Thinking like a lawyer? Fine. Just don’t write like one

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Stop. Really, just stop. Stop writing like a lawyer when you communicate with your clients and prospects. You cannot bore anyone into hiring you or sending you referrals.

And let’s face it, most legal writing is boring, even to other lawyers.

Write the way you must in your briefs, motions, and memoranda. Shovel in the prophylactic latinate phrases and legal terms of art in your contracts, leases, and trusts. Write the way lawyers write when you’re being a lawyer.

Just don’t do it in your emails or newsletter.

I know it can be difficult to switch roles. But if you want to attract business, you have to know when to put the law dictionary back on the shelf.

It takes practice. It takes a fair amount of re-writing. Having someone edit your early drafts is a good idea.

But you can do it.

Actually, it’s easier than you think.

You already know what to do. “Write like you talk” and “Imagine you’re speaking to a client sitting in the office” will get you most of the way there.

The hard part? Letting go. Unclenching your sphincter muscles because your brain is telling you that writing naturally and informally isn’t professional.

The solution? A stiff drink.

Hemmingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober”. You probably shouldn’t follow that advice literally, but you can do the next best thing by giving yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.

Write quickly. Pour it out. Let your fingers fly. Get it down on paper any way it wants to come out and don’t give it another thought because nobody is going to see your first draft.

The first draft is just for you.

Write every day. You will get better, and quicker. Eventually, you’ll be able to flip a mental switch and instantly turn off the legal draftsman and turn on the communicator.

You need both, of course. You need the lawyer to do the work, of course. But you need the communicator to bring in the work.

How to use your communication skills to get more referrals

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I dare you to take my marketing challenge

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I’ve got a marketing challenge for you and it will only take five minutes. I want to prove something to you, or rather, I want you to prove something to yourself.

I want you to see that you really do have time for marketing and that it’s a lot easier than you thought.

With me? Great. Let’s get started.

Yes, right now. As soon as you’re done reading this. Because “right now” is the best time to do just about anything.

Okay, grab a pen or open a new page or tab. I want you to write something. And remember, it’s only five minutes so no excuses about being busy.

I want you to write a note to your former clients. In your note, I want you to simply say hello.

You might say, “I wanted to send you a quick note to say hi and see how you’re doing”. Or, “I haven’t talked to you in awhile and wanted to check in and see what you’re up to.” Or wish them a happy and successful new year.

Nothing brilliant. Just touching base.

If you want, you can add a line or two of news about your practice (e.g., mention your new office, new employee, new website, etc.), or share some personal news (e.g., your daughter got married, your son just got accepted to law school, etc.)

But no selling. No promoting. Nothing serious. Just saying hi.

A few lines. Write quickly. Write without stopping.

Five minutes and done. Ready, set, go.

There, that wasn’t difficult was it? (If you haven’t done it yet, go ahead and do it now. C’mon on, I’ll wait. . .)

Now what? Now, put your note in an email and send it. That’s it. That’s all you have to do.

Tomorrow, or maybe even later today, you’re going to see what happens.

I’ll let you find out for yourself what that is but I’m pretty sure you’re going to like what happens.

Will you take my challenge? It’s just five minutes, unless you don’t have an email list of your former clients, in which case you’ll need to take care of that, first. And trust me, you’ll want to do that because once you see what happens with your first email, you’ll definitely want to email again.

Let me know what happens so I can say, “I told you”.

Everything you always wanted to know about email marketing (but were afraid to ask)

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How often do you do it?

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I heard from a subscriber who told me he does it twice a month and wants to do it weekly but his wife thinks this is too often.

I’m talking about email, of course. What were you thinking I was talking about?

He sends his clients and former clients an email (newsletter) every two weeks and wants to bump this up to weekly. His wife thinks that his subscribers will “get annoyed by that many emails and start tuning them out.”

His wife is right. If he increases the frequency of his emails, some clients will be annoyed. Some will stop reading them. Some will complain. Some will ask to be removed from the list. But none of this is necessarily a bad thing.

If your subscribers don’t enjoy reading your emails, you don’t want them as subscribers. You don’t want to cater to the lowest common denominator. You want to build a list of fans.

If your emails are interesting, entertaining, and otherwise valuable, most of your subscribers will look forward to them, read them, and act on them. And it’s those people who matter because they are the ones who will hire you (again), send you referrals, and otherwise help you build your practice.

Sending emails to clients and former clients is about strengthening your relationship with them. Yes, it’s also about keeping your name in front of them, but you need quality, not just quantity.

Just like in the bedroom.

If you are delivering emails that people want to read, you can write every week or every day. If you’re up to it, you can even write several times a day.

Just like in the bedroom.

On the other hand, if your emails are boring and lack value, if you fail to please your subscribers, it won’t matter how often you email, your emails aren’t going to get the job done. Yep, just like in the bedroom.

Once a week is not too often. It just isn’t. Try it, and see for yourself. You will get people asking to be taken off your list but you will also get people thinking you for your words of wisdom, your valuable information, and your wit. They will look forward to hearing from you.

Don’t worry about the ones who don’t. It’s better to have a list of 100 people who love you than 10,000 people who are relatively indifferent.

I used to email once a week and I was nervous about what might happen if I starting emailing daily. (I also wasn’t sure I could keep up with that schedule). But I did it and I’m glad I did.

Is it different if you’re writing to lawyers or to “regular folks,” i.e., clients? No. If anything, busy lawyers would seem to be less tolerant of more frequent emails. But (most of) my subscribers read and like my emails because I deliver value.

Tell your subscribers (in your emails and on your website) how often they can expect to hear from you and remind them that they can opt out at any time. And then have at it.

If you’re still not sure, or if your wife is nervous about how often you want to “do it,” conduct an experiment. Continue emailing clients and former clients on your current schedule but email more frequently to prospective clients. When you see good things happening, you can have another talk with your wife.

Get good at building an email list and using it to build your practice

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$80,000 with one letter

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Yesterday, I (once again) danced up and down on my keyboard in an effort to convince you to use email for marketing your legal services. I suggested that a simple weekly email to clients and prospects might bring in enough repeat business and referrals to make you a very happy camper.

A subscriber, an attorney friend who no longer practices, wrote and said my email reminded him of a time when he sent a letter to all of his former clients:

“Back when I practiced law, my New Years resolution one year was to create a new profit center for my practice. So I wrote a letter to all of my old clients – about 200 people — announcing that I was now also handling wills and trusts.

That one letter made me about $80K the next year.”

Waaay better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

As far as I know, my friend didn’t make any crazy-special offer. He merely contacted people who knew, liked, and trusted him and shared his news.

And, as far as I know, he only sent one letter. Would he have earned more if he had written again? No doubt. Because some people may not have received his first letter. Some might not have read it. Some might not have been ready to take action. A second (or twenty-second) letter may have arrived at precisely the time when they were ready to say, “take my money”.

You’re thinking: “Okay, this sounds good but what if I’m not starting a new practice area?”

Well, how about partnering up with other lawyers in other practice areas and recommending their services, in return for them doing the same for you? Know any good accountants, financial planners, insurance or real estate brokers? Business owners with products or services you like?

Yep, you can do the same thing with them. But only if you have a list.

If you don’t want to recommend anyone else’s services for some reason, just keep your name in front of your peeps. When they need your services (again), or know someone they can refer, well, there you are–in their email inbox, a click or a dial away.

Hold on. You’re thinking, “If they need me, they’ll call me. They’ll look up my phone number or go to my website. I don’t have to stay in touch with them, they’ll find me.”

Some will. Most won’t.

I know. I signed up hundreds (thousand?) of clients who, when asked for the name of the attorney who represented them in their prior matter said they didn’t remember. And that’s why they were sitting in my office instead of the office of their former attorney who didn’t stay in touch.

Email is easy when you know how. Here’s how

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Getting paid to write a weekly email

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I know you don’t have a lot of time but would you write and send out a weekly email if you were paid $1000 per week to do it? How about $2000? $5000?

Would you find the time to send an email every week if it meant increasing your income by hundreds of thousands of dollars per year?

You betcha.

Well guess what? Although nobody is going to pay you that much to write a weekly email, if you write that email to your clients and prospects (and referral sources), you’ll be able to pay yourself.

Yeah, it’s called marketing. And email is about as simple as it gets.

You have to build a list. You can use your website to do that. Add a form and invite visitors to sign up.

You have to have something to say. You’re a lawyer. You have something to say about everything.

You have to be disciplined. That’s why God created the calendar.

You have to start. That’s the hard part. And the most important.

Do me a favor. And by me, I mean yourself. Send an email to some people you know and say something.

Where to start? How about telling them you’re thinking about starting an email newsletter and asking them to submit a legal question? How about summarizing (or copying) something you wrote in the past and sending that? How about wishing them Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, happy holidays, or whatever floats your boat?

Just say something. Anything. And watch what happens.

Here’s how to start

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Spank me and send me to bed without supper

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I blew it.

Yesterday I said that referrals are number one and advertising is number two on my list of favorite marketing methods. When I said that, I was thinking about the days when I was practicing. Back then, those were my top two favorites.

Today, I would give you a different answer.

For most of my days in practice, the Internet wasn’t a thing. At least not something most lawyers had access to. We didn’t have email, either. Cell phones? I wore a pager and used pay phones. For a long time, I didn’t have a fax machine.

Anyway, if I was practicing today, I would tell you that referrals are number one and email is number two. Advertising would be third on the list, not second.

If you don’t like advertising or aren’t allowed to do it, this should come as good news to you because email marketing is something just about any lawyer can do.

It’s easy. There’s little or no cost. It doesn’t take up a lot of time. And it works incredibly well.

If you’re not using email for marketing, the best place to start is to use it to stay in touch with clients and former clients. Remind them that you’re still around and can still help them and the people they know.

Most attorneys can get most of their new business from people who have hired them before and email is the easiest way to do that.

If you are currently using email to stay in touch with clients and former clients, great. But be honest: When was the last time you emailed all of them? When do you plan to do it next? NB: if you have to think about this, you’re not emailing often enough.

Next, start using email as a tool for courting prospective clients. People who have connected with you but haven’t yet hired you. They are much more likely to hire you or send you referrals than someone who doesn’t know you from Adam.

Bottom line? If I had email when I was practicing, I would have grown much bigger, much faster, and with a lot less effort. Today, my entire business is built around email.

So yeah, I should have told you that yesterday. My bad.

Referrals, first and always. Then email. Advertising if you want to take things to the next level.

How to use the Internet and email to build your practice

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3 reasons your email newsletter isn’t working

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As you can imagine, I get to see a lot of attorney’s email newsletters. Most have “problems”. If your newsletter isn’t working for you, if it’s not bringing in business or it’s taking up too much of your time, here are 3 probable reasons and what to do about them.

You’re writing a “newsletter” instead of an email

You can call it a newsletter but you’ll be much better off sending simple emails. Most newsletters get deleted. Or they are set aside to be read later but forgotten. That’s because most newsletters (especially from attorneys) are too long and too dry.

Instead, send an email. Short and sweet. 300-400 words, not 1500. An email from you (not your firm). Tell them what you’re doing. Tell them about your clients. Weave in a few words about the law, but focus on people, not statutes and decisions.

Use your emails to help your readers get to know you better. Show them how you can help them but keep it light and interesting and personal.

And forget about making it pretty. Graphics get in the way and take time to find and use. Just send text. Like a real email. When every other lawyer and vendor is sending “pretty” emails, yours will stand out.

You don’t email often enough

Once a month isn’t enough. People need to hear from you or they forget about you. If you’re writing interesting emails and delivering value (tips, resources, recommendations, etc.) they’ll want to hear from you.

Weekly isn’t too often. Even daily isn’t too often, if you’re up to it. And if you send short and simple emails, instead of trying to cram “articles” and “news” into one long missive, you’ll have the time to email more often.

No, your subscribers might need you right now (or ever) but they know people who do. Write often and you’ll get more referrals.

You’re expecting too much, too soon

Give it time. Your readers need to get to know and trust you. They need their problems to mature and get painful enough to decide to call you. They need time to save the money to pay you or to convince another decision maker that you’re the one to hire.

You also need time for your list to grow big enough so that there are enough “ready to go” prospective clients on it at any given time.

The biggest problem with email “newsletters”? Not having one. Done right, they can bring you all of the business you can handle, and then some.

If you don’t have an email list, start one. If you have one but it’s not working for you, you can fix it.

Learn more about using email to build your practice here

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Torturing the cat before my first cup of coffee

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My cat is sick. We thought it was a cold he got when we boarded him recently when we were out of town. He’s never had a cold before and we figured he would get better on his own. When he didn’t, we took him to the vet and they said it was a good thing we did because what he had could kill him.

So now we’re in the middle of twice-daily doses of two antibiotics and an antihistamine. Unfortunately, our little guy won’t let us give him a pill and he won’t eat food that is adulterated with anything else so we are forced to deliver his meds by squirting them into his mouth with a hypodermic (minus the needle).

Seamus is a feisty Tuxedo and strong as hell. I hold him while my wife does the deed. I have to let him go each time while she re-loads because he fights me and claws me. I have the scars to prove it.

My wife and I hate doing this to him and he hates having it done. But we go through this routine, twice a day, because it has to be done.

I think that somehow, Seamus knows it has to be done. Yes, he tries to hide every time he sees me coming to grab him, but there’s a look of resignation in his eyes when I do.

Okay, so the point. The point is that whether it’s dosing the cat or marketing legal services, we all have to do things we don’t want to do. That’s life.

The other point is that when you put more of yourself into your emails–your personal life, client stories, observations about world or local events or about people you know–your emails are more interesting to your readers who would rather read about your sick cat than the rule against perpetuities.

It also makes your emails easier to write. And quicker. I shot this out in about five minutes while I waited for the coffee to brew.

Don’t know what to write about? Write about your world and the people (and animals) in it.

If you want more ideas about what to write about, get this

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How to get your rich dad to increase your allowance

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You may have heard that the probability of selling to an existing client is 60 to 70% while the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5 to 20%. You may have also heard that the cost of acquiring a new client is estimated to be five times the cost of retaining current clients.

The conclusion is obvious: you should focus most of your marketing efforts on current and former clients.

They can provide you with repeat business and referrals, send traffic to your website, provide testimonials and reviews, promote your content and events, and otherwise help your practice grow.

Question: other than to report on a legal matter, when was the last time you communicated with your clients and former clients?

N’uff said.

Of course the best way to stay in touch is via email. According to surveys, 80% of businesses rely on email for customer retention.

Smart lawyers should do the same.

Email allows you to stay in touch with clients and prospects, build or strengthen relationships, and persuade people to make an appointment or tell their friends about you.  It is the easiest, cheapest, and most effective marketing tool available.

Anyway, I’m not your daddy, but if I was, I’d tell you to wake up and smell the coffee. If you don’t have an email list (and by that I mean an autoresponder that allows people to sign up from your website and allows you to send automated emails and newsletters), you’re missing the boat.

If you do have an email list, color me impressed. But are you using it effectively? Or are you leaving money on the digital table.

If you want to learn my wicked ways for using email to grow your practice, start with this.

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Stop it, you’re putting me to sleep

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It’s nice hearing from readers who say nice things about my emails. It’s even nicer when they tell me I’m full of it.

If your readers don’t at least occasionally tell you that you missed something or you said something they strongly disagree with, you’re missing the boat.

You’ve want to be edgy. Controversial. Provocative. You want your readers to feel something, even if that something makes them want to take a swing at you. If you never lose subscribers over something you said that offended them, you may be guilty of the cardinal sin of being boring.

If you’re boring, readers won’t read you. If they don’t read you, they may forget you. If they forget you, they’re not going to hire or recommend you.

Now, someone is reading this and thinking they would never go that far. They cherish their subscribers and would never do anything that might get a complaint or, hell-to-the-no, cause someone to unsubscribe.

Too bad. So sad.

If you never take risks with your writing or marketing, if you don’t do anything to stand out and be remembered, you run the even greater risk of living a life of mediocrity.

Because boring is one step away from irrelevance.

Besides, do you really want subscribers who can’t stand a little heat and never get the joke? Who are easily triggered and need to hide in their safe space?

I don’t. I want them to go away and make room for people who get me and support me and buy from me.

You should, too.

You want fans. You want champions. You want people who look forward to reading you, and who might sometimes disagree with you, or get perturbed with you, stick with you, no matter what. Because they love you and know you love them.

<Group hug>

One of the best tools for building your practice: email

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