Do you keep a reading list?

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I download Kindle books nearly every day. Some for research, some for fun, and some on subjects I later ask myself, “What were you thinking?”

What can I tell you, I like books.

Most of these books were free but I also buy a fair number. Right now, there are 4663 books in my account, and that doesn’t include the ones I’ve read and deleted.

Is that a library in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

Sometimes I go to read a book only to discover I’ve already read it. Many of these are books that offered no value and I tell myself I need to delete them. But that requires logging into my account and finding the book through the search mechanism and doing that one at a time is not a good use of my time.

So, I’ve started keeping a text file on my desktop: “Kindle books to delete”. When the list has five or ten titles on it, I log in and do the deed. I hope that one day Amazon gives us another way to delete a book (not just remove it from the device we’re using to read it). Until then, my system will have to do.

Now, what about books we’d like to read? A reading list of books we’ve heard good things about but haven’t had time to buy or look into?

For that, Amazon gives us an easy solution: wish lists. We can use them to identify products we’re interested in, including books. I use a wish list as my reading list.

But that’s too simple for many people. This morning I saw an article about the many ways people keep their reading lists. Some use a text file, some use a spreadsheet, and some use apps like Trello or Evernote. And there are many other options.

The article describes how some people organize their lists, update them, and add notes and other meta data. Too complicated, if you ask me. How much time do these folks spend organizing their lists?

I feel the same way about to-do lists.

Some people spend more time making and organizing lists than they do getting things done (or read).

When I hear about a book I want to read, I either buy it or put it on my Amazon wishlist to consider at a later time.

As Sgt. Rick Hunter (Fred Dryer) on the 80’s detective show “Hunter” used to say, “Works for me”.

How I use Evernote to organize my work

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Why taking breaks may be killing your productivity

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Everyone takes breaks. You can’t work non-stop for hours on end, you need to clear your mind and renew your energy every so often, don’t you?

Maybe not.

If you’re doing something you don’t want to do, something you have to force yourself to do, taking a break is a viable way to get through the task. That’s the idea behind the “take a break every 20 to 45 minutes” concept. It’s why we use mechanisms like the Pomodoro Technique (setting a timer and working for 25 minutes, for example, followed by a five-minute break) before going back at it.

These techniques and recommendations came about after studies showed that most people lose their ability to focus on a task after 30 minutes. But these studies were based on assigned tasks where the subjects were asked to do something they didn’t particularly want to do.

It’s different when you’re doing something you love.

When you enjoy what you’re doing, you tend to get lost in it and time passes quickly. You get into a state of flow and are able to reach incredible levels of productivity and creativity.

When you’re in a state of flow, why destroy it by taking a break?

It can take as much as 20 minutes to regain focus after a five-minute break. If you take breaks at regular intervals, you may be killing your productivity.

You might think you need breaks to renew your energy but the flow state provides its own energy. When you’re in that state, you might work for several hours without stopping and not feel the least bit fatigued. Gamers often go all day in front of their computers and sometimes have to be pulled away from it by a concerned loved one.

So here’s the thing. If you’re doing something you really don’t want to do you probably won’t get into a flow state and taking scheduled breaks can help you get you through the work. But if you enjoy the work at hand, don’t stop doing it because you’ve been at it for a set period of time. Keep going until you are no longer in flow or the task (segment) is done.

Knowing this means you should probably build some flexibility into your work schedule and allow uninterrupted time for tasks and projects you look forward to doing. Work, not games, okay?

Here’s how to get more referrals from lawyers and other professionals

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Most of your lawyer friends don’t want to hear this

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Would you be willing to ignore thousands of prospective clients in exchange for an audience of hundreds of prospective “ideal” clients?

Yes? Good. You understand marketing.

You know that in a vast, undifferentiated mass market, you need to focus.

You know it’s foolish and expensive to try to appeal to everyone. And it’s smart and profitable to craft a finely-tailored message to a select group of prospective clients whom you have identified as ideal for you and your practice.

You know that “law” is not a specialty. You know that your ideal client prefers (and will seek out and pay more for) the lawyer who specializes. You also know that they favor the lawyer who specializes in their niche, industry, or demographic group.

You know they want to work with a lawyer who understands them and has experience with clients like them. Your ideal client doesn’t want a lawyer who does everything, for anyone. They want you.

Of course you also know that marketing is much easier when you focus on niche markets. You know your expenses are less, your results are bigger and come sooner, your clients pay more and argue less, and you get lots of word of mouth referrals.

That’s what makes ideal clients ideal.

But your lawyer friends don’t want to hear this. They’re afraid that if they focus, they’ll lose business. So they pretend it’s not true and continue to waive a giant flag that says “call us, we’re lawyers” and wonder why they can’t compete with lawyers who focus.

No, your lawyer friends don’t get this, but that’s okay. You do. And you can get rich while they stubbornly compete with thousands of new lawyers who enter their market each year and fight with them for clients who are anything but ideal.

Do them a solid. Tell them what I’ve told you and taught you. Send them to me and let me enlighten them. Most won’t listen. But hey, you can still be friends.

Here’s how to focus so you can earn more and work less

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7 out of 10 lawyers agree

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Remember that toothpaste commercial from years ago claiming that, “7 out of 10 dentists agree. . .”? What if I told you the real number was “8 out of 10”? Why on earth would they low-ball it?

Actually, I don’t know what the real numbers were. They might have been “8 out of 10,” “9 out of 10,” or nearly “10 out of 10,” but they would have been smart to use a lower number.

Because “7 out of 10” is more believable than “9 out of 10”.

“7 out of 10” has verisimilitude. The appearance of truth. Which is a critical element in sales and persuasion. Because if your prospective client, reader, judge or jury, doesn’t believe your assertion or promise, it doesn’t matter that it is true.

As long as there are no legal or ethical reasons why you shouldn’t do it, it’s better to understate the truth.

I guess you could call this “reverse exaggeration”.

Anyway, remember this for your presentations, negotiations, advertising, motions, and anything else where you want to persuade someone to do something. If the real numbers or facts stretch credulity, lie (in a positive way) to tell them something they will believe.

Add qualifiers if you must. Say, “More than. . .” or “Better than. . .” before your statement, to cover your behind and let your conscious be clear. But as long as what you say is true, it doesn’t matter that it’s not completely accurate.

Okay? Make sense? Good stuff.

Now before I let you go, you’re probably wondering what it is that 7 out of 10 lawyers agree on?

You probably think I’m going to say “nothing”. Lawyers are a bunch of cantankerous, argumentative, pugnacious souls, genetically incapable of agreeing on anything.

But this isn’t true. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Most lawyers, more than 7 out of 10 I am sure, agree about nearly everything. No, not when it comes to arguing a client’s case or negotiating their lease. We do the job we’re paid to do. I’m talking about things like marketing and image, the things that allow us to stand out from other lawyers so that clients will choose us instead of them.

When it comes to marketing, most lawyers look the same.

You could take their ads, marketing documents, presentations, and the like, put another lawyer’s name on it, and no one would be the wiser.

The reasons aren’t important. What’s important is that because 7 out of 10 (or is it 8 out of 10?) lawyers conform and follow the same (narrow) practice-building and career-building path, most lawyers never get past “average”.

Average activities, average results, average income, average lifestyle.

If you want to stand out from other lawyers and have more clients choose you, if you want to have a better than average lifestyle, you need to be one of the 3 who isn’t like the other 7.

Let everyone else do what everyone else does. You be one of the few who doesn’t.

To be different, start here

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I like big checks and I can not lie

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I like big checks. The bigger the better. Yeah, I admit it. Big checks really make my day.

Wire transfers, direct deposits, and piles of cash also make my heart sing. If it spends, I like it. That’s just how I roll.

I like big checks and I can not lie. You other lawyers can’t deny, that when a client walks in and pays big money it’s exciting–a thing of beauty to behold.

Yeah, I like big checks, because big checks let me pay big bills and buy big things and watch my bank account grow.

Nothing wrong with that. It’s natural. So if you have a big check I want to talk to ya.

But you know what? I also like little checks. Because little checks can pay little bills and lots of little checks can pay lots of little bills.

It’s a beautiful thing.

And clients with little checks can come back and I’m always happy to see them. Sometimes they come back with big checks, and you know I like that. Sometimes they send you their friends with little checks, and big checks, too.

It’s all good.

So yeah, I like big checks but if you’ve got a small check, I like that, too.

Client got check.

C’mon, you know you want more referrals

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Faster than a speeding retainer

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When a prospective client visits your website and fills out a “contact me” form or emails you directly, you do know that you’re not the only attorney they’re contacting, right? Because you know this, I know that you have a strict policy in your office for contacting said inquiries as quickly as possible.

But how quick is quick?

According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that follow-up within an hour of receiving an online query from a potential customer are almost 7 times as likely to qualify that lead than companies that contact prospects only an hour later.

“Qualifying a lead” means talking to a decision-maker to find out if they are a good match for you. Do they have a problem you can help them with, are they willing to make an appointment right now, and can they afford to hire you, for example. Qualifying prospective clients quickly is a key to signing up more of them.

By the way, HBR also noted that companies that waited a day before following-up were 60 times less likely to qualify a lead than companies that did it within the hour. I’m just saying.

Consumers today are impatient to the extreme. They want answers and solutions immediately and will seldom wait for a vendor or professional to get back to them. You may be the best lawyer for the job but repeatedly lose cases or clients to lawyers who are a little faster.

By the way, everything I just said about email applies equally to phone calls. Inquiries from prospective new clients who leave a phone message should be called immediately, even if it is to have someone tell them that you’re unavailable and schedule a time when you can talk.

So raise your right hand and solemnly swear that from this day forward you will respond to prospective clients who contact you at the speed of light. Make sure someone in your office monitors your voicemail and email inbox and replies in 60 minutes or less. If prospects call or email after hours, your phone message or email auto-reply should indicate when you will contact them, and (unless it is an emergency) that should almost always be the first thing the next day.

Marketing is easy when you know what to do

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Why you should spy on other lawyers

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If I ask you to name a lawyer you admire whom would that be? Maybe you admire their lawyering skills or their marketing acumen or the way they run their office. Maybe you know them and are impressed with their interpersonal skills.

Write down the names of lawyers you would like to emulate and then set up a file for each. Add notes about what you see them doing. Study their website. Search for articles about them and add them to your file. Find their ads or marketing documents and add those, too.

Study them so you can get ideas and inspiration and model their behavior.

What do they do differently from other lawyers, including yourself? What do they do that other lawyers don’t?

Study attorneys in your practice area and in other practice areas. Study some attorneys for their marketing prowess, and others for their speaking or writing or courtroom skills.

Find attorneys who are good at marketing online and digest their websites and blogs. How are they organized? What kind of content do they write? How often do they post? Study their headlines, bullet points, and calls to action. Do they publish a newsletter? Subscribe to it and see what they send to their list.

Study their social media platforms. Observe how often the post and how they engage with their connections.

You might study another set of lawyers about how they manage their practice. Study their fees and billing and payment options. Study their office hours and parking policy.

If you admire attorneys for their speaking and writing abilities, read what they write, find where they are speaking and show up to listen. To study trial lawyers, you might reach out to them, compliment them, and find out if you can attend their next trial.

As you do this, no doubt you’ll get a lot of ideas. You’ll also find inspiration as you realize that you can do what they do. Don’t accept everything as gospel, however. They may be successful not because of what they do but in spite of it.

The biggest benefit of this exercise is that you may find out how much you’re doing that is as good or better than what they do.

You’ll be inspired to keep doing it, and someday, other lawyers will study you.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula

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I’d rather be eating pizza and binge-watching Netflix

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I was out for a morning walk and saw a car with a license plate frame that read, “I’d rather be riding horses”. I thought about the work I had waiting for me at home and it made me think about what I’d rather be doing.

I like my work, but I don’t want to do it 12 hours a day. I don’t live to work. Never have. I’ve always had other things that were important to me and I always made time to do them.

How about you? What would your license plate frame say? What would you rather be doing right now? Not just at this moment but in your work this year and for the rest of your life?

You may be one of the lucky ones who love what you do and can’t imagine doing anything else. Or you might be like many people, reasonably content with your work because you’re good at it and it provides you with a good living but in your heart of hearts, you’d rather be doing something else.

Imagine that you had money out of the way and that you never had to work again. Would you suit up every day and head down to the office or would you put on your sandals and head to the beach?

If you’d rather be doing something else, it’s okay to admit that to yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll drop everything and start over. But you might start thinking about the next phase in your life and take some steps to prepare for it.

The other day I thought about someone I went to law school with but hadn’t spoken to in over 30 years. I wondered what he was up to these days and searched for him online. Was he still practicing? Was he still doing family law? Was he retired? In another line of work?

I couldn’t find his website, nor any links on social media. I couldn’t find anything about him, which I thought was weird. But I knew him before “the Internet” and shrugged it off, thinking he was just another dinosaur who had refused to evolve.

“Surely he has an email address,” I thought and went to the California bar website to find it. That’s when I learned that my old friend was deceased.

He was my age and now he’s gone. Had he had a successful career, I wondered. A happy life? Did he always love his work? Or would he rather have been riding horses?

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A simple way to be more productive

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If you ever sent me an email, whether by replying to one of my emails or by using the “contact” form on my site, there’s a very good chance that you didn’t get a reply. One of the ways I stay productive is by saying “no” to most of the things that cross my path, and that definitely includes email.

I do read my email and I encourage you to write to tell me what’s on your mind or to ask questions. I get a lot of ideas for blog posts from your questions and comments, so please don’t stop writing. But don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear back from me, or if you get a one or two-word reply.

Time is money. Tempus fugit. I love ya, but I get a lot of email and I can’t spend hours every day replying to everything.

How about you? Do you answer all of your email? Do you “say no” to most of it? Or do you do something in between those two extremes?

I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do because everyone is different. But I encourage you to think about your situation and establish a policy that works for you.

Obviously, you shouldn’t ignore emails from clients or prospects. Nor should you discourage them from writing. In fact, you should do just the opposite–the more you communicate with them via email, the less time you’ll need to spend on the phone.

The point is that email (and regular mail) takes up a good portion of the day for most professionals and it is okay if you don’t reply to everything. If you can shave off 30 minutes a day by not doing so, doesn’t it make sense to move in that direction?

A good place to start is by deleting or archiving emails from people who want to sell you something or do business with you. It’s not rude to ignore unsolicited email, however personal and polite (or known to you) the sender might be. Your refusal to reply is, in itself a reply that says, “thanks, but no thanks”.

It’s also okay to have someone reply for you. And to use form replies that require no more than a couple of clicks.

Start by making yourself aware of how much time you spend responding to email, and to whom you are responding. You might want to keep a log for a week or two and then imagine that time being spent doing billable work.

If you want to get more done in the course of your day, you need to say no to most things that cross your path, and email is a good place to start.

How I got my email to “inbox zero”

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Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better

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French psychologist Emile Coue famously promoted the curative powers of repeating a daily mantra: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”. Apparently, those who repeated this to themselves many times each day saw greater improvement than those who didn’t.

Whether this is true or not, and without debating the rationale behind it, I think we can agree that the more frequently we do something designed to improve our skills or knowledge, the more likely it is that we will see improved results.

If you want to become a better writer, for example, it’s better to write every day than it is to write sporadically.

The reason is obvious. It is the compound effect of your daily effort.

When you do it every day, you don’t start each day at zero. You have the previous days’ experiences to draw on. If you write only once a month, on the other hand, every month you start from scratch.

To become a better speaker, every day, even for a few minutes, study the advice of good speakers and practice what you learn. Work on your timing, add better stories, seek feedback from others, and make continual adjustments, however small.

As you get better at speaking, you will gain more confidence. As your confidence grows, you will get better at speaking.

And so on. Success creates more success, through the power of compounding.

Whatever you want to improve, work on it daily, even for just a few minutes.

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