What would you do if you knew you could not fail?


One of my favorite quotes is from the late Dr. Robert Schuller, who, in his books and in his sermons often asked, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

Asking yourself this question forces you to think about what you really want instead of what you think you’re supposed to do. It helps you to bypass your doubts and fears and speak the truth. It asks you to temporarily suspend your logical left brain and listen to your creative right side.

When I’ve mentioned this quote in the past, it has always been in the context of the big picture. Major career changes, for example.

If you asked me this question about my work right now, my answer would be completely illogical. It’s something creative, something I’ve never done before and, as far as I know, something I have no innate talent for. But if I knew I could not fail, it’s exactly what I would do.

Unfortunately, I know I could fail. So I’m not going to do it. Not now, anyway. I’ve got too much other stuff on my plate. They say, “trust your gut,” for a reason, and right now, my gut is telling me to wait.

Odd, isn’t it? My gut is telling me what to do if I knew I would not fail and also telling me to wait? I think God likes to mess with us.

Anyway, this morning, I was thinking about this question and I realized that we can also use it to make smaller decisions.

If you are scheduled to deliver a presentation, for example, and you’re not sure which topic to choose, asking the “cannot fail” question might guide you towards choosing the ideal, albeit not obvious (or logical) choice.

When I say ideal, I don’t just mean something you would prefer to do but are allowing other factors to stop you. I mean ideal in the sense that it might lead to superlative results.

One topic might get mild applause. Another topic, the one you would choose if you knew you could not fail, might attract someone in the audience who is so affected by your presentation that they invite you to deliver it again to a bigger and more influential group.

What if you’re wrong? Yes, that might happen. But what if you’re right?

How to get more referrals from other professionals: go here


Time is money. Unless it’s not.


If you bill by the hour, time literally is money. You get paid based on how many hours you work. If you offer flat fees, contingency fees, or anything other than hourly billing, however, time isn’t money. It’s just time.

When you bill by the hour, there are only four ways you can increase your income. You can raise your hourly fee. You can work more hours. You can lower your overhead. Or you can hire people to do some of the work and pay them less per hour than you bill your client.

Unless you use one or more of these methods, you can’t increase your income. Bringing in more clients won’t do it because there are only so many hours you can bill in a day.

If you want to earn more, instead of selling your time, you should be selling your advice or your problem-solving solutions. Not only will you earn more per client, the more clients you bring in, the more you will earn.

If you charge $400 per hour and bill out $2000 per day, you’re earning $10,000 per week, which is nothing to sneeze at. But you’ll never earn $30,000 per week.

I know it’s “hard” to come up with an alternative to hourly billing that protects you when you estimate too low or when contingencies occur, but it’s not impossible.

First, you need to stop thinking like a lawyer and start thinking like an entrepreneur. Instead of trying to eliminate risk, you will intelligently manage risk and use the law of averages to your advantage

If you take on twenty hourly-billed clients who each pay you $5000 to $20,000, or an average of $10,000, you take in $200,000 in gross fees. If you charge flat fees, however, and twenty clients each pay you $15,000, you gross $300,000. Now, if one or two of those twenty clients or cases wind up costing you more than you expected, even double what you expected, you’re still way ahead of the game.

I know I’ve said this many times before but I thought it was time for a reminder. Because time isn’t money. Unless it is.

How to earn more per client: here 


How much time do you spend on income producing activities?


What percentage of your day is spent on income producing activities? Before you answer, I must point out that it’s not just work product or billable hours that produce income.

Income producing activities include time spent on personal development. Better skills, better habits, increased productivity, and the like, can do far more to increase your value to your clients than hard work or longer hours.

Take writing for example. Spending 30 minutes a day to improve your writing skills can make you a more effective advocate. It could bring you more victories, bigger settlements, and better deals.

Improved writing skills can also bring you more clients. Your articles, blog posts, newsletters, and other content can do a better job of demonstrating your knowledge, abilities, and experience. It can also give prospective clients and the people who refer them a better sense of who you are and what it would be like to work with you.

Becoming a better writer can also lead to more effective seminars, videos, and presentations. More people will be persuaded by your message and more people will become your client.

You’ll also get faster at writing and be able to produce more content. More content means more traffic to your website and more readers for your articles, reports and books.

Obviously, marketing is also an income producing activity. Get better at networking, for example, and you can bring in more clients and better clients, and open doors to other opportunities to build your practice.

Investing 30 minutes a day to improve your writing or marketing skills may “cost” you $150 per day that you might earn from client work but, over time, your return on that investment could be huge.

Chaw on this for awhile before you answer, “How much time do you spend on income producing activities?”

And remember, the highest paid attorneys work hard for their clients but they also work hard on themselves.

Marketing is easier when you have a plan


Marketing legal services when you don’t want to


Real estate investor and business expert Barbara Corcoran said in an interview that chasing unfamiliar new markets is a fast track to failure.

“I’ve watched so many people much smarter than me loses much money as I’ve made. You know what they forgot? They forgot to invest in their own backyard-what they knew. They heard [another] market was phenomenal and off they went, and lost their shirts”.

When it comes to marketing and building your law practice, are you investing in your backyard? Are you doing what you know and understand? Or are you taking on initiatives you know nothing about?

Many attorneys are so inexperienced and timid about marketing that just about everything is unfamiliar. That’s how they get hoodwinked into writing big checks to companies that promise to deliver a steady stream of clients. That’s how they wind up getting poor results from marketing techniques they dabble with and abandon.

Most attorneys who are successful at marketing use only a handful of techniques to find and reach out to prospective clients and referral sources. Ultimately, you’ll probably find that this is true for you. But specific techniques, like getting a more effective website, networking, advertising, and the like, are less important than the strategies behind them, and this is what you have to get your head around first.

It does you little good to commission a new website if you haven’t first bought into the strategy of creating valuable content for people who are searching for it. Networking with other lawyers who might send you referrals is a waste of time if you aren’t committed to helping them.

When I consult with an attorney, I ask about what they are doing presently to market their practice. I want to know which techniques they are using but I’m really listening to find out if they embrace the strategies behind them. If they don’t, I know we have a lot of work to do.

To my dismay, I often find that the attorneys I’m speaking to haven’t accepted the need to do any marketing.

Yeah, that’s a problem.

If marketing is unfamiliar territory for you, before you take the plunge and possibly lose your shirt, you must examine your beliefs about marketing. If you believe you can build a successful practice without it, if your ego makes you say things like, “I shouldn’t have to do any of this,” you’re not going to get very good results no matter which strategies or techniques you use.

On the other hand, if you believe that marketing is essential and you are open to learning what to do and getting better at doing it, your attitude will make all the difference.

You can conquer unfamiliar territory by becoming familiar with it. But you won’t do that unless you want to.

New to marketing legal services? Start here


Running a law practice like a restaurant


The restaurant business is an especially challenging business model. There is so much money at stake, and so many things that can go wrong, it’s no wonder that so many restaurants fail. And yet, when you get it right, a restaurant can be remarkably profitable.

Customers come back again and again, word-of-mouth brings more business, and before you know it, you’re hobnobbing with the culinary elite. Or something like that.

In a way, a law practice is like a restaurant. You’re in the service business. You have to get a lot of little details right. Your menu is similar if not identical to the menu offered by the lawyer next door. If you want your customers to come back, you have to please them. If there’s a problem, you have to fix it.

When a restaurant insists on being right, they often win the battle and lose the war. Charging an extra $1.50 for a slice of cheese on a burger, or being overly aggressive in pushing customers to order appetizers or dessert, may earn a higher profit on that customer’s visit but it may also be decidedly shortsighted.

When a customer comes into your establishment, as the owner of that restaurant your primary goal shouldn’t be to earn as much as possible from each transaction. Your primary goal is to make the customer want to return.

Running a law practice is no different.

Even if you predominately have one-time clients who never need your services again, you should bend over backwards to please them because each one-time client can send you referrals. And they will, if you treat them right.

Opening a law office requires only a fraction of the capital investment required by a restaurant. Your investment comes later. Each time you give your clients more value, you are investing in their return and referrals.

I hear tales of lawyers arguing with their clients over a $100 billing issue. That’s silly. Let them win, even if they are wrong, even if they are taking advantage of you. In most cases, your investment will pay off.

No, don’t be a sucker. If a client fights you over everything and is making you and your staff miserable, you have to draw the line.

Tell them to try the restaurant down the street.

How to handle billing issues like a pro


Yes, you’re busy but are you getting things done?


You keep a list of things you need to do each day, right? If you’re good at this list making thing, you highlight the two or three (or five) most important tasks of the day. Even better, you write your list the night before so you can hit the ground running the next morning.

Good stuff. You’re getting things done. Important, valuable things that create value for you and your clients and advance you towards your most important goals.

Or are you?

Some list-makers aren’t that good at deducing their most important tasks and spend too much time putting out fires and doing whatever else is put in front in front of them. Others are good at making lists of important tasks but not so good at getting them done.

If that describes you, even a little, I have a suggestion. At the end of the day, before you write your list for the morrow, write down what you did that day. A “done” list, that shows you what you actually did.

Actually, if you’re especially clever (and unafraid of the truth), instead of writing down what you did, write down what you accomplished. Because being busy isn’t worth squat.

At the end of the day, ask yourself, “What did I achieve today?” If you like the answer, great. You will be motivated to accomplish more the following day. If you don’t like the answer, if you realize that you’re keeping busy but you’re not accomplishing important things, you’ll either do something about that or you’ll stop writing a list of accomplishments and go back to just being busy.

Because success is a choice.

Building a successful law practice starts with having a plan


What you focus on grows


What are you focused on right now? If you said, “doing client work,” or something similar, I understand. You have bills to pay so you draft documents, negotiate settlements, or attend hearings because, well, that’s what you do.

If you want more work like that, great. Keep thinking about that, because what you focus on grows.

But what if you want more? What if you want better clients or bigger cases? What if you want to dramatically grow your practice and income?

If you do, you have to stop focusing on your work and maintaining the status quo and start focusing on the future you’d like to create.

Because what you focus on grows.

Think about the kinds of clients and cases you want. Think about the bigger fees you’d like to charge. Think about getting referrals every day, and about what your practice will look like when it is running smoothly and efficiently and helping you create the lifestyle of your dreams.

When you change your focus from your current reality to the way you’d like things to be, your subconscious mind goes to work and helps you create that future. It causes you to notice things you have previously ignored. It helps you meet the right people and say just the right things, organize your thoughts and priorities, and re-distribute your energy.

Your thoughts create your reality.

So think about the reality you’d like to create. Pretend you have a magic wand and can make it come true with a simple flourish. What would your new reality look like? Write that down.

Then, think about it often. Read your description several times a day. Imagine your better future in all it’s glory. If those thoughts feel good when you think them, you’re on the right track. You will be guided towards the activities you need to start or modify or eliminate, and you will start moving towards your better future.

If you have doubts, if a “yes but” inserts itself into your thoughts, acknowledge it and then let it float away. Those are old tapes playing old messages and you should just let them go.

Think about what you want, not why you can’t have it, and you will attract what you want. Because what you focus on grows.

You need a marketing plan. You can get one here


What won’t you do today?


Just because someone called doesn’t mean you have to call them back. You could have someone call them for you, you could send them a letter or email, or you could ignore them.

The choice is yours.

Just because people want to talk to you, meet with you, or have you look at something doesn’t mean you have to do it. You could say no.

Warren Buffett once said, “the difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”

What will you say no to today?

What meeting won’t you attend? What tasks won’t you do?

If you say “no” to almost everything, you’ll have more time, won’t you, to do the few things that matter most? You’ll be able to work on projects that advance you towards your most important goals, instead of simply getting things done.

Go through your lists of tasks and projects and ideas and choose a few that allow you to use your skills and create value for your clients. That’s what you should be doing, and that means saying no to just about everything else.

If you’re like most people, saying no to most things might free up several hours a day. What important projects could you complete if you had even an extra hour per day?

To be more productive and more successful you must first know your priorities. If you have 100 things on a list only a few will make the cut. What are those few? What are your top priorities?

Once you know, the next step is to prioritize your priorities. Every day ask yourself, “What are the two or three most important tasks to do today?” Do them, ideally early in the day, before you do anything else.

If you finish early, you can choose another important task and do that, you could do a few less important tasks, or you can go home.

Yes, go home.

If you do your most important tasks today, your day will be successful. Even if you don’t do anything else.


Why I stopped collecting coins


I was a coin collector as a kid. My grandfather got me started. I subscribed to Coin World, and read it every week. I belonged to The Kennedy Coin Club, where I where I met with other collectors to buy, sell, and trade.

I always had my Want/Have list in my wallet–a list of coins I needed to fill in gaps in my collection and duplicates I was willing to sell or trade.

I remember how much fun it was to go through my pocket change (or my father’s pockets) and find silver coins or rare coins from the past. Sometimes, I’d go to the bank and “buy” a bag of coins so I could go through it to find the one or two coins that were worthy of saving. I’d replace them in the bag and exchange it for a new one.

Collecting coins was a fun hobby. But eventually, there came a time when you could no longer find rare coins or silver coins in your change, and I stopped doing it. It wasn’t fun anymore.

You know what? That’s a good metric for everything in life. If it’s not fun, don’t do it.

If you don’t enjoy practicing law, do something about it. Change your practice area or your clients, get good at marketing, or go do something else.

I said as much in an interview I did yesterday for a podcast. “What’s one piece of advice you could share that we haven’t talked about,” I was asked at the end of the interview. “If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right,” I said.

Of course it’s not all black or white. There’s lots of gray. You may not like networking, for example, but you love the results so you keep doing it. That’s actually a good way to look at it. Focus on what you like, not what you don’t like.

Don’t forget, everything is relative. Maybe you don’t like marketing, but you don’t like getting calls from bill collectors even less.

Find some aspect of what you’re doing that’s fun. Because otherwise, why do it?


The best career advice I ever heard


I was at a real estate investment seminar in the 1970’s with hundreds of others. The speaker knew that most of us would never do the one thing they needed to do become a real estate investor: take action.

Most people procrastinate. Hell, most people don’t even read the materials that come with the course. They let fear and inertia stop them from doing the activities that will take them from where they are to where (they say they) want to be.

To make his point, the trainer stood at the front of the room and took a twenty dollar bill out of his pocket. He held it up in the air and said, “Who wants it?”

Many hands went up. There were murmurs throughout the crowd. The trainer stood there for what seemed like an eternity, but nothing happened. Then, a brave young man got out of his seat, ran to the front of the room, and plucked the twenty dollar bill from the trainer’s hand.

The trainer pointed out that to get what you want in life, you have to take action. Immediately. Like the young man who walked away with the prize.

Good point. Well played.

Don’t think about it. Get your ass out of the chair and go get it. That’s the ticket to success.

I imagine that if the same demonstration had been done in a room filled with attorneys, nobody would come up and take the money. They would be trying to figure out the catch. Or the tax consequences. Or how to get a third of someone else’s money.

So, if the key to success is taking action, what is the key to taking action? Later, the trainer told us the answer.

He said that it was a belief in the I.G.D.S. philosophy. That stands for “I’m Going to Die Someday”. Life is not a dress rehearsal. There’s no “later,” this is it. You’ve got one shot and the clock is ticking.

Cue Bon Jovi.

I don’t remember much else from that seminar all these years later, but I remember these lessons. I can’t say I’ve always been faithful to them, however. It’s the dying thing. I’m still searching through the fine print.