When to hire your first (or next) employee

Share

A sole practitioner asks, “How do I know when I can afford to hire my first employee?”

That depends. If you think like a lawyer, you’ll wait until you have so much work piled up you can’t keep up with it. Hiring your first, or your next employee will be a matter of necessity.

But you’re not just a lawyer. You’re also a business owner and if you think like a business owner, you will invest in the future of your business (practice).

You won’t wait until it’s obvious you need help. You will imagine the future of your practice the way you want it to be and make sure you get there ahead of time.

In other words, you’ll hire staff before you absolutely need them.

I did this. I hired people when I didn’t yet have enough work to keep them busy. I expected my practice to grow and I wanted to be ready.

I did the same thing with office space. I got bigger space before I needed it. I was nervous about signing a long term lease, but I filled the space every time.

Don’t dwell on where you, imagine where you want to be. Buy some big boy pants and know that you will grow into them.

I was once in the real estate business with another lawyer who thought even bigger than I did. He wanted us to lease the penthouse suite in a building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The rent was gag-inducing. He also wanted us to hire several secretaries and buy new computers, and the business was barely getting started.

We did it. We invested in the future we expected to create and our investment paid off.

Of course we were also motivated by a tremendous fear of loss. We had huge overhead and had to make it work.

We charged higher fees, took out bigger ads, and worked out tails off. In less than a year, we were paying all of our expenses, had leased top of the line Mercedes, and took home six-figure draws, and this was in the 80’s when six-figures meant something.

If you expect your practice to grow, invest in that growth. Take on bigger space before you need it. Hire more people before you have enough work to keep them busy.

Start with employees, because they are scalable. Unlike a lease, if the work doesn’t materialize, you can easily downsize.

If you’re still not sure, start with temps or part time help. If you share space with another attorney, talk to them about sharing a secretary.

Don’t be reckless, of course. But don’t play it safe, either.

If you wait until you’re sure, you’ve probably waited too long.

Share

How to beat procrastination without really trying

Share

There are hundreds of tips and strategies on how to beat procrastination floating around. That’s too many, if you ask me.

Instead of giving you a laundry list of ideas I want to share with you just three.

(1) DON’T DO IT

Not everything on your task list needs to be done. Many tasks aren’t that important, at least in comparison to other things on your list. After all, being productive isn’t about getting everything done it’s about getting the most important things done.

So ask yourself, “Do I really need to do this?” and if the answer is anything but an unqualified yes, either cross it off the list or put it on a “someday/maybe” list and look at it at some future date.

If a task does need to be done, ask yourself, “Who else could do this?” If you can delegate the task to someone else, you should.

(2) CREATE A DEADLINE

If something needs to be done (by you), and you don’t already have a deadline, give yourself one. Pick a date when the task will be done, or when a significant portion of the project will be done, and put this on your calendar.

You may be inclined to give yourself ample time but it’s usually better to do just the opposite. Shorter deadlines make it more likely that you will complete the task.

If you give yourself three weeks to complete something, you might not get started until a few days before the deadline. Or, as you see the deadline approaching you will extend it. So instead of three weeks, give yourself three days to complete the task, or even three hours.

Once you have a deadline, tell someone about it–your client, spouse, partner, or a workout buddy–and ask them to hold you accountable. When I tell my wife I will have the first draft of something done by a certain date, I am much more likely to do it.

(3) START

The most important part of any task is getting started. The first step in doing anything puts you one step closer to the second step.

Start with something small and easy. Make a list of everything you need to do, for example, or re-write the list you already wrote.

Tell yourself you’ll work on it for just five minutes. No matter how unpleasant the task might be you can do it for five minutes. The odds are that once you get started, you’ll feel compelled to continue.

These three strategies should help you beat procrastination most of the time. If you still find yourself procrastinating, however, ask yourself why you are resisting doing things you know you need to do.

The solution might be simple. If you don’t know how to do something, for example, schedule time to learn. If you’re afraid of doing a poor job, get some advice or ask someone with more experience to help you.

There is always a reason why you are procrastinating. Instead of ignoring that reason, embrace it. Your subconscious mind knows what you need and if you listen carefully, you will hear the solution.

Share

Would you do me a favor?

Share

Years ago, I read The Aladdin Factor by Jack Canfield. It’s about getting what you want through the power of asking. The book is filled with inspiring stories of real people asking for, and getting, just about anything you can imagine, even from complete strangers.

It’s also about getting better at asking.

It seems we humans have trouble asking for help and there are many reasons, including the fear of rejection and the fear of appearing weak or needy. The book offers strategies to overcome these challenges and strengthen your “asking muscles”.

One thing we can do to get better at asking is to start small. Ask someone for a favor, for example, that’s easy for them to do and won’t take a lot of time.

For example, you might ask the next client you see to take five copies of your brochure or report and “pass them out to people you know”. That’s easy to do because you’re not asking for proof that they actually did it.

Keep asking for favors, and do it frequently, to build the habit and to gird yourself for asking for bigger favors.

Soon, you might knock on the door of a professional in your building whom you don’t know, introduce yourself, and ask if it’s okay if you put a stack of brochures in their waiting room.

Make a point to ask for one small favor each day. In time, as your asking muscle gets stronger, you might find yourself asking for big favors.

Start making a list of favors you can ask, even if you’re not now ready to ask them. Include big and small favors.

For your practice, this might include asking for referrals, sending traffic to your blog, subscribing to your newsletter, signing up for your webinar, giving you testimonials, introducing you to centers of influence you would like to meet, and so on.

You’ll get more people saying yes if you tell them why you are asking them for help. Even something as simple as, “I know you know a lot of people,” for example, will increase response.

Let’s try this out, shall we?

Would you do me a favor? Please post a comment on the blog (or hit reply if you are reading this in your email) and tell me what you would like me to write about next. This will help me do a better job for you, so please let me hear from you.

See, easy to ask, and easy for you to comply. It’s not like I’m asking you to buy me a car. Not yet, anyway.

Share

If your mom managed your law practice

Share

If your mom managed your law practice I have no doubt she would make you eat a good breakfast before you show up for work. She would tell you that you can’t watch TV until you do get all your work done and cleaned up your desk.

No work, no play. That’s how mom rolls.

If your mom managed your law practice, she would also tell you that if you won your case, she would take you out for ice cream or make you your favorite dinner.

Reward and punishment. Carrot and stick.

Mom would offer the employees extra incentives for getting their work done on time. She would put a little extra spending money in their pay envelopes when they come up with a money-saving idea. And make them employee of the month when a client gives them a five star review.

You could take a lesson from mom. Figure out what you want your staff to do and offer them bribes for doing it.

While you’re at it, do the same thing for yourself.

Look at your list of tasks and goals–for the day, for the month, for the year–and promise yourself a reward for getting them done. Empty your email inbox today and you get to take off at noon on Friday. Bring in a new client this week and you get to buy the tablet you’ve had your eye on.

Isn’t this kind of bribery cheap and manipulative? Sure. But mom knew it worked and who are we to argue?

Share

Growing your law practice through osmosis

Share

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

Share

There is no virtue in working hard

Share

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

Share

Is working on weekends counterproductive?

Share

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.

Share

Charging clients more because you are worth more

Share

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.

Share

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

Share

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

Share

Too much of a good thing is AWESOME!

Share

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.

Share