Take a break and read this

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When you’re trying to work, getting distracted by a phone call, an alert, or your own thoughts about doing something else, can ruin your momentum. It can take many minutes to get back to where you were before that distraction, and let’s face it, too often you never do.

That’s why God created the phrase, “I’ll finish it tomorrow”.

And so, legions of productivity writers and speakers preach the value of eliminating distractions in your work day. Turn off your phone, close the other tabs on your browser, put on headphones and listen to white noise, they say, so you can focus and get your work done.

By and large, they’re right. I do some of these things myself.

But distractions aren’t entirely bad.

We watch sports or videos or play games or read fiction, in part, to distract ourselves from our problems, the news, and our own negative thoughts that sometimes plague us.

And that’s a good thing.

So, a few thoughts about the subject.

First, don’t feel guilty about taking breaks from your work or other responsibilities, to play a game or watch a video or three. If you enjoy doing it, do it. It’s good for your mental well-being.

Second, watch the time. Don’t play all day when there is work to be done. Yeah, that’s obvious, but we’ve all been guilty of telling ourselves, “one more video” or “one more game” and before we know it, it’s dinner time and we didn’t get much done.

Especially when working from home.

The solution is simple. When you take a break, set a timer and when the time is up, go back to breaking bricks.

Third, schedule regular breaks on your calendar. Time to play or goof off or close your eyes and do nothing. When we take scheduled breaks, we don’t feel guilty about playing for 20 minutes in the middle of the day.

When we don’t schedule breaks, however, when we allow distractions to just happen, that’s when we can get into trouble.

We want to do deep work but find ourselves in deep doo doo.

So, there you go. Break time is over. Thank you for spending it with me.

What’s next? You get back to work and I go watch a video. Or three.

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Try it, you’ll like it

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Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn’t like pizza. Actually, I’d never tasted it, but I was a kid and thought it looked yucky and melty and I was sure I wouldn’t like it, so I refused to eat it.

What a maroon.

My parents and sisters thought I was nuts. I was a kid and kids love pizza. My sisters loved pizza, my parents loved pizza, what was up with me?

One day, my father said, “Just take one bite. If you don’t like it, you never have to eat it again.”

And. . . the rest is history.

Note that my father didn’t try to convince me to become a pizza eater. He merely encouraged me to try it. He knew that if I did, there was a very good chance I’d like it.

Thanks, Dad.

In marketing, it’s called “promoting trial” or “sampling”. It’s a proven strategy, something everyone who sells something should consider.

When you go car shopping, the sales person promotes a test drive. He knows that once you feel how smoothly the car navigates the road, and see how good you look sitting behind the wheel, you’ll sell yourself on buying that car.

Many lawyers offer free consultations for the same reason.

They give prospective clients a sample.

Prospective clients hear them opine about their case or situation, get some questions answered, and get a sense of what it would be like to work with them. If you offer free consultations, you know that most prospective clients who avail themselves want to hire you.

Content marketing is another form of sampling. When prospective clients or referral sources read something you write or hear you speak, they get a taste of your wisdom and personality, and this is often enough to get them to take the next step.

Not every lawyer should offer free consultations, but every lawyer should create and distribute content.

Write something, record something, get yourself interviewed by others in your niche, and let prospective clients and the people who can refer them get a sample of your greatness.

You may not be as delicious as that first piece of pizza I had, but you’ll probably be tasty enough to get people interested in taking another bite.

More: The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Promoting your services: how often, how much?

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If every time a client or prospect hears from you you promote your services, will you turn them off? Will they no longer like and trust you? Will they write you off as another one of those potatoes?

It depends.

If you’re a broken record, constantly playing the same tune, constantly telling them to buy and making them feel guilty or stupid or at risk if they don’t, they’re going to tune you out.

We’ve all been on those lists. And left them.

Some “experts” say, “don’t promote, educate”. That’s just silly. You can do both.

You can and you should.

You never know when someone reading your words will need your services. You never know when they’ll be ready to take the next step. You never know when someone they know will (desperately) need your help.

So don’t stop reminding people about what you do.

But mix it up.

Teach them something, share something helpful or interesting, or have some fun with them, and also promote something.

Every time.

I promote something in just about every email and blog post. Usually, it’s just a descriptive sentence and a link. You can follow that link to look at what I have for you or you can move along. Other times, particularly when I launch something new or I’m running a promotion, you’ll get more. Sometimes, a lot more.

And that’s okay. That’s our deal. I write, you read, sometimes you buy something or hire me, sometimes you don’t.

But I’ll never stop telling you about what I offer, and neither should you with your clients and prospects.

You’re doing them a favor when you tell them and a disservice when you don’t.

And let’s face it. The people on your list expect you to do it. They know the deal.

If you’re smart about how you do it, most people won’t reject you, even if they don’t need what you offer.

They’ll stick around until they do.

How to use a newsletter to build your practice

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Why is more important than how

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I’m big on “how to”. I like learning how to do things and getting good at doing them. To be the best that I can be so I can accomplish my goals, feel pride in creating things and changing people’s lives.

So I read and study and practice the how-tos

But while “how” is important, it’s not as important as “why”.

You say you want to grow your practice by one-third this year? Why do you want that? What will you do with the money?

Pay some bills? That’s probably not enough to motivate you to do what you need to do to achieve your goal. Money in, money out, another day, another dollar.

On the other hand, if the reason you want to earn more money is to help your aged parents finally retire, because they worked hard all their lives and are still working to pay their bills. . . that’s a big reason why.

That’s the kind of “why” that will motivate you to make the calls or start a newsletter or do other things to bring in more business. It’s what will keep you trying new ideas, staying the course when things get tough, get past rejection or disappointment or fatigue that might otherwise cause you to give up.

Ask yourself what you want. And then ask yourself why you want it.

When you have a big enough why, you’ll figure out how.

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What would you buy?

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It’s been a rough year for a lot of folks. A lot of belt-tightening, deferring purchases, raiding retirement accounts. A lot of resistless nights, fatigue-filled days, and worries about the future.

Stimulus payments and PPP loans may help, but they’re not a long term solution. Building your practice is a long-term solution. For many lawyers, however, the client-pool isn’t quite as deep these days, given that many would-be clients have had an equally bad year.

And yet, there is more than enough business out there for you. I don’t know about the other guy, but for you, there’s plenty.

You just have to find a way to attract them.

I’m not talking about marketing. Yes, that’s part of it, but it might not be the key ingredient for attracting more clients.

What is that key ingredient?

You.

If you want to attract more business, you need to become more attractive.

When you’re feeling nervous about the future, worried, confused, skeptical, scared, or you are otherwise in a bad place mentally and emotionally, it’s difficult to attract anyone, least of all, people who are similarly situated.

Clients come to you because you give them hope for a better future. They need to feel like you can take them there.

It’s not just what you say or promise to do. It’s your music. How you feel and how you make them feel.

If your “music” isn’t attractive right now, you’ve got to change your music.

A simple way to do that is to use your imagination.

Humor me. This is the real deal.

Imagine what your life will be like when things are the way you want them. Or remember what it was like before lockdown living became the norm. Imagine a time when you have lots of clients and cases and money comes in like clockwork.

Get quiet and imagine a better future for yourself. A time when you don’t have to tell yourself you “don’t need that” or you “probably shouldn’t spend that”. A time when money is plentiful and you don’t have to think about it.

In that future, what would you buy? Where would you put some cash?

Would you upgrade that ancient laptop you’ve been lugging around? Hire another assistant? Advertise more?

Would you get some new clothes? Fix up your house? Give more to charity or help out a needy friend?

Would you start a passion project, get braces for your teeth, or hire someone to clean your house once a week?

Think about what you would do when you have plenty of money. More importantly, think about how you would feel.

Take a deep breath and imagine it.

Feels good, doesn’t it? Warm and fuzzy. That tightness in your gut is gone. You feel relaxed, centered, confident. You feel like anything is possible and you’re excited about the future.

Yes or yes?

The only thing left is to find a way to feel that way now, because that feeling is what will take you from where you are to where you want to go. It’s what will make you more attractive to clients who want that, too.

That’s crazy, you say? Woo woo nonsense. It’s just wishful thinking and you need a plan, something you can do that will bring in more money.

I just gave you that plan.

Give a try. Meditate once a day for ten or fifteen minutes and imagine things the way you want them. Do that for 30 days or 90 days. Make it a part of your daily routine.

Worst case, nothing changes, but for ten minutes a day, you take a mental vacation and feel great.

Best case? You change. Your confidence grows and you start taking action, inspired by your wishful thinking.

Your music changes. You become more attractive to people who need your help and they find their way to you.

Because the Law of Attraction is real.

If this is a message you needed to hear right now, if you are inspired by these words, realize that you attracted them to you. What will you attract next?

When you’re ready to take action, here is a great option

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Show, Don’t Tell Isn’t Just for Fiction

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When we read fiction, we want to become immersed in the story, to feel like we are there, seeing and hearing and feeling what happens. To accomplish this, the author doesn’t just tell us what happened, he shows us.

At least he should. Thus, the oft-repeated advice, “Show, Don’t Tell”.

That’s good advice for all kinds of writing, including the writing lawyers do in our work.

Of course telling is important, too. But showing makes your writing come alive.

Showing adds interest, clarity, and an emotional element to your words. It helps the reader understand your point and makes it more likely that they’ll act on it.

When you show instead of merely tell, your words are more persuasive. The reader sees what you see and often comes to the same conclusion you came to.

When I had cases I thought my client should settle but they resisted, I didn’t just tell them my opinion, I showed them what could happen if they didn’t settle.

I described the process of filing, discovery, and trial, in vivid detail, explaining some of the questions a judge or jury might ask about weaknesses in the case, and explained that if they lost, they would be liable for the medical liens they’d signed, in addition to the costs of pursing the case. I explained how long this might take and how much time they’d have to take off of work.

When I was done, I asked the client what they wanted to do, but they often stopped me before I could ask that and told me to go ahead and settle.

I’d shown them the future and they didn’t like what they saw.

According to the old adage, “If you say it, they can doubt it; if they say it, it must be true”.

Showing also helps the reader to remember what you say.

When I took the Bar Exam, I remembered more material because of the notes I wrote to myself when I studied. For each rule, for example, I added notes about applicable cases we’d studied, and my own hypotheticals. During the exam, I could “see” those cases and hypos and this helped me to remember the rules.

Another benefit to showing versus telling is that it allows the reader’s mind to rest and enjoy your story or example, before continuing on to the heavier narrative.

How do you do it?

Showing means creating a picture in the mind of your reader, allowing them to see what you want them to see.

Saying, “My client is confident about getting his price,” is telling. Saying, “My client got 3 other offers this week,” is showing.

Instead of telling an adjuster, “My client is still in pain,” you could show him by saying, “My client takes 3 Extra Strength Excedrin every morning and sleeps with a heating pad every night”.

In other words, provide details. Use specific nouns and active verbs to show the reader what you want them to see.

Here are 3 additional ways to do that:

Examples

Add examples to clarify understanding. When you say, “This document will protect you personally,” add an example to show what that means: “If someone gets a judgment against your business, they won’t be able to come after your personal assets”.

Get in the habit of adding the words, “For example” or “What that means is. . .” (or equivalent) after your statements or questions.

Stories

Talk about other people who had the same or similar experience, to illustrate the risks or benefits, and to add an emotional element.

“I had a client who was in the same boat recently, and here’s what happened.”

Stories are one of your most effective ways to show.

Lists

Checklists of steps, instructions, useful resources, help the reader understand what they need to do and see themselves more capable of doing it.

Now you know the benefits of showing and not just telling, and some techniques for doing that. I used some of those same techniques in writing this.

I told, but I also showed. How did I do?

Email Marketing for Attorneys

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How to instantly connect with anyone

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I was speaking to a senior adjuster for the first time, taking a moment to get to know him before we talked about the case. He happened to mention the name of a defense attorney who had handled some of his big cases. “I knew Mike,” I said, and we started swapping stories about him.

Before we knew it, forty minutes had gone by.

Granted, we were getting along fine before that, but having something in common helped us connect on a deeper level. I’m sure it also helped me settle the case.

Whenever you speak to someone new, one of the best ways to “make a new friend” is to find something you have in common.

Ask questions and get them to tell you their story. Find out who they know, where they went to school, or what they do for fun.

When you find you have something in common, it changes the dynamics of the conversation and you can bond over that commonality.

You were a stranger a moment ago; suddenly, you’re friends.

Many people bond over sports. “Did you see the game last night?” is a great conversation starter for many people. Others bond over their shared experiences of raising kids.

Listen for clues. If the other person has an accent you recognize, you might ask where they’re from. If they talk about the mess their dog left for them last night, you might ask them the breed.

Anything can help you instantly connect with someone, and start you down the path to a new relationship. It might even help you settle your case.

Marketing is easy when you know The Formula

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Get more referrals with this simple marketing tip

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You don’t have paid sales people but you do have clients and contacts who are willing to help you bring in business.

They’ll make direct referrals. They’ll tell others about their experience with you. They’ll notice when someone might need your help and give them your website.

They’ll do that more often when they know what to look for and what to say.

That’s where you come in.

You need to educate people about your services. Make sure they understand what you do. Make sure they know what kind of problems you solve and what to say to someone they think might need your help.

If they don’t know who to speak to or what to say, you’re making it difficult for them to spread the word about you in a way that is likely to produce results.

Tell people about your services. Tell them how to recognize someone who might need your help. And tell them what to say to them, even if that’s just, “ask them give me a call”.

You don’t need to push. Just get the information into their hands. Give it to new clients, post it on your website, talk about it in your newsletter.

Your clients and contacts want to recommend you. Equip them to do that and they will.

How to get more referrals from your clients

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The reasonable man standard, tagging edition

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You and I have things to keep track of: information, ideas, tasks, projects, reference material, and more. No matter where we keep this information, we need a system that allows us to find it when we need it.

We might use tags, notebooks, folders or labels. We might keep paper lists or use apps and rely on search. No matter what system we use, it’s a good idea to periodically review and update that system.

And that’s what this reasonable man is doing.

If you’d like to join me for a little spring cleaning of your tags, here are some thoughts that might help.

First, tagging isn’t something we can set and forget. It will always be a work in progress. Right now, you may have too many tags (folders, notebooks, etc.) and need to cut them down to size. Too many tags and things get messy and hard to use. You’re not sure if you found what you want because you’re not sure you clicked or searched the right tag(s).

But there’s also the danger of under-tagging. This can keep you from finding things in a reasonable amount of time.

We’re looking for balance. Not too hot, not too cold.

Start by making a list of tags you want to continue using, or start using, in the following categories:

  • Class (task, project, reference, archival)
  • Context (people, places, tools, time, conditions–calls, emails, agendas, waiting for)
  • Dates (start, review, due)
  • Status (investigation, open, filed, settled, closed, active, in progress)
  • Actions (to do, to read, to write, to decide, to review, to buy, to contact)

You could have more categories. Or fewer. But this list should get you started.

Set up some “rules” for yourself, that keep you from over- or under-tagging, and to make your tags more useful.

I don’t tag every name, for example, just the people I know personally and am likely to connect with again.

Decide what your tags will look like. Will you use small letters or upper-and-lower? One word, hyphens or underscores, or spaces? Once you choose, be consistent.

Eliminate duplicates, consolidate plurals and variants (spelling, aliases). Write a style sheet and keep it handy.

Experiment. Try different words, different ways. Look at what other people do for ideas. Keep track of your changes so you can easily change back if you want to.

Finally, prune your garden often. Doing it every few months instead of every few years will be easier and keep your system running smoothly.

Evernote for Lawyers ebook

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How to become a better writer

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When asked how to get better at writing short stories, Ray Bradbury said, “Write one story a week”.

Write 52 stories a year and how could you not improve?

The same is true for writing anything– emails, articles, scripts for videos or podcasts, motions, final arguments, or appeals.

The more you do it, the better you get.

Just like any skill.

You’re a better lawyer today than you were the day you started because you’ve had a lot of (ahem) practice.

One reason I write every day is because I want to get better at it. That’s Bradbury’s advice and mine, too.

At first, you may not be good at it. Do it anyway.

Don’t show it to anyone if you don’t have to, but keep writing. Focus on quantity, not quality.

Quantity will lead to quality.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.

When you show your writing to people, when you publish it on a blog or send it to newsletter subscribers, when you stand up in front of a judge or jury and flap your gums. . .

. . .you get better faster.

If you want to get better at writing, keep doing it. If you want to get better, faster, do it publicly.

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