Growing your law practice through osmosis

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Yesterday, I did a consultation/strategy session with an attorney who has been practicing less than two years. During the session, we talked about his income. In the first three months of this year he has averaged $10,000 per month, which is more than double what he earned per month last year.

What made the difference?

He purchased and read The Attorney Marketing Formula in January of this year and thinks this can’t be a coincidence. He’s giving me the credit, and that’s great, but here’s the thing. He hasn’t really implemented anything from The Formula. Nothing major, anyway. In fact, he told me there were some concepts he was still unclear about.

So how could this have immediately caused his income to more than double?

I think I have an answer. I think that although he hasn’t done anything new to market his services, he’s thinking about it. Those thoughts are changing what he says and does in almost imperceptible ways.

Now, he knows what’s possible. And important. His subconscious mind is starting to percolate with ideas. He’s paying attention to things he may have glossed over in the past.

He may not realize it, but merely by reading about marketing, he is becoming better at marketing.

I can’t wait to see what happens when he implements some of the strategies and techniques he has learned.

Click here to check out The Attorney Marketing Formula

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There is no virtue in working hard

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There is no virtue in working hard. Not when you can get the same or better results with less effort.

Robert A. Heinlein said, “Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”

In fact, that’s a pretty good definition of the word productivity. Getting more results with less effort.

To do that first requires an appreciation of the difference between effectiveness and efficiency.

Effectiveness means “doing the right things”. It means doing things that are consistent with your long term vision and short term goals. It means doing what’s important, primarily, and finding ways to minimize or eliminate everything else.

If growing your practice and advancing your career is important to you, you are effective when you focus on delivering value to your clients, building relationships with key people, and getting better at marketing.

Eighty percent of your results come from twenty percent of your effort. To be more effective, identify those twenty percent activities and do more of them.

Efficiency, on the other hand, means “doing things right”. It means getting things done faster or better.

You become more efficient by using forms, checklists, and templates to streamline your work. You become more efficient by hiring better quality employees who deliver better results. You become more efficient by improving your skills through study and practice and dedication to personal development.

These are some of the things that allowed me to quadruple the income in my law practice while reducing my work week to just three days.

But while there’s no virtue in working hard, there’s nothing wrong with it.

When you are effective and efficient, you might increase your effort-to-results ratio from one-to-one to one-to-ten. If you are effective and efficient and ALSO work hard, you might increase that ratio from one-to-one to one-to-100.

Earn more and work less through leverage

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Is working on weekends counterproductive?

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It’s Saturday morning (or Sunday) and you’re the only one in the office. You’ve wearing shorts and a teeshirt and haven’t shaved. That’s okay. You’re not going to see any clients today.

You put on a pot of coffee. It’s quiet. No phones ringing, no voices down the hall, and you can think. Maybe it’s too quiet, so you turn on the radio and get a background buzz of music or talk radio.

You’ve got a blizzard of files and papers on your desk. It’s been a busy week and you’re behind on a bunch of things. You push everything into one or two piles to clear some work space on the desk, and you dig in.

In a few hours, you’ve gone through most of the backlog. You’ve dictated letters and instructions to your secretary. You’ve dictated a declaration for a motion that needs to be filed next week. You’ve reviewed some older files and made notes about what needs to be done. You’ve reviewed and signed invoices that are ready to go out. You’ve signed checks to pay bills.

Finally, you filled your briefcase with files you need for court on Monday, turned off the coffee pot and radio, turned off the lights and went home.

Nicely done. It feels good. You’re looking forward to dinner and a relaxing evening with the family.

I remember this scenario well. I went through it often. Once every month or two I went to the office and got caught up and organized. I’d get a week’s worth of work done in a few hours.

But I knew guys who were in the office every weekend. They came in early and stayed late. Not just when they were prepping for trial–it was a regular work day for them. They would see clients and put in a full day.

That’s too much. You’ve got to recharge. You’ve got to have a life outside of work.

Apparently, what most of us intuitively understand has a scientific basis in fact. According to a study, “productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more.”

Working on weekends once in awhile is fine. If you’re working every weekend, however, you might want to consider whether it’s worth it because the odds are it’s not.

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Charging clients more because you are worth more

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I heard from an attorney who says he gets tongue tied speaking with prospective clients about fees and tends to lean towards charging less. Even then, he’s afraid they will think he charges too much.

I told him to write out what he would say to them if he was confident about his fees–why he charges what he does, the benefits he offers, why he’s worth more than other lawyers, and so on.

Write it, read it, contemplate it. And then post it, or a version thereof, on your website so that prospective clients will be able to read it before they ever speak to you. They will understand that you charge a bit more but you’re worth it.

You might want to try this, too. Write down all that you do for your clients, from soup to nuts. Write down all the little things you do to make their experience with you as comfortable as possible. Write down all of the things you do to help them achieve a successful outcome.

You don’t have to post all of this on your site but you do need to see the value in what you do. You need to understand why you are worth more.

But what if you don’t believe you are worth more?

Then you have work to do. Because if you want to charge higher fees than you currently charge, if you want to charge more than other lawyers charge, you have to believe that you are worth more.

If you believe it, you won’t have any trouble talking about fees. You will do it confidently. It is a selling point for you. You want clients to know that when they hire you they get incredible value for what they pay.

Charging clients more comes down to believing you are worth more.

But keep in mind that when it comes to something as abstract as fees for professional services, value is relative and perception is everything. You’re worth what clients are willing to pay and you’re willing to accept.

No more and no less.

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Can you be successful doing work you don’t love?

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Can you be successful doing work you don’t love? If you define success in material terms, I think you can. But success is not just about money. To be truly successful, you have to be happy.

And here’s the thing. When you are happy, when you love your work, financial success is much easier to achieve.

You don’t have to push yourself to get up early. Mondays are your favorite day of the week. You can’t wait until your next speaking engagement, trial, or networking event.

When you love what you do, the work is almost effortless. Problems seem smaller and easier to resolve. You don’t have to work hard to find clients, you attract them, in droves.

When you love what you do, you are happy, and when you are happy, you love what you do.

What if you don’t love your work? What if it’s just okay?

You eliminate or marginalize the things you don’t like and do more of the things you enjoy.

You can delegate, outsource, and partner. You can change practice areas, client types, and target markets. You can get rid of the marketing techniques that make your stomach churn and replace them with things that come naturally.

You can also give it time. You may learn to love your work eventually. As you hear sad stories about friends who have lost their jobs and can’t find any work, for example, you might start appreciating things you previously took for granted.

Or you might see your current situation as a stepping stone to something else.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t dwell on the negative aspects of your work. Focus on the things that make you feel good.

Think about the things that are going well and come easily to you. Think about your accomplishments and victories. Think about how good it is that you are paying your bills and that you have the time and space to turn an okay situation into something great.

Focus on the things that make you happy in your work because what you focus on grows.

Success is easier when you have a plan

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Too much of a good thing is AWESOME!

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Indulge yourself. Throw caution to the wind. Eat the whole thing. Buy the one you want.

You’ve earned it. You can afford it. You want to do it, so do it.

Go on a bender once in a while. Spend more than you think you should. Pig out, goof off, go blow off some steam.

You won’t die from eating too much today. Neither will you go broke from a one-time purchase. It’s what you spend or eat or do EVERY day that counts.

So after you have a crazy day or a crazy moment, get back to work. Don’t make binging a habit, unless you’re binging on good books. Even then, you have work to do and too much of a good thing could be too much.

You’ll have another binge day at some point. You might even plan it. And look forward to it. Of course it’s more fun when it’s spontaneous, as in, “Screw it, I’m not going to work today, I’m going shopping!”

Mini-splurges are also fun. Go to a nice restaurant this weekend instead of the usual place. Leave work early one day a week. Stay in bed an extra hour on Sunday.

If you’re like me, knowing that you could indulge yourself feels good, even if you don’t do it.

I’m not going to buy the laptop I really want (but don’t need), but it feels great knowing that I could.

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Another technique for improving your writing you won’t want to do

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Yesterday, I told you about a technique for improving your writing. I told you that I dramatically improved my writing by hand copying other people’s writing that I admired and wanted to emulate. Today, I want to share something else I did that elevated my writing to an even higher level.

Behold:

Every morning without fail, I rolled out of bed, grabbed a spiral notebook and pen, and wrote for twenty minutes.

Some would call this journaling, but that implies that I had something to say that I wanted to capture on paper. Instead, what I did was “free write”.

There are two rules to free writing.

First rule: write whatever comes into your mind, no matter how silly or meaningless. Write gibberish if that’s what comes. Write, “I don’t know what to write,” if you don’t know what to write. Write a list of words that have no connection to each other, or write the same word over and over, until your mind coughs up something else.

Which leads to the second rule: don’t stop. Keep your hand moving for twenty minutes and don’t stop for any reason.

So, what happens when you do this? At first, not much. You write a lot of useless junk and your hand gets really tired. Eventually, however, two things happen.

One thing that happens is that you start writing cogent thoughts about important things. Your writing taps into your subconscious mind and reveals your deepest beliefs and feelings, long forgotten memories, and amazingly valuable ideas you can use in your business and personal life.

Free writing becomes a kind of self-examination. It is cathartic and therapeutic. You write your way through problems and find solutions. At times, it is frightening, but ultimately, it is liberating. At first, your writing might reveal feelings of inadequacy, guilt, or pain. After a few weeks or a few months, you start feeling better about yourself and get really clear about your future.

Fun times.

The second thing that happens with free writing (when you do it long enough) is that you become a better writer. Your practice of writing daily (and freely) eventually clears away the warts and blemishes that disguise your writing and protect you from revealing your true self.

You start writing plainly and clearly. Your writing has energy and emotion. Writing is fun, and faster, because you are primarily talking on paper.

If you do this, do it first thing in the morning, before coffee, before you are fully awake. Your adult brain will be tired and put up less resistance, allowing your inner child’s brain to be heard.

Don’t show your writing to anyone. It’s just for you, at least for now. But don’t read what you write, at least for several months. Reading your insane scribbles might frighten and inhibit you.

How long should you do this? As long as it takes. Three months, six months, a year, a lifetime. You don’t have to figure that out right now. Just start, have fun with it, and trust that when you come out on the other side, you will be a better writer. Because you will.

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Sometimes, the best way to handle a problem is to ignore it

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You’ve got a problem and you’re searching for a solution. Or you know what to do but don’t have time to do it.

Fear not. Sometimes, the best way to handle a problem is to ignore it.

The problem may go away by itself. Or turn out to cause damages that are relatively minor. Or manageable. Or covered by insurance.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

Some problems are big and hairy. Others, not so much.

Before you start looking for solutions to a problem, make sure the problem is something that truly needs fixing.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Why is this a problem?
  • What are the benefits of fixing the problem?
  • What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t fix it?
  • If the worst case scenario occurs, can I afford the consequences?
  • What are the costs of fixing the problem?
  • Can I ignore the problem for now and fix it later?
  • Can I fix part of the problem now and fix the rest later (or ignore the rest)?
  • Can I delegate some or all of work needed to fix the problem?

You may find that the problem isn’t as bad as you thought. You may conclude that your time is better spent fixing a different problem, or tackling an opportunity that promises bigger benefits.

You don’t have to fix every problem. Sometimes, the best way to handle a problem is to ignore it.

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What’s on your bucket list?

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What are you not doing because it’s too risky, too expensive, or takes too much time?

What are you not doing because you are afraid?

We all have them. Things we would love to do but talk ourselves out of doing. Or postpone until it’s too late.

I’m too old. I’m not good enough. It would take too long.

But do them we must.

Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so.”

What’s on your bucket list? What do you want to do at least once before time runs out?

Something fun? Something daring? Something you’ve always wanted to try?

Pick something and do it now. Don’t wait until the time is right. Don’t avoid doing it because it is difficult. Jim Rohn said, “There are two types of pain you will go through in life, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”

It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay if you don’t know how. You’ll figure it out. “Leap, and the net will appear,” said John Burroughs.

Start with something small if you want. Then do something bigger. Make “trying new things” a habit, until you find yourself doing great things, things you’ve always wanted to do.

Twenty years from now, look me up and tell me all about it. Tell me how your life changed because you took a chance.

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What to do when you don’t feel like working

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It happens. You look at your calendar and your list of tasks for the day and you don’t want to do any of it. You don’t want to work, you don’t want to talk to anyone, you want to take the day off.

But you’ve got obligations. You have work to do and bills to pay. You can’t abandon your responsibilities.

Yes you can. It’s just one day. The work will still be there tomorrow.

Give in to your whim and take the day off. Sneak off to the movies or to the mall. Go sit in a coffee shop and read. Get back in your jammies and order in.

When you come back tomorrow, batteries recharged, you’ll plow through the work and get it done.

Before you take off, have someone contact your appointments and re-schedule them. And go through your task list for the day and prioritize everything so that when you return you can jump right in and knock out the most important tasks first.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes, giving yourself permission to take the day off is all you really need, not the actual time off. Knowing that you could play hooky provides the relief you sought. Once you have it, you realize that the work isn’t so bad and you’re ready to get back to it.

Remind yourself that you’re in charge. Even if you work for someone else, even if you have demanding clients, with demanding deadlines, you’re the boss. It’s your life and you get to decide how to run it.

If you really need a break, take it. Don’t feel guilty about it, do it. And enjoy yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s that? You want to know what to do if tomorrow you still don’t feel like working? Don’t ask me. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

Get more clients and increase your income. Get The Formula.

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