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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$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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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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Direct mail or email newsletters?

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A subscriber wants to know what I think about print newsletters sent by postal mail versus email newsletters. “Is print better and worth the additional cost?”

My answer is that the dynamics of print and email are completely different and can’t readily be compared.

No question email provides an incredible ROI for any lawyer. Don’t even think about it, just do it.

As for print, the question isn’t “is it worth it” it is “is it worth it for YOUR practice?”

There are many variables, ranging from your practice area and market, how long after a prospect gets on your list will he need your services, frequency of repeat business, your margins, print and mailing costs, how often you mail, and more, especially the quality of your content. And by quality, I mean how good it is as selling you and your services.

The only way to find out if a print newsletter will show a profit for you is to try it. After a suitable period of time, add up your pennies and see if you come out ahead.

Of course, before we had email, I would have said, “Yes, do it, it’s well worth the investment,” because compared to doing nothing to stay in touch with your clients and prospects, a print newsletter is a fabulous resource. Now that we have email, the decision isn’t so clear.

Can you do both? Sure. But start with email. You may never want to do anything else.

Note, we’re talking about a newsletter, not using direct mail for any other marketing purpose.

Also note, the subscriber who asked this question referenced companies that tout the benefits of print newsletters (and sell services related thereto). If you do go with print, you might use companies like these to handle list management, printing, and mailing (although you may get better pricing if you source these separately), but whatever you do, don’t use them for content. Write your own.

How to build your practice with an email newsletter

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How to never run out of ideas to write about

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Think about your target market and answer me a few questions:

  • What is the market’s biggest problem right now? The one that keeps people up at night?
  • What’s the latest news in that market? What are people talking about?
  • Name three websites, podcasts, or newsletters that focus on this market.
  • Who is the top lawyer, CPA, insurance or real estate professional in that market?
  • Name two organizations dedicated to that market that have networking functions in your area.
  • Name three profitable keywords for blog posts, books, or ads for that market.

Okay, that’s enough to make my point, which is that if you can’t answer these questions, you probably don’t know your target market well enough.

Or you don’t have one.

Which is why, when you set out to write an email or article, you “don’t know what to write about”. Which is why you aren’t writing, or if you are, your writing is too general and doesn’t stand out.

If your last blog post or article or email is written to appeal to “anyone,” there’s a good chance it appeals to “no one”.

When you know your target market well, which you must if you want to dominate it, you won’t have that problem. You’ll have plenty of things to write about, specific to that market. In fact, you’ll have so many ideas, your biggest problem will be deciding which one to write about.

Which is a nice problem to have, don’t you think?

Need help choosing a target market? Use this

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The paper is due a week from Friday and is worth one-third of your grade

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Remember in school when you were assigned a paper to write that had to be turned in by a specific date? You were given a topic, a word or page count, and a deadline, and somehow you managed to turn in the paper on time.

You may not have known anything about the topic. You may have hated the topic and wished you could write about something (anything) else. You might have put it off until the night before it was due. But you got it done.

Because you had to. Your grade depended on it.

Today, you want to write something for your newsletter or blog, but if I’m right, too often you don’t do it. You don’t because you don’t have to.

No due date. No grade. If you don’t do it, nobody will notice.

The solution? Give yourself a due date. Decide in advance a posting schedule and put it on your calendar. Even better, announce it to your subscribers: “I post a new article every Tuesday”. If you don’t post as promised, they’ll notice.

You can also assign yourself a topic to write about.

In 30 minutes, you can brainstorm enough topics to keep you busy for a year. Start with the ten or twenty “frequently asked questions” posed to you by prospects and new clients.

You can also set up a notebook and collect articles and notes and ideas as you go about your business day. I have more than 1000 “blog post ideas” I’ve collected and stored in Evernote.

You could work with a writing partner and give each other assignments. “Okay, this week, I want you to write about that client you told me about. . .”

Another way to get ideas is to use “writing prompts”. A search on that keyword will reveal a plethora of books and websites that can provide you with an almost endless supply of writing ideas.

I went to a website this morning and was given the prompt, “Why I love to. . .” I thought I could easily write a post about why I love marketing. I would talk about how gratifying it is to be able to use my skills to help people get solutions and benefits they otherwise might not get, and make a nice living doing it.

You could use the same writing prompt. Write about why you love helping your clients.

In school, writing assignments trained us to write “on demand,” a valuable skill to be sure. If you’re struggling to do that in your practice, a writing schedule and writing prompts can help you get there.

You can get lots of ideas for article and posts with this

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Eh, What’s Up Doc?

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What’s new? Something, I hope. Because if you and your practice are exactly the same right now as you were last week and last month, I might think you’re not accomplishing anything noteworthy. If I were your client, that might make me nervous.

Your clients want their lawyer to be alive and growing and in tune with the world. They want to know what’s new.

When they come to your office, they don’t want to see an ancient IBM PC, they want to see you with the latest laptops and tablets. When you write to them, they don’t want to hear the same tired things you’ve said before, they want to hear something new.

Most law practices are staid and boring and have little news to report. Don’t be like that. Always have something new going on, and make sure your clients and prospects and business contacts know about it.

Tell them about your new services or new features or new ad campaign. Tell them about your new web page, blog post, or article. Tell them about your new client, new speaking engagement or new employee.

Let clients know that things are happening at The Law Offices of You.

Always having news to report not only shows your clients that you are growing, it gives you a great excuse to contact them. It also allows you to connect with people on an emotional level. When you have exciting news, let them know you are excited and tell them why. If your news involves a serious topic, let them know about your concerns.

But don’t get out of character. You’re still a member of an esteemed profession and you don’t want to appear to be anything but. Your clients want to know that their lawyer is stable and reliable, so avoid radical news and keep news about major changes to a minimum.

But always have news to share.

Look at your calendar and notes for the last 30 days. What did you do that might be considered news? Do the same thing for the next 30 days. What are you working on? What’s going to change?

You can almost always find news to share, but if you are finding that difficult, then, by all means, get busy and create some.

Email is the easiest way to share your news. Here’s how to do it right

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What makes content shareable?

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You’re ready to write a blog post, article, or social media post and you want your subscribers and followers to share it. What should you write that will make that more likely to occur?

We know that sex and scandal and other tabloid-esq topics sell, but that’s off the table. Humor and human interest (kittens, babies, sports, games) are highly shareable, and you can write about those things occasionally, but only occasionally.

What then? News? Opinion? World events?

Sometimes. But your best bet is also the simplest. Write about your area of expertise.

Write about legal problems and solutions. Write about the law and procedure, the timeline and processes, the benefits of taking action and the risks of waiting too long. Describe your services and the pros and cons of each.

Answer the questions prospective clients and new clients frequently ask you. And write about the questions they should ask you but often don’t.

Show people what it’s like to work with you by describing what you do and how you do it.

Write about your clients and how you have helped them. Write about people you know who didn’t get help and are now paying the price.

Educate people about what they can do themselves. Teach them when they should talk to a lawyer and what questions they should ask them.

Write about solving problems, preventing problems and mitigating consequences when problems occur.

If you have a consumer-oriented practice, you can also write consumer-related topics such as buying the right insurance, saving money, retirement, taxes, etc. You can also write about issues and developments in your local community.

For a business-oriented practice, write about marketing, management, productivity, and issues and developments in your target market’s industry or niche.

No matter what type of practice you have, you can also write about personal development because everyone reading what you write is, unarguably, a person.

This is the kind of content that people will share with friends and colleagues and co-workers and family, because they know they need it or they know they would benefit from it.

And that’s all any of us could ask.

More ideas for creating shareable content that will make your phone ring

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Out of sight, out of luck

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One of the main reasons people who could refer you business don’t do so is that they “don’t think about it”. They’re busy and have other things on their mind. Unless they have a legal need, they don’t think about you or your services.

Out of sight, out of luck, me bucko.

You can change that, and get more repeat business and referrals, by doing the following:

1) Stay in touch with them

The easiest way to do that is via email. One of my subscribers, an associate in a firm that severely limits his ability to do any marketing, told me that he now emails his clients and prospects and referral sources every two weeks.

He writes about legal matters, and also about what he’s doing in his practice and, I suppose, in his personal life.

He’s staying “in their minds and their mailboxes” and getting repeat business and referrals, and lots of it.

He tells me, “It has worked like a charm. When you write email blasts “right where they live” you are reaching out to them, and many think it is personal. You establish your credibility. You establish a reputation.”

2) Talk about referrals

Another reason you don’t get as many referrals as you could is that you’re not talking about referrals. There are many ways to do that, but one of the simplest is something I suggested to the lawyer mentioned above: put a blurb at the bottom of your emails asking the recipient to forward it to their friends, colleagues, etc., who might like to receive his updates. Spell out what those people should do if they want to be added to the list.

People read your wisdom, tacitly endorsed by the friend or colleague who forwared it to them. They like what they see and want to see more. They ask to be added to your list. You stay in touch with them and they hire you and send you referrals.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

You can make this work better by using an autoresponder to manage everything and offering an incentive to join your list–a report, ebook, or a collection of some your best prior articles–but you don’t have to.

3) Make it easy to refer

Many clients and contacts come close to referring but don’t do it because they don’t know what to do. Do they tell the referral about you and give them your number? Do they send the referral some information about you, and if so, what should it be? Do they tell you about the referral? If they do that, what will you do?

Of course, when it comes to making it easy, “forward this email” is about as easy as it gets. Your contacts don’t have to refer people to you, they can refer them to your content and then your content refers you.

Get this if you want to learn how to get more referrals

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