Do your clients ever complain? Good!

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Amazon delivered my new mechanical keyboard and mouse. Everything is good. I’m a happy camper.

I got an email from the company that fulfilled the order for the mouse. Did everything arrive in good shape? Any issues?

They provided me with a link where I could give feedback, report issues, and provide a review.

Did I click the link and tell them I was happy? Did I leave a review?

I did not.

Sorry, busy here. I’ve got a blog post to write.

The thing is, when everything is okay, your clients won’t tell you, either. Even when you ask them to and make it easy, like this email.

If something is wrong, on the other hand, you’re going to hear about it, right? You’ll get an earful from the client and a bad review on Yelp.

Not necessarily.

Unless things are really bad, most dissatisfied clients quietly go away, never to hire you again. They don’t complain, they just leave.

But you want them to complain. If they are dissatisfied with your work, if they think you offended them, you want to know about it, so you can fix the problem and make amends.

You need to ask for their feedback, not once, but continually.

Through email, online surveys, and especially when you speak to them.

Encourage them to be open with you about everything. Let them know you won’t be hurt if they aren’t happy about something, you’ll be glad they told you so you can do something about it.

Tell them that they are doing you (and all of your other clients) a favor by being honest with you, because they are.

Ask your clients for feedback, and ask often. Put a link in every email. Give them a form every time they come into the office. Bring up the subject when you have them on the phone.

Let your clients be your “quality assurance” department. You’ll find out about problems so you can fix them, and. . . you’ll also get more testimonials.

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Would you hire you?

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I’ve got a question for you. Something for you to ponder over this weekend. Don’t just answer and move on, give this a bit of thought because it is important.

The question is, “Would you hire you?” Knowing what you know about your skills and experience and what you really bring to the table, if you needed a lawyer who does what you do, would you hire you?

If you would, great. Write down all of the reasons you would do that. In fact, keep a running list of reasons because you can use these in your marketing. Make sure you do this for each of your practice areas and/or services.

If you would not hire you, why not? If you have doubts about some things, what are they?

Be honest. Nobody else is listening.

What could do you better? What skills do you need to improve or acquire? Where are you “just okay,” when you know you should be great?

Since you might not be able to see these things, or admit to them, you might ask others to help you with this. Ask you clients. Do exit surveys. Do anonymous online surveys and let them tell you what you need to improve. Ask your staff, your partners, and your spouse.

Can you see how this information would be helpful?

Good. Because when you’re done with this question, I have another one for you to answer:

Would you buy your practice?

If it was for sale, would you plunk down the cash to buy it? Would it be a good investment? Or would you just be buying yourself a job, and underpaid one at that?

I don’t have the answers. Just the questions. Because that’s my job, and I’m good at it.

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If The Three Stooges managed your law firm

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“Moe, Larry the Cheese!”

If that puts a smile on your face and brings back memories of your silliness-obsessed youth, welcome to my world. If you don’t get the reference, I’ll meet you in Niagara Falls.

I confess, as a kid, I loved The Three Stooges. What can I say, they made me laugh. They still do. I might just watch me some Stooges on YouTube after I finish this.

My wife doesn’t share this opinion, although she did see the Stooges movie that came out a few years ago and didn’t hate it. I think very few woman like The Stooges, and that’s okay. I’m not crazy about shoes.

Anyway, I’ve written before about what might happen if your Mom managed your law firm, and if my cat was in charge, and a few other critters, and I got to thinking, what would it be like if The Stooges managed your firm.

For starters, you’d have to increase the amount of liability insurance you carry, because God knows something is going to happen to one of your clients who runs late or doesn’t want to pay their bill. You also need a first aid kit in every lawyer’s office.

But despite their penchant for hitting and falling down and putting heads in a vise, you’ve got to admit that The Boys were hard workers. They might not have been very good at hanging wall paper or fixing the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom, but this wasn’t for lack of effort.

They wanted to please the boss. The customer was always right. Service with a smile, yessir.

So if they were in charge of your firm, they would insist that you put your clients first. Unless they were bad. If they are bad, all bets are off. The bad guys always get clobbered.

More than anything, if The Stooges ran your firm, every day would be an adventure. You would never know what might happen, you just know that before the day is out, someone will have their face slapped and their eyes gouged, and someone will be laughing.

And that’s my point.

There isn’t enough laughter in the law business. It’s much too serious.

Yeah, we deal with serious matters, and no, you can’t go telling your clients jokes all the time, but can we all lighten up a bit and have some fun?

You don’t agree? Pick two.

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Imagine there’s no Internet. It’s easy if you try.

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If the Internet didn’t exist, how would you go about marketing your services? Think about this for minute or two. Write down some ideas.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

If you were around before the Internet, you can probably remember what you did. Write that down.

Finished? Good. What did you say?

Let me guess.

You would build relationships with prospective clients and with people who can refer them. You would build your reputation in your community or target market by speaking and writing and networking with centers of influence. You would create content (brochures, articles, white papers, reports, books, audios) that demonstrate your knowledge and experience. And you would work you tush off for your clients and generate repeat business and referrals.

There might be a few other things you would do if the Internet didn’t exist. I did a lot of advertising in days past. Maybe you did, too.

Now, look at your list. With a few possible exceptions, you might notice that the things you would do if there was no Internet (and what you did before the Internet) are pretty much the same things you do today.

Marketing doesn’t change. Fundamentals don’t change.

Jim Rohn said, “There are no new fundamentals. You’ve got to be a little suspicious of someone who says, “I’ve got a new fundamental.” That’s like someone inviting you to tour a factory where they are manufacturing antiques.”

Technology makes things easier and less expensive and gives you more options. But you’re still doing the same things.

Marketing is easier when you have a plan

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It’s all about keeping your clients happy

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Nobody would argue that keeping your clients happy isn’t vital. Clearly, it is the genesis for repeat business, referrals, and getting paid on time. But is keeping your clients happy paramount?

No. Keeping your employees happy is more important.

If you don’t keep your employees happy, you can forget about keeping your clients happy.

By the same logic, keeping yourself happy is more important than keeping clients happy. If you’re not happy, you won’t be much good to anyone else.

In response to yesterday’s post about not negotiating fees, a personal injury lawyer wrote and said he disagreed. “It’s all about keeping your clients happy, so they will return and refer,” he said.

Yes, smother your clients with love and attention. Remind them often about how much you appreciate them and want to help them. But just as a parent doesn’t need to buy his kid a pair of $300 sneakers when he asks for them, lawyers don’t need to buy our clients’ love by agreeing to cut our fees.

I showed my clients I cared about them by taking cases with questionable liability and negligible damages. I showed them that I was on their side and would fight for them when they asked for my help, even when I thought we would probably lose the case, and even if we won, I knew I wouldn’t earn much of a fee.

I also waived my fee on many cases, or cut it voluntarily. When it’s your idea, you are a hero. When the client asks (or insists), you’re just a commodity.

So be generous with your clients. But do it because you choose to do it, not because you might lose them if you don’t.

The writer also said he doesn’t think his other clients know when he cuts his fee for a client who asks him to.

Question: What happens when client A (who got a discount) refers client B? Does he offer the same discount to client B? If he doesn’t, what happens when the new client finds out that you charged his friend less?

And what happens when client A returns with another case? Does he get the discount on that, too?

Cutting fees is a slippery slope. I know. I once had an office in a market where all of the PI lawyers ran dueling ads promising increasingly lower contingency fees. You charge one-third, the next guy says he’ll take the case for 25%, three more lawyers advertise 20%.

When it got down into the 8-10% range, I’d had enough and closed that office.

With low overhead and high volume, I was still making a profit. But I wasn’t happy.

For more, see The Attorney Marketing Formula and Getting the Check

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Should I ever cut my fees for a client who wants to haggle?

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A Mr. Richard Feder of Ft. Lee, New Jersey, writes. . .

Sorry, I’m stuck in the 70’s.

A lawyer emailed and says he has a client who is questioning his fees and wants him to reduce it. “Should I cut my fees,” he asks. He’s afraid it would open the door for her to ask again and again. Not to mention what might happen if word gets out and other clients and prospects get wind of it.

The short answer to this question is “no”. Don’t do it.

Don’t negotiate fees or cut them for an individual client. Doing so assails the integrity of your fee structure. “You will? Oh, so that means all of the other times I’ve paid $X, you were overcharging me?”

Explain that even if you were willing to lower your fee, this would be unfair to all of your other clients who pay your regular rates. It would also be unfair to you, since you would be working for less than the fair market value of your services.

If she owns a business, ask what she would do if her clients or customers asked her to cut her fees or prices. If she has a job and her employer asked her to work for less pay, would she do it?

Ask her to explain why she is asking you to cut your fee. If she says you charge more than other attorneys charge, explain to her how you are different or how you are worth more, e.g., you have more experience, you have a better track record, you get the work done faster, you offer other benefits they don’t offer, and so on.

Show her that you charge more because you are worth more.

If she says she just doesn’t want to pay it, that’s a different story and it’s easy to handle.

Let’s say she’s asking you to cut your fee from $7500 to $5500. After you explain why you cannot do this, tell her that you would be happy to provide her with $5500 worth of work if that is more in line with her budget. At her option, she can get the rest of the work done later.

Or, you might suggest different terms, where the work is done in phases, over an extended period of time.

If this is not acceptable, graciously offer to provide referrals to other attorneys you know who might help her at a fee that is in line with her needs and her budget.

Be strong. Don’t negotiate your fees. If a client leaves because of it, they weren’t worth having as a client.

For more, see The Attorney Marketing Formula and Getting the Check

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Would you like that in tens and twenties?

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In law school, my torts professor told us that he was able to close his practice (retire) because he settled a particularly big case and banked a big fat fee.

It was close to 40 years ago, but I remember thinking, “Sounds good to me.”

One reason I chose personal injury over other practice areas is because big cases happen. One case could retire you, and that was my plan.

But it didn’t happen. I had some big cases, but not big enough to let me fold up my tent.

I was thinking about this on my walk this morning and I thought I would ask you a question. Here it is:

Would you rather have a big pile of cash (from any source) or enough cash flow coming in (from any source) to accommodate your desired life style?

Five million dollars in cash earning a four percent return, for example, equates to $200,000 in cash flow per year. Would you rather have the five million or $200k in passive income?

When I was in law school, I would have said gimme the cash. With what I know now, I’d take the income.

Aside from the fact that I’ve put on a few years and my priorities are different today, if I had the cash, I’d be afraid of squandering it. I might spend it or make bad investments. I’d have to spend time nurturing my nest egg, time I could spend doing other things.

How about you? Which would you take? I know, you’d take both. Touche, mon frere.

But this isn’t just a fanciful exercise. There is a point to it.

What you want in the future influences the choices you make today. To some extent, your cash or cash flow preference will dictate the direction of your career.

If you prefer cash, you need to consider practice areas that makes that possible. You might target start ups for clients because they might offer you a piece of their company in return for your services.

If cash flow is your thang, in the short term, you’ll want clients who have ongoing work for you. Business clients rather than consumer clients. For the long term, you’ll look at investing in income producing assets.

You could also start a business. That’s what I did. A series of businesses, actually, that provide me with passive income and allowed me to retire from practicing law.

One lesson in all this is that long term plans are often like an oral contract. They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.

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“Keep your eyes on your own paper!”

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When I went to school it was against the rules to cheat off of your neighbor’s paper. Not sure if that’s true today. After all, if you don’t copy off of someone else, you might hurt their feelings. It’s like telling them they’re not smart enough to copy. What if they are a different race or gender? You might be guilty of racism or sexism.

But hey, I’m old. What the hell do I know?

By the way, it’s okay for me to say I’m old, but if you say it, that would be ageism. Wait. What if you’re older than I am? Can an old guy be accused of ageism for calling an older guy old?

Okay, my head hurts. I’ll stop. Wait. Did I just hurt the feelings of migraine sufferers by saying my head hurts?

Where was I?

Ah yes, assuming that cheating (and plagiarism) are still verboten, I want to point out a loophole. A way you can use what other people write to create your own content.

Here’s the thing. It’s not plagiarism to copy someone else’s idea. So if one lawyer writes a blog post about a SCOTUS opinion and says he thinks it sucks eggs, and you agree with that, you can write your own post and say the very same thing.

Don’t use their words, just their ideas.

The same goes for the post’s title. You can’t copyright titles, so go ahead and use it if you can’t come up with your own.

Of course if you don’t agree with what the other writer said, you can say that instead. (Careful, though. You don’t want to hurt their feelings.)

So there you go. You can never say you don’t know what to write about. Look at what someone else wrote and cheat off of their paper.

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Do you make this mistake in marketing legal services?

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I heard two radio commercials yesterday and IMH (but accurate) O, both made the same mistake. Listen up. This is important even if you don’t advertise.

One spot was mass tort. I don’t recall the other. Both ads used the same call to action. They told (interested) listeners to call a telephone number, presumably, to make an appointment.

What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that why the lawyers are advertising? Isn’t that how the listener with a legal issue is going to get the help they need?

Sure. But here’s the thing. For every person who calls, there are perhaps ten people who “almost” call but don’t.

The ad caught there attention, they have the legal issue, or think they do, they need help, but for a multitude of reasons, they don’t call.

Maybe they think their problem is different. Maybe they’re scared and not ready to talk to someone. Maybe they don’t trust you. Maybe they think they’ll have to pay. Or they know the consultation is free but think they will have to pay after that (and can’t afford it). Maybe they think the person they talk to won’t answer any questions unless they come to their office. Maybe they’re busy and can’t take time off work. Maybe they didn’t write down the phone number. Maybe their dog threw up and the next day they forgot to call.

Lost of reasons. But the ads give the listener only two options: call or don’t call.

And most don’t call.

What if there was another option? What if they could learn more about their issue and the possible solutions, find out about the law and procedure, and learn about the lawyer’s background and how they have helped lots of other people with this problem?

What if they could get many of their basic questions answered without having to talk to anyone? What if they could sell themselves on taking the next step?

What if the ads told the listener to go their website, where they could get all of this, and more?

Do you think some of the listeners would do that? And if the website does a decent job of educating them and making them feel comfortable with these lawyers and their ability to help them, do you think more people would call or use the email contact form?

If more people did that, do you think these lawyers would get more clients?

Look, some of the listeners to these commercials are going to go online anyway, to see what they can find out about the problem and possible solutions. Your ad reminded them to do that.

What will they find? Which of your competitor’s website will they land on? Which of them will they hire instead of you?

In marketing your legal services, yes, you should give out your phone number and tell prospective clients to call. But you should also give them your website, so that if they’re not ready to call, they can get to know, like, and trust you, so that when they are ready to do something, the lawyer they call is you.

Marketing legal services with your website. Go here

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Viral videos for marketing a law firm

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You may have seen a video depicting an unhappy, soon-to-be ex-husband who took the household furniture and cut everything in half.

I didn’t see it until today but apparently, a lot of people did. At last count the video is up to five million views.

The video wasn’t produced by an unhappy husband, however. It was a prank or advertising gimmick (call it what you will) commissioned by a German law firm. That firm recently came clean, admitted their skulduggery and apologized.

But why? It was clever and got a lot of attention. You could say that it made a valuable point, that in a divorce, if you don’t have proper counsel, you could lose half your possessions.

Was it misleading? Yeah, but so what? They could have “signed” the video with the firm name, but it wouldn’t have nearly as many views.

Is the whole idea tacky? Unbecoming for a law firm? You could make that case, but I say, lighten up. Nobody got hurt, a lot of people got a chuckle or two, and the firm got some attention that will, I’m sure, convert into new business.

Do you agree? Disagree? Have you use viral videos for marketing? Are you smacking your forehead and saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

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