How much information is too much information?

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I’m outlining a new project. This one will be a freebie. Don’t worry, you’re on the list. You’ll get a copy. (Wait. You haven’t been naughty this year, have you?)

I’m using my notes from a live training I did years ago and re-purposing it. The original presentation had 12 topics. I cut that down to eight.

When I looked at my updated outline, however, I realized that eight topics are still too many. So I cut it down to three.

Three of the best. Three things every lawyer can use to bring in more business.

With only three subjects, it won’t take hours and hours to consume, or weeks for me to create.

But it’s still too long.

I want you to be able to consume this in less than an hour, so you can start using it.

So I cut it down to one.

One subject. One strategy. One lesson.

There are two parts to this lesson. They’re both valuable. But guess what? There’s still too much information.

So this morning, I put one part aside. With only one (half) lesson, I’ll have time to flesh out the subject and give you something you can use instead of just read.

If you read a lot of blogs and articles, you see that most of them fall into the category of a “round up”–a  collection of quick tips, ideas, or resources. They’re valuable but they rarely go into enough depth on any subject to allow readers to take action.

I want this to be different.

But hey, if you’re naughty, I might add back the other half of the lesson.

How to use your website to make your phone ring

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A simple way to stand out in a crowded field

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Look at the typical law firm website.

Boring, isn’t it?

The message is bland. Lacking in personality and energy. Devoid of passion.

It fails to get anyone excited about the solutions offered. Hell, it probably doesn’t even mention solutions (benefits), it probably does what most lawyers’ websites do–provide a list of practice areas and a few bon mots about the attorney.

It’s ineffective. It looks like every other firm’s website. And it is very easy to ignore.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Clients often decide to hire an attorney based on how they feel about them and they make up their minds in the first 60 seconds.

If you want to stand out and get people excited about working with you, you can start by adding a little pizzazz to your website.

Don’t go overboard. Keep it professional. Dignified. Manicured and tailored. But pump some blood into its veins and add some color to its cheeks.

  • Show people the positive side of what you do. Show them how your clients like working with you and are thrilled with the work you do for them.
  • Show them your personal side–your background, your side interests, family, and what you do for fun.
  • Show them the passion you bring to helping your clients–why you do what you do.
  • Show them how your partners and staff love what they do, that your firm is a great place to work.
  • Show them that while you might deal with serious subjects and painful problems, your practice is imbued with a positive spirit, and a productive and happy atmosphere.

Show prospective clients not just how you can help them but that you are passionate about helping them.

Make people feel good about you. Put a little life into your website (and other marketing collateral) and you should see more clients signing up.

You should also feel more excited about coming to work.

How to make your website work for you

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A law practice is like a jigsaw puzzle with no picture on it

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I saw a jigsaw puzzle once that had no picture on it. Just plain white pieces. It’s harder to assemble because there is no frame of reference, no clues about what goes where.

You can’t line up the man’s nose with his eyes and mouth or the windmill in front of the mountain.

A puzzle without a picture is more difficult to assemble but you can assemble it because you know there is a solution. You know the pieces fit together so you keep going until you figure it out.

Can’t say the same about a law practice.

What does a successful law practice look like? There is no picture. You don’t even know if there is a solution.

That’s why one of the smartest things you can do to build your practice is to find other lawyers who have done what you want to do and model them.

Associate with successful lawyers in your field, watch them, learn from them, emulate them.

Do what they did and you can get what they got. Or pretty close, especially if they are willing to help you.

Jim Rohn said, “If you want to be successful, study success.”

No, there is no cookie cutter. A law practice isn’t a franchise. There is no operation manual to follow.

But if they did it, you can do it. And, like assembling a puzzle, knowing there is a solution makes it more likely that you’ll find it.

Marketing legal services: The Formula

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How to finish what you start

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Yesterday, I said that when I flesh out a new project I usually leave the due date line blank. That’s because most of my work these days doesn’t have any deadlines.

When you have clients waiting on you, statutes of limitations and court rules to abide, deadlines are a fact of life. I’ve tried making up due dates. Usually, they don’t work. As Douglas Adams said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

Without a due date or penalty for not finishing projects, you may ask how I’m able to get things done.

The first thing I do is to always have several projects going at once. That way, when I’m bored with one or stuck on something, I switch to another. When I come back to the first project, things have usually sorted themselves out. If not, I’ve got others to choose from.

The second thing I do is break up my projects into small parts or next actions. This keeps me from getting overwhelmed by the immensity of what I’ve set out to do. I look at the next step or, at most, the next two or three, and get to work.

It feels good ticking off the boxes as I complete those tasks, which inspires me to carry on and do more.

I also tend to make the initial steps easy ones, to help me get started.

The third thing I do is to keep the big picture in mind. I think about the goal–what I’m seeking to accomplish and how exciting or gratifying it will be when I do it. When I find myself second-guessing myself or getting frustrated by a problem, remembering “why” helps me get back on track.

In sum, I think big but act small. Thinking big supplies the motivation. Acting small allows me to make progress.

Okay, one more. And this might actually be the most important.

I also give myself permission to give up.

I don’t feel guilty about not finishing everything I start or starting everything I’ve planned.

One of the perks of not having a client waiting on me.

How to get other lawyers to send you referrals

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How I set up a new project

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In sprucing up my Evernote account, I used the new “template” feature to create a new “Project Master Note” template. It helps me flesh out the bones of a new project.

For my first go at this, I used tables and color and channeled my inner designer to make it look pretty. Unfortunately, my inner designer died years ago and it was a hot mess. I went back to my “plain text” roots and now the template is lean (and boring) but functional.

The first line of the template says PROJECT. I give each project a name or title and sometimes a sub-title.

The second line says PURPOSE/OUTCOME. I describe what I want to accomplish and why it’s important.

Knowing the OUTCOME clarifies what I want to do. Knowing the PURPOSE helps me wade through all of my active or planned projects and prioritize what I want to work on today or this week.

The third line is for the due date. I usually leave this blank or write n/a, but sometimes there is a due date or at least a target date.

The fourth line heading is STATUS. This is followed by checkboxes for Idea, Planned, Active, On Hold, Cancelled and Completed.

Next is DESCRIPTION. I write a one or two sentence summary of what I plan to do.

Then, NOTES/BRAINSTORMING. I use bullet points to record ideas, problems, features, benefits, and other thoughts about the project.

The next line says NEXT ACTIONS. Under this heading, I use checkboxes to indicate what to do first, what to do after that, and so on.

Finally, RESOURCES. Here I put links to websites, other notes in Evernote, shortcuts to files and documents on my hard drive, and so on.

Between each of these sections is a horizontal rule to visually separate things.

Unlike my first go at this, my template takes up very little room and allows me to see everything with minimal scrolling.

I’ve used this for a couple of months and I’m happy with it. But like most things, it is a work in progress and will likely change.

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing (and why). How about you?

Do you use a new project template or master note? What do you include (and why)?

My ebook: Evernote for Lawyers

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Think (less) and grow rich

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You know that project you’ve been thinking about for the last six months? The book you said you were going to write–three years ago? That thing you keep talking about but never start?

Take some advice from someone who has been there and (not) done that: stop thinking and start doing.

Bruce Lee said, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

Truth.

You’re smart. A good thinker. Too good for your own good. It’s time to up your game and get some stuff done.

C’mon, you know you want to.

Don’t tell me you’re not ready. That’s irrelevant. Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.

You’ve taken enough notes. Done enough research. Pondered enough possibilities. It’s time to put pen to paper, shovel to dirt, hands on the helm, and get the ship moving.

It will be exciting. A new adventure. Scary, maybe, because you don’t know where you’ll wind up.

I’ll tell you where you’ll wind up. Same place as all of us. The big sleep, that’s where. “Don’t die with your music still in you,” Wayne Dyer said.

“What if it doesn’t work?” you ask. The question is, “What if it does?”

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How to start a conversation without sounding creepy

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I just read an article based on an interview with Terry Gross, the host of NPR’s “Fresh Air”. Over the last 40 years, she’s conducted thousands of interviews and offered her advice on the best way to start a conversation.

The only icebreaker you need, she said, is to say: “Tell me about yourself.”

She says “this is much more effective than the dreaded, “So what do you do?” because you don’t make any assumptions about the other person.”

She prefers her way because it, “. . . allows you to start a conversation without the fear that you’re going to inadvertently make someone uncomfortable or self-conscious. Posing a broad question lets people lead you to who they are.”

Naturally, I have a few thoughts about this.

First, if you know your audience and you’ve done your homework on the person you’re interviewing, you should be the one in the lead. If you leave it up to the interviewee, they’ll take you places you and your audience don’t necessarily want to go.

Second, making people a bit uncomfortable can lead to a more interesting interview.

Okay, this is coming from a lawyer, not the host of a cultural events show, so take it for what you will. But you know I’m right, don’t you?

Anyway, I picked up the article because I thought I’d learn a new way to start a conversation with a stranger, while networking for example. Something better than, “What do you do?”

Nope.

If a stranger comes up to me and says, “Tell me about yourself,” I’m pretty sure I’d be creeped out and say something like, “Why do you ask?” or “Who the hell are you?”

I have issues.

Seriously, if you want to start a conversation with a stranger, stick with what other people expect to hear and are prepared to respond to.

You can pick up on something you see or you heard them say. You can pay them a compliment, e.g., “I like your tie”. Or you can ask a simple question, e.g., “Have you heard this speaker before?”

Easy. Everyone’s comfortable.

Once you’ve broken the ice and you’re having a conversation, ask them “What do you do?” Because you want them to ask you what you do.

And, if you’re conducting an interview, for a podcast or video or because you’re writing a book, get my book, The Easy Way to Write a Book. You’ll learn some non-creepy ways to start the conversation and get to the good stuff.

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I feel good. I knew that I would, now

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Albert Schweitzer said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Actually, science says he’s right. By mapping the brain to identify dopamine production they found that pleasure results in greater productivity.

When you feel good about what you’re doing, you give it more energy. You work harder and get better results.

Are there exceptions? Sure. In the short term, you can make a lot of money doing something you detest. But it catches up with you in terms of poor health, failed relationships, and other negative consequences. So you wind up with money but you’re still not happy.

Why not start with happy and have both?

Stop looking at happiness as the end result or an added bonus and start seeing it as the pathway to success.

Most lawyers who aren’t happy suck it up and continue working until they have enough money, contacts, and ideas to retire or go with plan B.

Some make it. Some don’t.

How about this: If you don’t love what you’re doing, change something–your practice area, partner, job, or methods. Find different clients. Adopt different marketing strategies. Compartmentalize your work so can focus on the parts of your practice you enjoy and delegate or automate the rest.

Because success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.

Get more referrals so you can hire more help and let them do the things you don’t like

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What are your three things?

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“Perhaps the most important personal productivity tool ever discovered is what we call the “Law of Three.” This law says that 90% of all of your results and eventually, your income, come from only three of your daily activities.”

So says Brian Tracy in a post on his blog.

In 80/20 parlance, those three activities are your “vital few”–20% activities that deliver 80% of your results.

And they’re different for everyone.

Tracy used sales managers as an example. He says their three things are recruiting, training and managing.

So, what are your three things?

Of all the things you do in your practice, what three activities create the most value?

Focus on those three things. Do more of them, get better at them, and you should be able to increase your income at an accelerated rate.

You may also find that you can let go of a lot of things that aren’t your top three. This will give you more time (and energy) for your top three activities, allowing you to compound your results.

But don’t stop there.

Once you’ve done this exercise and found your three activities, do the same exercise for each of those three.

If one of your 20% activities is litigation, for example, identify the top three activities that make you better or more successful at it.

If one of your top three activities is marketing (and if it’s not, what’s up wit dat?), make a list of all of the marketing activities you do and from that list, choose your top three.

Which marketing activity brings in the most clients? Which produces your best clients? Which activity do you do best and want to do more?

Focus your marketing on those three things and consider letting go of or doing less of everything else.

You’ll thank me later.

One of my top three: client referrals

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How to finish what you start

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You know that business project you started last year and never finished? That great idea that had the potential to multiply your income or significantly change your life?

Yeah, me too.

We’re good at coming up with ideas and starting things, aren’t we? Why aren’t we good at finishing them?

Lots of reasons. Fear is a biggie.

But rather than psychoanalyze ourselves, we’re better served figuring out what to do about it.

How can we finish more of the things we start?

One of the best solutions I’ve found is to make sure you have some skin in the game.

Put your reputation or your money on the line so that you are compelled to finish. Let fear work for you instead of against you.

Investing a lot of money into a goal creates an emotional commitment to the goal. Your fear of losing your investment will push you to see it through.

Sign up for a class and get someone to take it with you. They’ll hold you accountable to show up when you might otherwise find excuses to quit.

Announce your project to your email list, friends, or colleagues, and promise to provide regular updates. When you find yourself slacking off, you’ll remember that you’re going to have to explain yourself and pick up the pace.

Projects are easy to start and just as easy to abandon. As Jim Rohn put it, “What’s easy to do is also easy to not do”.

Get some skin in the game and make it not so easy to not do.

A simple way to get a lot more referrals

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