What are you willing to do to be successful?

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You want to build a successful law practice. You want to make money, help people, and do things that matter. The question is, how bad do you want it?

Are you going through the motions in your work, waiting to see how things turn out? That’s not much, is it?

Are you working as hard as you can, doing your absolute best to achieve the success you desire? That’s good, but what if your “best” isn’t good enough?

Or, are you “all in,” willing to do “whatever it takes” (legally, ethically) to reach the summit? That’s what some lawyers are willing to do. Are you?

Your knowledge, experience, talent, and effort are important. So is a burning desire. But, as Vince Lombardi said, “Most people fail, not because of lack of desire, but because of lack of commitment.”

Are you committed? Are willing to do whatever it takes? If not, why not, and is there another career path that might be better for you?

A successful practice requires successful marketing plan

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How to make your work less boring

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When we were kids, every day was an adventure. We had fun doing things we saw on TV, read about in books, or could conjure up in our imaginations. One thing we never imagined, however, was doing the same thing for the rest of our lives.

And then we went to law school.

We settled into a career that demands focus. We do the same things every day, getting better at our jobs, but for many lawyers, that job eventually becomes boring.

If you find yourself bored with your work, here are three things you can do:

Delegate the boring parts

Some parts of the job are more interesting than others. By getting others to do most of the routine, boring work, you’ll free yourself up to do the more stimulating and challenging work.

Work less/do other things

Delegating and outsourcing will free up time. You can free up even more time by using strategies and tools that streamline your workflow and make more efficient.

You can use some of the time you free up to pursue outside interests: hobbies, a side business, charitable work, or anything else that excites you.

Your work may still be boring but you’ll have enough other things going on in your life to keep you stimulated and fulfilled.

Find fulfillment in the work itself

Ultimately, the best way to avoid boredom is to find fulfillment in the work itself. One of the best ways to do that is to continually take your practice into new markets where you will learn new things and meet new people.

In addition, challenge yourself to continually acquire new skills and improve your existing ones.

Finally, make sure you continually set new goals that force you to stretch and grow.

Not only are these strategies good for business, you will never be bored because every day will be a new adventure.

One of the best ways to earn more and work less is to get more referrals

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Weeding out the riffraff

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I heard a radio spot the other night by an ad agency describing how they helped a client company increase their sales dramatically, and inviting listeners to consider hiring them for their business. At the end of the spot, the announcer said, “…starting at just $9,000 a week…” and then gave the phone number to call.

My first thought was, “What kind of small business (which are the bulk of the advertisers on that station) have that kind of an ad budget?”

The answer, of course, is small businesses that are making a lot of money. And there are a lot more than people realize.

Plus, if you have a successful ad campaign, as new sales are made, you re-invest the initial week’s $9,000 ad buy over and over again. You can thus do a half-million dollars of annual advertising with a fraction of that much to start.

Anyway, next question: why did the ad agency announce the minimum investment an advertiser would have to spend to hire them? Because if they didn’t, they would talk to a lot of people who think they can get started with $1000 or $1500.

If you get a lot of calls from prospective clients who can’t afford you and don’t hire you, you should consider doing something similar.

In your ads, on your website, in your presentations, or when anyone asks, tell people what it takes to hire you. No, not your fees precisely. The minimum retainer or your smallest “package,” so they know whether or not they are in the ballpark.

There are times when you may want to keep things a little fuzzy, however. Some clients might get sticker shock when they first hear “how much” but have the money and pay it, once they consider the alternatives.

Another way to weed out prospective clients who are too small or otherwise “not right” for you is to spell out who you’re looking for in terms of revenue, number of employees, locations, or other factors that relate to size and ability to pay.

You can also do this with consumer-oriented practices. If you do estate planning or asset protection, you could promote your services to people with assets in excess of a certain amount. If you handle family law, you might promote your services to clients with a child custody dispute.

You can also target wealthier clients by running ads in publications for investors, direct mail to people who own larger homes, or by networking with accountants, financial planners, and insurance brokers who have the clientele you want to attract.

If you want bigger clients, stop promoting your services to “anyone” and start promoting them to bigger clients.

Here’s how to get bigger referrals (and more of them)

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Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better

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Jim Rohn famously said, “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” I don’t think he was speaking to lawyers musing about the challenges of building a law practice in a highly competitive field or market, but he might as well have been.

If you’re in a seemingly oversaturated market, wondering if you should get out because there are too many lawyers who do what you do, take my advice: don’t. At least not until you consider why your field or market is so crowded.

The reason there is lots of competition in a given market is not a mystery. It’s because there are a lot of paying clients in it. Lawyers are making money in that market, which means you can, too.

Compare that to a market or practice area with very little competition. You might strike gold in a market like that but the market is unproven and it is more likely that you’ll go broke. (If there’s enough business in the market, you would see other lawyers in it.)

So rejoice that you are in a market with lots of competition. There are clients to be had and money to be made.

How do you stand out? How do you compete with all those lawyers trolling for clients in the same pond?

You know the answer. Marketing. Do a better job of it than your competition and the business will come to you instead of them.

Fortunately, that’s not hard to do. Most lawyers don’t know much about marketing and those who do often do it poorly. If you know what you’re doing, they’re easy to beat.

What if they have millions to spend on advertising and you don’t?

No problem. You have other ways to bring in clients. And those clients will be more profitable because you don’t have a big advertising budget (and the associated overhead) to cover. Your clients will often be better clients, too, because the kinds of advertising done by the big firms tends to attract the lower tiers of cases and clients.

Anyway, you know I’m preaching the truth. You also know that you don’t have to be a marketing genius to win the battle for new clients. You only need to be better than other lawyers who don’t know what you know and can’t be bothered to find out.

Start here

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Only you can prevent forest fires

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We all have problems. Most problems are small and easy to fix. Some problems are potentially crippling and need to be addressed immediately.

An audit, a state bar complaint, a lawsuit, or an unhappy client threatening to leave, for example, are problems that should be at the top of our list of priorities because there’s so much at stake. Even if they have a happy ending, they are distracting and worrisome.

You need to fix these problems, or at least get them under control, sooner rather than later.

Okay, you get this. And you do it. You don’t ignore serious problems, you deal with them. When you see fire, you grab the extinguisher and put it out.

The question is, what are you doing to prevent those fires?

Do you have procedures in place to evaluate vulnerabilities in your practice? Do you use checklists to open and close files? Do you have redundant systems for calendaring critical dates and backing up client data?

Do you schedule time to update your software, library, and forms?

Do you regularly review all of your systems and procedures to make sure they still work?

Just because you haven’t had any major problems recently doesn’t mean you won’t. You need to prepare for every contingency and vigilantly keep watch.

You probably do a good job of doing this on behalf of your clients, but if you’re like many lawyers, you may be a little sloppy when it comes to your own interests. It might make sense to get another set of eyes on your operation to help you stay on track.

Have your accountant and insurance agents do an annual review. Ask an attorney friend to review your office procedure manual in return for your reviewing theirs. Hire a practice management consultant to look at your operation and give you a report.

Because the easiest fires to put out are the ones that never start.

When was the last time you reviewed your marketing plan?

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Some clients are more valuable than others

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Have you ever considered starting a loyalty program for your practice? That’s where you reward certain clients with a discount, a free service, or some other benefit, to thank them for their loyalty and to give them an incentive to continue.

This won’t work for every practice area. But you could use it for PI, real estate closings, and for many business matters. Don’t immigration lawyers offer a “family discount”? Don’t estate planners offer a better deal on A/B trusts?

But you have to be careful. You don’t want to position yourself as a “discount lawyer” or be seen promoting a “frequent suer club,” after all.

One way to handle this is to only tell clients after the fact. At the end of a case or matter, tell the client about your policy so they know if they hire you again, (perhaps within the next six or 12 months), they’ll get some kind of a benefit. Or, wait until they come back with a second matter and tell them then.

You can also surprise them when you send your bill. The client expects to pay $3000 and gets a bill for $2500, for example, with a footnote or a handwritten note in the margin explaining why.

The point is that some clients have more business to give you and it makes sense to court them. A loyalty program is one way to do that.

How to use your invoice as a marketing tool

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Attorneys should be paid by the word

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Many attorneys tell me they don’t write a newsletter or a blog because they don’t have anything to say.

I cry foul.

Have you ever spoken to an attorney?

Give them a minute and they’ll talk non-stop about their latest case, complain endlessly about a client who drives them crazy, or tell you all about a jerk attorney who makes their life miserable.

They’ll brag about a big case they just settled or a prestigious client they just signed up. They’ll opine about the law in their field or about an appellate case that is about to be heard.

If they’ve been ill or injured, they’ll share all the gory details. If they bought a new snowmobile or boat, they’ll go on and on about their new toy. If they just came back from Italy, they’ll tell you why you need to go.

Blah blah blah–it’s almost like they’re getting paid by the word.

No, attorneys have lots to say, about a lot of subjects. Fortunately, we can use our verbal alacrity to write a newsletter.

The trick is to have something to say that your clients and prospects want to hear.

Here are some ways to find out what that is:

  • Go through your email inbox and see what they’re asking you
  • Send them an email and ask them to submit questions; invite them to do the same thing on social media
  • Visit sites like Quora where people ask questions and lawyers answer them
  • Visit other lawyers’ blogs and see what they write about
  • Visit other lawyers’ blogs and social media profiles and look at comments and questions posted by readers and followers

You can supplement this by writing about things like what you like about being a lawyer, and what gives you pause. You can educate your readers about the law and procedure in your practice areas. You can share news about their industry or local market.

You can write profiles of your business clients. You can interview other professionals who work in your niche market. You can comment on articles and posts written by others who write about topics similar to your own, agreeing or disagreeing with them, and sharing your experience with the same subject.

You can also share a smattering of personal information about yourself, your hobbies and outside interests, movies you like, restaurants and books and software you recommend. Your readers want to know about you, the person, not just you, the lawyer.

There is no shortage of subjects you can write about that your clients and prospects would like to know.

If you ever feel that you’ve run out of things to say, you can repost what you’ve written before. You can do that because you will always have new people joining your list who haven’t read anything you wrote in the past. And because the people who have read your previous posts won’t remember most of the details. And because your prior opinions, experiences, and observations may have changed.

I don’t buy the “nothing to say” argument and you shouldn’t, either. Pretend you are getting paid by the word and I’ll bet you never run out of things to say.

How to build your practice with a blog and/or newsletter

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How to help clients find you

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Yesterday, I said your marketing should be focused mostly (or exclusively) on attracting people who are already looking for an attorney, or looking for information about their problem and the available solutions.

How do you do this? How do you help prospective clients find you so you don’t have to find them?

Here are five simple and effective ways to do that:

  1. Set up one or more websites with search-engine friendly content. When someone looks for an attorney, or looks for information, they find your site. When they visit, they see content that helps them understand their situation and their options, and learn how you can help them. If they’re not ready to hire you, they should be encouraged to sign up for your email list to get more information (which allows you to stay in touch with them).
  2. Create free or paid content–books, reports, videos, audios, etc.–that provide solutions and demonstrate your expertise. Distribute paid content via bookstores. Distribute free content via other people’s newsletters and blogs and via social sharing.
  3. Make yourself available for interviews and/or to write guest posts on websites frequented by your ideal client.
  4. Advertise your services and/or your free or paid content in your local or niche markets.
  5. Build a small army of clients and professionals and other “friends of the firm” who know how to recognize your ideal client, how you can help them, and the best way to refer them.

To learn how to create a website that attracts prospective clients, get this. To learn how to get more referrals from your clients, get this. To learn how to get more referrals from lawyers and other professionals, get this.

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Marketing is good. Smart marketing is better

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You’re not like most attorneys. You understand the importance of marketing your practice and you’re doing something about it.

Many attorneys don’t get this. They think that if they do a good job for their clients more clients will come and they don’t have to do anything else.

Good work does bring in clients. No question. But why settle when you can bring in so many more?

I think many attorneys who eschew marketing don’t realize how much marketing they really do. Every time they speak or write an article or show up at an event and talk to people, every time they send a note thanking their clients and contacts for their business and their referrals, every time they call a client or a professional contact and ask about their business or family, all of this is marketing.

If you’re doing it, why not do it to the best of your ability?

Why not continually assess what you’re doing and the results you’re getting and make an effort to improve those results?

And why not at least consider adding some new strategies and techniques to your routine?

Okay. I’m not trying to convince anyone they need to market their legal services. I’m really not. That would not be good marketing on my part. It would not be a good use of my time.

It’s much more effective and profitable (and enjoyable) to target people who already understand this and are looking for ways to improve what they’re doing.

People like you.

In your marketing, you should do the same.

Spend less time (or no time) trying to convince people they need to hire an attorney and more time (or all of your time) targeting people who already know this and are looking for an attorney.

Don’t worry about people who need an attorney but don’t believe it or don’t want to spend the money (or don’t have the money) or aren’t in enough pain to look for solutions.

Marketing is one thing. Smart marketing is something else.

Start here

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Adventures in bright shiny object land

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My wife and I were at IKEA a few days ago, buying an ottoman for a side chair in my home office. While we were there, I fell in love with a desk by the name of Fredde.

I wasn’t shopping for a desk but Fredde called out to me and he was awesome looking. I wrote down his name and when we got home I went to the IKEA site and looked at measurements and photos and imagined how Fredde would look in place of the folding table I now use.

Oh yeah, I’m getting this desk.

I watched several set-up videos, seeing how others have configured their Fredde desk. It seems to be popular with gamers, ostensibly because it allows you to keep everything you need close at hand. It is tall and works well in smaller spaces.

But I don’t have a small space and I’m not a gamer. I asked myself if the desk would help me be more productive. The answer was, probably not.

There are a couple of features that might help, like a cut out in the front that would allow me to get closer to the monitor, but to be honest, the main reason I like the desk is that it is incredibly cool.

What did I do? I watched more videos, of course. Videos about desks, chairs, and office layouts. That led to videos about ergonomics–chair position, monitor height, keyboard best practices, and so on.

Crazy? Probably. But that’s how I roll.

After watching all of those videos, I realized that I already have everything I need. My current setup isn’t cool but it is functional. It’s also spacious and uncluttered and gives me a sense of order.

So now I’m thinking I don’t need Fredde.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with getting something just because you want it, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

How many referrals did you get last week? Here’s how to get more

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