It’s time for that math talk again

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Early in my career, when I started to get busy, I wasn’t yet making a lot of money, but I decided to hire some people. It was one of the smartest things I ever did.

I freed up time to do more billable work, more marketing, and to (finally) enjoy some time off.

Yes, I had to invest time to find them, train them, and supervise them, but basic math told me I was way ahead.

In today’s dollars, the math might look like this:

$40 an hour administrator vs. $400 an hour billable.

$10 an hour virtual assistant vs. $400 an hour billable.

Besides the math, think about all the things you do in your practice you don’t enjoy. Wouldn’t you like to have someone else do them for you?

“I can do it better,“ you say. “And faster.“

Probably so. But as long as the people you hire are “good enough,” you still come out ahead. And, if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll find that many people are better at some things than you are.

“They might screw up and cost me. I’ve been burned before.“

That’s why you supervise them. And maintain insurance.

“I don’t want to let go.”

I didn’t want to let go either. But I didn’t want to stay where I was, doing things I didn’t like and missing out on opportunities to grow.

“Good people are expensive.”

True. But not as expensive as you. Yeah, we’re back to math again.

“If I hire another attorney, they might leave and compete with me.”

Yes, they might. But they might not.

“I have people working for me now. I don’t want any more.”

Does that mean you don’t want more business? Bigger cases? More income?

Or more free time?

You don’t?

Is that your final answer?

Fair enough. You might have everything you need and want, just the way you like it.

One more question and I’ll let you go.

If someone really good came along and offered to work for you for free, would you be able to find something for them to do?

What’s that? They would have to pay you to work for you?

Your math skills are Jedi level. I’ll stop talking now.

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How to blog without a blog

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If you want the benefits of a blog but don’t want to (or aren’t allowed to) set one up, guest blogging is a great option. Basically, that means posting content on other people’s blogs and other digital platforms.

You get exposure to their subscribers and visitors who hear some of your wisdom, read your brief bio, and follow a link back to your website, where they learn more about what you do and how you can help them.

Are you seeing the possibilities?

You also get the implied endorsement of the publisher who posts your article; sometimes, you get their actual endorsement. Sometimes, you build a relationship with them, which leads to more marketing opportunities.

And you’re not committed to a publishing schedule. You write if and when you choose to do that.

Why would a blog owner publish your article? Because they get some great content for their readers that they don’t have to write themselves, from a top authority (that’s you) to boot. And they know that said authority is likely to promote said content, sending traffic to said blog.

And all they have to do is say yes.

How do you start? By making a list of influential bloggers in your niche that accept guest posts. Review their content and think about how you could contribute.

If their posts allow it, you could start by commenting on their existing posts. Make sure you mention you are an attorney. Check back later to see if the blog owner responds to your comment.

So step one is to get noticed. But you can skip this step and go straight to step two.

Step two is to approach the blog publisher and offer to write a guest post. Tell them a bit about your legal background and writing experience. If you’ve published elsewhere, give them a few links.

Your goal is to get published on the top blogs in your niche. Those with lots of authority and traffic. But if you’re starting out, start anywhere.

Especially with anyone you personally know who might say yes because they know you.

Get your foot in a couple of doors and before you know it, your articles might get in front of a lot of people who need your services but didn’t know who you were.

If you’re ready to start your own blog, this will help

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What is quality content?

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If you can write and publish more content than your competition, you should. But while quantity might bring more traffic to your digital door, it is the quality of your content that will convert that traffic into leads and new clients.

What is quality content? It’s content that is more likely to get someone to read it and take the next step.

Here are the key elements:

  • Benefits. Especially in the headline and lead. Show the reader you have something they want; make them curious to read your post to learn more about it.
  • Specific. Specialized content from a specialist. Talk about a specific issue or problem, and the solution, and address it to a specific reader who has that problem.
  • Interesting. Don’t bore people with boring information or overwhelm them with too much of it.
  • Stories. Tell readers about people like them with problems like theirs who came to you for help and got it.
  • Conversational. Write to them, not at them. Don’t make it all about you. Ask questions to draw them into the content.
  • Easy to read. Plain language, scannable (short sentences and paragraphs, lots of white space, sub-heads, bullet points).
  • Call(s) to action. Tell them what to do next and why. Make it easy to do that by highlighting your phone number, form, or link.
  • Email opt-in form. So you can stay in touch with them and continue to market to them, because most people don’t hire a lawyer the first time they visit their site.

Those are the basics. Get these right and you get an A.

For extra credit, consider:

  • Variety. Short and long articles for those who want them.
  • Involvement devices: quizzes, questionnaires, checklists, forms.
  • Visuals: graphics, charts, videos.
  • Service-related offers. You may not have one in every post, but when you do, promote it and limit it (time, quantity) to make it more valuable and create a fear of loss.
  • Why you: They can find this in your About page, testimonials, and other pages on your site, but if you see a place to mention something compelling about you or your practice, do it.
  • Links to related content, so they can drill down and learn more.

Ultimately, you want quality and quantity. But since most of your visitors will be first-time visitors and, statistically speaking, are unlikely to return to your site, better to have 10 great posts than 100 that don’t provide a great first impression.

This will help

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Remember to wear pants

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You’re speaking to a prospective employee over Zoom. You ask questions, they ask questions, it’s going well, and then they ask you to do something unusual. They ask you to move your camera and show them around your office.

What? Why?

Maybe they want to see your books or tchotchkes, what’s on your desk or hanging on your wall. Maybe they want to see if you’re organized and tidy, or you’re a slob.

Would you show them? Would you object?

A woman had to make that decision recently during a job interview. The recruiter asked her to “show her around the room”. When she asked why, the recruiter said, “You can tell a lot about a person from the way their room looks.”

The interviewee said she was uncomfortable and the recruiter backed off.

And then there were the comments.

Many were indignant or angry on behalf of the interviewee, using words like, “Invasion of privacy,“ “Intrusive,“ “Unprofessional,“ and “Unfair”.

But some thought it was a reasonable request.

What say you?

I say, you might ask this question, or something similar, the next time you interview a prospective employee.

No, not to see if their office is a mess, they worship Satan, or they have a pet alligator, although it might be good to know those things. The real reason is to see how they respond.

Are they uncomfortable? Frazzled? Angry? Defensive? Or cool as a cucumber? Do they blush and get tongue-tied or do they laugh it off and say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”?

If they decline, do they do it respectfully or do they tell you to bugger off?

You want to know if they can handle a little pressure, don’t you? Because that goes with the job.

Of course, they may also ask you to show them around your office, so remember to hide your alligator and put on some damn pants.

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Your practice-building prime directive

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We usually do it when we’re speaking to a prospective client or interviewing a new one. We rarely do it at any other time.

But we should. Because it’s the simplest and most effective way to develop new business and build stronger relationships, which are the essence of building a successful law practice.

Which leads to the prime directive:

Find out what people want, so you can help them get it.

I’m not just talking about their legal needs. I’m talking about everything they might want or need in other areas of their life, because there’s a lot you can do to help people beyond performing your services.

The most obvious is to refer them to other attorneys who handle things you don’t. But you can also:

  • Refer clients or customers to them or promote their business, practice, or cause
  • Provide information—legal, business, consumer, and about their niche or local market
  • Introduce them to people who have information or can help them understand something or do something
  • Recommend tools, books, websites, or ideas
  • Encourage them and give them a shoulder to cry on when things go wrong

Be there for them, for whatever they might need.

If you have a client who needs a recommendation for a job or a loan, help them. If you have a client who is interviewing job candidates, tell them about the book you just read that made this easier for you.

But don’t just wait until they ask for your help. Take the lead and find out.

You do that by observing, listening, and asking questions. What are their goals? What (or who) is stopping them? What do they want to get fixed, avoid, or do better?

You may not be able to help them directly, but you might know someone who can, or. . . know someone who knows someone who can.

Be a matchmaker. When you do that, you help 2 people and get credit for making the match.

You won’t always be able to help people, but you will always get points for trying. When folks hear you ask questions about their situation and what they want or need, when they see you pay attention to what they say, ask follow-up questions, and take notes, they’ll know you really want to help them.

Most lawyers don’t do that. You’ll be “the one” when you do.

Yes, you have time to do it. Because this is the stuff of relationship building and the benefits always exceed the cost.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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What are you working on?

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Every lawyer should be able to answer this question quickly, and they can if they make a simple list of their current projects, cases or clients.

You probably know this, but are you doing it? Is your list up to date? If not, have a seat and start writing. You’ll thank me later.

Your list should be brief. No more than perhaps 5 or 10 current projects or cases, because you can’t do your best work if you’re juggling dozens of projects at the same time. Everything else should go on another list.

Your list should be available on all of your devices, or in a journal or notebook you keep with you, or even a page you keep in your pocket, so you can continually remind yourself of your priorities and not overlook anything.

And your list should identify the “next action” for each project, case, or client, so you always know what to do, ahem, next.

Your list will help you plan your day and your week, help you avoid taking on too much work at the same time, prevent you from falling behind or feeling the need to rush anything, and help you be more proactive about your work (and life).

One more thing.

Besides your list, you also need support material that you link to or can easily access.

You may have extensive documents, notes, and other materials in a case file or project file, but you shouldn’t have to go digging every time you need to know something.

So, for each project, case, or client, create a one- or two-page summary of notes, resources, and upcoming tasks.

Now you have a system for getting and staying productive. You’re welcome.

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By the inch, it’s not a cinch; by the mile, it still might take a while

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Taking massive action on a project is a great way to get it started. If you’re launching a new business, for example, you’ll be able to see if your idea has legs and is worth pursuing. You might see things you hadn’t expected and be able to correct course. And if you make a lot of progress, it can give you the confidence to continue.

If you don’t, you can move on to something else.

But we don’t always have the time to take massive action, which is why some people advocate doing a little at a time.

Do something every day, they say. Eventually, you’ll reach your goal.

The problem with this is that things usually take longer than we imagine, and if we don’t see much happening, we can get discouraged or distracted by other things.

So, what’s the best approach?

Sometimes, you should run, sometimes you should walk, and sometimes, you should do both. Run like crazy to get things going and then pace yourself.

And if you’re not sure, tiptoe and see if you want to continue.

How do you decide? Consider how much you know about the subject, what resources you have available, and how much else you have on your plate.

But that’s only part of it.

The biggest factor is how you feel about the project.

Is it something you’re excited about? Can’t stop thinking about? Is it keeping you up at night or is it something that sounds good but you’re still not sure?

Trust your gut, my friend. It got you this far and it can take you the rest of the way.

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Playing hooky

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Fun times. Skipping school, going to the movies, eating junk food, goofing off—with nobody around to tell you what to do.

Remember?

What? You never did that? You should have. Everyone should do it once in a while, even big kids like us.

Hey, how about tomorrow? Take the day off and do something non-billable.

I know, you’re busy. Do it anyway. It’s good for you.

The work will be there when you come back. If it won’t, because you don’t have enough work right now, then you really need to play hooky, but instead of going to the movies, write your own movie—a visionary tale of your future.

What do you want that future to look like?

This is your movie. You are the writer, producer, director, and star. Write the movie of your future the way you want it to be.

Don’t hold back. This is a fantasy, not a drama, and you can be, do, or have anything.

Set your movie 5 years from today. Are you still practicing or have you moved on to something else?

Where do you work? What are your hours? Who do you work with, or for? Do you have people working for you? How many? What do they do?

Do you do client work? Handle cases? What type? How big? How many? Or do you do corporate work? For what kinds of clients?

Speaking of clients, how do you get new ones? What marketing strategies do you use? How much revenue do you produce? How much do you net?

What does a typical day look like? What time do you start work? How many appointments do you have? What do you do all day?

Do you do all the legal work? Some of it? None of it?

Do you spend your day writing? Seeing clients? Negotiating deals? Supervising your team?

In this movie, anything is possible. Anything. No matter what your current situation, level of experience, resources, or lack thereof. Pretend you have a magic wand and when you wave it, your dream comes true.

If you’re a little too linear in your thinking and find it difficult to imagine your ideal, think about someone who has what you want and use their life as a model for your own.

Okay, you have a picture. How does that feel?

If it feels good, you’re doing it right. If you have doubts or fears or any negative feelings at all, something’s not right. Get out your magic wand and make it right.

Okay, yes, there is a point to this exercise. Actually, two points.

The first is to help you decide what you want, something we don’t always allow ourselves to do. We usually let our current reality tell us what’s possible, but that’s what is, not what could be..

If you’re happy with all aspects of your current reality, great. But if you want something different, let your imagination tell you what that is.

Which leads to the second point to doing this exercise—to help you create a plan of action. A list of what you need to learn, acquire, change, or do.

A mighty list, wouldn’t you say? Worth taking the day off to create.

Nicely done. Now, choose something from your list and get to work.

How to grow bigger, faster

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Lede, follow, or go home

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If you want more people to read what you write, write a headline that flags them down as they go sailing by and “forces” them to pay attention.

Because if you don’t, they’ll won’t, and they will (probably) move on and read something else.

One way to get their attention is to write something unusual, as I did with the archaic, journalistic spelling of “lead” in the headline of this post. It makes you stop and wonder if I misspelled the word or I mean something else.

For a second or two, you’re reading and, therefore, a bit more likely to continue reading.

Remember, you can’t bore people into reading. So do something different, interesting, or fun.

But that’s not the only way to do it. You can’t go wrong promising benefits, asking a thought-provoking question, or sharing a surprising fact, statistic, or quote.

You can also win friends and influence readers by leading with a story.

People want to hear what happened to your client, your friend, your friend’s client, or you.

Your headline should be simple, make the reader curious, and give them a reason to read your first sentence. Of course, that first sentence has to be good enough to get them to read the second sentence.

You can also get attention with images and other visual elements: charts, lists, color, bullet points, sub-heads, unusual typography, and a P.S. (in a letter or email).

But while all the above is true, it’s also situational. If you’re writing to someone who knows you personally, or to your list of regular readers, to some extent, you can assume you have their attention and can get away with being clever, mysterious or weird. People who know you are probably going to read what you write because they know you and want to hear what you say.

Which is why you will find more than a few of my headlines make you question my sanity and want to see my bar card.

Just having fun. Because if it’s not fun for me, I’m pretty sure it won’t be fun for you.

And if it’s not fun, why bother?

How to write something people want to read

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Could this be true?

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I was on social media the other day. Yes, I do that occasionally. A company had surveyed a group of lawyers, asking them what they wanted out of their practice, and posted the results.

Nearly everyone said they wanted better systems and automation, to make their practice run more smoothly. They also wanted more affordable help.

Makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is that only 14% said they wanted help with marketing—“getting more good clients, more reliably.”

Why so low? Who doesn’t want more good clients? What’s going on here?

Ah, what’s going on is that the firm that conducted the survey helps lawyers automate their practice. So their clients’ and followers’ primary interest is in becoming more organized and efficient.

That’s their bias.

Go ahead and survey a cross-section of attorneys and I think your results might be a little different.

Of course my list is also biased. If I did a survey, I’m sure I’d find that most want more good clients and cases.

Because who doesn’t want more good clients?

Okay, some lessons.

  1. Before you draw any conclusions about the results of a survey, make sure you know who’s conducting it and of whom.
  2. Surveys are a great way to engage your list. People like to share their opinion and are curious to see what other people say about the subject.
  3. Surveys are an easy way to generate content for a blog or newsletter and social media. I just did that and it wasn’t even my survey.

Go forth and survey some folks. Or find someone else’s survey and talk about it.

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