Why not you?

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Youtube thought I’d be interested in watching an attorney explain what to look for when choosing a family law attorney.

The video is made to look like an interview, with the attorney explaining what to look for and what to ask. It’s less than 2 minutes and looks like it was recorded in her office.

Nothing fancy. She probably had a member of her staff record it on a phone.

Under the video, she lists her website, phone number, and an offer for a free consultation. There’s also a transcript of the video.

I offer no comment on the content, although I would stay away from mentioning an hourly rate, even as an example as she does.

Some viewers will think it’s too high and won’t call. Others won’t call because they think it’s too cheap.

Anyway, this is the type of video any attorney could make and post in about ten minutes.

If you’re a novice at making videos, it doesn’t get any easier than this.

You could do it facing the camera, speaking to prospective clients, or like this one, as a simulated interview. The latter has the advantage of looking less like a commercial and suggests that the attorney is someone worth interviewing.

The video has very few views, but that’s another issue. I don’t know what the attorney has done to promote it, but there are many options.

I’d start by optimizing the video with keywords a prospective client is likely to use in searching for information or help.

A video like this one, explaining “How to find a (your practice area) attorney” is a good choice, but I’d add “in (your city or area)” because that’s what a prospective client would no doubt include in their search.

And then I’d create other videos, explaining the law, procedure, risks, options, and other questions frequently asked by prospective clients.

This weekend, set up your phone on a tripod and speak into it. Record some information about your field or about your practice, or both.

Upload your video or videos and if you’re self-conscious about them, put them on “private” for now.

You’ll be only a click away from having a new source of traffic, subscribers, and clients. You’ll also have some great outtakes to show at your next office party.

Ask your clients and contacts to share your video. It’s a simple way to get more referrals.

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Time blocking part deux

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I’m trying time blocking again. I hate it but hear so many people having excellent results with it I have to try again.

But I’m being gentle, lest my perfectionism kick in and kick me in the groin.

I’ve watched videos to see how others do it, and try not to grimace at how easy they make it look. I’ve picked up some good ideas and am trying them as we speak.

If you don’t know anything about time blocking, aka time boxing, calendar blocking, et al., it simply means scheduling time on your calendar dedicated to doing specific activities—working on a specific project, for example, or doing a group of related tasks such as making calls, answering emails, writing, or reviewing files.

Time blocking is especially recommended for doing work that requires a lot of focus and concentration, so-called “Deep Work” made popular by Cal Newport in his eponymous book.

When I tried time blocking before, I resisted the idea of scheduling weeks in advance, especially the way some folks (claim they) do it—in five or ten-minute increments.

“How I am supposed to know what I will want to work on for ten minutes three weeks from now?”

I still feel this way, but I’m willing to compromise. So, for now, I’m time blocking one day at a time.

Each evening, I make my schedule for the following day. I know what else I have on tap and this gives me the flexibility I need. I also schedule time for recurring daily tasks, and blocks of time for deep work. I’m writing a book currently, and I make sure I’ve put time to do that on the calendar.

Because I’m new to this, I’ve started with 45 minute blocks—not too long, not too short—and adjust depending on how much I have to do or want to do each day. If I have a lot of calls, I allow more time for that, for example.

I’m also trying to follow the 1.5 rule—allowing 50% more time than I think something will take—because humans are notoriously bad at predicting how long things take, and I’m the poster boy for this.

If I schedule time to “Finish Chapter 7,” for example, and I’m not even close to finishing (see paragraph above), it’s disheartening, so I usually prefer to schedule time to “work on Chapter 7”.

But that’s “creative” work and I allow myself to be a bit of mad scientist in that area. For other tasks like writing my daily email, returning calls, or clearing inboxes, I almost always get everything done in the time allotted.

As for the time of day for each block, well, this is a work in progress. I’d like to be able to get my deepest work done early in the day, but the idea of doing it first thing is a non-starter with me. I get other things done first.

But that may change, too, as I get further along into this dystopian world of blocking my days.

How’s it going? So far, so good, but I still have a long way to go.

My wife just told me she wants me to accompany her to Costco. It’s not on my calendar, I’ve got other things scheduled, but what can I tell you—happy wife, happy life, so we’re off to the store.

Do you time block? Let me know if you have any tips.

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Todo List Triage

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When you have a big backlog of things to do, when your lists are out of control, when you feel out of control, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, the first step is to do a brain dump.

Get everything out of your head and onto one big list.

The next step is to cut that list down to size and to do that, you have to recognize that not everything on your list has to be done.

Many of the “wounded” on your list need to be left to die.

So, you might start culling your list by first figuring out which of your tasks are “must do”.

Mark them or put them on a separate list.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time figuring this out. Your gut will usually tell you the answer. But if you’re not sure about some tasks, asking yourself a few questions should help you figure things out:

  • Is this task aligned with my goals and purpose?
  • Is this a commitment to someone else/Was this assigned to me?
  • Is this important? What would happen if I didn’t do this?
  • Is this urgent? What would happen if I postponed this?
  • What are the benefits for getting this done?
  • Is there someone who is better suited to do this? Can I delegate all or part of this?
  • If I could only do three things on this list today, would I choose THIS task?

These questions should help you identify your must-do tasks and leave you with a shorter and more manageable list.

The next step is to schedule your must-do tasks.

Decide what you will do and when, and add them to your calendar and/or task list, alongside your existing commitments.

Once you’ve scheduled all of your must-do tasks, start or continue working on them. When you make some progress on your backlog, go back to your big list and go through it again.

You’ll pick up some must-do’s you might have have missed or things that have become urgent or taken on more importance. You’ll also be able to identify “nice-to-do” or “want-to-do” tasks you want to tackle next.

Because life is more than just getting your must-do’s done.

Take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of having a list that’s no longer out of control.

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Bring a dump truck

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If you have too much to do and don’t know where to start, the first step, according to David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, is to do a brain dump.

Get everything out of your head and onto a list—everything you need to do or want to do, all of your ideas and obligations, everything you can think of that might be in your way of achieving your goals.

If you keep things in your head, they nag at you and confuse you and stop you from taking action because there is always too much to do.

“Your brain is for having ideas, not holding them,” Allen says.

By getting everything onto paper or into an app, you can stand back from the lot, evaluate everything in comparison to everything else, and make decisions about what to do.

If you’ve never done a brain dump before, or it’s been awhile since you did, give it a try. Most people report an enormous sense of relief once they have everything out of their head and onto a list.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some people write in a journal, some use a scratch pad, some type, some dictate.

Pick a tool that feels right to you and start.

As you make your list, don’t edit, don’t cross out anything, don’t worry about duplicates, and don’t try to figure out how you’re doing to do any particular task.

For now, just dump.

You’ll probably want to do more than one session because you won’t think of everything the first time. You may also want to use a mind sweep “trigger list” to prompt you to recall things in different areas of your life.

When you can’t think of anything else, go through your calendar and task apps or any other lists you have and add these to your list.

Record everything in one place. A “trusted system,” Allen calls it. And relax, because you’re on your way to clarity and calm.

Give yourself a day or two away from the list and come back to it with fresh eyes.

No doubt you’ll see a lot of things you can immediately eliminate or put on a someday/maybe list. You’ll also see things you want to or need to do that can wait. Finally, you’ll identify things you need to do next and know you haven’t forgotten anything important.

And then you can get to work.

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Put yourself in the top 2%

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Have you ever been reading an email or a blog post and forgotten who wrote it?

That’s the 98%.

Most lawyers who create content fall into that category. Forgettable.

The 2% are the ones people notice and remember. They’re also the ones people buy from and tell their friends about.

The rest fade into the woodwork. Because they all look the same.

They talk about the same subjects, use the same examples, and measure the temperature of their message with the same thermometer, meaning they don’t let things get too hot or too cold.

How about you?

If you want to get noticed, remembered, and followed, if you want clients to hire you instead of another attorney, you need to be in the top 2%.

That means being different and there’s no easier way to do that than to create content that’s different.

Different subjects, different appearance, different style.

Especially style.

When other lawyers write stilted prose and you use a bit of color and personality, when other lawyers say what’s expected and you are a contrarian, when they write about boring topics in boring ways and your content is interesting. . .

It won’t take much for you to stand out.

How do you do this?

Make your content interesting and helpful. Infuse your content with human interest (stories), details from your professional and personal life, and strong opinions. Be different, tell them what they need to do, and why.

Don’t just deliver information, speak to your readers. And don’t hold back.

You know you’re doing it right when you write something or say something that scares you a little.You should feel a little heat in the pit of your stomach—as if you’ve gone too far or are doing something wrong.

When you feel that heat, it means you’re on the right track.

If you aren’t feeling that burn, you aren’t trying hard enough. And your audience will know it. And lump you in with 98%.

You will get feedback. Some readers will love what you’re doing and tell you they read you every day. Some will tell you’ve gone too far and leave you for gentler pastures. (Ask me how I know.)

None of that matters. All that matters is that:

  1. Your list is growing, and
  2. Your practice is growing

If those two numbers are moving in the right direction, stay the course.

It’s not easy to show your market that you’re better than the competition, but it is easy to show them you’re different.

And now you know a simple way to do that.

Email marketing for attorneys

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How to sell your services when you don’t have experience

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You’re new. Or venturing into a new practice area or market. You want clients to hire you but you don’t have enough (or any) experience with the issues they present.

How do you show them you can do the job?

The key: confidence. That’s what they’ll buy.

If you look and sound like you can do the job, you’ll at least be in the running.

Am I saying you can fake it? Yes, and no.

You need to know enough to ask the right questions and identify the issues. You need to know what you’ll have to do to get started. But you don’t need to know everything—that’s what research is for—and you (probably) don’t need years of experience with that matter.

You sell your confidence in your problem-solving abilities. You sell your experience doing similar work.

Don’t lie. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver. But if you look and sound like you know what you’re doing, if you comport yourself as confident and capable, the question about how much experience you have with the specific matter usually won’t come up.

If you’re hired and find yourself over your head, get help. Talk to someone who knows what to do, burn the midnight oil, and get yourself up to speed.

You can earn while you learn.

On the other hand, if you know from the beginning that you don’t have nearly enough knowledge or experience or resources to handle the case, if you can’t do the work without taking undue risk, admit it and ask the client for permission to associate with another lawyer or firm.

That’s what I did when I was a new pup and had big cases I wasn’t ready to handle.

I told the client they would benefit from the resources and experience of the other firm, and also be able to work personally with me at no additional cost.

I didn’t apologize or show weakness. I was matter-of-fact about it, as though this was a very common arrangement, and confidently explained the benefits of having two lawyers working for them

And never had a client turn me down.

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A simple but powerful way to increase response

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You’ve got an event coming up—a seminar, webinar, chat, podcast, meet up, question-and-answer session—and you want more people to show up. Normally, you would send out an email or post on social and invite everyone.

And that’s fine.

But if you want to get more people to join you, more people watching or listening or participating, more people not only tuning in but paying attention, instead of sending a mass invite, send a PERSONALIZED message.

“Hey (name), I’m hosting a webinar on Friday at 2 and I’d love to have you join us…”

If you have a small list, or a handful of key people or VIPs you would especially like to have at your event, it might be worth making a video or voice message addressing each person by name.

Personalizing your message will make that message stand out in a crowded inbox and dramatically increase response.

You can also use personalized messages to get more testimonials or reviews for your services or your book. Or to get more people providing feedback about your recent event or responding to your survey.

Now, if your event is especially important, there’s something else you can do.

You can pick up the phone and call people. Or have your assistant do that.

If you get voicemail, leave a message. In fact, you might want to schedule your calls for “after work hours” so you are more likely to get voicemail and don’t have to spend time chatting.

I’ve done this, it works, and you can do it, too.

You can also use this to get your former clients or prospective clients you’ve spoken with to schedule an appointment.

How will use personalized messages to get more people to join your event or respond to your offer?

You can also use personalized messages to get more referrals

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The reluctant attorney marketer

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A marketing consultant recommends that solo business owners (or lawyers) allocate 4 hours per week to marketing.

You can get a lot done in 4 hours, she says.

I agree. But what if you don’t have 4 hours to spare?

And what if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t like marketing, and don’t want the expense or bother of outsourcing it?

Are you screwed? Should you give up and get a job?

No, and no.

Marketing is a lot easier than you think and you don’t have to spend 4 hours a week doing it.

You can bring in more clients with just 15 minutes of effort per day—if you are consistent. 15 minutes a day will help you get started. Do it every day and you’ll get better, faster, and more confident, and you’ll get better results, too.

You don’t need complicated or expensive tools. Email, the phone, a website, and your ability to communicate clearly are the only tools you need.

You also don’t need to talk to strangers, in case that’s something you don’t want to do. You can build your practice with the clients and prospects and professional contacts you already have.

Later, once you’ve built some momentum, you may want to put in more time or try some additional strategies. But don’t even think about that now.

Get started. Keep it simple. Put one foot in front of the other and keep at it.

Before you know it, marketing might just become one of your favorite things.

And if it doesn’t, you’ll be earning enough to buy some of your favorite things.

Here’s a good place to start

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The problem with your to do list is it’s a to do list

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I’ve been guilty of this myself. Creating a list of things I need to do each day, a collection of must-do’s and should-do’s and want-to-do’s, and rarely completely everything.

I would get the urgent stuff done but not necessarily get the most important stuff done, or even work on it.

And that was the problem.

I didn’t leave myself enough time to do “deep work” because there is a never-ending line up of other things I needed to do, and new stuff coming in every day.

I never got to the end of my daily list because my list was endless.

Productivity expert Mark Forster, author of Do it Tomorrow, which I’m currently reading, suggests a different approach. He says that instead of using an “open list” where new tasks are added as and when they come in, we use a “closed list,” meaning once we’ve made our list for the day, we add nothing to it.

If you get a call or email or remember something that needs your attention, unless it is a genuine emergency, you add it to your list for tomorrow.

This allows you to plan your day and allocate enough time to everything you have decided you will do.

Not necessarily everything you need to do or should do, everything you WILL do. And that’s an important distinction.

Your closed list is a commitment you make to doing the things on that list. It might seem like a minor difference but making a WILL DO list instead of a TO DO list forces you to decide what’s important and allocate enough time to do it.

If you’re frustrated with too much to do each day, this could be a simple way to gain some control over your day.

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If you don’t start, you can’t fail; you can’t succeed either

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What’s on your bucket list, your dream board, your list of someday/maybes? What projects have you been avoiding because they’re too big or you don’t have the time or you don’t what to do?

What would you love to do but have avoided because it’s important to you and you’re afraid you might mess up?

How about giving it a go?

If you’ve tried before and lost your way, how about trying again?

It’s not difficult. You only need to do 3 things:

(1) Do something. Anything.

Starting is the hardest part. Do something easy, something you feel almost zero resistance to doing.

Write a few ideas or questions, read an article, or set up a new file.

Focus on that first step, and nothing else.

Once you’ve taken that first step, you’ve started. You’re on your way.

(2) Take the next step.

It might be to write more notes or read another article. It might be to write a paragraph explaining to yourself what you want to do and why it’s important.

Whatever it is, the next step will be easier, because you’re not starting from scratch.

(3) Do something every day.

Make a commitment to yourself to keep going, and to do something every day.

Even 5 minutes.

But it has to be every day, or at least every work day.

Put it on your calendar or in your task or reminder app and don’t miss a day.

Some days, perhaps most days, you’ll work for just 5 minutes. Other days, you work for 30 minutes. What’s important isn’t how much time you give it but that you work on it every day.

Without fail.

If you work on it every day, your subconscious mind will understand that this is important to you and work on it when you’re doing other things. It will give you ideas, help you focus on the right things, and remind you to keep going.

Eventually, you’ll build build enough momentum to carry you through to the finish.

Even if you mess up. Even if it’s harder than you thought. Even if it takes longer than you imagined, eventually, you’ll get where you want to go.

Dale Carnegie said, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

But nothing happens until you take the first step.

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