markets, instead of “all” markets or “no” markets, your money, time, and energy compounds.

You get bigger results with less effort.

Instead of getting one new client when you deliver a presentation, for example, you might get five new clients because the people in that niche not only see your presentation, they also see your ads or read your articles or hear your name mentioned by one or more colleagues or friends.

Each instance of “you” in a niche market has a greater impact.

If you want to get more bang for your marketing buck, concentrate your efforts and dollars in smaller markets, especially where people know each other and word of mouth is strong.

In addition, group your “shots” by publishing more articles or running more ads in one or two publications (in the same week or month) instead of multiple publications. Publish a weekly or daily newsletter instead of a monthly newsletter.

You can expand your reach later, after you have saturated and dominated one publication (ads, articles), one organization (speaking, networking), or one niche market.

Most lawyers use a shotgun approach to marketing. Their message is weaker because they try to appeal to everyone. Their message is diluted, if not drowned out, by a sea of messages from other lawyers. They waste time and money and make a smaller impact by spreading their time and money too thin.

If you want to get more results (clients, referrals, traffic, subscribers, publicity, etc.), focus your message, your time, and your dollars in smaller markets, and let the magic of compounding go to work for you.

How to choose the right niche markets for your practice: click here


If Felix Ungar ran your law practice


The Odd Couple’s  Felix Ungar was a neurotic perfectionist neat freak who fussed and bothered about everything. His roommate Oscar was a slob. The two loved each other (friends) but drove each other crazy.

If Felix ran your practice, some good things would happen. Every document would be checked and rechecked before it was filed or mailed. Every document would be backed up (“in triplicate”). Every piece of software and equipment would be up to date. Your desktop would be tidy and dusted, and so would the desktop on your computer.

Your firm would operate efficiently. But eventually, Felix would drive you and your staff crazy, not just with the fussing and tidying but with continual changes in management, operations, and marketing.

Continually changing your forms or procedures, for example, requires continual re-training. There would be daily memos and weekly meetings where the latest micro changes were rolled out.

The employee handbook doesn’t need to be updated every week. The bookcases don’t need to be dusted every day.

Continual changes to your website layout, checklists, forms, intake and file-closing procedures can confuse and frustrate your staff and clients.

You don’t want your practice run by Oscar Madison, of course. He would tolerate too much clutter and disorder. Software would be updated “whenever”. Too many things would slip through the cracks.

You need to try new things and keep old things in working order. But just as the law looks to the reasonable man standard, so should you in the management of your practice.

Felix and Oscar were both well-meaning but neither could have been considered reasonable.


When someone asks, “What do you do?” hand them one of these


I read an article recently that said that brochures are obsolete. I admit, they’ve never been one of my favorite marketing tools but they have always had their place.

They still do.

There is value in having something you can hand out to a client or prospect, telling them what you do and how to contact you. You can put brochures on the counter in your waiting room, in your new client kit, hand them out when you meet someone at a networking event, or put them in the mail with a cover letter when someone asks you to send them some information.

And, because fewer and fewer attorneys use a paper brochure, or do anything on paper, your brochure gives you an easy way to stand out.

And an easy way to be remembered.

A web page is only a click away from being forgotten. A paper brochure in a desk drawer provides prospective clients another way to find you when they discover that they need legal help.

A brochure, by itself, probably won’t bring in much business. They are usually staid and devoid of emotion or stories. They “tell” the world what you do, unlike a report or ebook which “shows” them, or a sales letter which “sells” them. But used in conjunction with other marketing collateral, brochures can be a valuable addition to your marketing mix.

After you have put together an effective website and written one or more reports to use as handouts and lead magnets, consider adding a simple brochure to your marketing toolkit.

Here are some common types of brochures to consider:

  • Capabilities brochure (aka “firm brochure): This describes your practice areas, services offered, and your ability to deliver results. It details your background and experience, awards and distinctions, and other elements that demonstrate your ability to get the job done. A firm brochure also describes your target market, languages spoken, office hours, and contact information.
  • Service brochure: This brochure is dedicated to one of your practice areas, one of your services, or perhaps a group of related services. It too describes your capabilities but provides more information, examples, and details about your services, packages, fees and costs and the like.
  • Problem/solution brochure: This brochure provides information about a legal need or problem common to your target market and presents available solutions, which of course include your services.

Most brochures present much of the information with bullet points more than narrative text. They provide an overview or the big picture. Make sure you point to your website where the reader can get more information.

Brochures needn’t be fancy or expensive. You don’t need full-color graphics, photos, or glossy paper. Your brochure can be all text, with black ink on a heavier weight paper or colored card stock.

On the other hand, a professionally designed and printed brochure does lend a degree of class to your practice. It tells the world that you are serious about what you do and that you do it successfully.

Brochures are by no means obsolete or ineffective. They don’t do a complete selling job on their own, but they can help.

Before you create a brochure, make sure your website is doing its job 


Still crazy after all these years


It’s difficult being intelligent and having opinions about important things. You see evil people with terrible ideas and you want to vanquish them. You see stupid people with power and you want to cry.

If you say anything, those people point an ugly finger at you and convict you of the same offenses of which they are guilty.

It’ll drive you crazy if you let it.

Don’t let it.

Don’t pick fights you can’t win. Don’t take on everyone or every issue. In fact, unless your work or the safety of your family demands it, your default response should be to keep quiet and walk away.

Does that mean putting your head in the sand and ignoring most of the noise? Yes. That’s exactly what it means.

Unless you were hired for the job, don’t waste social capital, don’t risk losing business. Let those who were hired to fix the problem do their job. Support them, but don’t make yourself a spokesperson.

You can’t fix stupid. Evil has always existed and always will. Yes, there will be times when good conscious demands that you speak out or take action. To fight with every ounce of your strength.

But those times are rare.

You have to get good at compartmentalizing. Put things in a lock box in your brain and don’t open that box. Train yourself to smile and change the subject.

It’s okay to compare notes with your like-minded spouse or best friend; with everyone else, just don’t go there.

That goes double for social media.

Keep busy with work. Focus on building, not tearing down, on love not hate. And have faith that everything will eventually be okay. Because it surely will.

Need more business? Start here