Would you like that in tens and twenties?

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In law school, my torts professor told us that he was able to close his practice (retire) because he settled a particularly big case and banked a big fat fee.

It was close to 40 years ago, but I remember thinking, “Sounds good to me.”

One reason I chose personal injury over other practice areas is because big cases happen. One case could retire you, and that was my plan.

But it didn’t happen. I had some big cases, but not big enough to let me fold up my tent.

I was thinking about this on my walk this morning and I thought I would ask you a question. Here it is:

Would you rather have a big pile of cash (from any source) or enough cash flow coming in (from any source) to accommodate your desired life style?

Five million dollars in cash earning a four percent return, for example, equates to $200,000 in cash flow per year. Would you rather have the five million or $200k in passive income?

When I was in law school, I would have said gimme the cash. With what I know now, I’d take the income.

Aside from the fact that I’ve put on a few years and my priorities are different today, if I had the cash, I’d be afraid of squandering it. I might spend it or make bad investments. I’d have to spend time nurturing my nest egg, time I could spend doing other things.

How about you? Which would you take? I know, you’d take both. Touche, mon frere.

But this isn’t just a fanciful exercise. There is a point to it.

What you want in the future influences the choices you make today. To some extent, your cash or cash flow preference will dictate the direction of your career.

If you prefer cash, you need to consider practice areas that makes that possible. You might target start ups for clients because they might offer you a piece of their company in return for your services.

If cash flow is your thang, in the short term, you’ll want clients who have ongoing work for you. Business clients rather than consumer clients. For the long term, you’ll look at investing in income producing assets.

You could also start a business. That’s what I did. A series of businesses, actually, that provide me with passive income and allowed me to retire from practicing law.

One lesson in all this is that long term plans are often like an oral contract. They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.

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Are you busy? That’s a shame.

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Being busy isn’t necessarily something to brag about. It’s not a virtue. In fact, it may well be a failing if you’re busy doing things that aren’t important.

It’s better to be productive than busy.

Being productive means you’re producing. Creating value for yourself and others. It means you’re not simply in motion, you’ve got to something to show for your efforts.

What do you want to produce? What results do you want to achieve?

Not someday, now. You can have dreams and long term goals but life is lived in the present, so what do you want to do today?

What are your priorities?

You should be able to cite a few things that you are focused on, and only a few. Because if there are more than a few, it can’t be called “focus”. When everything is a priority, nothing is.

“If you have 3 priorities, you have priorities. If you have 25 priorities, you have a mess,” one writer said.

You may have heard it said that you can do anything you want in life, you just can’t do everything; there isn’t enough time. Fill your day producing things that are important to you, your family, and your clients. If you do that, you will have a productive and happy life, even if you’re not that busy.

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If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right

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Do you enjoy practicing law? Do you look forward to going to work every day? If you do, great. If not, we need to talk.

The purpose of life is to experience joy. At least that’s what I believe. We’re not here to suffer or sacrifice endlessly, we’re here to experience our time on earth as the blessing it is meant to be.

Your work, your marriage, your social life, even your faith, should be fun. Or at least gratifying. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.

I’m not talking about the little things you have to do to keep the wheels spinning. You may have to plunge out a toilet every once in awhile. Marketing may not be your favorite thing, but you have to embrace it to some extent because without it, you won’t be able to do the work you love.

Okay, I said “work you love” but I don’t really mean it. You don’t have to love your work to be successful at it. You just can’t hate it.

For some, work is an expression of their joy and their purpose in life. It defines them and pulls them forward towards a better future. For others, work is a means to an end. They enjoy it, but it’s not who they are.

And that’s fine.

There will always be things you don’t want to do. There will always be parts of your work that you would rather not do.

As long as most of your time is spent doing things you enjoy, you’ll be just fine.

My law practice wasn’t my life’s purpose. There were a lot of things I didn’t enjoy. But I focused on what I did enjoy: helping people (who appreciated it) and making money. That’s what I focused on. That’s what kept me going.

I delegated the things I didn’t like, or put blinders on and accepted them as part of the deal.

Eventually, though, the negatives outweighed the positives and I knew it was time to move on.

Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Starting my practice was, at the time, a daring adventure. When the thrill was gone, I found a new adventure.

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Are you investing in yourself?

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Among other things, The 80/20 Principle, one of my favorite books on the subject, tells us to “pursue those few things where you are amazingly better than others and that you enjoy most.” Do them to the exclusion of other things you’re not as good at.

Another author puts it this way: “Do very few things, but be awesome at them.”

To do this, you must work on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Figure out what you do best and find ways to do it even better.

I do a lot of writing. It’s one of my strengths. I invest in getting better at it by reading books and blogs about writing, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and making sure I work at it every day.

I also invest in tools that help me write better and faster. I’ve mentioned Scrivener before and told you that I now do all my long-form writing in it.

I got a new chair recently that helps me sit longer. It helps me get more writing done because I don’t need to take as many breaks.

Yesterday, I went out and looked at mechanical keyboards. (They’re in the “gaming” section.) I’ve been reading about these for awhile and I’m about ready to order one. I’m told they help you type faster and with fewer typos. They also last longer than the rubber membrane keyboards found on most laptops and computer desktops. I like the tactile feel of these keyboards, and the clicky sound they make. (You can get ones that don’t make that sound, if you prefer.)

After that, I’ll probably look at external monitors. A bigger screen will allow me to look at two documents at one time, instead of having to switch back and forth. Maybe dual monitors is the thing.

For a long time now, I’ve been using the track pad on my laptop. I might start using a mouse again.

It’s all about getting that edge. Making a good thing even better.

How about you? What do you do best? How are you investing in yourself to get better?

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When to hire your first (or next) employee

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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.

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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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Begin with the end in mind (and work backwards)

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Most people choose a goal and then start working towards it. They put one foot in front of the other and keep walking until they get to their destination.

If they choose the wrong step, however, they may get sidetracked and lose sight of their goal. If they do the steps in the wrong order, they may waste time and resources.

A better way, some say, is to begin with the end in mind and work backwards.

Let me give you an example of how it works.

Let’s say you have a goal of getting one additional referral each week.

Nice goal, yes?

Okay, now you have to ask yourself this question: Can I do this tomorrow? Can I get one additional referral per week starting tomorrow?

The odds are the answer is no. So you ask another question: What would have to have happen first?

Putting aside the idea of getting more referrals from your clients and existing contacts, let’s say the answer is, “I’d have to have twenty new professional contacts who know, like, and trust me. If each one of these twenty contacts sends me just one referral every five months, I would achieve my goal of getting one additional referral per week.”

That sounds doable. But can you do it tomorrow?

No.

What would have to happen first?

First (let’s say) you would need to connect with 100 new contacts (professionals, business owners, community leaders, centers of influence, etc.), in order to find twenty who are willing and able to send you one referral every five months.

Can you do this tomorrow? I’m guessing not.

What would have to happen first?

First you would have to identify (a) places where these people congregate, so you can go there and meet them, and/or (b) people you know who can introduce you to these people.

Can you do that tomorrow?

Yes you can. You can start anyway. You can do some research and find organizations comprised of people who fit the description of the people you want to meet who meet locally.

You can also comb through your current list of contacts to identify people who are likely to know these people. They have clients or colleagues or business contacts who fit the description. You know them well enough to ask for an introduction.

Finally, you have something you can do tomorrow. Now you can take the first steps towards your goal.

But if you do all of that, can you reach your goal tomorrow? No. What has to happen first?

You need to meet them and get to know them. You need to find out what they are looking for that you might be able to help them with. You need to show them what you do and how you can help their clients or contacts. And you have to build a relationship with them, earn their trust ,and eventually, their referrals.

Can you do this tomorrow? No. What would you have to do first?

You’d have to talk to them, get their contact information, and begin a dialog with them.

Can you do that tomorrow (if you meet them tomorrow)? Yes you can.

And now you have a plan.

You can’t “do” a goal, you can only do activities. Begin with the end in mind and work backwards. Identify the activities you need to do, and do them, and keep doing them until you reach your goal.

Marketing is easier when you know 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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The one thing that made the difference

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In an interview yesterday I was asked what was the one thing that made the difference in my career. What was it that helped me become successful.

Back then, I said, meaning back when I was starting out and I was broke as a joke and just wanted to pay my bills, marketing made the difference.

When I learned how to bring in more clients, and better clients, everything changed.

Later, when I was making lots of money but had no time for anything but work, the key to my success as a sole practitioner was getting comfortable with delegating. This is difficult for many lawyers because we are very uncomfortable relinquishing control. But I did it and it allowed me to work only 3 days a week.

My income, went up, too, because I had more time for marketing and to improve my office’s systems.

In more recent years, the “one thing” that has made a difference for me has been passive income. When money comes in no matter what you do, even if you don’t do anything, well, it doesn’t get better than that. This allowed me to retire from the practice of law and do things I’ve always wanted to do.

So here’s my advice. If you need more money right now, study marketing. Get good at it. Make it your focus. Find something that works well for you and go “all in”.

If you have money but no time, hire more employees (or outsource) and learn how to delegate.

I know it’s hard but it gets easier. When I ran my practice, I resolved to do “only that which only I could do”. To my pleasant surprise, I found that there was very little that only I could do.

Delegate as much as possible and use the free time for more marketing, to improve your office’s work flow, and to have a life.

And if you have reached the point where you’ve got a handle on the money and the time, start thinking about what comes next. You might never want to retire or move onto to something else, and that’s okay. But knowing that you have enough cash and investments or passive income to do so, is a very good thing.

Marketing is easier when you have a plan

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