Yoda was wrong

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I heard that the face of Star War’s Yoda character was loosely based on the visage of Albert Einstein. I don’t know if that’s true but I’ve seen photos and there is a resemblance. 

Anyway, like his face-sake, Yoda is a smart guy who said a lot of wise things. But there’s one thing Yoda got wrong. 

“Do or do not,” Yoda said. “There is no try.” 

Nice try, Yoda, but no cigar. (See what I did there?)

Of course, there is “try”. Without trying, there can be no doing. 

You can’t find an idea that works without trying out ideas that don’t. You can’t find a date or a mate if you never play the field. 

In fact, the power is in the trying. Doing is nice but often anticlimactic. And not doing doesn’t deserve its bad rep. Not doing, i.e.,  trying and failing, is how we learn and get good enough to do. 

Didn’t Joseph Campbell, whose work inspired Lucas to create the  Star Wars story, write about the value of The Journey? He didn’t rhapsodize about the value of The Destination.

And didn’t Luke fail a lot before he was finally victorious?

How ’bout them apples, Yoda?

Okay, I’ll probably hear from a Star Wars scholar who will set me straight. Tell me why I should kiss my sister or something.

Until then, I’m going to try to do some more writing. 

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If you hate networking, this might be why

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You might say that networking hasn’t been a fruitful use of your time but you can’t say it’s difficult. It’s easy to meet people, start a conversation, exchange pleasantries, and chat about what you do. It’s easy to exchange cards (or digits).

Where many professionals drop the ball is with follow-up.

You come home with new contacts (or renewed contacts). Now what? What happens next?

Do you call or email? When? What do you say?

That’s simple. No really, it is. You immediately send your new contact an email (or better, a handwritten note), tell them you enjoyed meeting them and note something from your conversation.

Okay, I can do that. I always do that. Then what?

Then you call. You talk to them and ask them to tell you more about what they do. Or you invite them to coffee or lunch so you can have that conversation.

You ask questions and let them do most of the talking. You find out what they need or want (clients, information, ideas, introductions, etc.) and think about how you (or your other contacts) can help them.

At some point, they ask you to tell them more about what you do (and what you need or want). You tell them and explore how the two of you might work together, e.g., referrals, introductions, interviews, guest posts, webinars, etc.

Or not.

Yeah, they might turn out to be a dud.

They may not have anything they can do for you or anything they’re willing to do. There may be no future for the two of you. Or it may take additional meetings and conversations before the two of you are able to dance.

That’s life. That’s why you don’t stop after you meet one new contact. That’s why follow-up isn’t a one-time thing.

The fact is, you might strike out with the next ten people you meet. You might think, “I hate networking” and be ready to give up.

Or, the very next person you meet might lead to a steady stream of new business for you and you’ll say “networking rocks”.

How to get better results when networking with professionals

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Taking inventory

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Today is a holiday for a lot of people. If it’s a slow day for you, you might want to spend some time taking inventory of what’s going on in your life.

Reflect on what you’ve worked on recently and how it turned out. Think about what you’re working on now and what you have to do to complete it. Look at the list of tasks and projects you plan to start soon and identify the ones that look most promising.

Look in the digital mirror and tell yourself what you see.

Are you taking massive action to achieve important goals or are you just trying to get through the day?

Yes, you have to draft the documents, make the calls, see the people, and settle the cases. That’s what keeps the wheels turning and the people fed. But if that’s all you do, if you never think beyond what’s on your calendar for today, you make it more difficult to realize your potential.

Jim Rohn said, “A lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things.”

Is that you?

We get paid in proportion to the size and complexity of the problems we solve and the assets we create. If you handle small problems all day, you earn small fees.

If you want to build a multi-million dollar practice, you need to bring in clients with bigger problems.

As you take inventory, consider not only your current caseload or list of clients but the kinds of cases or clients you want attract. Who? How many? How big?

And then ask, What am I doing to attract them?

If you don’t like the answer, you have some work to do.

Start here

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Who loves ‘ya, baby?

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We’re trained to see both sides of an issue and that’s good. It makes us better at our job. But building a successful law practice requires you to stand out from the herd. 

One way to do that is to choose sides on a controversial issue.

Not politics or religion, although you could choose one of these if you’re willing to go all in. No, I’m talking about something less ideological.

Something like reverse mortgages. 

I know someone whose parents got one and were happy until they spent all the proceeds buying things they didn’t need. It made the last few years of their life difficult and they became a burden on their kids who had to help out. 

It would be easy to demonetize reverse mortgages and use stories like this one to write and speak and warn people not to believe the hype.

You could build an entire practice doing that. 

On the other hand, I’m sure there are many people who are perfectly happy with their decision to get a reverse mortgage. They timed it right, they were careful with the money, they got good advice along the way, and they are enjoying their retirement.

You could take that side, too. 

If you adopt the latter view, you could write about how reverse mortgages can be a blessing, network with real estate professionals who specialize in them and build a successful practice as a champion for the industry. 

I don’t know if reverse mortgages are, per se, good or bad. I haven’t looked into it. I’m saying that you can get a lot of mileage out of choosing sides on a controversial issue (e.g., Bitcoin investing) and marketing the hell out of it.

Whatever the issue, choosing sides will make you some enemies.  (If it doesn’t, you haven’t chosen the right issue.) Making enemies is the price you pay to make a name for yourself. 

The other option is to play it safe and have nobody know your name. 

Marketing legal services is easier when you know the formula 

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We love practicing law!

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I got a postcard from a real estate broker team in my area looking for listings. The first thing you read on the postcard is a series of bullet points:

  • We LOVE Real Estate!!!!
  • We LOVE our clients! Thank you for your support over the years.
  • We LOVE listings! We get the most eyes on your property.
  • We LOVE negotiating! We fight hard for your money.
  • We LOVE selling houses! That’s what we do best.

And so on.

Anything wrong with this? Plenty. 

Whether real estate broker or attorney, clients don’t hire you because you like what you do. They hire you because of what you can do for them.

A postcard featuring what YOU like about what you do doesn’t get the job done. Especially when that’s what you lead with. 

In any marketing communications–websites, emails, ads,  postcards, or anything else, you have a few seconds to catch the prospect’s attention and compel them to continue reading. 

Talking about YOURSELF first doesn’t do that. Instead, talk about what’s on the reader’s or listener’s mind, what’s going on in their world (and their head). Talk to them about their problems and desires. Then talk to them about your solutions. 

The bullets on this postcard mention some benefits: “We get the most for your property, We fight hard for your money, We get the most eyes on your property,” but they aren’t “in focus”.

The brokers are in focus–what they love, what they’re good at. 

In addition, the benefits in these bullets are weak and common. You read them and your eyes glaze over. 

Look: 

You have to get the prospect’s attention before they will read the content of your message. You can’t do that by telling them about yourself, you have to talk about them.  

You have to tell prospects what’s in it for them. What benefits do you offer? How can you help them become better off? Quantify and dramatize the benefits; you can’t bore anyone into hiring you. 

And you have to tell prospects why they should choose you instead of anyone else who says the same things. How are you different? Why are you better? What do you offer that others don’t?

Because if you say the same things everyone says, you’re really saying nothing. 

One more thing. Putting a pretty picture and “Happy Valentine’s Day” on the front of the postcard doesn’t help. 

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My computer ate my homework

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Last night I did quite a bit of work on my laptop. This morning, when I logged into the app on my desktop, I found that the work I’d done hadn’t synced. 

Yes, I save, and yes, I have backups, but last night’s work didn’t back up. 

So, I lost a lot of work. Too bad, so sad. 

Question is, what am I going to do about it? 

That’s simple. I’m going to suck it up and re-do the work. 

I’m not going to blame the software. Phooey on that. What happened was my fault. I didn’t check a box I should have checked when I updated the software on one machine.

My bad. 

We’ve all lost work. We’ve all made mistakes, lost money, pissed off friends, alienated clients, angered judges, and embarrassed ourselves in public.

We have to own our mistakes.

If we don’t take responsibility for our lives, if we blame the software, our employees, or our elected officials, we certify our victim-hood.

Phooey on that. 

By owning our mistakes, we empower ourselves to repair the damage. As Dave Ramsey said, “If you’re the problem, you’re also the solution”.

Of course, taking responsibility for bad things that happen means we can also take credit for the good things. 

I’ll take that deal all day, every day.

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Clients with benefits

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When I was in law school, I helped the girl I was dating with a couple of legal issues. Don’t get excited, I was under the supervision of a practicing lawyer.

That girl and I got married and have lived happily ever after.

I was thinking, what if I had been licensed at the time I helped her with those matters? Today, in many jurisdictions,  I might be in trouble since dating a client is verboten.

Is that prohibition a good thing? 

In my opinion, it isn’t. I can see how dating a client can lead to trouble but that doesn’t mean it always leads to trouble. So on this issue, I am decidedly libertarian: 

Leave us alone, overseers, and trust that we will usually do the right thing. If we don’t, do what you have to do.

On the other hand, while I don’t like “not dating” as a rule, it makes a lot of sense as a recommendation. A strong one, even, complete with examples of all the things that could go wrong.

Here’s another recommendation: don’t treat your clients like personal friends. 

If you hang out with your clients, if you are overly familiar with them or use coarse language in front of them, or you do a host of other things that might be considered undignified and unprofessional in the eyes of your clients, you run the risk of damaging your reputation. 

Be friendly with clients, but maintain a bit of distance. Let down your hair with them occasionally, but don’t ever let them see you drunk.  

We need our clients to respect us and look up to us, something our friends don’t always do. Especially if we’re sleeping with them.

How to get referrals from other lawyers

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Building your law practice by design, not default

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When you need a new computer and visit a retailer to see what’s available, the sales person (if they’re doing their job) will probably ask you a series of questions:

  1. What will you be doing with it?
  2. Are there any “must have” features?
  3. Anything that’s “good to have but not required?”
  4. What’s your budget?

Your answers will help eliminate from consideration computers that don’t have the power or features you want or need or that cost more than you want to spend. From the remaining options, you can zero in on the right choice.

It seems to me that these questions can also help you make the right decisions about managing and growing your practice.

What type of work do you do or want to do?

What practice areas, niches, target markets, and types of cases or clients?

Start with the big picture. Eliminate what you don’t want so you can focus on what you do want.

Must have features?

You might say, “I don’t want partners, I want a preponderance of my clients to come from referrals, I don’t want to do any paid advertising, and I want to commute no more than 40 minutes to my office.”

Good to have but not required?

You might say, “I would like to able to work from home two days per week, I don’t want any full-time employees, and I would prefer do little or no litigation.”

What’s your budget?

How much time and money are you willing to invest to manage and build your practice?

How much on overhead (dollars and/or percentage of gross)? How much on advertising (if any)? How much time on marketing each week?

There are no right or wrong answers, of course, but thinking these things through can help you zero in on what you need, what you want, and what you’re willing to do.

No high-pressure sales people required.

For a simple marketing plan that really works, go here

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How do you compete with this?

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Comes this question: What do you do when a prospective client  (who found you through the Internet) tells you they probably won’t hire you because they’ve had free consultations with several of your competitors, suggesting that one of them will get the nod?

If most of your competition offers free consultations, and you don’t, should you change course to stay competitive?

Maybe. 

If you get (or want to get) most of your clients via an Internet search, where prospective clients are given to shopping and comparing fees, you probably need to offer free consultations just to stay in the running. 

On the other hand, if you get (or want to get) most of your clients through referrals, and prospects talk to you because they trust the client or professional who referred them and/or they don’t want to bother shopping around, then maybe not. 

But there is one more option.  

If you do something or offer something most other lawyers don’t do, and you can “sell” that difference to prospective clients, you may not have to make any compromises. 

Do you specialize in a particular area of the law that most lawyers don’t handle, or focus on representing a certain type of client? 

Do you have a better track record you can quantify and point to?  

Do you offer benefits that no one else offers (or no one else promotes?) 

Failing these, if you what you offer is pretty much what everyone else offers, there’s only one other way to beat them–with better marketing. 

You need a stronger on-boarding process, better marketing documents, better follow-up, and better salesmanship. 

When someone takes a look at you, you need to do a better job of selling them on hiring you. 

Start by answering this question: “Why should anyone hire you instead of any other attorney in your field and market?”

If you have a good answer to that question, you’ll know what to do. If you can’t, you’ll know you have some work to do.

Check out my free referral course 

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I might not be the right lawyer for you

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Scrivener is my favorite writing app for long documents. I use it on two Windows machines and my iPhone. 

But Scrivener has a flaw.

Because of the way the software is built, you can’t use iCloud to sync between devices, you have to use Dropbox. 

(Funny, I use another writing app that doesn’t play well with Dropbox; I have to use iCloud to sync.)

Anyway, on the App store, Scrivener generally gets great reviews, but there is a chorus of complaints from customers who want to sync via iCloud and are PO’d that they cannot. So they give Scrivener one- or two-star reviews and call it a day.

The sales page says that syncing “requires a Dropbox account (not compatible with iCloud” but it’s a footnote and, apparently, a lot of folks miss it. 

If I was in charge, I would put the “no iCloud”disclaimer up front and center.

I would explain the technical reason why you can’t use iCloud and talk about why had to do it this way so that customers could get certain unique features that are key to Scrivener’s greatness. 

This will cut down on bad reviews but it should also lead to more sales to customers who are intrigued enough by the unique features of the app that they’re willing to switch to Dropbox to get them. 

In sales, this is known as “admitting your flaws”. It’s designed to reduce objections, buyer’s remorse, and bad reviews. Telling customers the flaws of your product or service before they discover them on their own builds trust and allows you to turn a weakness into a strength.

It works the same whether you’re selling software, houses, or legal services. 

I heard from an immigration attorney recently who isn’t an “accredited specialist” in his country because he doesn’t do the type of work that the accreditation accredits. He wanted to know how he should handle this on his website and other marketing. 

He should be upfront about it.

Admit his “flaw”. Explain that he specializes in a different area of immigration law and that accreditation isn’t required to practice in this area. 

He should do this because some prospective clients are no doubt wondering why he isn’t accredited, as they see other lawyers are. 

Give them a good explanation and most of them will not only be satisfied, they’ll see that you specialize in precisely the services they need (instead of everything) and thus see you as the better choice. 

He added, “It’s interesting because just yesterday I was reading the website of a competitor who is an accredited specialist and I was more drawn to his personal story about why he does migration than his credentials. If I was a potential client of his that’s what would get me.”

Me too. 

What to put on your website

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