Go to law school and join the Billionaire Boys Club

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I read an article about the top five industries in which the world’s self-made billionaires made their fortunes. Financing and investments were at the top of the list with a little over 19%. Surprisingly, technology wasn’t one of the top five.

Not surprisingly, the legal industry wasn’t on the list. In fact, I can’t name any lawyer who became a billionaire practicing law. I do, however, know of more than a few billionaires who have a law degree under their belt.

Practicing law may not be a direct path to earning ten figures, but it clearly is an indirect path. Your law practice can introduce you to entrepreneurs and others who are on their way to joining The Billionaire Boys Club, and if you play your cards right, you can come along for the ride.

When you know the right people, you can use those contacts as a stepping stone to wealth. Even if they are not your clients, being a lawyer can give you access to people, information, advice, and the opportunity to invest in other people’s ideas or go to work for their companies.

My father pointed this out to me when I was in high school. He wanted me to go to law school, something I was pretty sure I did not want to do. He told me I didn’t necessarily have to practice law, my law degree could open doors for me and prepare me for anything else I might want to do.

I did practice law, for more than twenty years, and it seems he was right. I made a lot of money in my law practice, but I’ve made a lot more doing other things.

How about you? Is being a lawyer your end game or do you see it as a stepping stone to something else? Do you want to join the billionaire club or would you be happy with tens of millions?

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Write better by writing faster

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If you could write faster, you would get more work done in less time. You could crank out more billable work product, complete more projects, and free up time for other activities. You could also bring in more new clients by turning out more website content and marketing documents.

You probably know some of the mechanics of writing faster and producing more content:

  • Use boilerplate language and fill-in-the-blank templates.
  • Re-purpose content. Convert a slide presentation into an ebook; revise old articles into new ones.
  • Use outlines and mind maps to organize your writing.
  • Divide big projects into a series of small ones.
  • Dictate into a digital recorder or smart phone. Use a transcriber, or transcription software.
  • Dictate while driving, commuting, taking a walk or a bath.

It turns out that one of the best ways to write better is to write faster.

I’m talking about the speed with which you put words on the page. The faster you do that, the better your writing tends to be.

Many people think that writing fast leads to poor writing. But that’s not true. More often than not, my best writing comes out of my head to my hands and onto the page when I don’t think, I just write. Quickly.

Write your first drafts as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about getting the words right. That will come in subsequent drafts and in the editing process. Don’t analyze what you’re saying, and don’t stop until you have nothing else to say.

If this is a challenge for you, like it was for me when I started a big writing project that ultimately took me three years to complete, give yourself permission to write the first draft badly. That’s what I did. In fact, I taped a piece of paper onto my computer monitor to remind me to keep going. It said, “Progress, not perfection.”

I focused on getting words down and reminded myself that I could fix everything after the first draft was done.

When I was done with the first draft, I found out that it wasn’t bad at all, it was actually quite good. With comparatively little re-writing and editing, that project became my first marketing course for lawyers and earned me millions of dollars.

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Why didn’t the client hire you?

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You’ve met with a prospective client. You’ve given them a free consultation or done the dog-and-pony show. It’s decision time for them and unfortunately, the decision is “no”. You didn’t get the job.

You need to find out why.

Ask them why they chose someone else.

In your presentation or conversation, did you forget to say something they wanted to hear?

Did they think you don’t have enough experience? The right experience? What would have made a difference?

Did they see a bad review online or talk to someone who said negative things about you?

Were they unable to afford your fee? Would they have said yes if you offered a payment plan or accepted credit cards?

Were they expecting you to be more solicitous and comforting? Did you do something during the consultation they didn’t like (e.g., taking calls, checking texts, not making eye contact)?

Was it your website, or lack thereof? Were you lacking in content that proved you are good at what you do and have helped others?

Or was everything “okay” but other lawyers looked better or offered more? Clients have been known to hire the lawyer who offers free parking over the equally qualified one who doesn’t.

You need to know. If you made a mistake, if you don’t offer something clients want, if your bedside manner needs improvement, you’ll want to fix that so it doesn’t happen again.

So ask: why didn’t we get the job?

But here’s the thing. When they DO hire you, you should also ask why. What are you doing right? Why did they choose you instead of others?

Fixing your mistakes and neutralizing your weaknesses are important, but it’s even more important to maximize your strengths.

If new clients consistently tell you they like all the great content on your website, for example, that it helped them see the depth of your knowledge and experience and get a sense of what it would be like to work with you, you’ll want to do more of the same. If they chose you because of a referral from another professional, you’ll want to thank that person, reciprocate, and find more like them.

Clients will tell you why they did or did not hire you and their feedback is invaluable. But you won’t get that feedback unless you ask.

Turn your website into a client magnet. Here’s how.

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The three quickest ways to get new clients

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You want (need?) new clients and you want them fast. You want them today. Next week at the latest.

I understand and I can help.

Here are three quickest ways to get new clients:

1. Referrals

Not only can you get clients quickly through referrals, those clients tend to be better clients. Because they trust the person making the referral, they are more likely to hire you, more likely to follow your instructions, and less likely to complain or argue about fees. They are also more likely to refer other clients.

The simplest way to get referrals is to ask for them. Contact your clients and former clients and professional contacts and social media contacts and ask for referrals. You can do this in an email, letter, post, or phone call. Say, “Who do you know. . .[who fits the description of your ideal client/might have a specific legal need]. Ask them to have these people call your office to schedule a free consultation or visit a page on your web site to learn all about how you can help them.

Instead of asking for referrals directly, you can ask indirectly. You do this by offering a copy of your free report, ebook, planning guide, checklist, coupon, or other goody, and telling your contacts they can forward your email or share you post with anyone they know who might want one. Give them a download link to make it easy. For step-by-step instructions, get The 30 Day Referral Blitz.

You’ll get referrals, build your email list (which will lead to more new clients and more referrals), and self-referrals, i.e., people who hear about your request or offer and contact you with their own legal matter.

2. Advertising

If you get it right, advertising is an incredibly quick way to bring in new business. You can place an ad today and have new clients calling within minutes.

The key is to test different headlines, offers, and media/lists, until you find a combination that works. When you do, repeat those ads, and run them more often and in more media.

You can offer your services directly, or offer a free consultation or other incentive for new clients. You can also offer your free report, planning guide, etc. Which leads me to the third method of getting clients quickly.

3. Special offer to your list

If you don’t have a list, you need to build one immediately. Include prospects, friends of the firm, people who have attended a seminar, newsletter subscribers, former clients, and other people in your target market. People who know who you are and what you do.

If you have a list, you know you can make things happen with the click of a button.

Send your list an email and remind your subscribers about what you do. Some of them need your services right now and will contact you. Others will know people who need your services and refer them.

Spice up your email with a time-sensitive special offer, something that gets the maybes off the fence. Your special offer could be a bonus service for new clients who come in this week, a one-time discount for new clients, something extra for returning clients, or you can get creative. For example, you could enter all new clients into a drawing for free tickets to the World Series or dinner for two at a good restaurant.

You wanted quick, you got quick. Go forth and slay ye some new clients.

Create a referral blitz in your practice with this

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More on lawyers testing a “mimimally viable product”

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In response to yesterday’s post about expanding your practice by offering a “minimally viable product” (service) to test the waters, I heard from two lawyers who disagree. Their comments and my responses follow.

The first lawyer I heard from added this comment to the post itself:

Not very good advice here, and would possibly lead one down a path to malpractice, test a “minimally viable service”? really?

The “start up world” is not analogous to the practice of law

Could offering a service you’re not competent to handle lead to malpractice? Of course. If you’re not at least minimally competent to handle this new service, don’t offer it. I never suggested otherwise.

If you’re thinking of offering estate planning services, for example, you wouldn’t start by offering to form offshore trusts if you’ve never done that before. You would start with simple wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives, assuming you know where to find the forms, how to fill them out, and what questions to ask to determine if the client needs anything else.

The operative word in the term “minimally viable service” is “viable”. It means the product or service does what it’s supposed to do. It may not have all the bells and whistles or options, but it solves the client’s problem.

This is the second comment, received in a tweet from Richard W. Smith:

“David – enjoy your posts, but disagree with this approach: “Make it as attractive as possible, and price it as low as possible”

He didn’t elaborate, but I’m guessing he doesn’t have an issue with making your service and offer as attractive as possible, he disagrees with the idea of pricing it as low as possible.

If we were talking about offering your regular services, I would agree. I’m the last person to suggest wholesale discounting or competing on “price”. In fact, I believe and have often said most lawyers don’t charge enough. But things are different when you’re testing.

When you’re testing a new service, you want to know if there is a market for it. Your goal isn’t to maximize revenue or profit, it is to see if you can get anyone to buy. So you offer a minimally viable service at an attractive price point. If your test works, if you get clients or opt-ins or inquiries, you then add to the offer (more features, more options), raise the price, and put more time and money into marketing.

If you don’t get “sales,” or you decide you don’t want to handle that new practice area after all, you close the door and move onto other things.

I should have added that in testing the new service, you shouldn’t price it so low as to cheapen what you are offering. Test a new service (or market) by asking for a fee that is low enough that your “price” isn’t the reason prospective clients don’t hire you, but not so low that they think something is wrong with you or the service.

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Grow your law practice by adding new services

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So you want to grow your law practice and you’ve got an idea for a new service. Do you work out all the kinks and then offer it to the world? If you’re like most lawyers (i.e., perfectionists, slightly paranoid, risk-adverse), there’s a good chance you’ll never launch that puppy.

Instead, consider borrowing a concept from the start-up world. The idea is to create a “minimally viable product” (service) and offer it not to everyone but to a segment of your target market. Do it quickly and see if anyone wants it before you spend a lot of time or money.

Make it as attractive as possible, and price it as low as possible, but don’t polish it until it’s all shinny and near perfect. Get something out there, flawed though it may be, and see if it sells.

If it does sell, improve the service and put more effort into marketing it. If it doesn’t sell, if it’s what they call in the real estate investment world a “don’t wanter,” move on.

Don’t waste time working on something until you know people want it. It doesn’t have to be great. Good enough is good enough for testing purposes.

If you’re concerned about offering a service that’s not yet up to your usual standards, test it outside of your primary market. Put up some Google ads or Facebook ads and see if you get some traffic and opt-ins before investing your time learning the ins and outs of the new service. Or, partner up with another attorney who offers that service. If you get some “sales,” you can turn those clients over to them while you brush up on your knowledge and skills.

You can also use this concept to test marketing strategies for your existing services. Write a report in a day or two (instead of weeks) and put it out there to see who “buys” it (signs up for your list or inquires about your services). If you get decent results, go back and expand and improve the report and offer it in more places. If it doesn’t work, pull it and try something else.

What new service could you start testing?

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Maybe we’re not using our calendars enough

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Most people use their calendar to record appointments and deadlines and little else. Followers of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology see the calendar as a place to record the “hard landscape” of their life, meaning only those things that need to get done on specific days and times.

We might want to start using our calendars more liberally.

In an interview, Stanford professor, Jennifer Aaker, author of The Dragonfly Effect, said that, “people who spend more time on projects that energize them and with people who energize them tend to be happier. However, what is interesting is that there is often a gap between where people say they want to spend their time and how they actually spend their time.”

Those gaps, she says, occur primarily because we don’t write down those activities. Adding them to a to do list is good; scheduling them on a calendar is even better:

“When you put something on a calendar, you’re more likely to actually do that activity–partly because you’re less likely to have to make an active decision whether you should do it — because it’s already on your calendar.”

If you want to get in shape, for example, instead of merely planning to exercise after work, put it on your calendar.

I have long recommended scheduling marketing time (even 15 minutes a day) on your calendar as an appointment. If you do this, you know it makes it much more likely that you will do it. Of course you have to treat it like a real appointment, a “must do,” and not a “would be nice to do”.

In a nutshell, using our calendars to schedule time for people and projects that energize us and are consistent with our goals can make us happier and more productive.

What might you add to your calendar?

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Do you have time for sex?

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In consultations with lawyers, after I’ve recommended a course of action, they sometimes say, “I don’t have time for that,” when in truth, they just don’t want to do it.

“Do you have time for sex?” I’ve been known to respond. Of course they do, because sex is important to them. “Then you have time to do what you want to do, don’t you?”

There is no shortage of time. We are awash in it. We choose to allocate our time based on our priorities. So when someone says, “I don’t have time for that,” they’re really saying, “That’s not a priority”.

Be honest with yourself. It will empower you to make better choices. Instead of telling yourself you don’t have time for something, say, “I have the time, but this isn’t one of my priorities right now”.

When you receive advice you don’t want to follow, don’t hide behind a glib lack of time, admit that you don’t want to do it. It will help you achieve clarity about what direction to take. If you make a bad decision, you’ll find out soon enough and can correct course.

When someone asks for your help with something that doesn’t support your priorities, you should be tactful about declining, but decline you must. Of course if maintaining a relationship with the person who is asking for help is a priority for you, then giving them some of your time is part of the equation.

In short, you have enough time to do what’s important. Being honest with yourself and others will not only help you decide what’s important, it will help you stay focused on doing what’s important.

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The key trait Steve Jobs had that most lawyers don’t

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In a recent talk, author Malcolm Gladwell said that there was one trait that distinguished Steve Jobs more than any other. It wasn’t intelligence, creativity, or resources. It was a sense of urgency.

Gladwell told about the time Jobs saw the prototype for the first computer mouse and was told it was still in the very early stages of development. Jobs got excited and demanded his team build a mouse and graphical user interface, even though they told him it couldn’t be done. They did the impossible and the result was the Macintosh computer.

His sense of urgency made Jobs nearly impossible to work for, but heralded his monumental success. He approached life like a little kid, demanding what he wanted, when he wanted it, no matter the cost or risk.

His refusal to settle for anything less changed the world.

Lawyers are often demanding of themselves and others but I don’t think you could say we have a well-developed sense of urgency. We’re too caught up in the risks, the costs, and the illogical nature of doing the impossible. And yet each of us is capable of summoning this sense of urgency when we need it.

Look at what we’re able to accomplish in the days and hours leading up to a vacation. Weeks of work gets done, our desk tops are finally clean, and we’re able to delegate a mountain of tasks and responsibilities we were previously convinced nobody else could do.

Can a sense of urgency be developed? I think it can, but only if we are willing to re-evaluate our priorities. As long as “avoidance of risk” is job one, we’re never going to find out what we’re capable of. As long as “thoroughness” trumps immediacy, we’ll always find ourselves one step behind.

To develop our sense of urgency, we have to be willing to let go of our beliefs about what’s possible. Start with little things. If you believe something will take two weeks to complete, for example, set a deadline of one week and get it done. Once you believe in the impossible, your team will start believing.

Of course Jobs didn’t merely demand urgency, he also demanded near perfection. More often than not, he got it.

Was it because he believed that what he wanted was possible? Did he just declare what he wanted, hoping his team would figure out how to make it happen? Did he have a gift for seeing abilities in others they could not see in themselves? Did his team do the impossible because they didn’t want to suffer his wrath?

I don’t know. All I know is, life is short and without a sense of urgency, we will never truly know what’s possible.

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An easy way to write a blog post

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When I don’t know what to write about, sometimes I find ideas by looking at famous quotations. Today, I thought I would show you how easy it is to write a blog post starting with nothing more than a random quote.

I did a search for “success quotes” and clicked on the first site in the list. I looked through the first few quotes displayed on the page and this one caught my eye:

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. –Bruce Lee

Don’t try to be someone else, Lee says. You are unique and valuable and need nothing else. Success isn’t a function of mimicry, it is a function of being true to who you are. Not only is this the best path to success, it is the only path.

This is encouraging, isn’t it? To be told by one of the most successful martial arts practitioners in our lifetime that we have what it takes to be or do whatever we want?

On the other hand, haven’t we always been told to better ourselves by associating with successful people in our field and following in their footsteps? Aren’t we encouraged to study history and read biographies of successful people so we can learn from their stories and avoid their mistakes?

I don’t think these messages are inconsistent. We can and should learn from others, not to copy them but to improve ourselves.

Lee had great teachers and sparring partners. He spent many years training and perfecting his technique and eventually created his own style of martial arts. He learned from many others, but when he stepped onto the mat to fight an opponent, he didn’t try to emulate them. He made his mark on the world by showing us who he was.

So. . . there you go. A blog post, from scratch. From a quote. I could add some observations about how this might apply to marketing a law practice, but it’s not necessary. The lesson touches on a universal theme.

When you write a blog post or article for your list, you don’t have to talk about the law. In fact, you probably shouldn’t talk about the law most of the time, even if you’re writing for other lawyers. Write about things that resonate with you and you’ll find an audience of people who want to hear what you say.

Be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself.

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