Do your goals scare you?

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You have a goal. A big one, I hope. My question is, “Does it scare you?”

Some say our goals shouldn’t be stressful. When we think about them and work towards them, we should be filled with pleasant thoughts. If our goal doesn’t do that, they say, we should choose a different goal.

But is this true?

I say any goal worth having should be scary. If it isn’t, it means we’re playing it safe. We should choose goals that make us a bit anxious. After all, anxiety and excitement are two sides of the same coin.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t choose a goal that is so big it scares us to even think about it. We tend to dismiss those kinds of goals as impossible pipe dreams.

Take a look at your big goal. What benefits will you obtain if you hit it? How will you be better off? That’s what’s at stake for you and the idea of attaining this should make your heart beat a little faster.

Also, think about how you will you feel if you don’t reach your goal. Take a moment to explore the sadness and disappointment this would cause.

Ultimately, there should be a balance between the two. Just enough at stake on the upside to keep you excited and motivated every day, and just enough at risk to remind you why it is so important.

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Why you need to offer more than one option

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Your prospective client balks at signing up for your $15,000 “Standard” package. What do you do?

  1. Show him why he needs it and why it is a good value?
  2. Show him your $9,000 “Basic” package?
  3. Show him your $22,000 “Deluxe” package?
  4. Show him the door because you don’t have any other packages?

Some say that you should “drop down” to the lower priced package because it will appear more affordable next to the more expensive option you first showed him. Others say that if you do that, the prospect will be more likely to see the lesser-priced option as inferior and “buy” nothing.

They say that instead of moving down in price, you should move up.

Moving up in price, that is, from your $15,000 package to your $22,000 package will get the prospect thinking in terms of value instead of price, they say. If money is truly a factor for him, your $15,000 package may now seem more attractive.

My thoughts:

  • Clients are always concerned about price but they are more concerned about making a mistake. If they can afford it, they would rather pay more and make the right decision.
  • It’s not just the price that’s important, it is the perceived value. A more expensive option that includes a lot of “nice to have but not essential” elements is different than a package of “critically important” elements, which is different than a package of “important but can wait” elements.
  • What you should do depends on what you’re offering and what other options the client has, i.e., other lawyers, waiting. Try both strategies (higher then lower, and lower then higher) and see which one works best.
  • If the client still can’t decide and is ready to walk, having an undisclosed third option ($9,000/Basic) might allow you to save the sale.
  • In some circumstances, it might be best to offer all three options to the client right from the beginning.

How’s that for a lawyer-like answer?

One thing is certain: not having at least one other option should never be an option. Always have something else to offer a would-be client because showing them the door isn’t a good option for either of you.

You’ll get more clients signing up when they are referrals

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I need to think about it

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There are lots of reasons why a prospective client might hesitate to sign up. Here are some of the thoughts going through their mind:

  • Do I really need this service?
  • Can I wait?
  • Can I fix this myself?
  • Will this solve my problem?
  • Is this the right attorney for the job? How do I know they can handle this?
  • Does she have a lower-priced service?
  • Why do I need to pay upfront/retainer?
  • Are there any additional charges? Hidden expenses?
  • Why do I have to pay by the hour? Why not a flat fee?
  • Can I negotiate the fee?
  • Maybe other lawyers charge less per hour or offer a flat fee
  • Should I talk to [someone] first?
  • Is there a different legal service that would be good enough?
  • Can I trust this lawyer? Will he overcharge me? Cheat me? Let me down?
  • Do I need all of these services at once or can I get started with one or two?
  • Am I making a mistake?
  • What will [someone else] think about my decision?
  • Should I get a second opinion?
  • What if X happens? Will I have to come back and pay more?
  • What if she does a bad job? Do I have any recourse?
  • If I tell her X, how do I know she won’t tell [someone else]?

You should be prepared for all of these, and more.

Your best bet is to anticipate these questions and concerns and address them before they are voiced. Do that in your marketing materials, FAQ’s, website, presentations, and consultations.

Explain your policies and your process. Give examples in “if/then” language. Share stories to illustrate.

Inevitably, you’ll still be asked these kinds of questions and you should practice delivering your responses. Also, practice how you will smoothly transition to the next step—getting your agreement signed and payment tendered.

You should know exactly what you will say the next time a prospective client says, “I need to think about it”.

Prospective clients are nervous and afraid of making a mistake. Being prepared to patiently and calmly answer their questions and address their concerns will go a long way towards getting them to take the next step.

Referred clients are easier to sign up

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I challenge you to double your income

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Are you satisfied with where you are in your career? I hope not. I hope you’re doing well, of course, but you’re hungry for more.

If you’re complacent, that has to change. It’s time to find another itch to scratch.

I have a challenge for you. You can set the time frame but I’ll give you the goal: to DOUBLE your income while cutting your work hours in HALF.

How does that sound? Scary? Crazy? Or exciting as hell?

I can’t imagine you wouldn’t want this to happen but I can see how you might question if it is possible. So start there. A new project. To find out if this goal is possible for you and what you need to do to make it happen.

Do you know (or know of) any lawyers who earn twice as much as you do? Sure you do. But do any of them work half the hours you work? That might be a little harder to deduce because “busy” is how professionals define success. So, make that a part of the project. To find the “Tim Ferriss” of the legal world.

Contact some higher-earning lawyers and ask about their schedule. You can start with me. When I was practicing, in a short period of time I quadrupled my income and simultaneously cut my work week down to three days.

I know, I know, your practice is different, the competition is greater, the world is a different place. To which I say, “Hell yes, it’s different. For one thing, you have the Internet. It’s easier to scale up your income today than when I did it.”

Doubt me if you wish. Then, go prove me wrong.

If you’re nervous, don’t attempt everything at the same time. Start by working on the income side of the equation. Once it starts going up, work on cutting the hours.

On the other hand, you might be better off doing them together.

I think I was able to increase my income so quickly because I simultaneously cut my hours. Working less forced me to think outside the box I had been living in, to work smarter and do bigger things.

I did it because I was miserable. I had to change my life. If you’re not in the same place I was, it might be harder for you because you might be unwilling to take chances and endure the discomfort of change.

It comes down to this: To double your income and cut your work in half, you have to either be fed up or fired up. If you’re content right now, you need to find something outside of yourself—a cause, someone you want to help—and do it for them.

Fed up or fired up.

That’s my word for the day. Let me know if you accept my challenge.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula

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Marketing simplified

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Marketing has a lot of facts. Different things you can do to bring in business and earn more on the business you bring in. You can grow your practice by leveraging your existing clients and contacts or you can reach out to prospective new clients and the people who can refer them.

Another way to look at it is, you can either

a) build a list, through various reaching out methods (advertising, networking, blogging, speaking, etc.), or

b) work with people you know, seeking their repeat business and referrals.

Your clients have a list–their friends, colleagues, neighbors, and so on. Your professional contacts have newsletters, email lists, client lists, and personal and professional contacts.

Leveraging your existing relationships is more immediate because your clients and contacts know, like and trust you. They’re willing to hire you (if they need you), and send you referrals and make introductions. But their ability to do these things is finite and may not be enough to sustain you.

On the other hand, building a list by reaching out to people you don’t know is more difficult and takes longer. You have to attract prospects who need you now, or build a list and stay in touch with them until they do. You have to build trust and show them what you can do. You need to do the same thing with prospective referral sources.

But the list of people you don’t know is virtually unlimited.

So, what do you do?

In the beginning of your practice, you’ll obviously do more reaching out and list building. Later, when you have an established client base and relationships with other professionals, you’ll probably find it more fruitful to leverage those relationships.

If you’re somewhere between the two–not quite new but not yet ready to rely completely on repeat business and referrals–you should probably do both. And if you’re not sure where you are, keep doing both, until you’re so rich and famous you can do whatever you want.

Here’s the plan

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What to do if you hate marketing

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In my humble (but accurate) opinion, marketing is foundational to the growth of every professional practice. You have to do it. You may not like it. You may even hate it. But if you don’t do it, you’re not going to be around very long.

You could get a job. One that doesn’t require you to bring in business. If that works for you, great. Problem solved. You’re welcome.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to work for someone else, you’re going to have to do something to bring in new clients.

You could find a partner who likes marketing and let them do it. Or hire people (employees, consultants, advertising agencies, etc.) and pay them to do most of the marketing for you. You write checks, they make your phone ring.

But that’s not the entire answer. Clients may call but if you have zero people skills, they’re not going to sign up or stick around.

Where does that leave us? Here’s what I suggest.

Find something—one strategy, one idea, one way to identify and communicate with prospective clients and the people who can refer them, something that doesn’t make you want to slit your wrists, and do that. Just that one thing.

Start small. Get some results. Build from there.

You can do this. Actually, you might find, as many lawyers do, that you actually enjoy doing it. You’ll certainly enjoy the results it brings.

To get started, you might have to trick yourself. Pretend that what you’re doing isn’t “marketing,” it’s just doing some writing or speaking or meeting some people and being nice to them.

Yes, that’s marketing. Marketing is everything we do to get and keep good clients. But if you hate marketing that much and don’t want to admit to yourself that you’re doing it, I won’t tell anyone what you’re doing.

How to make marketing less painful. See this

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How do you handle this calendar issue?

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An executive secretary to the CEO of a fortune 50 company handles his calendar. When he has something due, a paper or a project, she enters the due date on his calendar. Then, she asks the executive how much time he needs to complete the project once he begins. If he says, “two weeks,” she records a date on his calendar two weeks before the due date, reminding him to begin the project.

Okay, due dates and start dates. Nothing new here.

She takes it a step further. She asks her boss how much prep time he estimates he will need before he begins the project—to do research, talk to people, gather his notes, and so on. If he says he needs a week to do that, she calendars a date one week before the start date, reminding him to do the prep.

One project, three dates in his calendar.

I like this. It allows the executive to do other work without having to think about the project until his calendar tells him to. In the past, I’ve calendared start dates and due dates but never a “prep” date.

Maybe I should try this?

Then I remembered that I’m not very good at estimating how long many projects will take. I also remembered what has happened to me in the past when I’ve scheduled start dates and due dates. Too often, they don’t stick and I wind up moving the dates, sometimes repeatedly, and my calendar becomes a mess of unfinished (and unstarted) projects. It makes me feel out of control, which is the opposite of what was intended.

No bueno.

I use a more fluid system now. Unless there is a fixed due date for a project, I start when I’m ready to start and finish when I’m done. I think a little more structure might benefit me, however, but I’m not sure what to do.

Should I calendar prep, start, and due dates for projects that are amenable to this but eschew it for others? Should I try to force myself to get better at estimating how much time I will need, and better at sticking to those estimates?

How about you? What do you do about calendaring projects that don’t have a due date assigned by the court or someone else? What do you about estimating how long a project will take? Do you use a different system?

I welcome your thoughts.

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It all comes down to fundamentals

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I know what you want. You want bigger cases, better clients, more money, more fulfilling work, a better life. The good news is that you can have all of these things, but only if you focus on the fundamentals.

First, you need to work on yourself every day. Work on your legal skills, your presentation and writing skills, and your marketing. More than anything else, work on your interpersonal skills because if you don’t, you might get the bigger cases and better clients but chase them away.

Second, you need quantity. You learn how to handle bigger cases by taking lots of small ones. You learn how to serve high-end clients by handling lots of regular folks. Quantity will lead to quality when you’re ready to handle it. (See number one above).

Third, you need to give it time. No matter how good you are or how hard you work, you can’t expect things to happen in a matter of months. Assume it will take years. You’re not cranking out widgets, here, you’re building a professional practice and that takes time.

Become the kind of lawyer (and person) who deserves and can handle the type of practice (and life) you desire. And let it happen when it happens.

Build your practice on a foundation of referrals

 

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You can fake your way to the top but you can’t stay there

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Many years ago I knew an attorney who had everything going for him. Penthouse suite in Beverly Hills, a roster of big-name clients (including several celebrities), competent staff—the works. He drove a Rolls Royce.

Those of him in the building admired what he had accomplished. And yet, most of us didn’t like him. He was distant and looked down at those of us who didn’t have what he had.

One year later, his practice was in trouble and he went down fast.

It turned out he wasn’t the success we were lead to believe. He was living beyond his means, spending money right and left, tapping out lines of credit, borrowing from friends, and doing everything he could to keep up appearances. Finally, out of desperation, he got involved in something shady and when it came to light, everything fell apart.

What we saw as arrogance was fear run amok. He was in trouble and didn’t know what to do. He was caught up in his own Ponzi scheme and he couldn’t get out.

We all put on appearances to some extent, because of ego, because we know that success (or the appearance thereof) begets success and because we know that nobody wants to hire a broke lawyer. But most of us are grounded enough, or have enough positive influences in our lives, to keep things under control.

It’s good to aspire to great things. And we shouldn’t be afraid to take some risks. But as this cautionary tale illustrates, you can’t fake your way to the top and expect to stay there. The law (of the universe) will eventually catch up with you.

Building your marketing chops

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Cleaning up your email inbox

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How much of your day is spent writing and responding to email?

Yeah, a lot.

When you don’t get through it, not only can bad things happen (mistakes, missed opportunities, unresolved problems, broken promises, etc.), these “open loops” weigh on your subconscious mind and bedevil you. (The Zeigarnik effect is the psychological tendency to remember uncompleted tasks.)

So, if you don’t have your email inbox under control, here’s a reminder to make it so and a checklist of what to do, courtesy of David Allen (Getting Things Done):

  1. Take out the trash. Go through the inbox and delete everything you don’t need or want. Just do it, already. (Or, archive them if you’re not sure.)
  2. Use the “two-minute rule”. Any actionable emails that you can read and reply to (or complete the required action) in two minutes or less, do it.
  3. Tag/file/label “waiting for” items. If you ordered something and you’re waiting for it arrive, if you tasked someone to do something and you’re waiting for them to complete it, move the corresponding emails to a folder or label them accordingly. (I forward them to Evernote.) Tip: when you confirm by email that someone will do something, cc or bcc yourself and label that email “waiting”.
  4. File/tag “action” items. Anything you need to do that will take longer than two minutes should be filed in an “action” folder or tagged or labeled accordingly. (If forward these to Evernote, too).
  5. File reference material. For emails that don’t require action but you want to keep, move them to their own folder or tag or label them. (Once again, I forward these to Evernote.)

When you’re done, your inbox should be empty. I did this several years ago, over a period of several days, and it felt great to get it done. Everything was out of sight and in the place it needed to be and I knew where to find it. Nothing screaming at me for attention. No open loops.

Try it and let me know what you think. (I already know what I’ll do with your email.)

Evernote for Lawyers

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