It’s better to own a law practice than to run one


An article in our local newsletter featured a neighbor who recently changed careers. I don’t know what they did before but a couple of years ago, they bought a fast food franchise and they recently opened a pizza restaurant in the food court of our local mall.

The couple have two young children and my wife commented that running two restaurants sounds like a lot of work. I pointed out that running a restaurant isn’t the same thing as owning one.

As the owner, you have employees who run the day to day operations. You may check in once a day, once a week, or once in awhile, but as long as you have good people working for you, and good people supervising those people, there isn’t lot for the owner to do. And, if you get big enough, you could structure things so that you don’t have to do anything at all.

Many restaurant chains are owned by investment groups. The owner-investors are not involved in the daily operations.

Most small businesses, and that includes most small law practices, aren’t there, however. The owner, or the partners, are still very much involved in running the business, and running a business is a lot of work.

Would that it could be otherwise.

What if you didn’t have to go to the office today, or for the next six months? What if the practice ran without you?

That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Scary, but you could get used to it, right?

Granted, a law firm isn’t a restaurant. Lawyers have more rules to follow with respect to supervising employees and such, and great penalties if they don’t, so you might never be able to go home and be a passive investor.  But you can come close.

And you should.

Because then, you could use your time any way you want to, to do anything you want to. You could even go to work if you want to, but because you want to, not because you must.

I encourage you to work towards this ideal. Work towards the point where other people do most of what needs to be done. You can (eventually) hire all the lawyers and legal assistants and other employees you need, and people to supervise them.

Seriously, put this on your list of goals. Because it’s better to own a law practice than run one.


What kind of attorney are you?


When you hand someone your business card and tell them you’re an attorney, what do they typically say to you? They ask, “What kind of attorney are you?” or “What kind of law do you practice?”

They can’t tell from the word “attorney” and most attorneys don’t identify their practice areas on on their card.

If you simply answer the question and state your practice area(s), you’re missing out on a big opportunity. Instead, you should say something like this:

“I handle [whatever you handle]. I also know a lot of attorneys who handle other matters, and many other professionals and business owners in town. If you ever need a referral to anyone, for any reason, please give me a call, okay?”

You can modify this to suit your practice and the people you’re speaking to. If you know a lot of financial planners, for example, and you’re speaking to people you think might benefit from financial planning, you can add “financial planners” to the list of professionals you know.

So what does this accomplish? It gets the person to see you as a resource and a nice guy or gal. Not just someone with a service to sell, but someone who can and will help them. All they have to do is ask.

It also suggests that you are very good at what you do. If you know lots of professionals, then lots of professionals know you. That speaks to your success and reputation.

Finally, it gives them a reason to hold onto your card. And, because you added the word “okay?” to the end of your statement, whether or not they verbalize a response, it makes it a little more likely that they will call you when they need a referral.

It’s a simple way to make a good first impression, and it gets more people calling. When they do, not only will you have a new contact who is grateful for your help, the professionals you refer them to will also be grateful and primed to reciprocate.

There are other things you can do when you meet a new contact, especially if you think they may be a prospective client, but this is something you can and should do with everyone. When people need help, you want them to think of you and remember that they have your card.

By the way, when someone asks me what kind of lawyer I am, the first thing I usually say is, “A good one”. I do it with a little smirk and it gets a laugh or a smile and suggests that I’m not overly serious or full of myself as many lawyers are thought to be. I follow that with my “real” answer.

Marketing legal services is easier when you know The Formula.


A simple way to find hot ideas for blog posts


Are you running out of ideas for blog posts or newsletter articles? Do you want to zero in on topics prospective clients want to know about?

No problem. Your competition can help you. Ideas are just a few clicks away.

Go find a few popular blogs in your niche. You can find legal blog directories here, here, and here, just to name a few. While you’re there, submit your blog. Get you some links and traffic.

When you’ve found a few popular blogs by lawyers in your practice area, (in any jurisdiction), visit those blogs and have a look around. Subscribe to their feeds. Follow them on social media.

Then, look at their sidebars, “Start Here” pages, and lists of “Popular Posts”. Look at the posts that have received the most “Likes” or shares and comments.

These are the posts visitors are reading and sharing. They are likely to be about topics they have been searching for.

Got ‘em?

Now, what do you have to say about that topic? Do you agree? Disagree? Think you could do a better job?

Is the law different in your jurisdiction? Any pending legislation you know about? Have you had any cases on these issues you could write about?

Chew on these posts and brainstorm ideas and get writing.

For more ideas for blog posts, traffic, and getting clients online, get this.


Use the two-minute rule to beat procrastination


In “Getting Things Done,” David Allen speaks about “the two-minute rule”. He says that as you go through your list of tasks, anything that can be done in two minutes or less should be done immediately. Don’t schedule it for later, do it now. The time you would take to schedule a task or make notes about it could be used to get the thing done.

I do my best to follow the two-minute rule and find that it not only aids my productivity, it is also very satisfying. It allows me to clear my plate of “open tasks” and it feels good knowing I’m getting things done.

Part of the appeal of the two-minute rule is that psychologically, two minutes seems like no time at all. We don’t get caught up in thinking about what we have to do, we just do it.

Get ‘er done!

I use the two-minute rule in a different way, to beat procrastination when I find myself stalling on bigger tasks and projects. I know I’m not going to get the thing done in two minutes, but I can get it started, and getting started is the most important part.

So, I give myself two minutes to do something, even if it’s just re-writing the list of the tasks I’m not doing. I might make some notes, grab a link to a website to check out, or create an index page to the Evernote notes I’ve been collecting on the subject.

I might free-write for two minutes. Now that I think of it, I started this post with a two-minute stream of consciousness. I didn’t know what I would say on the subject, but once I started writing down my thoughts, I was on my way.

In two minutes, I might set up a new folder on my hard drive and add documents to it. Or prioritize my task list by putting tasks in numerical order.

Two minutes of activity also sets the stage for another two minutes. I might grab my newly prioritized tasks list and do two minutes on item number one. Or I might skip down to number eight and do two minutes of outlining, research, or brainstorming.

It’s all good. And it’s all just two minutes.

I suppose one could argue that any project could be completed in two-minute increments. All I know is that once I’ve started a project with one or two two-minute drills, I usually keep working on it.

Learn how I use Evernote for Getting Things Done. Go here.


When the yogurt hits the fan


You might lose a huge case. Or have your best client fire you. It might be an injury or illness, a financial disaster, or a drug or alcohol problem.

I don’t know what it might be, but whatever it is, it doesn’t have to destroy you. There are two other possibilities:

1. You will survive. You will come back,bigger and better than before. You’ll learn from the experience and be stronger person because of it.

Or. . .

2. You’ll start over. If the worst case scenario rears it’s ugly head, as long as it’s not fatal, you will start a new chapter in your life.

You may lose your license, but you won’t lose your knowledge and abilities. You’ll do something else for work. Maybe something better. Maybe something you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have the courage or the time. Now you do.

Life goes on.

It’s not the bad things that happen to us, it’s what we do about them. We can let them hobble us, or we can see them as lessons and opportunities. We can wallow in self-pity or we can suck it up and get back in the game.

Alexander Graham Bell had many failures in his career. But he didn’t let those failures define him or decide his fate. He didn’t dwell on the past, he kept moving forward, and he encouraged others to do the same:

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

If you have something bad going on in your life right now, figure out what you can do about it and do it. If there’s nothing you can do, move on. Start again. Or do something else.

Yes, you might fail again. Things can get worse. But they can get better, too. F.W. Dupee said, “Progress always involves risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”


A recipe for better clients and bigger income


The other night my wife and I watched “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” a documentary about “Sukiyabashi Jiro,” a famed sushi restaurant in Japan and it’s master chef and owner, Jiro Ono. Actually, she watched it while I dozed, but I caught enough of it to realize a few things.

First, if the reaction of the restaurant’s patrons is any indication, I probably should try sushi one of these days. His customers practically swooned as they consumed their meal, and this in a country that eats lots of sushi.

The second thing I realized is that Mr. Ono is earning a small fortune. The bill for a meal starts at 30,000 yen, which is around $300, and you have to make a reservation a month in advance. That’s for locals. Customers fly in from all over the world and book a year in advance.

What’s the reason for his success? He charges premium prices for a premium meal. He uses only the best fish, which is laboriously prepared and presented. The result is an amazing culinary experience, earning Mr. Ono’s restaurant a coveted “Three Stars” in the Michelin guide.

And it’s a little hole in the wall.

Clean as a whistle, but no atmosphere. Just ten seats. You sit at a counter, Mr. Ono serves you and watches you eat, gauging your reaction. No dilly dallying, mind you. He serves, you eat, and you’re done. “No soup for you!”.

Actually, there is no soup. Or noodles or appetizers. Just sushi.

Anyway, the point is that if you want to have better clients who fly in from all over the world to hire you and pay you higher fees and tell everyone they know about you, you can, if you offer a premium service. Find something you do and make it the best of it’s kind.

You will attract the best clients, the ones who value quality and are willing to pay for it. By charging premium fees, you need fewer clients. But you will have just as many hours available each day and can devote more time to each client. This will allow you to deliver remarkable service that generates repeat business and referrals.

You’ll have it easier than Mr. Ono, however, because he has discerning customers who instantly know that his work product is the best they’ve ever tasted.


Yes, it is your fault


We all know people who live a life of blame. When bad things happen, it’s someone else’s fault. It’s the economy. It’s the government.

I got screwed by the judge. The other side’s attorney is an [expletive]. My client didn’t listen.

But as long as you blame someone or something else for what ails you, you can’t improve anything. Stuff happens and it’s not your fault.

But it is your fault. And that’s good because it means you can change things.

Jack Canfield says, “If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything you experience in your life.”

If you don’t take responsibility, you relinquish your power. You become a victim. You go through life letting things happen to you because, of course, there’s nothing you can do about it.

But we all have a choice. We can choose to say, “oh well, that’s just the way it is,” or we can choose to accept responsibility and reclaim our power.

Sure, bad things happen. There is evil in the world. Sometimes the bird of happiness craps on your head. But you don’t have to accept any of it.

Canfield says, “If something doesn’t turn out as planned. . . ask yourself, “How did I create that? What was I thinking? What were my beliefs? What did I say or not say? What did I do or not do to create that result? How did I get the other person to act that way? What do I need to do differently next time to get the result I want?”

Okay, so people are out of work and can’t afford to hire you. Those are the circumstances. You can’t change them. But you can change what you do about it.

You can do things to attract clients who are working and have money. You can change your practice area. You can get set up to accept credit cards. You can do a better job of marketing than other lawyers in your market.

There are many things you can do, but only if you first accept responsibility.

Better billing and collection practices: go here


Networking: how to make a great second impression


You’ve met someone new, through networking in person or online. You’ve done the card exchange, traded links, and said, “let’s keep in touch”. What now? How do you bridge the gap between first contact and the next step in your budding relationship?

The answer is to pay attention to them and make sure they know it. This will distinguish you from the majority of first time contacts they never hear from again.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Subscribe to their newsletter, blog, and social media channels. Comment on things they post. Share them with your social channels and subscribers.
  2. Set up Google Alerts for their business name and for their name. Congratulate them when others quote them or say something nice about their work.
  3. Track their industry. When you see a relevant blog post or article, share it with them.
  4. Engage them. Invite them to write a guest post for your blog or ask if you can interview them. Offer to write a guest post for them. Send them your content (but don’t subscribe them to your newsletter without their permission).
  5. Introduce them to someone they should know. A prospective client or referral source, a colleague of theirs, a blogger in their industry.

Do this with one or two new contacts each month and watch your business grow.


How to use your new client intake sheet to get more referrals


There’s a very simple way to get more referrals from your clients. It will also help you build your newsletter list and meet more referral sources.

All you have to do is add two things to your client intake sheet.

The first addition is a prompt for the client to list people they know who might like to receive your newsletter, special report, video series, or anything else you offer, such as a free consultation.

You or your staff point out this section to them and explain how this helps their friends solve a problem or understand their options. Tell them there is no cost or obligation or pressure of any kind.

Also tell them what you will do if they provide names, i.e., send these people a letter and mention the client’s name (or omit it if they prefer). If they don’t want to give you names, you will instead give them copies of your report or a certificate they can give to their friends to redeem for a free consultation, report, etc.

The client gives you names and you contact those people, or you give the client something to give to those people and let them take the next step. Either way works.

Even if the client does nothing on day one, you will have planted a seed that may eventually result in referrals and subscribers. You can prompt them again by sending them a letter with a blank form they can fill out, or a link to secure web page form. As the case progresses, they may be more comfortable opening up their address book.

The second addition to your intake sheet are prompts to supply the names of other professionals they know. Who are their insurance agents? Do they have a CPA or tax preparer? Do they know any other lawyers? Do they have a financial planner, stock broker, or real estate broker?

Explain to the client that you will introduce yourself to these other professionals. If there is a logical connection with the work you’re doing for the client, explain this. For example, if you’re an estate planner, it makes sense to coordinate with their financial planner or tax professional.

If not, tell the client that you do this for marketing purposes. By meeting other professionals your clients know and recommend, it helps your practice grow. It also helps you meet other good professionals you can recommend to your clients, so it helps these other professionals, too.

Provide a check box for the client to indicate it’s okay for you to mention their name, or not.

Contact these other professionals, tell them you have a mutual client, and you’d like to find out more about what they do and see how you might be able to work together.

Clients will send you referrals without being asked, but if you ask, they’ll send you more.

Learn the formula for marketing legal services. Go here now


Finding time for getting things done


Spinning plates. Putting out fires. Treading water. Does this sum up a good portion of your day?

Lawyers are paid to solve problems. Other people’s, not our own. If you’re spending too much time solving your own problems, you won’t have time for things that advance you towards your most valuable goals. Like getting paid by more people to solve more of their problems.

Solving (your) problems is important. When someone quits, you have to find someone to replace them. When you are audited, sued, or charged with an ethical violation, you have to respond. But responding to problems like these only helps you keep the machine running. It doesn’t bring in new clients or additional revenue. Peter Drucker said, “Results are gained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.”

One good thing about problems is that they tend to repeat. It may be a few years before you have to deal with something again, but knowing that it will happen again allows you to prepare for it:

1. Make a list of problems that occur periodically. Small ones and big ones. Hiring and training new employees and temps, equipment leasing and purchasing, hiring vendors, moving offices, record retention, website security, and the list goes on. Add to your list throughout the year.

2. Create a system for handling each problem. Document your efforts to resolve the problem and minimize its consequences. Create checklists, forms/letters, and instructions.

3. Go through the list of problems and see which ones can be handled, at least in part, by someone else. Delegate responsibility for handling those problems (at least partially). Instead of running ads when you need to hire a new employee, for example, you might hire an employment agency.

It’s worth investing extra time in this project because it will save you time and headaches in the future. You’ll have more time for getting things done that help you grow your practice, instead of merely keeping the doors open.