4 lists that can grow your practice

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You want new clients. You want everyone you know to refer clients to you, send traffic to your website, and promote your content and events.

You want introductions to centers of influence in your niche or local market. You want invitations to be interviewed and speak or write for publications that serve your target markets.

You might want help with advertising, website or computer matters, writing, or presenting. You might want help getting organized or learning or troubleshooting computer programs, or recommendations for hardware, apps, or methodologies.

Whatever you want, it should go on a list, the first of four:

  1. WHAT I WANT

List number one will remind you to think about what you want and train yourself to recognize people you know and meet who can provide it.

Keep this list in front of you and look at it often because you get what you focus on.

  1. HOW I CAN HELP

You should also maintain a list of ways you can help your clients and contacts besides your legal services.

What do you know they’d like to know? What skills do you have that can help them? What kinds of introductions and referrals can you give them?

This list will help you become proactive in helping people. When you help your clients and contacts, they’ll help you.

  1. WHAT MY CLIENTS AND CONTACTS WANT

Your clients and contacts want things, too, and their wants and needs should go on another list.

What kinds of clients or customers do your business and professional contacts want? Who would they like to meet? What information would help them, personally or in their business life?

You can use this list to help them get what they want. You’ll know who to refer to them, who to introduce to them, and what kinds of information to send them.

  1. HOW MY CLIENTS AND CONTACTS CAN HELP

This list is a record of what your clients and business contacts can do for you and your other clients and contacts.

What do they know? Who do they know? How can they help people?

These four lists will help you help others. They will help you to be an effective matchmaker, content creator, and business contact.

You’ll be able to do things for your clients and contacts most lawyers don’t do and build the kind of network and practice most lawyers will never have.

When you help others, you get more repeat business and referrals

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What’s on your ‘today’ list?

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The most important list on our list of lists is our ‘today’ list.

We have things to do tomorrow, next week and next month, and we can plan for these, but all of our “doing” takes place today.

Many people overload their Today list with too much to do.

Not only does this mean that some important things don’t get done, an oversized list tends to cause anxiety because you always have too much you haven’t done.

I know. I used to bite off much more than I could chew.

Awhile back, I found a solution.

Instead of one big Today list, I break it up into two.

The first part of my Today list are my MUST DO’s. These are (usually) the 3-5 most important or urgent tasks (MIT’s) for the day, tasks I cannot leave for tomorrow.

If they are on my MUST DO list, I must do them today. If something is still on that list at the end of the day, I don’t move it to tomorrow, I keep working on it until it’s done.

Because it is a MUST DO.

My MUST DO list includes appointments, tasks with a deadline or due date today, and things that are due soon I need to start working on today.

The second part of my Today list is my TARGET list. This includes tasks I could do or want to do today, but don’t have to.

When I start my day, I start working on my MUST DO list. This might only have one or two tasks on it and often doesn’t have any.

When I’ve completed my MUST DO list, I move on to the TARGET list and work on those items.

If I’ve completed both my MUST DO and TARGET lists and I want to keep working, I’ll dip into my other lists to find something else to do.

Unless I don’t want to.

I might take the rest of the day off.

I’m good with that because I know I’ve completed my most important work.

Bifurcating my Today list this way has made a big difference in how I plan and approach my day. I get my most important tasks done each day and never panic about things I didn’t do.

It’s made me a mellow (and productive) fellow.

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A ‘reverse’ to-do list?

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I use the iOS app Productive to track habits. Things I do (or want to do) every day, 3 times a week, once a week or on another schedule. I enter the tasks, create a schedule, and the app reminds me when to do them.

If I don’t do them, if I “break the chain,” it reminds me to get back at it.

I wonder if it also goes on my “permanent record”?

There are things I’d like to do again that don’t belong in a habit tracker, however. I don’t want to do them every day or week, but I may want to do them someday.

It’s been a long time since I went to a museum, for example, but how do I track something like this?

This morning I saw an app that’s supposed to make this easier. It’s called, Recur! The Reverse To-Do List. It helps you keep track of things you’ve done and how long it’s been since you’ve done them. It also has repeating reminders.

One comment said, “This app is great for tracking work on any open-ended projects where progress is best measured by time repeatedly devoted to it: learning an instrument or a language, writing a book or music: anything where breaking the project down into discrete action steps would be too artificial and constraining.”

Most of the comments, however, convinced me to pass on the app, but I was intrigued by the concept.

As I thought about it, I realized using an app for something like this isn’t necessary. All you have to do is create a list of “things I’d like to do AGAIN” and schedule regular dates to review that list.

We just had a new water filter delivered, something we do every six months. I wouldn’t track that in a habit tracker, or on a “Someday” list. It belongs on a calendar, and that’s where it resides.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

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If I put someone on hold, I’ll get back to them in 30 seconds or less

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Have you ever used a service like IFTTT.COM (“If this, then this”) to automate digital functions? For example, “If I tag an Evernote note with #dropbox, save a copy of that note to Dropbox”.

Anyway, some of the “recipes” are quite handy. If you’re not familiar with the site, check it out.

Also consider how you can do something similar with non-digital processes. A series of “If/Then” formulas for you or your office procedures manual.

Examples regarding the phone:

  • “If I answer the phone, I’ll say ‘Good Morning/Afternoon, Law Offices'”
  • “If the phone rings, I’ll answer it in 3 rings or less”.
  • “If I need to put someone on hold, I’ll ask them if it’s okay first”
  • “If I put someone on hold, I’ll get back to them in 30 seconds or less”.
  • “If a prospective client calls, I’ll ask them where they heard about me (us)”.
  • “If I take a message/need to call someone back, I’ll give them a day/time window and ask if that’s okay for them”

These statements serve as agreements with ourselves that when certain conditions are met, we will do certain things, or do them in a certain pre-determined way.

By thinking these through and writing them down, we train ourselves (and our staff) to provide a consistent level of “customer service”.

We can also use “If/then” statements to improve our productivity.

For example, “If I’m recording a video, I’ll review my “video checklist” before I begin.”

We can use “If/then” agreements for any area of life:

  • “If it’s a weekday, I’ll exercise for at least 20 minutes”
  • “If I’m going to the ABC market, I’ll fill up my gas tank at Chevron on the way”
  • “If it’s raining, I’ll ask delivery services to ring the doorbell when they arrive [so they don’t leave the package to get wet”

Simple, but effective, albeit a bit Adrian Monk-ish.

Try them. You’ll thank me later.

One more: “If I liked this post, I’ll share it with a lawyer friend”

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A simple way to feel better about the future

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I spent extra time doing my weekly review yesterday. I dusted off some projects I had planned to work on last year and prioritized them to work on this year.

I consolidated blocks of notes I have been accumulating and made new lists about what to do next.

For a couple of hours, I ignored the current state of the world and planned my future. When I was done, I felt good.

I have things to do and I’m looking forward to doing them. No matter what the world delivers to my doorstep, I will adapt and move forward.

Because that’s all anyone can do.

I encourage you to go through your apps and lists and notes and make a new plan or update your old one. Make it simple and focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.

When you’re done, you’ll have a renewed sense of purpose and a picture of a better future, and you’ll feel good about that future, because you have a plan.

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Your idea stinks. Congratulations.

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Your lists are overflowing with ideas. Ideas for growing your practice, managing your investments, raising your kids, places to see and things to do and thousands of other things you saw or heard or thought.

You have pages of notes and “someday/maybe” tasks, deferred projects, techniques for getting more organized, strategies for increasing your productivity, and ways to find inner peace.

You have lists of books to read and videos to watch, ideas for blog posts and articles to write, courses to take, and websites to explore.

Am I right or am I right?

I know I’m right because I have these, too.

Let’s be honest. Let’s admit that most of these ideas aren’t very good and (thankfully) we’ll never do most of them.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop collecting bad ideas because out of that massive list of bad ideas come a few good ones.

And a few good ideas is all we need.

The thing is, if we only pay attention to good ideas, we stifle our ability to find the good ones.

Seth Godin said:

“People who have trouble coming up with good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth, will tell you they don’t have very many bad ideas. But people who have plenty of good ideas, if they’re telling the truth, will say they have even more bad ideas. So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

The lesson is simple: if you want more good ideas, write down more bad ones.

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You don’t have to be social to use social media

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I don’t use social media for personal matters. I rarely share or comment, I don’t post photos or talk about my personal life. I may or may not accept friend requests (if I see them), I don’t “chat” online, and I don’t have any social media apps on my phone.

I don’t do much more for work. I share my blog posts as I publish them, I check in now and then to see what’s been posted in a couple of groups I follow, and that’s about it.

Because I’m not social. And I’ve got other things to do.

Cal Newport, makes the case for using social media sparingly if at all in his best-selling book, “Digital Minimalism”. I guess I’m on his team, even if I do a lot less “deep work” than I should.

I’m certainly not an “all work and no play” kinda guy. I play games, I watch videos on silly subjects, and I have outside interests I regularly indulge.

But you won’t hear about them unless I talk about them in my newsletter.

You can get a lot of business using social media. I know more than a few lawyers who’ve done that. Even I get traffic and subscribers and clients that way.

But I let that happen, I don’t do a whole lot to make it happen.

To each his or her own.

If you enjoy social media and it doesn’t interfere with other things in your life, go for it.

If it gets in the way, if it’s not your cup of tea, it’s okay to cut down or let it go.

Just make sure you’re on my email list before you go.

Email is my primary marketing tool

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Looking for ideas for your newsletter or blog? Here are 3 places to find them

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Where do you find ideas for writing interesting and relevant posts your clients and prospects look forward to reading?

Here are 3 “can’t fail” places:

1) Books

I know, you already read plenty. But if you only read about the law, or you only read short articles you find online, you’re missing out on an opportunity to create superlative content.

Read more books and talk about the ideas you learn.

Read history, philosophy, and books about business (even if you target consumers). Read books about important subjects, written by smart and accomplished people with interesting information and stories.

If it interests you, it will interest many of your readers.

Entrepreneur Patrick Collison said, “You could try to pound your head against the wall and think of original ideas or you can cheat by reading them in books.”

2) Posts written by your colleagues

Other lawyers are writing about subjects that interest their clients and prospects. There’s a good chance those same subjects will interest yours.

Read the blogs and newsletters written by professionals in your niche. Read what lawyers, accountants, consultants, and other experts are writing about and use their ideas to create your own content.

If you handle estate planning, read blogs written by other estate planners, even in other jurisdictions. Read tax experts, divorce lawyers, financial planners and others who sell to or advise the people you target.

Agree or disagree with them, amplify their article with examples from your own experience, quote them and link to them if you want, or simply use their idea as a starting point to share your own thoughts on the subject.

3) News about your target market

What’s going on in your target market and with the people in it? What are people talking about, complaining about or celebrating?

Report on trends in the market, predictions, and news. Which company or industry is in an upswing, which one is having trouble? What’s expected to happen next month or next year?

Share information and ideas on consumer issues, e.g., taxes, insurance, credit, debt, etc. If you target business clients, talk about avoiding lawsuits, protecting assets, increasing productivity and profits, and bringing in more business.

Identify prominent people in the market and write about them, interview them, review their books and profile their companies, products and services.

Share news and helpful and interesting information people want to know.

3 simple ways to get ideas for content your readers want to read.

Want more ideas? Get my email marketing course

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Networking up

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Most networking is a slow grind. Often, it’s a complete waste of time. No wonder many lawyers avoid it.

And yet, for some, networking is a remarkable tool for generating new business, new connections, and new opportunities.

The problem is that many would-be networkers target the wrong people or groups, people who are unlikely to need their services and are able to pay for them. They may also network with people who aren’t able (or willing) to refer the kinds of clients they want to attract.

I refer to this as “networking down”.

Many lawyers network “laterally”. They’re objective is to meet “anyone who might need their services” and/or professionals and business people who can refer them.

They attend general networking groups such as chamber of commerce mixers, and meet people who are looking for business but don’t have a lot to offer in return because they aren’t in their target niche.

Lawyers who achieve excellent results network “up”–with their ideal clients, decision makers, and professionals and advisors in their niche.

Not a cross-section of people who might need a lawyer or know someone who might, but a tight-knit group of top people in a niche.

An estate planner who gets a lot of clients through networking first defines the niche they want to target–medical professionals and their advisors, for example–and then research that niche.

They learn what the people in that niche want and need, what they know, and who they know. They learn the names of the influential people in the niche, where they speak or write, and where they congregate.

They create content tailored to the niche, using examples, success stories, information and ideas specific to the niche. This content shows the leaders in the niche that they understand them, have experience with them, and are dedicated to serving them.

They offer to speak to their groups and write for their publications. They find ways to get invited to their meetings, or network outside of the meetings by building relationships with members of those groups.

If they are allowed to join a group and attend meetings, they volunteer for committees, introduce themselves to the people who run them, and promote the businesses or practices or causes of the key people they meet.

They help these key people, or their clients or customers, and earn their favor. They network with no more than a handful of small groups and avoid wasting time with groups that aren’t a good match.

They focus on quality, not quantity, and giving before expecting to receive, and that’s how they get superior results.

How to choose your niche market and ideal client

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Back phrasing and negative space in writing

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In music, “back phrasing” is when “a singer intentionally sings in front of the beat (or behind it–“front phrasing”). I’m told that Willie Nelson does this effectively, as do many jazz artists.

The purpose is to create “negative space,” which ostensibly gives the ear a place to rest or surprises the listener with notes or timing that defy expectations.

It’s attractive because it sounds different. More complex. More interesting.

Negative space is also used in art, architecture, and other visual mediums.

Basically, negative space is the opposite of positive space. When our ears or eyes or brains expect something to be present–a sound, an image or a physical form–and it is not there, it draws our attention.

Negative space is also used in writing.

You can make your writing more interesting by omitting words, or using unexpected words or phrases, or by changing the “normal” flow of the message.

Like this.

Or. . .

THIS.

And by using other visual ornaments the reader doesn’t expect, like bold, CAPS, and other choices (e.g., varying the length of sentences and paragraphs, using slang).

You’ll see me use unexpected words or examples, and throw in the occasional cuss word (or simulated cuss word), to provide visual and auditory interest (auditory because we “hear” the words in our head).

It’s all about doing something the reader doesn’t expect.

Because the opposite is boring.

Boring works in the world of law or commerce. But “interesting” works better because readers are pulled into the writing.

There’s an art to doing it right. Overdo it and some readers will be repelled.

To get it right takes practice. Start by changing up the pattern of your writing. Use an occasional one- or two-word sentence. Turn statements into questions, to engage the reader in the “conversation” you’re having with them on paper.

Does that make sense? (Yeah, like that.)

I started doing this in my demand letters. I loosened up and had fun with them, staying professional but not nearly so formal.

And now, I do it in my newsletter and blog.

Try it. You’ll like it. So will your readers.

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