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Thinking on paper

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Thinking is hard work. That’s why we get paid well to do it. But sometimes, we don’t know what to think or what to do about a problem.

That’s when I grab a piece of paper and a pen or sit down at the computer and write what’s going on in my head.

I write down what I know. I write down the problem and some ideas or options for solving it. I write down what I want or what I want to change.

I write a list of steps. I draw a mind map. I write an outline. Or a list of pros and cons.

When I don’t know what to write, I write a stream-of-consciousness screed. Yep, I vent on paper. I bitch and complain and curse and I keep doing that until I run out of steam and start coming up with something useful.

Sometimes, I put the page or document aside and come back to it later. Sometimes, I never figure it out.

But thinking on paper usually helps me sort things out. At least until I decide I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, throw out the page and start over.

C’est la vie.

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

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Dale Carnegie said,”People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they’re doing”. Was he right? Can you be successful doing work you hate? Or work that bores you to tears?

In the short term, sure. We’ve all done it. But in the long term, if you don’t enjoy what you do, you’ll never accomplish as much as you could.

But here’s the thing. You don’t have to enjoy every part of it.

When I was practicing, I loved helping my clients–watching them smile when I told them the great result I’d obtained for them, hearing them say thank you, getting cards and gifts, and having them refer lots of friends and family.

That was fun.

I also had fun going to the bank and making deposits. That never gets old.

Everything else? Being papered to death by deep pocket defense firms, Los Angeles traffic, calendar calls, the lack of conviviality with some of my opposition, the bar’s arrogance and heavy hand, clients who tried to micromanage their case?

Not so much.

But, on balance, it was fun. Until it no longer was. That’s when I started looking for my next adventure.

How about you? Are you having fun? If not, what needs to change?

More money? Shorter hours? A better crop of clients?

A partner? No partner? More employees? No employees?

A shorter commute? Less trial work? Less paperwork?

What?

Whatever it is, you can have it. I promise. Figure out what you need and go get it. Because no matter how well you’re doing right now, you’ll do better and be happier when you’re having fun.

Referrals are fun!

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Don’t sell the service, sell the appointment

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Many lawyers promulgate a marketing message (ad, email, web page, article, etc.) with a call to action that says little more than “hire us”.

That’s okay if you’re talking to people who are ready, willing, and able to hire an attorney. But most people who see that message aren’t.

Some aren’t sure they have a legal problem. Some aren’t sure they need an attorney. Some think they can wait. And just about everyone doesn’t yet know, like, and trust you.

What’s the answer? Don’t try to close the sale with your first impression. Use that to get them to the next step.

Don’t sell your service, sell the appointment. Get them into the office so you can diagnose their problem, show them their options, build trust and persuade them to hire you.

But selling the appointment at stage one may also be too heavy a burden. You’ll probably be more effective selling your report or ebook or seminar, to get them to opt-in to your list. From there, you can sell the appointment.

But wait. You have to get their attention, first. Offer them some free content, on your website, on youtube, or on others’ blogs (as guest posts or interviews). Let your free content sell the report you give them when they opt-in. Let that report and the accompanying emails you send them sell the appointment.

It’s called a marketing funnel. You start broad (with free content) and sell them on taking the next step. And so on. Until they’re sitting in your office and handing you a check.

Some prospects will skip steps. Some will speed through the steps and hire you the first day they hear your name. All good. But most will need to go through the process, so make sure you have a process for them to go through.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula

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4 words that helped me pass the bar exam

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In law school, as we learned how to ‘think like a lawyer,’ we learned the importance of being able to look at both sides of an issue and argue either one. On exams, that’s precisely what we did.

On exams, I routinely used a four-word expression to transition from one side to the other: “On the other hand”.

No doubt, you did too.

We need to remember those four words when crafting (or signing off on) a marketing message (presentation, ad, conversation, etc.) directed to prospective clients.

Prospective clients know there are alternatives to hiring you. When you acknowledge this, you gain trust. You don’t look like a salesperson, you look like an advisor.

So you might say, “Here are your options:”

  1. “You could do nothing. That may work out if. .  On the other hand. . .”
  2. “You might wait and see if X happens. If it does, you should be okay. If it doesn’t. . .”
  3. “You could handle it yourself (e.g., write a letter, talk to the other lawyer). But, you’re taking the risk of [bad things that could happen])”
  4. “Or, you could let me handle this for you. Here’s what I’ll do. . .”

Given these options, most prospective clients will make the decision that’s best for them, which is usually the one that’s best for you.

How to get more repeat business and referrals

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Regrets, I’ve had a few

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I’ve messed things up more times than I can remember. Failed business ventures, bad investments, lost cases and clients, lost friendships. I think about these from time to time but I don’t dwell on them because while you can learn from the past, you can’t change it.

I’ve heard that most people think about their past 3 times more often than their future. That’s a waste of time.

Instead, I try to focus on the future. The projects I’m working on, the things I want to accomplish, where I’m going instead of where I’ve been. I get ideas and inspiration from the future I plan to create and the impetus to move forward.

You may wonder why I don’t focus on the present. Why don’t I get my “zen” on?

Because if things aren’t going well presently, what good would it be to think about that? Feel bad about my mistakes or shortcomings? Beat myself up for letting it happen?

Nope.

There’s no value in feeling guilty about your past or your present. Besides, the present is only a moment away from being the past and you have to let that go.

If things are going well, I acknowledge this and enjoy the moment, but no matter how good things are they can always be better and that (in the future) is where I put my attention.

Let go of the past and the present. You can’t change them, you can only change your future.

See you there.

Here’s the formula for creating a better future

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You don’t know what you don’t know

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There are things you know, things you don’t know, and things you don’t know you don’t know.

Think about your practice. You know how to draft a document or pleading, you know how to introduce yourself to a fellow professional and tell them what you do, you know how to talk to clients about referrals.

And if you don’t know these things, you know you should. Not knowing presents you with the opportunity to learn and grow.

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” – Sara Blakely

The things you don’t know you’re missing may present your greatest opportunity for growth. That’s why it’s important to continually learn, to study what others have said and done. One idea, one better method, could change everything.

But there’s another benefit to not knowing what you don’t know, although you might not always see it that way.

Not knowing about all of the risks and potential problems that might occur when you take action might be the very thing that allows you to take that action. If you knew everything that could go wrong, you might stop in your tracks.

Is ignorance bliss? Sometimes. Probably more than we know.

Get paid more, get paid faster. Get the check

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Shut up and take my money

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You know how when you’re negotiating you start with common ground? You review the things you agree on, first, before you talk about anything else?

You do the same thing when addressing a jury.

You want to get your audience nodding their heads in agreement. You want them to see that you are rational and believable because you’re talking about something they already know is true. You want them to trust you, at least insofar as what you’ve talked about so far. And you want to narrow the scope of your conversation with them so you can take them where you want them to go.

It works this way in marketing, too.

That’s why you need to know your prospective clients’ background, experience, and beliefs before you craft (or sign off on) a presentation, email, ad, or other marketng message.

What do they know? What do they want? What do they believe to be true?

Your message to someone who has never used an attorney is going to be different than a message to a long-time consumer of legal services. Your message to someone who knows they need help and is trying to decide which lawyer to hire will be different than a message to someone who is in denial about their problem.

If you want people to relate to you and your message, you have to speak to them in language that resonates with them.

It’s easier to do that when you target niche markets instead of anyone with a checkbook and a legal problem in your practice area.

This will help you find the right niche for your practice

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Sometimes, you’ve got to break the chain

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Routines are a good thing. You always know what you’re going to do and by doing it regularly, you get good at it.

Exercise, taking your vitamins, drinking water–check. Reviewing your todo list and calendar in the evening to prepare for the following day–check. Opening a file, preparing a pleading, posting to your blog–all made easier because your routine helps you do them without a lot of extra thought or effort.

I have an app I use to record my daily walks. I check off the days I’ve done them (and record my steps in another app), because I don’t want to break the chain. (Search: “Seinfeld, don’t break the chain” if you’re not familiar with the concept.)

Last week it was hotter than Hades. Even early in the morning. I missed a day’s walk. Then I missed another.

I broke the friggin chain! (Don’t worry, I started a new one. All is well.)

I’m walking earlier now. BC (before coffee) if you can believe it. I see a different crowd of walkers, runners, and dogs, the light is different, it’s quieter, and I get my walk done early. I seem to have more day.

It’s too soon to tell for certain but walking earlier may be a game changer for me. I probably wouldn’t have done it if the weather hadn’t forced me to.

Anyway, I got to thinking that sometimes, we should intentionally change our routines. Just for the hell of it. A new routine provides fresh stimuli for our brain. It can lead to ideas and improvements. It keeps things fresh.

I’ve never been a morning person. Never started my day without coffee. If I can do this, who knows what I can accomplish.

Do you know any professionals? Here’s how to get them to send you business

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You’ve got to know your numbers

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How much is a new client worth to you? You need to know this so you can make better decisions about how much you can spend to acquire and service them.

If a new client is worth $5,000 on average and it costs you $1,000 in overhead to handle their matter, you might conclude that you can afford to spend another $1,000 to bring in a new client.

Spend $3,000, earn $2,000 profit, rinse and repeat.

To figure out how much a new client is worth to you, don’t limit yourself to the amount they pay initially. A new client might pay you $5,000 today and another $25,000 over their “lifetime”.

On the other hand, “lifetime” is a long time and you should probably use a shorter period, say two- or three-years. If the average client pays you $10,000 over their initial three years, for example, you’ll have a better idea of how much you can spend to acquire and service them.

Don’t forget to include the value of their referrals. If the average client refers one client or case every three years, and that client pays you $10,000 over their first three years, that means that a new client is worth $20,000 to you.

Knowing your numbers also tells you where you might need to make some changes. You may look at the average value of a new client and decide you need to get some better-paying clients. You might see that while you don’t make that much initially, you make a good profit on the back end and, therefore, can afford to spend more to bring in new clients. Or, you might realize the opposite. You don’t make a lot more after the initial engagement or case and so you have to maximize profits on the front end.

You might realize that you’re paying too much in overhead for each client. Or you may realize that you don’t spend that much per client and you can afford to hire more staff to handle the work, freeing up more of your time to do higher-margin trial work, networking, or other marketing projects.

Anyway, you need to know your numbers.

How many referrals does the average client give you?

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Too smart for my own damn self

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I’ve been working on a project for a long time. A very long time. Longer than I should.

It’s been that way because I nitpick. I ask too many questions, I consider too many options, and I worry about too many things that could go wrong.

I see others who have done what I want to do who don’t suffer from my affliction. I’m stuck in the planning stage while they’re off doing it. They might make mistakes but they recover and carry on. Me? No mistakes, but no results, either.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have projects that aren’t getting done because you’re still researching or planning? Are you too smart for your own good?

Sure, when you and I finally get around to doing things we do them well. We’re smart and we execute well. We just don’t execute enough.

Years ago, I took three years to create and publish my first marketing course. It was great but I wonder if I could have finished it in a few months instead of a few years.

I think I need to dumb things down. Think less and do more. Get something done and get it out into the world.

Notice I said “something”. Not everything. Not the whole enchilada. Just enough to get some results or feedback, to let me know if I’m on the right track.

How does one do that? By breaking the project into components and then setting an impossible deadline for the first one. Don’t give yourself a year, give yourself a month.

Maybe you ask yourself, “What would [someone we know or know of] do?” or “What would I do if I only had six months to live?”

Anyway, if you’re like me, I feel ya. Just wanted to let you know.

Here’s all the planning you need for marketing your services

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