Billing and collection during a pandemic

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I heard from an attorney seeking advice about billing and collection during the current crisis. Essentially, he wanted to know what to say and do to accommodate his clients without jeopardizing his firm’s cash flow.

The answer is, it depends.

You know your clients and no doubt have some insight into what they might be going through and what they can handle. Likewise, you know (or can find out) what your landlord and vendors and lenders might be willing to do if you need some accommodation.

That’s why it depends. Your situation might be very different than the firm’s next door.

For most firms, one thing I wouldn’t do is announce a practice-wide abeyance (e.g., 30 or 60 days) on outstanding balances.

Why do that if you don’t have to?

On the other hand, announcing a practice-wide abeyance on late fees and interest might be a nice gesture.

One thing most firms should do is email all clients and tell them that if they have any issues regarding their bill/account during this time of crisis, to contact you to discuss it.

Acknowledge that they might have an issue. Be compassionate and flexible if they do. But don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

Some will contact you and you can work something out. Some won’t respond and you’ll need to deal with them on a case-by-case basis, if and when necessary.

Few anticipated the extent of this crisis or were prepared for it. It is truly a case of first impression.

All any of us can do is to treat our clients the way we would like to be treated if the roles were reversed.

Stress-free billing and collection for attorneys: Get the Check

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There’s no such thing as a former client

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Everyone who has ever hired you is still your client.

At least that’s how you should think of them, even if you haven’t done any work for them in ten years.

They’re still clients and you should treat them that way.

Yes, you should give more attention to clients you’re currently working with but don’t ignore the others.

They may have another case some day. They may have referrals. They may promote your video or send traffic to your website. They may know someone who needs help with something one of your referral sources provides. They can help you build your social media following and your email list.

Stay in touch with them. Remind them that you’re still practicing, still available to help them and the people they know.

Do the same thing with prospective clients and professional contacts.

Send them information, keep them informed about what you’re doing, and invite them to stay in touch with you, too.

Because one day, maybe soon, some of your “former” client will wake up and become “current” clients, or do something else that makes you glad you didn’t forget them.

The easiest way to stay in touch with clients and prospects

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The best marketing you can do right now

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Phones quiet? Not a lot of work coming in? Courts closed?

Now would be a good time to do some marketing.

But what?

The same kind of marketing I nag you about all the time, only now you have time to do it on a bigger scale.

It’s one of the simplest and most effective kind of marketing a lawyer can do.

Get on the blower and blow.

Call your clients (and former clients) to say hello, wish them well, and ask if there’s anything you can do for them.

Works well during good times. Should work like gangbusters now when people are concerned about the future and not too busy to take your call.

Don’t expect to get any work when you call, but don’t be surprised if it does.

Right now, you may learn what your clients want to know so you can get the answers for them and share those answers with your other clients and in your newsletter.

If someone need help with something you don’t do, you can refer them to someone who does, earning Brownie points with the client and the professional or business owner to whom you refer them.

Mostly, you’ll strengthen your relationship with the people who once put bread on your table and who will again.

They’ll appreciate you and remember that you thought about them, and while others wrote to them and wished them well, you were the one who made a personal call.

Mark my words, when things get back to normal and they need legal help or know someone who does, they’ll be calling you.

So, how many clients will you call this week?

How to use a newsletter to build your practice

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Positioning yourself for the coming upswing

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If you have some downtime right now, consider using some of that time to invest in the future of your practice or career.

Think about what’s next for you, make plans, research ideas, and do things you might not have time to do when everything gets back to normal.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Brainstorm additional ways to promote your services
  • Outline your book (or finish writing the thing)
  • Create a new lead magnet (or update an old one)
  • Clean up/organize your computer desktop and documents
  • Give your website a makeover
  • Research some new keywords
  • Learn how to use new software
  • Start your newsletter
  • Update your social media profiles
  • Add a new social media platform to your mix
  • Get ahead on CLE
  • Read books, take courses on personal development
  • Write content for your newsletter or blog
  • Research new target markets
  • Make a list of professionals you can approach to propose marketing alliances
  • Clean out your email inbox
  • Research new marketing or advertising platforms
  • Clean up your smart phone: delete unused apps, delete or download photos and documents
  • Update passwords, add 2-factor authorization
  • Clean up your “to read” list(s)
  • Brainstorm/research ways to build your email list
  • Work on a new presentation, speech, or video
  • Go over your budget and create plans to reduce spending and/or debt, or increase investment and retirement funds
  • Explore ways to give back to your community (run for office, promote a charity, donate, volunteer)
  • Revise/create a new campaign to stay in touch with your former clients

Before you know it, normal life will return and you’ll be glad you took care of some of these, instead of getting to a higher level in your favorite game or binge watching your latest guilty pleasure.

How to start a newsletter to build your practice

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Overwhelmed?

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I’m not talking about the recent news, I’m talking about your practice.

Too much work to do, too much to read, too many projects in your pipeline that never get off the ground.

Every day, you get 50 emails about marketing and managing your practice, on top of emails relating to client work and emails from someone trying to sell you something.

You don’t want to miss something important. But sorting the wheat from the chaff takes mental energy. . . and time.

I get it. It’s daunting.

But you’re running a business with a lot of moving parts, people, and important issues, and details matter. So, in addition to the work, you have to stay on top of everything else.

Sometimes, a lot gets pushed to the side, or to the future. Sometimes, the work doesn’t get done on time. Sometimes, you finish the day exhausted.

And the emails continues to pile up.

Here’s the thing.

The lawyers who earn top dollar have as much work as you do and get just as much email as you do, but they don’t get overwhelmed.

Because they work LESS than most lawyers.

They’re able to do that because they’ve set up their practice so they only focus on the most important tasks.

The tasks that move the needle.

The tasks that bring in more clients and better clients and let them continually grow their income.

If you’d like to find out how to do it

Go here

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How often should you blog?

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How often should you publish a new blog post? Often.

According to this infographic, “82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog monthly”.

A few reasons:

  • The more you post, the more opportunities you have to get found by search engines or shared by visitors. 
  • Uncle Google tends to see frequent publishers as authorities. Prospective clients who visit your blog are likely to do the same.
  • More content gives you more chances to keep visitors reading your content. The more time they spend on your blog, the more likely they are to take the next step. 
  • More content and a more frequent publishing schedule helps others bloggers and influential sites see you as an authority, making them more likely to link to you
  • Once published, your content lives forever. Something you wrote two years ago can continue to create leads and produce clients for you. 
  • Inbound marketing is more personalized in the sense that you can tailor your content to the interests and needs of your target market. 

The infographic also shows that leads produced via inbound marketing have higher conversion rates. One reason is that prospective clients are more likely to trust you (because they found you). 

Inbound marketing also has a lower cost-per-lead.

You don’t have to publish daily to realize most of these benefits. Just more often than once a month or once in a while.

Start with once a week. As you find yourself getting more leads and more new clients, you may suddenly find the time to publish more often. 

How to use a blog to make the phone ring

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Why you shouldn’t sell legal services

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It may sound like I’m picking a nit but this is important.

When prospective clients search the Internet or ask their friends for a referral, they’re not looking to hire a lawyer or “buy” legal services.

Not really.

They’re looking for someone who can solve a problem for them.

They’re looking for relief from a failed marriage. They’re looking to collect money that is owed to them. They’re looking for protection from creditors, the tax man, or criminal authorities.

Your services are the solutions to these problems.

When you start marketing your services from this point of view, two things happen.

First, you’re now offering something people want to buy. Which means your marketing is much easier and more effective.

And second, because you’re solving painful problems and delivering valued benefits, you can charge more than if you were only selling your services.

Sometimes, a lot more than your competitors.

Because they’re selling a commodity, while you’re selling a way out of a seemingly hopeless situation, relief from pain, security, hope, and financial well-being.

So, the next time you run an ad, do a presentation, write a blog post, or talk to a decision maker, make sure you talk about the problems you solve and the results you deliver.

To learn how to do it right, check out my marketing course

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Oh goody, another time management rule

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Just when you thought you had things the way you want them, along comes another rule for managing your time.

This one is called “The 60-30-10 Rule”.

Basically, you allocate 60% of your time to “high value” activities, 30% to low-value tasks related to your goals and responsibilities, and 10% to other activities that support the first two categories.

High-value activities (60%) are those that advance your most important goals and long-term vision. These are your highest priorities and “MITs” (most important tasks).

In my view, high-value activities include client work, marketing and practice development, and personal development. It would also include projects that are important to you and your future.

Low-value activities (30%) may be necessary, urgent even, but aren’t necessarily important. They would include administrative and management tasks you have to do to keep your practice running.

The third category (10%) supports the first two categories and includes things like organizing and prioritizing your work, scheduling, planning your day or week, and doing a weekly review.

You can change the percentage of any of these categories to suit your responsibilities and style of working. You might go with 70% high-value activities, for example, by delegating more low-value (management) activities, and/or by reducing the third category from 10% to 5%.

What’s important about a system like this isn’t the actual percentages as much as it encourages you to think about what’s important so you can allocate more time to it.

And, if you track your time, it also allows you to see when you’re losing focus.

Do you use a rule like this to allocate your time?

If you’re ready to take a quantum leap in your practice. . .

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Are legal services necessary during a pandemic?

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Your services may be needed right now but many people who need them aren’t buying.

They’re watching their dollars and unless they have an urgent need to hire an attorney, those dollars are likely to be spent on something else–or on nothing at all.

So, right now, your marketing should primarily be focused on “after”.

After things get back to normal, after people are working again, after the kids are back in school, when people realize they need to talk to a lawyer, you want to be the one they choose.

What should you do now? Not much.

This is not the time to be making special offers or promoting anything.

Just be there.

Use email and social media to connect. Provide information, share stories, and let people know you’re around if they want to talk to you.

Don’t change who you always were and always will be–adviser, advocate, neighbor and friend.

If you ordinarily advertise or use direct mail, scale back for now but think twice before stopping completely. You may find there is still enough business available to cover your costs, allowing you to keep your name in front of your market.

Finally, now would be a good time to pick up the phone and call some of your clients and professional contacts.

Ask how they’re doing and wish them well.

Because personal connections are always the best kind of marketing, but especially now when everyone is hungry for human connection.

Start or build your newsletter

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Don’t make this mistake with your clients and contacts

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A few months ago I got an email from a guy I haven’t heard from in years. He is the developer of a piece of software I bought five or ten years ago and have long since forgotten.

He name sounded familiar–it’s unusual–so I read the first paragraph of his email and recognized the name of the software.

So, why was he writing? Yep, to sell me something. A new service he was offering, completely unrelated to software.

Haven’t heard from him in years, not even about his software, and now he wants me to fork over $500 for a one-time “coaching session” with him?

Not kidding.

How is he even qualified to offer this service? What’s he been doing all these years? Who are you again?

Yeah, don’t do this with your clients and contacts. Stay in touch with them, build or strengthen your relationship, and then you can offer them something. Even something new.

Otherwise, who are you again?

Now would be a good time to contact everyone. Update them on changes to your office schedule or policies, share your thoughts about social distancing and quarantining, and why you are hopeful that everything will be over soon.

And, if you did this already, send them another email, to update them again, or to share legal information or general consumer or business information they might find useful.

Keep your name in front of them, because some of your clients and contacts need your help right now, or know someone who does, and if they don’t, they may soon.

And you want them to feel warmly towards you when you contact them again, instead of asking, “Who are you?”

Email marketing for attorneys

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