You have been judged and found guilty

Share

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.

Share

You’re not thinking big enough

Share

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.

Share

Turn your goals into problems and then solve those problems

Share

Lawyers are good at solving problems. We can look at a situation, decide what needs to be done, and take action to solve the problem. That’s what we do all day long for our clients. We know the objective–to win the case, to negotiate the contract, to protect the client’s business or assets–and we able systematically proceed towards solving the problem.

Why is it, then, that we’re often not very good at achieving our goals? Isn’t a goal really an unsolved problem?

Let’s say you have a goal of earning x per month by the end of the year. Your goal is also a problem: you’re not currently earning x per month. Now, how do you solve that problem?

When we solve problems one of the first things we do is look at the obstacles. If you want to win the case, you look for ways to eliminate or minimize your weaknesses. If there is a eye witness who hurts you, for example, you look for ways to challenge their sight line or establish bias.

Why aren’t you earning x right now? What are the obstacles? And what can you do to eliminate or minimize them?

Start by scrutinizing the elements. Look at your fee structure, practice areas, average fee, and number of cases or clients. You may discover that the weakness is simply that you’re not bringing in enough new clients. Fair enough. You have a new problem to solve.

Or perhaps you realize that your practice area is waning. You need a new one. You knew this but only now are you able to admit it.

But knowing the solution to the problem is only half the battle. It doesn’t mean you’ll do what you need to do.

You’re good at solving client problems because you want them to pay you and return and send referrals, and because your reputation (and bank account) are at stake. You are accountable to your clients. If you mess up, they’ll tell others. They may report you to the state bar. They may sue.

That kind of accountability ordinarily doesn’t exist with our goals. When nobody knows about your goal but you, if you don’t make it, oh well.

Tell your spouse, your partner, or your mastermind group about your goals and ask them to hold you accountable. If a lawyer friend knows about your goal, you won’t want him to know that you didn’t achieve it, or that you dropped the ball and didn’t even try. You’ll do what needs to be done to solve that problem.

Accountability is a bitch, but she loves you and wants you to succeed.

Share

Managing a law practice by playing childish games

Share

Remember playing “hot potato” as a kid? You stand in a circle and pass around a small object as quickly as possible. When the egg timer or oven buzzer sounds, whoever has the “potato” in hand is out. If you’re the last person left, you win.

Kinda like musical chairs. What, you don’t remember that either? Okay I’m old.

Anyway, I did my best to run my practice like a game of hot potato. My goal was to get things out of my hands and into someone else’s as quickly as possible.

I’d review a file, decide what needed to be done, and give it a secretary to handle. When she brought the file back, I’d do the same thing. I tried to leave work each day with everything off my desk and on someone else’s.

I did the same thing with opposing counsel and claims adjusters. Write the letter, make the call, draft the document, send it off. Out of my hands and into theirs.

It’s not a perfect system. Bigger projects, things I couldn’t delegate, problem files, were a constant. Getting everything else out of my hands, however, gave me time to handle them.

Take a look at your desk or your task list. What could you get rid of right now by handing it off to someone else?

Managing a law office is easier if you have some fun with it. Remind me to tell you about the time I brought a Hula Hoop to the office. . .

Share

Social Media Myths Busted (and other lessons for lawyers)

Share

I’ve been accused of being down on social media. It’s true that I don’t use it much, but I do use it. I realize it’s a big deal and it’s not going to go away. I also know that many people who read me and connect with me use social media extensively to provide value to their readers and followers and it makes sense for me to make it easier to do so.

I also understand that social media (done right) isn’t about advertising or selling, it’s about networking. I may not let on that I get the difference, but I do. It is a great tool for finding and reaching out to people in your niche, many of whom you would never meet at in-person networking events.

Apparently, a lot of people don’t get or don’t like social media. So when I saw a new book that promises to reveal the truth about social media and how Luddites like me can use it to increase our bottom line, I grabbed a copy.

In Social Media Myths Busted: The Small Business Guide to Online Revenue, social media expert Laura Rubinstein reveals the truth about common social media myths such as “It takes too much time,” “It’s not relevant to me,” and “You have to be an extrovert to be successful”.

After this, I might read, Social Media is Bullshit.

Whatever your take on using social media in your practice, there’s something else to be learned from Rubinstein’s book. Two lessons, actually, that can be used in marketing even if you never use social media.

The first lesson is about how she wrote the book. Although she is an expert on social media, Rubinstein interviewed 30 business owners and social media experts and got their take on the subject. Those interviews are distilled into the book. She was able to cobble together a book imbued with the knowledge and credibility of the interviewees, no doubt making the book better and easier to write.

Interviews allow you to write a book or any kind of content more quickly and easily. If you interview subject matter experts, their knowledge and experience will add depth to your content. If they aren’t experts, clients for example, their stories can provide context and human interest.

There’s another lesson from crowd sourcing content the way Rubinstein did it, and it’s a big one.

The thirty people she interviewed are all named in the book. They not only get the author’s stamp of approval, they also get exposure to thousands of people who read her book. Do you think these thirty experts might proudly promote this book to their lists and through their social media channels?

You bet your ass they will.

Tens of thousands of people who are interested in social media will hear about this book and want to see what their favorite guru says about social media. Result: Rubinstein is selling a ton of books.

She’s killing it. Bringing in cash, traffic to her web site, and opening doors to new marketing opportunities.

You don’t have to write a book to accomplish this. Interview some experts and post it on your blog. Feature them and their wisdom and they will send traffic to your site.

Where do you find these experts? How about social media?

More ways to create content, build traffic and get more clients, with or without social media: Click here.

Share

Is your marketing message like a horror movie? I hope so.

Share

Suppose you went to a horror movie and it was 90 minutes of non-stop slashing and killing. No plot, no character development, no suspense. You see the bad guy in action from start to finish. You know what’s going to happen next (more blood and guts) and you don’t care.

Bad script.

A good script plays with your emotions. It makes you think something might happen to someone you care about, but you’re not sure what it is or when it will happen. It tells a story, so that you can feel what the characters feel and get scared right along with them. There is a rhythm to the film, with highs and lows and twists and turns which keeps the story moving towards a satisfying ending.

You need to tell a similar story in your marketing.

Let’s say you handle divorce and you have an email list. Prospective clients subscribe because they are interested in learning more about divorce and haven’t made up their mind about what to do. So, you start emailing. What do you say?

Many lawyers send their list an endless message depicting the client’s pain (bad marriage) and the ultimate solution (divorce). Every email is basically the same.

PAIN. PROBLEM. (HIRE ME). PAIN. MORE PAIN. MORE PROBLEMS. ONGOING PAIN. (WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?) PAIN. PAIN. PAIN. . .

Bad movie. Your audience is more than likely to walk out (un-subscribe).

Nobody wants to listen to a non stop recitation of painful thoughts, any more than they want to watch 90 minutes of evisceration. Give your readers a dose of pain and problems, but then give them some relief before you go at it again.

Tell them about the problem and the solution you offer. Then, talk about something else. Tell them about one of your clients–what they went through and how they came out okay. After that, tell them another client story with a happy ending. Ah, just when they are feeling good and forgetting about their pain, boom, you remind them again about what might happen if they don’t take action.

The problems is still there. It’s not going away. They need to do something.

Next message, you might talk about alternative solutions. Mediation, counseling, marriage encounter.

Options. Relief. Something else that might work. Give them information, ideas, links.

Then, maybe something completely off topic. Talk about the wind chimes on your patio and how relaxing it is to watch the sunset and listen to the chimes after a hard day at work. Your list sees that you are a real person with problems and stress in your life, just like them.

Then you might talk about wills and trusts. This might not be one of your practice areas but everyone needs to know something about this, including people thinking about divorce. Give them a few tips. Refer them to a good estate planning lawyer you know.

Next up, more pain. They thought you had forgotten about that. They were trying to forget about it, but there you are, reminding them again. And you’re right. The problem isn’t going to go away by itself. They have to do something.

You mention that you have a questionnaire on your website that might help them put their situation into perspective. They fill it out. They see that you offer to speak with them, no charge or obligation, to answer their questions and tell them more about their options. They’ve been hearing from you for awhile. They trust you. They call.

Marketing is like dating. You don’t clobber the girl with a club and drag her to your cave. You court her. You let her know something about you and what you have to offer. You give her time to get to know you. You back off and let things develop naturally.

When she’s ready, she’ll let you know.

Learn how to build an email list and use it to get clients. Get this.

Share

Finding the sweet spot in marketing legal services

Share

If we draw a diagram of the marketing legal services universe we would see three sectors. The first sector is comprised of lawyers who do very little marketing or no marketing. This includes the ones who proclaim that they are professionals, not sales people, and “shouldn’t have to” do any marketing.

Of course every lawyer does marketing, whether they know it or not. Remember, marketing includes all of the little things we do to make our client’s experience with us a net positive. But the lawyers in this sector don’t do much more to build their practice.

The next sector, the smallest of the three, are those attorneys who understand the importance of marketing and who do it big. They study marketing, they have staff, they have a budget, and they are put a lot of energy into growing their practice.

The third sector, and the largest, is where everyone else resides.

If you’re in the first sector, be warned. You’re playing with fire. A practice that isn’t growing is dying, and if you’re not making a conscious effort to market your services, it is only a matter of time before you’re in trouble.

If you’re in the second sector, congratulations. The rest of us admire you. But that doesn’t mean we all want to do what you do. We know that marketing is vital to our success, and we do it, but most of us don’t do it with the same intensity you do.

Are you surprised that I include myself in this sector? When I was practicing, I got good at marketing because I wanted to eat and pay my bills, not because I loved marketing or was driven to build the biggest practice in town. I had other things I wanted to do in my life outside of my legal career, and I did them.

You can build a successful career without being “all in” with respect to marketing. In fact, if you are passionate about what you do as a lawyer and you’re good at your work, you don’t have to do a lot of marketing.

But you have to do some.

Find a few things you enjoy doing and have time to do, and do them. Don’t worry about everything else.

Need a marketing plan? Get this.

Share

Keeping clients happy is key to attorney happiness

Share

Happy clients mean returning clients, referring clients, and clients who pay their bills.

All hail the happy client.

How do you make ‘em happy? Surprise them.

According to research, it’s not positive outcomes that make people happy, it’s when those outcomes are unexpected.

If a client hires you and do the work they paid for, along with the usual level of care and concern (“customer service”), it is an even exchange. Money paid for services rendered.

When the client gets what they expected, they are satisfied, but no more. If you give them more than they expect, however, if you surprise and delight them, happiness ensures.

Look at the other way around. If you send a client your bill and they pay it, as agreed, you’re satisfied, right? You did the work and you got paid. NBD.

What if the client unexpectedly pays you a bonus. “Here’s an extra $5,000, just because.”

Surprised? Yes. Happy? Hell yeah!

Okay, so how can you give your clients a positive experience they don’t expect?

Do the work a little faster. Send a bill for less than you estimated. Throw in work product they thought would cost extra.

Of course you can also surprise and delight them with customer service. They come to your office expecting to fill out a bunch of forms and then wait to see you. Instead, they see you immediately and learn they can fill out the forms at home. They expect you to talk all about yourself and how great you are. Instead, they find you asking about them and their kids. They expect you to bill from the moment they shake hands. Instead, you tell them the first visit is free.

Figure out what they expect and then surprise them with something better.

Start by making a list of the connection points clients have with you and your office. From the time they first see your ad or find your website landing page, they have expectations. What are they? What do they expect to read on your site? What do they expect about being able to contact you and ask questions? What do they expect when they call?

When a client gets a letter or a bill from you, what do they expect? Once the case is filed, what do they think will happen? When the case is over, what then?

Each interaction with you is an opportunity to surprise that client and make them happy. Start collecting ideas for each of those interactions.

How can you surprise them when they are in your waiting room, for example? They expect water, coffee, and soft drinks, right? What if you offered them a healthy fruit drink or a milk shake from the restaurant next door? They’ve got their kids with them and expect them to have nothing to do. You could provide toys and coloring books, but how about a separate play room and a designated employee to watch them while their parents are with you?

It doesn’t make much to give clients more than they expect because when it comes to dealing with lawyers, they don’t expect much. Look for opportunities to surprise your clients and keep them happy. They may not send you $5,000 more than you billed, but you’ll be just as happy when they surprise you with two or three referrals.

More ideas for keeping clients happy: The Attorney Marketing Formula

 

Share

Every lawyer needs to be able to tell these 5 stories

Share

When speaking to prospective clients, an audience, interviewers, or professional contacts, you need to be able to tell them about you and what you offer in a way that is interesting and memorable. They should be able to see and understand the people behind the brochure or the web page.

Here are 5 stories you should be prepared to tell that make that possible:

1. Why us

What you do for your clients, the benefits you offer, the kinds of clients you work with, and why someone should hire you instead of other lawyers.

2. Your/your firm’s mission

The big picture about the work you do, your vision for the future.

3. Your personal story

Stories about your past, personal interests, family. The person, not the lawyer, although you can add why you became a lawyer.

4. Client stories

Success stories about people who hired you and received positive results. Have one or two for each practice area/problem and niche market.

5. Partner and/or staff stories

Be prepared to talk about other people in your firm. Clients like to know something about other people who might work with them.

A list of credentials and accomplishments has its place, but to be more effective, talk about people: yourself, your staff, and your clients. Tell stories that show who you are and how you make a difference. Because facts tell, but stories sell.

Share

You think you’re so smart. Good!

Share

Lawyers tend to have big egos. Mostly, that’s a good thing. It’s what allows them to be successful. Imagine what it would be like if you constantly doubted yourself and your abilities.

In 10 Things Highly Productive People Don’t Do, item 4 caught my attention:

They are not realistic when it comes to their abilities

When it comes to your own skills and expectations; it’s better to be an illusionist than being modest or realistic. Successful people and high achievers are overconfident of their abilities. They believe that they can achieve anything and expect the very best to come. This is very important in order to be productive.

Holding such beliefs about yourself will make you (even if you are the laziest person on earth) tend to take actions in order to justify your own beliefs. It will lower your resistance against hard work.

If you feel incompetent, simply ask yourself if holding such a belief has ever helped you. If not get rid of it and get a new belief because at the end of the day a wrong belief that makes you feel good is far better than a more realistic one that makes you feel incompetent.

Now before you can say this is a recipe for malpractice, it doesn’t mean you should take on work you’re not competent to do and blindly do it. It means believing you can get the work done and that you can figure out how to make that happen.

In the early days of my practice, I often took cases I was nowhere near ready to handle. I believed that if some of the attorneys I’d met could do it, I could too. I spent long hours in the library. I hired experienced secretaries and paralegals. I asked other attorneys for advice. And when I was truly over my head, I associated with bigger firms, watched, learned, and earned.

If I didn’t believe in myself, I would have turned down the business and perhaps never learned what to do.

Successful people start with vision. They see themselves where they want to be, doing the things they want to do. They believe that they are able to do it, and that’s how they become able to do it.

Share