Unintended consequences can mess things up big league

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Last night, my wife and I did some shopping. At the checkout, we were reminded that California has just passed a law banning single-use plastic bags. Our options were to bring our own reusable bags (or, portable germ factories as I call them) or buy their multi-use bags at ten cents a pop.

Curiously, the multi-use bags are also plastic, so I’m guessing this is less a landfill thing than a California revenue thing, but whatever it is, I’m against it. (Horse Feathers.) So, like many of our co-shoppers, on principle, my wife and I put our purchases back in the cart, bagless, and proceeded towards the exit.

At the door, we were met by an employee who asked to see our receipt and then did a quick look at the contents of our cart. We received her blessing and left.

I wondered why the store had implemented this new procedure of checking carts and my wife pointed out that it was the new law. They needed to have someone make sure customers didn’t roll out the door without paying, something they didn’t have to do when we all had bags.

I had to laugh. This store, and others no doubt, now has to pay someone ($15 an hour) to stand by the door to prevent shoppers from ripping them off. Will the store pass this cost along to customers? Will another store attract their customers with offers to absorb the cost of the bags? Will absorbing the cost of bags be cheaper than hiring additional employees to guard the door? How might this affect online purchases and deliveries?

Unintended consequences.

The point is that any time you introduce something new, you have to think it through. Your new ad campaign, seminar, or website may attract new clients, for example, but alienate or confuse your current client base.

Everything has consequences. Make sure you consider them.

Good marketing begins with a good plan

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Keeping the main thing the main thing

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Yesterday, I talked about investing for a future when you might not be able to work or you may want to retire. I mentioned the option of starting a side business that has the potential to create passive income and pointed out that this is what I did.

I should have added a proviso about being careful about remembering your priorities, lest your Plan B tempt you to put more time and energy into it, to the detriment of your Plan A.

It’s difficult to build two businesses at the same time. Some say that at best you’ll have mediocre results in both and never achieve excellence in either. Speaking about the risks of diversification, Mark Twain said, “Put all of your eggs in one basket and WATCH THAT BASKET.”

But I think that if you’re careful, you can be successful in both your main business and your Plan B.

First, choose a Plan B that harmonizes with your Plan A. Choose something that allows you to leverage your knowledge and reputation and contacts to help you build your side business. Choose something that, when your clients and contacts find out about it, they say, “That sounds like a good investment,” instead of, “It sounds like he’s giving up his practice.”

Second, be mindful about timing. Put most of your time and effort into building your practice or primary business, until you get to the point where you can safely peel off some time and money to invest in something new.

If you’re smart about it, you can have the best of both of both worlds. Your practice will provide you with cash flow to raise your kids and have a good life, and your Plan B will provide you with passive income to fund retirement or the next phase of your life.

Since there are only so many hours in a day, and you only have so many years to live, you’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you can ever do.

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How much do you earn when you’re not working?

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I have to visit the doctor today. It’s nothing serious but it made me think, “What if it was?” “What if I was truly ill and had to stop working?”

Fortunately, I don’t have to work. I have enough passive income coming in to take care of the essentials.

How about you?

What would you do if you got sick and had to stop working? What if you want to retire?

Most lawyers trade their time for dollars. Even if they don’t bill by the hour, their income is tied to the amount of work they do.

More work (more time) means more income. No work means no income.

Even if you’re a partner or you have staff that does most of the work, you still have to show up, make decisions, and supervise.

You may be extraordinarily well paid, but how much will you earn if you don’t work?

If you’ve been good about saving and investing and have assets that provide passive income (interest, dividends, rents, royalties, etc.), or you own a business with partners or a management team in place and it doesn’t require your active participation, you may be good. If you don’t, what will you do?

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but you have to admit that this is something you have to think about.

Start a savings plan. Study investing. Find a side business that doesn’t require a lot of time. (That’s what I did.)

But don’t put it off.

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago,” says the Chinese proverb. “The second best time is now.”

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How could I earn $500,000 per year?

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I talk to many lawyers who tell me they couldn’t afford to hire themselves. This isn’t a condemnation of their fees, it is a comment on the sad state of their income.

They’re not making much money. What can they do?

The first step to solving a problem is to admit that you have one. If you’re not earning as much as you would like to, admit it. Acknowledge your current reality.

Because if you don’t, you’re going to have a hard time changing that reality.

The next step is to ask yourself a question.

Don’t ask yourself “why” you’re not earning more, however. All you’ll get are excuses. Instead of lamenting your current state of affairs and wishing it was different, ask yourself a question that primes your subconscious mind to find the solution.

Ask yourself, “How could I earn $500,000 per year?” and let your subconscious mind go to work for you.

“How could I. . .” is a powerful question. Ask it a couple of times a day, especially just before you fall asleep. Let it percolate in the deep recesses of your brain. Let your subconscious mind come up with ideas and put them before you.

Write down all of the ideas that come forth, and keep asking.

Your brain will no doubt tell you that one thing you need to do is bring in more clients. It might even do the math for you and reveal that you need 100 new clients or cases per year, for example. So now, you have a new question to ask: “How can I bring in 100 new clients per year?”

You’ll get ideas. “Well, I could advertise. I could get more referrals. I could add more content to my site.”

Referrals sound good. So ask, “How could I get more referrals?”

More asking, more ideas. Keep asking “how” until you have some things you can do. And do them.

There are solutions to almost any problem. You may find them by accident, but you’ll have a better chance of finding them if you ask the right questions.

Don’t ask why, ask how.

To get more referrals, get this

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The simplest way to increase your income

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You have a target market, don’t you? Or are you still offering your services to “anybody” with a legal matter you are equipped to handle? If it’s the latter, we need to talk.

But not now.

Now I’m going to assume that you have read my stuff and you are on board about targeting specific markets and ideal clients in those markets, and you do that. I’m also going to assume that you’re ready to expand into a new target market.

You currently target health care professionals for your estate planning services, for example, and you’re thinking about also targeting financial professionals.

Great. But there’s something else you should do first.

First, you should find ways to offer additional services to your existing market. It’s easier, quicker, cheaper, and more profitable than going into a new market. Sell more services to people who already know and trust you before you market to strangers.

Make sense?

What additional services could you offer to your existing market? What else do you do that they haven’t yet “bought”?

If your market needs and wants something you don’t do, offer them someone else’s services. Work out strategic alliances with other lawyers and service providers to offer their services to your market. In return, they agree to offer your services to their market.

Leverage your existing relationships and reputation. It is the simplest way to increase your income.

Earn more, work less: click here

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Would you rather have more clients or higher-paying clients?

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Yesterday, I did a consultation with a lawyer who has a high-volume/low-fee practice. I asked him, “Would you rather have 50 new $1,000 clients each month or two $25,000 clients?”

I wanted him to upgrade his practice towards the higher end of the client spectrum. You have less overhead, less stress, and less work to do to produce the same income. And you don’t have to compete with everyone and his brother because there is no competition at the top.

I pointed out that he already had a suitable niche market, a certain group of business owners who could provide him with referrals and introductions to other professionals who serve that market.

He said he would need to take CLE classes before he could do this. I suggested that until he was proficient, he could associate with another lawyer who has the experience.

He also said he would need to hire another attorney to handle some of his current caseload, and he’s willing to do that.

So he has a plan.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Niche marketing is smart. Here’s how to do it

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Is that the best you can do?

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Does it ever seem like there’s an invisible ceiling over your head that limits your ability to earn more income? Do you ever wonder if you’ve hit a plateau in your career?

Wonder no more, my friend. If you believe you’ve reached your peak, you have, because your beliefs determine your reality.

Your limitations are all in your head. They’ve probably been there a long time. Parental messages probably had something to do with it, and a whole bunch of other things. But what’s important isn’t how you developed your current beliefs but how you can change them.

Because if you don’t change your beliefs about yourself and about what’s possible, those beliefs are going to continue to hold you back.

How do you do it? How do you change your deep-seated, long-held beliefs?

Hypnosis? Therapy? Visiting a sweat lodge? Can you read your way to a new self-image? Take courses? Hire a coach?

To some extent, all of the above have some value because doing them, even thinking about doing them, signals your self-conscious mind that you want to change.

But I have another option for you: get some new friends.

Yep, one of the best things you can do to change your life is to spend time with different people. People who have done what you want to do and people who have what you want to have.

While you’re at it, spend less time with, or completely disassociate from, people who don’t.

The so-called “law of association” says that we become like the people we associate with most. If you hang out with people of one political persuasion, for example, the odds are you are on the same side. If they work hard, you probably do, too. If they exercise and eat well, you are more likely to do the same.

If your friends and business associates read a lot, you’re more likely to do that, and more likely to read what they’re reading. If they invest their money wisely, you are more likely to think twice before buying into the latest fad.

When we associate with people, we tend to adopt their way of looking at the world. We learn their “language”. We adopt their habits. We share many of the same beliefs. Those beliefs influence our attitude towards what we do and don’t do, and those activities determine our results.

And let’s not forget that the people we know can introduce us to other people like themselves, and open doors to new opportunities. If you want new opportunities, you need to know some new people.

Think about the people you spend the most time with right now. Your closest friends. Your colleagues. Your professional contacts. The odds are that your income and lifestyle are on a par with theirs. If you’re happy about that, great. If not, if you want to achieve more, you should probably find some new friends.

Here’s how to find and meet new professionals who can send you referrals

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Have you done an expense audit lately?

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When was the last time you looked at the expense side of your bookkeeping ledger, looking for ways to reduce the cost of doing business?

Every dollar you don’t spend on overhead is a dollar in your pocket. Cutting expenses by just $100 a month increases the value of your practice by $12,000 (assuming a 10% cap rate).

Once or twice a year, schedule time to examine your expenses and ruthlessly cut the fat.

Ask yourself, “Do I really need __________?” and get rid of anything you can live without. Once you’ve done that, go back through the list and ask, “How can I reduce this expense?”

What could you eliminate? What could you negotiate? What could you replace with something that costs less?

Ask your bank what you can do to cut or eliminate fees. Look at what other banks charge and use that as leverage to negotiate with your bank or switch your accounts to the bank with lower fees.

Look at your library costs. Do you really need everything on the list or could you make do with less?

Look at your insurance expenses. Can you increase your deductibles, eliminate coverage, or take advantage of discounts? Get quotes from other carriers. You may be shocked at how much you can save by switching.

Examine your equipment costs (copier, fax machine, scanner, computers, etc.) Would it be cheaper to buy instead of lease? Would it pay to replace some equipment with something that uses lower-cost consumables?

Look at everything–couriers, interpreters, stenographers, medical records reproduction, shredding, storage, investigators. Look at the cost of apps and online services, memberships, and service contracts. Look at your office rent and utilities. Look at your advertising, websites, and other Internet expenses.

Office supplies: do you really need the most expensive legal pads?

Meals and entertainment: are you getting business out of those lunches with prospective clients and referral sources? Could you find another restaurant that doesn’t charge as much? Could you meet for coffee instead of lunch?

How might you reduce expenses for employees, virtual assistants, and freelancers?

Examine the checks you’ve written and the purchases on your credit cards. Ask your accountant to look at your expenses and tell you where you are spending more than other lawyers or professionals. Reward your employees who find viable ways to reduce overhead.

Don’t obsess over expenses but don’t ignore them either. Look at everything, so you know how much you’re spending, and on what. And when you’re done, grab your personal ledgers and have a go at them.

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7 out of 10 lawyers agree

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

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

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

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

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

I guess you could call this “reverse exaggeration”.

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

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

Okay? Make sense? Good stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be different, start here

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I like big checks and I can not lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a beautiful thing.

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

It’s all good.

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

Client got check.

C’mon, you know you want more referrals

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