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Give your life a tune-up

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You’re busy. Taking care of business, living the life you’ve created, traveling forward in time towards whatever comes next.

Are you going where you want to go? Are you doing what you want to do?

If you’re not sure (or, even if you are ), I encourage you to make a list (yes, another list) and find out.

Make a list of everything you do you wouldn’t do if you didn’t have to.

If you didn’t have to have an office, for example, would you? If you didn’t have to write articles, record videos, network, or advertise, would you?

Include big things and small things and everything in between.

Would you practice law if you didn’t have to? Would you do trial work, stay with your practice area, maintain certain expenses (e.g., employees, software, etc.) or take the same types of clients?

Do the same thing with your personal life. Relationships, activities, hobbies, investments, expenses.

Write it all down. And make no assumptions about whether you really do have to do what you’re doing. We all do things on autopilot, because we’ve always done them or because we don’t think we have a choice.

Set aside the list for a while. Come back to it with fresh eyes. And then eliminate, delegate, or modify the things on your list that don’t serve you.

Or, consciously accept them (for now) if you believe there is no alternative or that the price you’re paying is worth it.

This exercise will allow you to make better decisions about what you’re doing. It will help you gain clarity about your goals, priorities, and responsibilities, pare down or eliminate activities you don’t enjoy, and improve both your effectiveness and efficiency.

It will help you become more productive and more prosperous and improve the quality of your life.

So, what’s on your list?

Getting more referrals gives you more options

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You’re not thinking big enough

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Time to start thinking about next year. Setting goals, making plans.

How much would you like to grow your practice and income? Ten percent? Twenty? Twenty-five?

You’re not thinking big enough.

Do yourself a favor and choose a bigger goal. A much bigger goal, such as growing your practice and income by 250%.

Crazy? Impossible? Not going to happen?

For just a minute, stop thinking like a lawyer and hear me out.

There are two reasons for choosing bigger goals.

The first reason is that when you set a target of 25% growth, you tend to focus on doing things that can bring incremental growth–better execution, new ways to do what you’re already doing well, fixing things that are holding you back.

That’s okay but if you fall short, you might achieve only 5 or ten percent growth. When you shoot for 250% growth and you fall short, you might “only” double your income.

Which leads to the second reason.

Setting a big, audacious, crazy goal of increasing your income by 250% forces you to do things that are radically different than what you’re doing now.

You can’t simply do things better, you have to do better things.

You’re forced to get creative, think outside the box, and take massive action because that’s the only way you’re going to hit your target. Small, incremental goals don’t have the power to inspire you to do that.

So ask yourself, “How can I grow my income 250% next year?” And get excited because things are going to change for you.

Because while your conscious mind is telling you it can’t be done, your subconscious mind is looking for ways to make it happen.

Thinking outside the box about getting more referrals

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A checkup from the neck up

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Successful estate planning attorneys regularly contact their clients to inquire about life changes that might necessitate an update to their plan.

No matter what area you practice in, you should do something similar.

Once a year (at least), send your clients information about changes in the law and a questionnaire. Invite them to talk to you.

Do this even if your handle litigation or bankruptcy or another area where your clients are unlikely to need you again.

Why?

So you can find out about other issues or changes in their life or business that necessitate a referral to another attorney or to another professional.

Create your questionnaire or “legal checkup” checklist by asking other professionals to provide information. Ask an insurance broker, for example, for a list of questions your clients should ask themselves about their current risk-levels and coverage. Ask a CPA for questions related to taxes, a financial planner about investments or retirement, and other attorneys about their practice areas.

In addition to asking your “referral partners” to help you prepare your legal checkup, ask them to provide a special offer for your clients, if appropriate. A free consultation or document review, for example.

Once you’ve got your legal checkup up and running, help your referral partners do the same thing for their clients.

An annual legal checkup will allow you to better protect and advise your clients and stimulate referrals to you and your referral sources.

It’s a beautiful thing.

How to get referrals from other attorneys

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Why you need friends who do estate planning

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No matter what type of practice you have, you should seek out and befriend estate planning attorneys.

Why?

  • Because estate planning attorneys have clients who need what you do and can usually afford to hire you. Damages from wage loss, business loss, or divorce are often higher.
  • Because estate planning attorneys don’t have to wait for “something” to happen, ie., a loss, litigation, which means they have a bigger universe of prospective clients available to them.
  • Because estate planning attorneys often do types of marketing you may not do (seminars, advertising, direct mail), bringing in a steady stream of new clients they can refer.
  • Because estate planning attorneys usually offer services at different price points, appealing to a wider spectrum of clients.
  • Because estate planning attorneys usually write a newsletter and/or otherwise stay in touch with their clients and prospects, giving them more opportunities to tell people about you and what you offer.
  • Because estate planning attorneys network with many other professionals they can introduce you to.
  • Because estate planning clients associate with people of similar age, background, income, and need for estate planning, so estate planning attorneys usually get more referrals they can refer to you.
  • Because most of your clients will need estate planning someday and you’ll want to have someone to whom you can refer them.

If you’re looking to build your network of professional contacts, estate planning attorneys are a good place to start.

If you are an estate planning attorney, now you know what you have to offer other attorneys.

How to get more referrals from other professionals

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What ‘working smarter’ looks like

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There are lots of ways to work smarter. Targeting niche markets instead of “anyone with a legal problem” is an example. Networking with influential professionals in your target market instead of generic ‘Chamber of Commerce’ attendees is another.

One of the simplest ways to work smarter is to continue doing what’s working and abandon what isn’t.

And also doing what’s working for other lawyers.

No, don’t copy them. Emulate them. Do what they’re doing but do it better.

When I started practicing, there weren’t many examples of lawyers doing things I could emulate. I wasn’t a member of the country club crowd and I didn’t have money to advertise, so I had to get inventive.

I looked at what other self-employed service professionals, salespeople, and business owners were doing for ideas. Much of it didn’t apply but some of it did. Eventually, I found some things that worked and made them my own.

Years ago, a fast food company hired someone to go out and locate profitable sites for new restaurants. His job entailed examining car traffic and foot traffic, retail sales per square foot, rent comparisons and other factors.

But he didn’t do any of that.

All he did was locate all the McDonald’s in town and choose a location across the street. McDonald’s had already done the research and proven the value of the location and he piggybacked on their success.

Working smarter, he did. And so can, you.

You need a marketing plan. This will help

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C’mon in, the water’s fine

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Yesterday, I mentioned that specializing was one of the keys to growing my income and cutting my work to three days. Many attorneys resist the idea of specializing.

Some believe that having more practice areas allows them to earn more overall by having more services to sell to their clients. “Why refer it out when I can do it myself?”

Some think like a professional instead of the owner of a law practice that employs lawyers (including themselves.) Because they can, they think, they should.

And some have a poverty mentality and are afraid to let anything go.

When I decided to specialize, at a time when I was barely surviving, I was scared to death. It was the most counter-intuitive decision I ever made.

But it was also the best decision I ever made.

Yesterday, I got an email from an attorney who agrees. He said,

“When I did that [specialized], I did notice a slight drop in income for about 2 months (it was not that great, and didn’t last long). The drop was only due to not taking every case that came in the door. I referred those to other attorneys doing that specific work, who in turn, would refer my types of matters back. This allowed me to meet the needs of my clients without doing it all myself. I began seeing increased earnings quickly, could concentrate on matters that really interested me, built my referral network, and most importantly worked fewer hours, but billed more.

I know what you’re saying does work. People do have to get off the fence and commit to what they truly want, though.”

Think about joining us. But only if you want to earn more and work less.

Here’s where to start

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The three-day workweek

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I just read an article about Richard Branson who believes that working fewer hours can be equally–if not more–effective.

I agree.

As you know, I did this in my practice. I cut my week to three days and quadrupled my income. I did it by specializing, hiring good people and delegating as much as possible, and making marketing a priority.

When I say, “earn more and work less,” I don’t just mean you can do both, I mean that you can earn more by working less. Branson says that shorter hours (and flexible hours) allow people to relax and recharge and find more balance between their work and personal life. “Through this balance, they become happier and more productive,” he says.

Branson says that technology is the key to working fewer hours. I didn’t have access to technology but I can’t disagree with this. Being able to work remotely, for example, might have allowed me to visit the office just once or twice a week.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve heard all the “yes-buts,” all the reasons you can’t work fewer hours or you can’t do it without suffering a loss of income. If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re right. You can’t. Your belief won’t let you.

If you want to earn more and work less, you have to start by believing it’s possible. When you do, you can find ways to make it happen.

Instead of saying, “I can’t. . .” you ask, “How can I. . .”.

How I earned more by working less

 

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Another take on the to-do list

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First, we had the to-do list. Then we heard about the “don’t do” list. For those of us who sometimes find these lists too black-and-white and would like another option comes the latest idea: the “do more” and “do less” lists.

Instead of committing to something big all at once, before we’re ready, a full-on exercise program, for example, we can put exercise on our “do more” list to keep the idea front and center until we’re ready to put something more specific on our to-do list or calendar.

We can use a “do less” list to wean ourselves away from bad habits, time-wasting activities, and things we don’t want to do but feel guilty about giving up.

The “do more” and “do less” lists give us a nuanced way to bring things into or out of our field of vision.

If you know you need to do more marketing but you’re not committed to it or don’t know where to start, start by putting “marketing” on your “do more” list. If you want to lose weight, put “carbs” on your “do less” list.

Baby steps.

Go through your master list and move things to one of these lists. Or add a tag to designate “do more” or “do less” in addition to whatever else you’re doing with a task or project.

You might start with just a few things you want to improve on (or remove from) your life and focus on these for now. If you’re especially busy or conflicted about your priorities, start by putting as much as possible on your “do less” list since this will free up more time for your “do more” list.

If you’re not sure about this, if you want to give it more thought, analyze the pros and cons, and consider all of your options, do this: put “over-thinking” on your “do less list”.

Want more referrals? Put this on your “do more” list

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Opportunities or obstacles

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Wealthy people, and those destined to become wealthy, look at problems as opportunities, stepping stones to something greater.

An opportunity to learn, meet new people, or improve their skills.

Others look at problems solely in terms of the risks and costs.

Wealthy people don’t try to avoid problems at all costs. They look for the opportunities hidden in those problems. They continually try new ideas and new methods and eventually realize the outcomes they seek.

Everyone solves problems but wealthy people go out of their way to find problems they can solve. They believe that the bigger the problems, the bigger the paycheck.

If you have trouble seeking out big problems in the quest for a bigger paycheck, as an attorney you can do the next best thing: seek out clients with big problems.

In your quest to build wealth, remember that the problems you solve don’t have to be your own.

How to identify and find clients with big problems

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A simple way to write faster and better 

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“Don’t edit while you write” we are told. Get the words out of your head and down on paper without concern for clarity, grammar, usage, or spelling. Get your critical mind out of the way and write. Edit later.

It’s good advice and no doubt you follow it to some extent. It improves the quality and speed of your writing, especially if you feel stuck and don’t know what to say.

Someone once summarized this advice by saying, “Write drunk, edit sober.” I offer no comment on whether this advice should be followed literally but research confirms the value of doing something similar:

Write while groggy.

Apparently, we are more creative when we are sleepy. I assume that’s because our critical mind is less engaged, allowing us to write a first draft (or solve problems, as was done in the research) more quickly and easily.

So, if you’re usually slower in the morning, that’s when you might want to get some words on paper. Especially before you have that first cup of coffee. If you tire in the afternoon, you might try writing later in your day.

Are there other ways to “turn off” our critical mind without being sleepy or drunk or using willpower?

I think so.

I often put on headphones and listen to brain.fm to help me focus. Sometimes, I listen to regular music (new age or classical, thank you.) Sometimes, I listen to talk radio while writing, letting the voices blend into the background. This morning, I had a news video playing while writing this. Writing in a coffee shop does the same thing for many people.

I also get first drafts done by dictating into my phone on my walk or when I’m in the car.

What do you do to turn off your critical mind?

Your website can bring in more clients 

 

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