What’s bothering you?

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Are you worried about something right now? A problem in the office or at home? Paying your taxes? Too many bills? Not enough income?

We all have problems. Most of them aren’t fatal. With a modicum of time and effort, we can resolve them or at least make enough progress so that they no longer keep us up at night.

But sometimes, they have a nasty habit of sticking around.

Whatever you do, don’t dwell on them. Because what you focus on, grows.

Instead of focusing on your problems, focus on solutions.

Get the problems out of your head and onto paper or into your favorite app. Brainstorm all of the possible solutions. Write down your available resources. Note what you can do, not what you cannot.

Talk to smart people and get their suggestions. Talk to people who love you and are good listeners and ask them to listen to you talk it out.

Let your subconscious mind (your gut) help you figure out what to do and then do it. It will almost always be the right decision.

What if your gut tells you to do nothing? Then, do that. Sometimes problems go away by themselves. Sometimes the passage of time gives you perspective and makes you realize that the problem wasn’t as bad as you had imagined. And sometimes, time helps you to discover other solutions that weren’t possible before.

Finally, once you have made a decision about what to do and you’ve started doing it, turn your attention to all of the good things in your life.

Dwell on your blessings. Because what you focus on, grows.

Need clients? Here’s the best way to get them

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Nobody owes you jack squat

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You’re a lawyer. Big flippin deal. So are a million other people. You have a fancy degree and a fancy office but as far as clients are concerned you charge too much and barely do anything for the big bucks you demand.

What’s so special about you? Why should I hire you instead of any other lawyer? Why should I pay you all that money?

In fact, why should I even visit your website or listen to you talk? Talk is cheap. What are you going to tell me that I won’t hear from every other lawyer with a fancy office?

This is what you’re up against my little droogies. Nobody trusts you. Nobody believes you. Nobody owes you the benefit of any doubt.

This is your ultimate marketing challenge and you must never get complacent.

You want clients? You have to earn them. Prove to them that you can do the work they need and prove to them that you will do what you promise.

Repeat clients? Just because you helped them once doesn’t mean they will come back. You have to stay in touch with them. Because people forget and because other lawyers tell them they can do a better job or do it cheaper or faster.

Referrals? Clients don’t know you want them. They think that if they send you business you won’t have time for them. They’re lazy and don’t know what to do. You need to tell them why referrals are good for everyone and tell them what to do to make them happen.

Nobody cares what you want, they care about themselves.

Assume nothing. Tell them everything. And prove it, again and again.

Because nobody owes you anything.

How to talk to clients about referrals

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Do something, even if it’s wrong

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Yesterday, I pontificated about how much information is “enough” to make a decision. Subscriber John S. agreed with my message and told me that his high school football coach used to say, “Do something, even it’s wrong”.

Coach wanted them to move, not just stand there. John said that if they waited too long, analyzed every option, the opponent could run by them and score.

If you’re like me (and you are,) you are often guilty of over-thinking, over-analyzing and procrastinating while you figure out the best thing to do and the best way to do it. It goes with the job.

But let’s face it, while our analytical tendencies are valuable in many contexts, they often keep us from doing things that could dramatically improve our lives.

As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.”

So, yeah. My new motto is, “Do something, even if it’s wrong”.

Nobody is ever going to describe me as impetuous, but I’m putting the habit of taking action at the top of my list. Okay, number two. Maybe three. Gotta keep it real.

So thank you John S. And, if you ever see your old coach, thank him for me, too.

Do something about your website

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When you should trust your gut and when you shouldn’t

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One thing that always bothered me about legal research was knowing when to quit. How do you know when you have enough citations or enough arguments to win?

If you are exhaustive, you risk turning off your reader. If that reader is a judge (or law professor if you’re still in school), you’ll hurt your cause instead of helping it.

How much is enough but not “too much”?

Unless there are rules dictating the length of a document, you don’t know for certain. All you can do is use your best estimate. Fortunately, that usually works. Your instincts and experience tell you when you have enough and usually restrain you from including too much.

Why don’t we have that same Spidey Sense when it comes to making important decisions?

Decisions about marketing, managing, and building our practice. Financial and health decisions. Decisions about the direction of our life.

Instead of using our best estimate, we often procrastinate. We tell ourselves we need more information because we’re afraid of making a mistake.

But we often do have enough information. We don’t need to be 90% certain. According to Jeff Bezos (in a 2016 letter to Shareholders), 70% is enough:

“Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”

In an article referencing Bezos’ comments, it was noted that Colin Powell also weighed in on the subject:

“You should make a decision when you have between 40% and 70% of the possible information… Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.”

Powell said that if you have less than that, you’re likely to make the wrong decision. But he agrees with Bezos: “If you wait until you have more than 70%, by the time you make the decision, it will be so late that you will have missed the opportunity.”

How about that? Actual numbers.

Now, if we could just figure out how much 70% is.

Here’s more than enough information about how to get more referrals

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Digging for gold on your hard drive

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You have a list. People who know who you are and are willing to listen to what you say.

If you call them, they’ll talk to you. If you write, they’ll read your letter or email. If you meet them in person and they recognize your face or name, they’ll say hello.

Your list may take many forms. It may be in a database, contact management app, or email autoresponder. It may be on paper, buried in the bowels of your closed files. It may be online, stored on the servers of various social media platforms.

But your list exists and it has value.

How much value? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that your list is much more valuable than a list of people who don’t know who you are.

Yes, I’m harping (again) on the need to stay in touch. I don’t feel right unless I do that at least once or twice a month. But today, I’m simply going to encourage you to dig out your list and organize it.

The first thing to do is segment your list into different categories. Use a code or tag or label so you can contact the people on your list with different messages or offers, and on a different schedule.

You won’t talk to current clients, for example, in the same way you would talk to professionals you met once at a networking event.

Anyway, divvy up your list as appropriate to your practice. You might do something like this:

  1. Current clients
  2. Former clients
  3. Prospective clients you’ve met (e.g., free consultations, meetings at networking events, attendees at your presentations, etc.)
  4. Professionals, business executives, centers of influence, you’ve worked with.
  5. Newsletter subscribers
  6. Social media friends and followers
  7. Etc.

You can further segment your list into sub-categories. Your client and former clients, for example, could be classified in terms of annual billing (you to them), types of cases or engagements, frequency, recency, background, industry, and so on.

Your list of professionals might be broken down by specialty, their target markets, number of referrals they’ve made to you (and you to them), mutual clients or contacts, boards or organizations they are connected to, and so on.

Your prospect and email lists can be coded to identify the nature of their inquiry, if and when they’ve attended your events, and other information.

Once you’ve done that, you can create a plan for staying in touch with everyone.

Is all this worth really necessary? Only if you want to get more clients, bigger cases, more referrals, more traffic, more introductions, and build a more profitable practice more quickly and at much lower cost.

Okay, you hate me. I understand. You want that but this sounds like too much work.

Fine. Start with your former clients, going back five years. Email them something. I don’t care what it is. Say hello. Say you’re updating your records. It doesn’t matter.

Two paragraphs. What have you got to lose?

The better question is, what do you have to gain?

Keeping in touch with your list 

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I don’t care what you think

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Experts say that most of the wealthiest, most successful people in the world don’t care about what other people think of them.

Do you?

When a client tells you what they think you better pay attention. You should listen to your accountant’s advice. When the Bar has an opinion about your behavior, you probably shouldn’t ignore it.

But don’t let family or friends or “tradition” tell you how to lead your life.

What’s that? Sometimes you do? Sometimes you avoid doing things because you’re worried about what friends or colleagues or your jerk of an uncle will think?

No bueno.

The best way to get rid of that fear is to do it anyway.

Mark Twain said, “Do what you fear and the death of fear is certain”.

Pick something you’ve avoided doing and take a chance on yourself. Tounges may wag. You might get some dirty looks. But when the walls don’t come crumbling down, you’ll know unless those people pay your bills, keep you out of trouble, or sleep in your bed, what they think is irrelevant.

Here’s what I think about getting referrals

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C’mon, you know you want to

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Can you approach someone you don’t know but want to speak to via email? Yes, you can. Just make sure you send a personal email, not a “form letter”.

Your first order of business is to get the email opened. A great way to do that is to write something that makes the recipient curious.

Like (I hope) the subject line of this email did you.

But then you and I “know” each other. I can be a little playful. If this was the first time I communicated with you I would (probably) not use that as the subject. Instead, I might use something like this:

“Quick question”.

I got an email with that subject not long ago and yes, I did open it.

Because I was curious.

This may not suit you, however, or your market. What then?

Well, you don’t want to appear too familiar. So “Hey there. . .” won’t make the cut.

You can’t bore someone into opening an email. So forget about using “I hope you’re doing well”.

And you don’t want to come off like you’re selling something, so, “May I send you some information about our xyz services?” is a dog that won’t hunt.

So what can you say to make ’em curious?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Okay, cheap trick. Having more fun. I’m not going to tell you what to say. That’s something you have to figure out.

If you were writing to me, what might you say to get my attention and make me curious to read your email (other than “Quick question”)? What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Do you have an accountant? If he didn’t know you from Adam, what might you say to make him curious?

(“This is about your wife” would get your email opened, but. . .)

Start paying attention to (unsolicited) emails you get that make you curious enough to open. Write down the subject they used. Spend time brainstorming other ideas.

Put your list away for a week or two. When you come back to it, you’ll see a lot of subject lines that make you cringe and say, “Oy vey, what was I thinking” but you may also see a few gems.

Go ahead and try one.

C’mon, you know you want to.

Build your practice online

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The hidden costs of every decision

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Everything you buy or do comes at a cost. You pay the price with your money, your time, or your energy. Some costs you pay without thinking because you believe you have no choice. You pay the rent or the mortgage, for example, because bad things will happen if you don’t.

But you may have other options.

You might negotiate a lower rate. You might move to lower-cost digs. If you never consider these options, you might pay more than necessary. Over time, a lot more.

Decisions come with another hidden cost. The opportunity cost.

The opportunity cost is what you give up when you decide to buy or do one thing instead of another.

When you spend a dollar to buy something, that dollar cannot be spent on anything else. Similarly, when you spend an hour doing an activity, you can’t spend that hour on any other.

What you give up by doing one thing instead of another could eventually cost you a fortune.

An hour spent on a client file might bring you hundreds of dollars. That same hour spent on attracting a new client, however, might ultimately generate hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

Yes, you have to do the work. But don’t do it–or pay your rent–without considering the hidden costs.

How to get more traffic and build your list: click here

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Plan, do, review redux

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Success means different things to different people. And the definition changes. Your goals from three years ago might be very different today.

So today, review your goals and plans, to make sure you’re going where you want to go and you’re on track to getting there.

Here are some questions to ask:

  1. RESULTS: What does success look like for me? Imagine things five or ten years from now. What are you doing? Who are you doing it with? Big firm or small? How many clients? What type of cases? How much money? How much time?
  2. SKILLS: In order to achieve the results I want, what skills do I need to acquire or improve? Which tools do I need to acquire, upgrade or master? What books should I read? How should I continue my education?
  3. NICHES: Which niche markets should I target? What does my ideal client look like? What kinds of referral sources would be a good fit? What can I do to dominate my niche(s)?
  4. PEOPLE: What kinds of people should I associate with? Who do I want to meet, model, and work with? Who should I spend less time with?
  5. HABITS: What should I do more often? What should I stop doing or curtail? Which new habits should I acquire? How can I do them more consistently?
  6. SYSTEMS: What processes should I implement into my workflow? What checklists, forms, templates, and methods should I develop or adopt? How should I manage and track my tasks, projects, and goals?

Answering these questions will help you create a plan. Answering these questions again, at least annually, will help you evaluate your progress, correct course, and get where you want to go.

This will help you choose your niche market and ideal client

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How do you transition from lawyer to successful lawyer?

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Comes a question from a new-ish attorney who works for a firm in Kenya and wants to know how to transition from learning the law to applying what she’s learned and “thinking like a fee earner”?

It starts with acknowledging that practicing law is both a profession and a business and that you must wear both hats. Of course, that’s literally true when you go out on your own but its also true when you work for a firm because if you don’t bring in clients, you might find yourself replaced by someone who does.

It sounds like my Kenyan friend understands this. So, what’s the next step?

The next step is to educate yourself. Take classes, read books and blogs and newsletters on marketing and management. Learn something about sales. And work on your communication skills. Meet other lawyers who are one or two steps ahead of you and find out what they did to get there.

If you’re thinking about going out on your own, build a war chest. Save every penny so that if and when you make the leap you’ll have more staying power and more options.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for making the leap before you’re ready.

When I opened my own office I was hungry. Literally. I needed to bring in clients or I couldn’t pay for groceries. I had burned my boats behind me and to survive, I was forced to do anything and everything to bring in business.

Necessity is the mother (and father) of invention.

In retrospect, a lack of money wasn’t the biggest issue, nor was it a lack of experience. The number one challenge was a lack of contacts. So, if you do nothing else, focus on building a list of people who know, like, and trust you.

Do that and you’ll be golden.

Start your education with this

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