Why “Be Yourself” is NOT Good Advice


“Be yourself,” we are told. There’s just one problem. What if we’re not good enough?

Whatever you are right now, whatever it is that defines you, was created by you. You took what God gave you and made yourself into the person you see in the mirror.

As long as you continue to be that person, you will continue to produce the same outcomes.  Be yourself only if you don’t want anything to change in your life.  If you want something better, however, you need to change.

If you want to be a better lawyer, you need to improve your skill set. If you want a bigger income, you need to change your habits and attitudes and activities to match the income of someone who earns what you want to earn.

You can’t say, “When I earn more I’ll change.” It doesn’t work that way. Change comes first. You can’t change your future until you change your present.

How do you change?

You read good books. You study them. You apply what you learned.

You associate with people who have what you want. You listen to how they speak and look for insights into how they think. Most of all, you watch what they do and you emulate it.

You get help. A mentor, coach, or accountability partner. A mastermind group.

You master the mundane. You practice. You get better and better at what you do.

As you become better, you attract better opportunities. Because you have grown, you’re able to capitalize on them.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t go from earning six figures to earning seven figures in a few months. But in a few years, you can accomplish just about anything.

But only after you stop being yourself and start being the person you want to become.


Holiday planning for lawyers


The holidays will soon be upon us. What’s your plan? What will you do to market your services and set things up for a good start to the new year?

What’s that? You don’t have a plan? Thank you for being honest. Grab a piece of paper and write at the top, “My plan for the holidays and beyond”.

First item on the list: “Come up with some ideas”.

Now you have a plan! Not a great plan but way better than no plan. At least you know what you need to do.

Time to put on your thinking cap and visit Uncle Google or Aunt Bing. Do a search for ideas related to the holidays, Christmas cards, year end planning, holiday parties, gift giving, and the like. You’ll come up with a bunch of ideas, most of which you will hate or can’t use, but you might get one or two that work.

Put them on your list.

Now you’re cooking.

What’s that? You want me to suggest something?

Okay. Here’s an idea for you. It’s simple, but very powerful.

Whether or not you plan to send Christmas cards (or some other politically correct variation), write a “year end letter” to your clients. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Tell them how much it means to you to be able to serve them. Say thank you.

Review your practice for the preceding year. Mention important cases or milestones. Mention changes and growth. If there were problems, talk about how you overcame them.

Then, talk about the future. If you have news to announce (an office move, new hire, new practice area, etc.), share this or hint at it if you’re not ready to go public. Tell them how this will positively affect them.

Add a personal comment or two, something about your kids or grand kids, or about something else you do that you are proud of. Give your clients a glimpse into your personal life.

(A glimpse. I’m not saying you need to invite them to the house for dinner.)

At the end, encourage them to contact you with any legal question or issue. You may not handle that type of issue but you know other attorneys you can recommend.

Why write this letter? Because it’s important to say thank you to your clients. You can’t do that enough. When you share your accomplishments for the year and plans for the future, you’re not just saying thank you, you’re showing them what your relationship with them means to you. They matter. You wouldn’t be where you are today without them. They’re not just names in a file folder and billing ledger.

The holidays are a time for giving thanks and this is an effective and memorable way to do that.


The best advice I can give you about building your law practice


Care to guess which of my emails and posts get the most passionate feedback?

It’s not posts about how to do things. It’s not about marketing, productivity, or anything else substantive. The posts that bring the most passionate, emotional feedback are, by far, those that are inspirational.

It’s when I talk about “big picture” themes that apply to all of us human folk. Or when I share something personal about how I’ve changed. The posts that share ideas that make people feel good about themselves and the future.

There’s a lot of bad things happening in the world. People are scared. Hurt. Looking for answers.

We all need a bright spot. We all want to feel hopeful.

That’s where you come in.

When you email your list, post on your blog, or talk to an audience, with everything you do in building your law practice, your number one job is to make people feel good.

When people feel good about themselves and the future, they associate those good feelings with you, the bearer of that good news and those prognostications. They will like you for it and want to continue hearing from you and being around you.

People want to associate with people who promise to lead them towards a better future. That can be you.

This doesn’t mean you can’t scare them with dire warnings. Fear can be very motivating. It doesn’t mean you should no longer try to educate them. Among other reasons, conveying information is important to building your credibility and trustworthiness.

But at the end of the day (speech, article, interview, etc.) give people hope. Let them know they aren’t alone on this journey, you’re right there with them, and things are going to be just fine.

They will never remember what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.


How to get clients to like you


I went to a doctor once who was highly recommended. One of the best in the area, I was told. When I got to his office and went up to the desk, I was handed a clipboard and asked for my insurance card.

No greeting. No smile. No eye contact.

I said something to her. Probably something like, “Would it hurt to say good morning?” Because that’s how I roll.

When I saw the doctor, he lectured me about not being abusive to his staff.

Guess what? I didn’t stay with that doctor. It didn’t matter how good he was at his job, I didn’t like him.

So there.

The question is, do your clients like you?

It’s not difficult to get clients to like you, even if you lean towards the grouchy side. But you can’t phone it in. You do have to make some effort.

Start by avoiding things that clients DON’T like:

  • Don’t make them wait. If their appointment is at 2 PM, 2:01 is late.
  • Don’t take phone calls when the client is in your office. That goes double if you bill by the hour.
  • Don’t brag. Clients want to know you’re good at what you do, they don’t want to hear you go on about it.
  • Don’t curse or use inappropriate humor.
  • Don’t delay billing. Don’t send vague bills. Don’t nickel and dime on costs.
  • Don’t fail to keep them informed about their case.
  • Don’t fail to call back when they leave a message.

There, that wasn’t hard was it? Pretty basic stuff.

Now a few things you should do:

  • Make sure your staff makes them feel welcome. Hello, is this on?
  • Smile. Firm handshake. Eye contact. Remember their name.
  • Talk about your weekend, but make it something they can relate to. You took the family to the beach, great; leave out the part about the yacht.
  • Show them you’re not perfect. Admit you’re a terrible cook or throw like a girl.
  • Be a good listener. Ask questions and let them talk. Take notes.
  • Talk about your kids and/or pets and ask about theirs.
  • Send thank you notes.

Yeah, it’s about treating people like you would like to be treated.

You’ve probably hired professionals who don’t get it. If you’ve ever had to wait forty minutes after the time of your appointment, you know what I mean. (Be honest, were you tempted to leave and send them a bill for your time?)

Anyway, don’t be that guy or that gal.

How to get clients to like you (and trust you): get this


The best way to end an email


What’s the best way to end an email?

The same thing you do at the end of any closing argument, presentation, meeting, pleading, report, blog post, or other persuasive communication.

Tell the reader what to do.

Tell them to buy. Sign up. Click here. Remember these three things. Go here. Do this.

When you tell people what to do, more people do it.

Can’t they decide for themselves? Sure. And they will. You’re not forcing them to do anything, you’re just pointing the way. Instead of leaving things up in the air and asking the reader to figure out what you want, you’re telling them.

And guess what? People want you to tell them. The judge wants to know what you want. The audience wants to know what you’re selling. The client wants to know what you advise. When you tell people what to do, you’re making things easier for them.

Of course somewhere in your opus you should tell them why. You have to back up your call to action with some substance. Tell them how they benefit, why it’s the right decision, what will happen if they don’t.

The call to action doesn’t literally have to be the last thing you say. You could tell them what to do and follow that with a memorable quote, a short story, or additional bullet points in support of your request. But don’t walk off the stage or sign your letter until you’ve told them what to do next.

You’re not in the entertainment business, you’re in the persuasion business. Do your job. Tell people what to do, and why.

Like this:

If you want to get more clients and increase your income, go to this page and buy everything.


Removing the obstacles to success


Instant manifestation. You think it and it appears. You write it down and it becomes reality. Sound good? Actually, it would be a nightmare. Your life would be a jumble of confusing and conflicting thoughts and you would be continually fixing mistakes and apologizing for transgressions.

Thankfully, there is a buffer of time between first thought and manifestation that protects us and keeps us sane. We want something, we think about how to get it, and then we do the work. It takes time and reason and effort to get from first thought to fruition.

And it’s a messy process. There are lots of failed attempts, unsolved problems, and abandoned ideas along the way. That’s part of the buffer, too. These obstacles help us clarify our objectives and ultimately, get better results.

But sometimes these obstacles get the better of us and stop us from getting what we want. How do you overcome obstacles that keep you from achieving your goals?

You could power through the problem. Drink another cup of coffee, burn the midnight oil and do what needs to be done.

When we do this, we acknowledge the obstacle and then defeat it by refusing to give up. When we do, we’re often the better for it. Tired, but victorious!

But there’s another way and it’s a lot less taxing. Instead of fighting the problem, eliminate it.

Make a list of obstacles that are keeping you from achieving your goals. Your list might look something like this:

  • I don’t know what to do/don’t know how
  • I’m not good at [whatever]
  • I don’t have enough time
  • I don’t have enough money
  • I don’t like doing what I have to do
  • I lack confidence
  • I procrastinate (actually, this is a symptom; the obstacle is one of the other things on this list)

Then, make a list of ways you could remove those obstacles:

  • Get help doing the things you’re not good at or don’t like doing
  • Money: Sell something, save, use credit, find vendors who will barter
  • Eliminate or postpone other tasks and projects to free up time (prioritize/learn to say no)
  • Talk to someone who has done it and get their advice
  • Read, take a class, and learn how to do it or how to do it better
  • Hire an expert to advise you
  • Outsource all or part of it
  • Change the rules. Modify the goal or objective to suit your present situation
  • Ignore the problem and let your subconscious mind solve it while you’re doing something else

You can either work harder (power through the problem) or work smarter (eliminate or dilute the problem).

And if neither of these works, you can confess your sins to your wife, mom, partner, or client and have them make you do it.

Hey, whatever works.


Networking by intent, not default


If you do any networking, either in person or online, you know that most of the new business you get through networking comes from a small percentage of the people with whom you network.

Wouldn’t it be great to know in advance who they are? Wouldn’t you like to know who will refer business, hire you, or promote you so you could focus your efforts on them?

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to do that. But I can tell you how to increase the odds in your favor.

Instead of going to networking events and talking to whoever shows up, or adding and following people online who pop up in your dashboard, figure out who you would like to network with and then find ways to meet them.

Who are the centers of influence in your community or in your target market? Who are the players, the market makers, the ones who know everyone? Who could send you lots of business, give you advice, or introduce you to people you need to know?

Once you have answered that question, reach out to them. They may not give you the time of day, but if they do and you can build a relationship with them, it could allow you to take giant leaps in building your practice.

How do you reach out to them? You find someone they know and approach them first. Then, ask for an introduction.

Or just pick up the phone and call. You’re not some joker off the street. You have credentials. Smart people (the kind you want to meet) know that lawyers can be valuable contacts. They want to meet us as much as we want to meet them.

You’ll often find that the higher up the scale you go, the more approachable people are. It may take some time and you may have to go through other people first, but with a little effort you can meet just about anyone.

Of course that’s when the real work begins. Once you meet these people, you need to bring value to them. This too will take time, and effort, but you’ve already decided that it’s worth it.

Do you know the formula for building a successful law practice? 


How to beat the competition in marketing a law practice


If you want to build an average law firm, find out what other lawyers are doing and do the same thing. Target the cases and clients they target, network where they network, and make your website look like their website.

If you’re lucky, you will get average results. Why lucky? Because they got there first and will always be one step ahead of you. But in time, you may achieve parity with them. And hey, compared to digging ditches, being an average lawyer is not too shabby.

What’s that? You don’t want to be average? You want more? You want better?

Okay then. You need to be a little different.

Not radically different or spectacularly better. A little different. A little better.

Take your website for example.

Average lawyers have a piss poor website. There’s very little helpful information on it. No articles that help visitors understand their legal situation and options. What’s there is often poorly written. The articles aren’t optimized for search engines and the sites have no social media integration, so few people ever find the sites or share the content.

Good news for you. You can stand out from the average lawyer by posting some well written, helpful content on your site and making it easy for people to find it and share it. Not hundreds of articles. Ten will do. That’s all you need to stand out.

You can do the same thing with other aspects of your marketing. If other lawyers hang out at the chamber of commerce, go somewhere else. Network where they don’t. Don’t go head to head with them. Remember, you don’t want to be average, you want to be better.

How about client relations? The average lawyer does an average job of communicating with their clients. You can be better by contacting clients more often, explaining things more thoroughly, and injecting more of your personality into the mix.

How about billing? Now there’s a common sore spot for attorneys and clients alike. When average attorneys lose clients, it’s often over a billing issue. Can you be better than average by adopting better billing practices? Yes you can. In fact, I wrote a book about it.

I find that the average lawyer doesn’t want to be different. They don’t want to stand out. That’s where you have your biggest advantage.

You’re not afraid to study marketing and try new things. You dare to be different. You want to stand out.

And that’s why I’m putting my money on you over your competition.

Marketing a law practice online: click here


You have been judged and found guilty


I judge you. Yes I do. When you associate with someone who does bad things I think less of you. When you support and promote their business or message, when you re-post their words, when you listen to their music, I assume you believe in them and agree with their opinions and lifestyle. When you fail to denounce evil, or worse, support it, I conclude that you as either ignorant or that you share those values.

I’m not alone. Your clients feel the same way. So do your colleagues. Your friends and family may give you more slack but they are with me on this.

I see people online, people I thought I knew and liked, open their mouth and reveal to me their true self. I learn their values, their beliefs, and their habits, and too often I see a different person than the one I thought I knew.

Be careful who you follow and Like. Be careful what you say about the news. In this overly connected world, where everyone can see what everyone else is saying and doing, you need to edit everything that comes out of your mouth or your fingertips.

Am I saying you should be almost paranoid about what you do on social media? Yes I am. Am I saying you should strenuously avoid all controversial topics? No. Just that you should think about what you are doing and make a conscious choice before you take a stand.

Everything we do entails risk. No matter what you say there will always be people who disagree. But you run a business. Your business rises or falls on who and how many follow you, like you, and trust you. Push people away and your business suffers.

Be careful out there. People are watching you. And judging.


You’re not thinking big enough


If you’re not wealthy, there’s a good chance you’re not thinking big enough.

In, 10 Ways in Which Wealthy People Think Differently About Money, the author says, “The wealthy think big”:

When you focus on just surviving through retirement or paying the mortgage, you will just survive through retirement or pay the mortgage. Your brain needs something big to dream about. You must aspire to be something huge. Stop dreaming of only a million bucks. Write down the biggest dream you can think of and multiply it by 10. That’s thinking big.

I agree. You get what you focus on, big or small, good or bad, so you might as well focus on the biggest and best.

Money may not be your primary motivation in life. I get that. But let’s put aside that debate for now and continue to use money as a metaphor for success because that’s how we keep score and because more money means you can do more of whatever else it is you want to do, even if that means giving away most of that money.

Anyway, if you haven’t already done so, before reading further, do the exercise. Pick a big number and multiple by ten.

Got it? Let it roll around in your brain for a few seconds. Imagine yourself in possession of that amount. That’s your annual income. Or your total assets.

Now, don’t think about whether or not it’s possible or how you could do it, just answer this question: When you think about that number how do you feel?

Does it feel good and proper or does it feel like an impossible dream? Does it feel exciting and make you smile or does it make you nervous or fearful?

If it feels good, great. Continue thinking about that number (or a bigger one) and use it to pull you forward towards a wealthier future.

If it doesn’t feel good, we need to talk.

Okay, no lectures, and no psycho-babble about self-esteem or about negative money messages that were drilled into you at an early age. But if the thought of big money scares you or makes you feel anything bad, it means something.

For one thing, it means you’re not on a path towards wealth. Your subconscious won’t allow it. It doesn’t want you to feel bad, it wants you to feel good. Pick a smaller number. Keep going smaller until you feel good about the number. Your subconscious mind approves of that amount.

So now what? If your logical brain says you want big(ger) money but your subconscious brain says you can’t have it, do you give up and surrender to your inner fears and limitations?

No. What you do is forget about the dollar amount for the time being and find a thought about money that feels better when you think it. If thinking about earning ten million dollars makes you nervous, reach for a thought you can accept. You might think, “There are things I could do to earn more than I earn now,” for example.

How does that thought feel? If it feels good, move forward. Think more thoughts that feel good about the subject, and keep doing that until you feel good about the subject most of the time.

What happens is that over time you’re subconscious begins to accept those increasingly positive thoughts about money as truths and good for you, not something it needs to protect you from. It will then guide you towards activities that lead to results that are consistent with those thoughts.

In other words, don’t try to force yourself into thinking big. It’s not about will power. Simply reach for a thought about money that feels better and continue doing that. Before long, you will find yourself thinking big about money, or at least bigger than you did when you started.

The process needn’t take a long time. Practice thinking thoughts that feel good (about money or anything else) and in thirty days or less you will see demonstrative changes in your attitude towards the subject.

Your attitude guides your activities, your activities determine your results, and your results determine your happiness. (Cue Pharrell.)

There’s the bell. Class dismissed. Open book test on Friday.