What’s next?

Share

What are you working on right now? What will do after that?

What project(s) have you lined up for next week, next month, and later this year?

It could be anything: hiring a new virtual assistant, updating your website, or getting trained on a new contact management system. Whatever it is, you need to know what’s next.

I just finished a project (Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals) and I’m already working on the next one. I also know what I’ll do after that.

For me, knowing my next project gives me time to think about that project before I start it. I can do research, outline and plan. My subconscious mind will cogitate on the subject and prompt me with ideas and questions.

Knowing what’s next also means I don’t have any “dead air”. I go from one project to the next without missing a step. And if I have any challenges with a project, or it fizzles out, I always have something else to turn to.

It’s exciting to think about what I’ve got lined up. Thinking about future projects inspires me to finish the current one.

I don’t know my next ten projects, just the next two or three. But I have a list of hundreds of ideas to draw from, and as I complete the next few projects, I’ll have the next few lined up.

Mind you, I’m not obsessed with planning. I like a little spontaneity in my life. When I stumble upon a new idea that excites me, I’m fine with pushing aside my other projects to make room for it.

No matter what productivity system or method use, or if you don’t use any, develop the habit of always knowing what’s next. Whenever you start a project, ask yourself, “What’s will I do after this?”

When you know what’s next, your productivity will soar.

Share

Why you shouldn’t worry about legalzoom (and why you should)

Share

The legal landscape is changing. More people are using Legalzoom, paralegals, and pre-paid legal plans, and it’s making a lot of lawyers nervous.

They shouldn’t be. Instead of fearing these would-be competitors, they should celebrate them.

These companies are doing lawyers a great service. They are expanding the marketplace of consumers of legal services. Many of their clients have never availed themselves of legal assistance before. As more of them start doing that, there are more opportunities for lawyers to show them the benefits of hiring them instead.

But many lawyers need to step up their game.

They need to learn how to use technology, and incorporate it into all aspects of their practice. They need to put marketing much higher on their list of priorities. The world is changing and they need to change with it.

Speaking of tech and marketing, I have a message for the “gentleman lawyers” of the world. The ones with an established client base who no longer work hard to build or maintain it. The ones who take two hour lunches and don’t listen to anyone with “new ideas”.

They’re living on borrowed time. Legalzoom may not be a threat to them, but the next generation of tech-savvy, hungry young lawyers certainly are.

What about everyone else? Well, if legalzoom and the like are a threat to you because they offer the same services you offer, you’re also living on borrowed time.

What can you do?

How do you compete with their massive advertising dollars and technological systems?

You don’t.

Don’t do what they do. Don’t offer what they offer.

Offer different services. Offer more specialized and complex services, to more sophisticated and higher-paying clients. Offer more personalized service and greater value.

If you rely on basic estate planning as the core of your practice, for example, move towards higher end services, for higher income clients. If basic business formation is a primary source of your income, you need to re-focus on more complex work for bigger clients.

If you offer a commodity service, you’re going to have a rough go of it. The competition will eat your lunch.

But there’s no competition at the top of the service/price pyramid. The competition is at the bottom 80% of that pyramid, where most lawyers (mistakenly) compete.

Don’t fear legalzoom, celibrate them. Don’t compete with legalzoom, and don’t let them compete with you.

How to differentiate yourself. Click here

Share

What would you do with a $200,000 line of credit?

Share

What would you do with a $200,000 line of credit, or a windfall in that amount?

What would you buy? Who would you hire? What would you do to grow your practice or free up more time?

Would you hire more or better employees? What would you have them do?

Would you invest in additional web assets?

Would you invest in advertising, or increase your ad buys?

It’s up to you.

You might pay off higher interest debt. Maybe you’d open a second office, or move to a bigger one. Maybe you’d buy new computers or furniture or invest in training your staff to work more efficiently.

Think about your SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. How would access to cash allow you to maximize your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities, or neutralize threats?

What do you want to accomplish this year? Where do you want to be in five years?

Maybe you would invest in a business venture outside of your practice. For additional profit, for retirement, or just something you’ve always wanted to do.

As you think this through, you might decide to do nothing. You know you’re on track to meet your goals and you don’t need a pile of cash to get there.

The point of this exercise is to make you think about where you are and where you want to be. It’s to make you see what’s possible if money wasn’t an issue. It’s to give you ideas you can put on the drawing board.

If cash or credit would help you accomplish your goals more quickly, begin working towards acquiring a line of credit or amassing a pile of cash.

If you don’t need capital to get to the next level, however, consider building a line of credit anyway, because once you get to the next level, you might need cash to get to the level after that.

Do you know The Formula?

Share

Be different or be gone

Share

Albert Einstein said, “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.”

Most lawyers don’t want to walk alone. They don’t want to stand out. They do what other lawyers do, read what other lawyers read, and do what other lawyers do. They even look like other lawyers look.

And that’s why the average lawyer is just average.

If you want to be better than average, if you want to earn a bigger income or leave a bigger mark on the world, you can’t do what everyone else does. You have to be different.

You can’t network in all the same places most lawyers network. You can’t write what they write, say what they say, or do what they do. When they zig, you need to zag.

You often hear me say that you need to tell the world (clients, prospects, referral sources, etc.) how you are better than other lawyers, or how you are different. You have to differentiate yourself and give the world a reason to notice you and choose you.

You don’t have to be a radical, or a visionary. Just different.

Speak out about something. Join a group. Or start one.

Change something about how you do your work. Or change your appearance.

Move away from the mainstream and follow your own path.

Do things other lawyers don’t do and you will go places other lawyers don’t go.

Learn how to differentiate yourself

Share

Getting the right things done

Share

Venture capitalist Mark Suster has a rule he lives by that helps him be more productive and successful. The rule: “Do Less. More.” It means doing fewer things overall, and getting the right things done. “Success often comes from doing a few things extraordinarily well and noticeably better than the competition,” he says.

Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle, says, “Everyone can achieve something significant. The key is not effort, but finding the right thing to achieve. You are hugely more productive at some things than at others, but dilute the effectiveness of this by doing too many things where your comparative skill is nowhere near as good.”

Koch also says, “Few people take objectives really seriously. They put average effort into too many things, rather than superior thought and effort into a few important things. People who achieve the most are selective as well as determined.”

So, what do you do better than most? What should you focus on? I asked this question in an earlier post:

Look at your practice and tell me what you see.

  • Practice areas: Are you a Jack or Jill of all trades or a master of one? Are you good at many things or outstanding at one or two?
  • Clients: Do you target anyone who needs what you do or a very specifically defined “ideal client” who can hire you more often, pay higher fees, and refer others like themselves who can do the same?
  • Services: Do you offer low fee/low margin services because they contribute something to overhead or do you keep your overhead low and maximize profits?
  • Fees: Do you trade your time for dollars or do you get paid commensurate with the value you deliver?
  • Marketing: Do you do too many things that produce no results, or modest results, or one or two things that bring in the bulk of your new business?
  • Time: Do you do too much yourself, or do you delegate as much as possible and do “only that which only you can do”?
  • Work: Do you do everything from scratch or do you save time, reduce errors, and increase speed by using forms, checklists, and templates?

Leverage is the key to the 80/20 principle. It is the key to getting more done with less effort and to earning more without working more.

Take some time to examine your practice, and yourself. Make a short list of the things you do better than most and focus on them. Eliminate or delegate the rest.

Do Less. More.

This will help with getting the right things done

Share

The thrill is gone? Here’s how to get it back

Share

The thrill is gone. You’ve lost the spark you had when you started practicing. You’re spinning your wheels and getting nowhere fast.

You’re doing okay, but you want to move on up, to an east side apartment in the sky.

Or maybe things aren’t so good. You’re struggling and falling behind.

What can you do? How do you get things moving?

You need to start over. Go back to the beginning and be “new” again. Forget what you have and what you know and begin from square one.

Before you can construct, you have to destruct.

I know, starting over might hold some bad memories for you. It does for me. I was scared to death. Everything was riding on my making a go of things and I didn’t have a clue about what to do.

But I was excited. The world was mine for the taking. Anything was possible.

And I was hungry. Determined. Open to anything. I had nothing, so I had nothing to lose.

You too? Good. Go back to those days in your mind. Be hungry again. Be open again. Be excited again.

Pretend you have nothing. No clients, no lists, no website, no ads. Chuck it all and start from scratch. You’ll add them back one at a time. Or maybe you won’t.

Yes, but what do you do? That’s not really important. If your head is on right and you are truly reborn, you’ll figure it out.

You’ll try lots of things, with no expectations. Some will work, most won’t. You want this thing to work and you’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Get out a legal pad and a pen. Time to start building. Start by taking inventory.

Who do you know? Write down the names of people who might be able to help you. Clients, prospects, referral sources, other lawyers who can give you advice, friends and family who can support your dreams.

What do you know? What are you good at? What are your skills (legal, marketing, management, leadership, speaking, writing, etc.)

What do you want? Write down one or two goals for the month. Forget next month for now; you’ve got a rent payment coming due.

Are you excited yet? Scared? Itching to do something? Good. Pick up the phone and call someone on your list.

Call a friend and tell him you’re re-launching your practice today and just wanted to share the good news.

Call a lawyer and tell her you’d like to meet for coffee and talk about how you can work together.

Call a former client and see how they’re doing. They might need you for something, or know someone they can refer.

Call a current client and tell them how much you appreciate them.

Spend the rest of the day talking to people. Tonight, write down some marketing ideas. Tomorrow, get up early and do it again.

Need a marketing plan? Get this

Share

Relax, don’t do it, when you want to go to it

Share

Author Raymond Chandler said something about his writing process that resonates with me. He said, “The faster I write the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.”

Writing faster allows him to bypass the resistance he feels when he tries to force his way forward through the story. When he lets go, he gets better results.

I’ve found this to be true in my writing. When I write quickly, I write better and more naturally.

This morning, I thought about this idea in the context of marketing and building a law practice. Many lawyers force themselves to do the things they are told they need to do to achieve success. Pushing through their resistance, however, often leads to poor results.

Some things we resist simply need to be done. For these things, the best advice is to be do them quickly. Like pulling off a bandage, get it over with so you can move on to other things.

When I have to make a call I’m not looking forward to making, for example, I don’t think about it or plan it out, I just pick up the phone and punch in the number. Before I know it, the conversation is over.

Much of what we do is discretionary, however. We don’t have to engage in formal networking, for example, but many lawyers who hate it force themselves to do it. Not surprisingly, they get poor results.

Think about the many possible ways to market your services. As you run down the list, ask yourself how you feel about each method. When you find something that creates a “tug” in your gut, something that feels right to you and fraught with possibilities, that’s what you should do.

There may be only one “reaching out” method that feels good to you when you think about it, but that’s enough. You’ll do it with gusto and you will do it well. You’ll get good at it and your results will multiply.

Don’t push through the sludge and force yourself to do things you hate. Let go of things you resist and allow yourself to glide towards success.

What if nothing appeals to you? What if you can’t stand anything that bears the marketing label?

Some of it you can skip. Some of it you can delegate. But if it has to be done and you’re the one who has to do it, don’t think about it, just rip that sucker off.

Do you need a marketing plan. Here you go

Share

Would you hire you?

Share

I’ve got a question for you. Something for you to ponder over this weekend. Don’t just answer and move on, give this a bit of thought because it is important.

The question is, “Would you hire you?” Knowing what you know about your skills and experience and what you really bring to the table, if you needed a lawyer who does what you do, would you hire you?

If you would, great. Write down all of the reasons you would do that. In fact, keep a running list of reasons because you can use these in your marketing. Make sure you do this for each of your practice areas and/or services.

If you would not hire you, why not? If you have doubts about some things, what are they?

Be honest. Nobody else is listening.

What could do you better? What skills do you need to improve or acquire? Where are you “just okay,” when you know you should be great?

Since you might not be able to see these things, or admit to them, you might ask others to help you with this. Ask you clients. Do exit surveys. Do anonymous online surveys and let them tell you what you need to improve. Ask your staff, your partners, and your spouse.

Can you see how this information would be helpful?

Good. Because when you’re done with this question, I have another one for you to answer:

Would you buy your practice?

If it was for sale, would you plunk down the cash to buy it? Would it be a good investment? Or would you just be buying yourself a job, and underpaid one at that?

I don’t have the answers. Just the questions. Because that’s my job, and I’m good at it.

Share

Would you like that in tens and twenties?

Share

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.

Share

Are you busy? That’s a shame.

Share

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.

Share