It’s not how much you spend, it’s how much you earn


In Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” Lord Darlington defined a cynic as “a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing”.

Not all lawyers are cynics, of course, but many lawyers focus too much on the cost of building their practice and too little on the potential return.

They pinch pennies that might earn a nice profit. They avoid “spending” billable hours executing strategies that might earn them a fortune.

They don’t want to lose money or waste time and their aversion to these risks clouds their vision and stifles their growth.

I know. When I finally started making money in my practice, I lost thousands of dollars to some people I thought I could trust. Having been broke for so long, the loss rattled me and I was afraid to take a chance on losing more.

I shared what happened with a doctor I knew who pointed out that the losses were simply a cost of doing business, that I should accept them and move on. “At the end of the year, if you made more money than you spent or lost, that’s what counts,” he said.

And he was right. Most of what I was doing was working. My practice was profitable and growing, despite the losses and expenses.

It was an important lesson for me, and maybe for you, too. In building a practice, our task isn’t to avoid all risk but to intelligently manage those risks and maximize our return.

If you are too focused on the costs of building your practice, if the idea of losing money or wasting time is an anathema to you, I encourage you to find a way let go of your fear and get comfortable taking more risk.

Because without risk there is no reward. And because it’s not how much you spend, it’s how much you earn.

Referrals provide an excellent return on investment. Here’s how to get more


Do less


You’re smart. Good at your job. Successful. But you want to be more successful so you do what most people do, you look for ways to do more.

More clients. More projects. More work.

To fit it all in, you look for ways to work faster and get bigger results.

You get busier and busier. You have less time and more stress. You’re frustrated because you’re doing more but not achieving more.

You’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

It’s time for a different approach.

Instead of doing more, do less.

Take things off your calendar and to-do list. Start fewer projects. Make fewer commitments. Have fewer conversations.

Make room for what’s important and what you do especially well.

You’ll have more time to do more important things and more time to build on your strengths. You’ll have more energy, less stress, and fewer distractions. You’ll make fewer mistakes, waste fewer hours, and make better decisions.

You’ll build stronger relationships with key people. You’ll complete projects that take you to higher levels.

You’ll achieve more by doing less.

Get busy doing less.

Work smarter. Leverage your professional relationships to get more referrals


It ain’t over ’til it’s over


At half-time, I thought, if Atlanta can score 21 points in the first half, New England can do the same in the second half, and win. That’s the way The Pats have to look at it. There’s a lot of game left.

Yeah, I’m so smart I turned off the game early in the fourth quarter and missed the comeback of the century.

I thought it was over. No time left. Too big a deficit. But it wasn’t over. Because it wasn’t over until it was over.

So, is that it? Is the lesson to never give up, no matter what? Keep fighting no matter how bad things look?


The game isn’t over, the election isn’t over, the trial isn’t over until its over (and you’ve exhausted all appeals).

Never give up. Never give in.

Now, it’s easy to give up when nobody is watching. All those projects you’ve started but never completed, all those goals that were quietly swept under the rug. When you’re the only one who knows, giving up is no big deal.

So if you want to win, make sure lots of people know.

There are those who say we should never share our goals or plans with others, that we should keep them to ourselves. Telling others, they say, puts too much pressure on you to perform and causes you to mess up.

But it is precisely that kind of pressure that leads to great victories.

When hundreds of millions of people are watching you, cheering you, counting on you, that’s when you do the impossible.

Go public with your plans. Share your goals. Be accountable. Take the chance that you will mess up. Because in this way, you will summon all that you have and accomplish things you might otherwise never accomplish.

There’s a related lesson, one that Atlanta missed, and that is assuming you’ve won before you’ve won. The Falcons took the win for granted and blew it. As Lost in Space’s Dr. Smith would put it, “Oh the pain”.

Never give up, and never celebrate before all the beans are counted. Because it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

What’s your goal? How many referrals are you going to get this month?


Plan less, do more


Relax. You don’t need to know everything. You’ve got some goals, or you know the general direction you want things to go, and that’s enough.

You don’t need a detailed plan. You’ll figure things out as you go along.

I say this from the perspective of someone who usually wants to know everything. Over the years, I’ve had to fight my need to know because, frankly, it has held me back.

Many of my biggest accomplishments began on a lark. They weren’t well-planned or even given much thought.  Something sounded good and I went for it.

Sometimes they worked out, sometimes they didn’t, but the net result was that a lot of good things happened for me that I’m sure would otherwise have never seen the light of day.

Do yourself a favor. Take a look at your project list or your someday/maybe list, or reach into your subconscious and choose something you’ve thought you’d like to do but have continually put on the back burner.

Choose something that excites you. Something that would make you leap with joy if you could actually do it. Something that has seemed impossible or the timing hasn’t been right or something you’re not sure you are capable of doing.

Don’t spend a lot of time on this. If you’re not sure, choose something that scares you.

When you’ve got it, push aside your doubts and questions and start doing it.

You don’t need to know what’s next, just take the first step.

You may not succeed. You may give up before the day is done. You may realize that you really don’t want it. But if you don’t start, you’ll never know.

If you do start, you might continue. And accomplish something that completely changes your life.

Referrals rock. Here’s how to get more


Winning is great but so is losing


Everyone loves a big win. Settling a big case, being named “Lawyer of the Year,” tripling the number of new clients this year over last.

Break out the champagne. There’s nothing better than the sweet taste of success.

If you want to win big, however, you have to do something you may not want to do. You have to take more risks and thus accept more losses.

Babe Ruth set records for hitting the most home runs. He also set records for the most strikeouts. He hit more home runs, he said, because nearly every time he was at bat, he swung for a home run.

If you want to have more success this year than last, you have to take more chances this year. Do more things that might fail. And bigger things that might fail big.

This year, take some cases that are big risk/big reward. Open that second office you’ve been thinking about. Double your advertising budget.

Do something that might turn out to be a big, fat, embarrassing loss but might also turn out to be a colossal win.

If you don’t do things you’ve never done before, you’ll never grow. You’ll stay in your comfort zone where very little changes.

This year, go for more home runs. Yes, you’ll strike out more. But who knows, you might just win “Lawyer of the Year”.

Take a chance on getting (a lot) more referrals


Why you should do something other than practicing law


You work long hours, most of which are spent doing the same things with the same people (or type of people) and while this may be a factor in building a successful career, it might also be holding you back.

Doing the same things day after day, decade after decade, can lead to boredom, a loss of perspective and a stifling of creativity.

Even if you don’t have the time to do it, or perhaps because you don’t have the time to do it, you should consider doing something outside of your practice.

Starting a part-time business would almost certainly allow you to network with people you otherwise might not meet in your “day job”. It could allow you to create additional income, develop new skills you can use in your practice, and give you something to do when you retire.

Taking classes in an unrelated field could stimulate your mind, teach you something you’ve always wanted to learn and provide you with fodder for your blog, newsletter, or presentations.

A new hobby, or the resurrection of an old one, could give you something pleasant to look forward to on weekends.

Joining a club or group might help you meet people who share your interest in something important or entertaining and give you a pleasant distraction from the stress of practicing law.

You are more than the sum of your legal experiences, or at least you could be. As you plan for the new year, consider doing something different. Look at your “someday” list or bucket list or pick something at random and dip your toes in.

You might find something that gives your career a new dimension, or, as I did, a completely new career.

I built my practice, and found my second career, by getting good at getting referrals


Can you really earn more by working less?


We’ve all been taught that more is better so how is it that some people earn more and achieve more by working less?

They do it by choosing the right things to do.

The most successful among us focus on doing things that allow them to take giant leaps instead of incremental steps. The kinds of things that let them leverage their resources and get “eighty percent results with twenty percent effort”.

It’s not that they ignore the little things. It’s that at any given moment, they’re able to zero in on the one thing they can do that will give them the most bang for their buck.

Real estate entrepreneur, Gary Keller, made this the theme of his bestselling book, The ONE Thing. He says that we can become much more successful by finding and doing the one thing (activity, task, decision, etc.) that can allow us to achieve extraordinary results.

Keller suggests that we look at our goals and for each one, ask, “What’s the ‘ONE Thing’ [I] can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

If your goal is to bring in ten new clients per month within 90 days, for example, out of all the things you MIGHT do, you should find and do the one thing that is likely to make it most likely that you will achieve that goal.

Start by brainstorming possibilities. You’ll probably think of hundreds of ideas, and if you don’t, read through my blog and courses. Put your list aside for a few days, come back to it and look for your ‘one thing’.

You may reason your way to a decision, but it is just as likely that your “gut” will tell you. If you’re not sure, go through your list slowly, think about each idea and see how you feel about it. If it feels good to think about it, if you find yourself getting excited about it, the odds are that’s what you should choose.

Your ‘one thing’ will likely be different than any other lawyer’s. You might decide that your one thing is to hire someone to create a new website for you. Another lawyer might decide that his or her one thing is to meet prospective new referral sources. Someone else may decide that advertising is the right thing for them.

All of these things, and others, might help you reach your goal, but you should consider them later. Right now,  you should find your one thing and do it.

Your website can bring you a lot of new clients


Is this the key to success?


Pastor, business owner, speaker, and author, the late Mark Yarnell, offered his recipe for productivity and success. He said, “Work on one thing at a time. Do it right. Finish it.”

Simple. But not always easy to follow.

Working on one thing at a time is difficult for a lot of people. But it’s easy to see the value of doing so. Numerous studies prove that multi-tasking is inefficient to the extreme. Fortunately, there are strategies and tools aplenty that can help us to curb this habit.

“Do it right” certainly makes sense, but we must recognize that the way we learn to do it right is usually by first doing it wrong.

This leads to the third piece of advice, to finish what we start. That’s the key to making everything work.

When we finish what we start, we can move onto something else. No chance for multi-tasking. We’ve also learned something so the next time we do it, we should do it better.

Finishing is the “Big Kahuna” of productivity. The more things you finish, the more you accomplish. The more you accomplish, the more likely you are to succeed.

Author Philip Roth said, “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress”. What have you started but not finished?

Before you go looking for new ideas and new projects, you might want to dust off some of the half-finished projects lurking on your hard drive or in the recesses of your brain and finish them. Then go work on something else.

Dust off your marketing plan


Focus on your destination (with exceptions)


I walked my daughter down the aisle a couple of weeks ago. It was an outdoor ceremony at a country club, with a panoramic view of rolling hills and lush gardens.

My daughter and I waited at the top of the hill overlooking the wedding party below. Everyone was seated except for the groom and minister. We received the cue to begin walking, my daughter took my arm, and we walked down a series of stone steps which led to the aisle at the bottom of the hill.

The steps were steep and uneven and I had to look down to make sure we didn’t trip. I knew we were being videotaped and that looking down would look awkward but it couldn’t be helped. All I could think about was that if I tripped on the steps or stepped on her gown, my daughter and I would go tumbling down the hill.

At the bottom of the steps was the aisle. We walked down it, I gave her away, took my seat next to my wife, and we watched our beautiful daughter and her groom exchange their vows.

It was a proud and happy day.

A marriage is a journey. The destination is a long and happy life. You get there by staying focused on the big picture and by not letting little problems stop you.

Your work is also a journey. The destination is a long and successful career. You also get there by focusing on the big picture and by not letting bumps in the road throw you off course.

Swedish diplomat and author, Dag Hammarskjold, said, “Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.”

Long term. Big picture. Stay focused on your destination.

Good advice for a marriage or a career. Glad I didn’t listen to it when we were walking down those steps.

A successful career starts with a plan


Are you too logical to be successful?


I’m pretty sure that most lawyers are left-brained. We’re logical, orderly, and rule-bound.

These traits help us to be good at what we do. They make us good at drafting documents to protect our clients. They help us to see the flaws in the other party’s position and forge the right arguments against them. They help us to fill out the right forms, check the right boxes, and avoid neglecting something important.

Unfortunately, these traits might also hold us back from reaching our potential.

Logical thinking is linear. A before B followed by C. This helps us to get the work done efficiently but it often blinds us to other options.

Right-brained people operate differently. They see many options, usually all at once. They are artists and inventors and creators of new ideas. They don’t necessarily follow the rules, they often break them. As if to underscore this difference, Thomas Edison once said about his laboratory, “There ain’t no rules around here! We’re trying to accomplish something!”

As lawyers, we can’t ignore the rules, although perhaps we can remember to question them. When it comes to marketing and building our practice, however, we should consider throwing out the rules and making new ones.

I’m not suggesting we violate the law or ethical rules. I’m suggesting that we observe what everyone else is doing and do the opposite.

That should be easy. Since most lawyers aren’t good at marketing and don’t do much of it, it doesn’t take much to beat them.

In a world of blind men, the one-eyed man is king. In a world of logic-bound lawyers, a little creativity can go a long way.

How to earn more than you ever thought possible: the formula