Does your life need to go on a diet?

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It was just yesterday that you started practicing. Or so it may seem. The days whiz by, don’t they? Another day, another week, another month, another year, come and gone.

Where will you find the time to do everything?

The answer is to let go of things you don’t need to do or want to do but continue to do out of habit.

A good place to start is by reducing physical and digital clutter. Clean out closets and drawers, delete apps, and cut down on subscriptions.

To do your work, you need a calendar, a place for notes, a list of tasks and projects, a tool for writing, and a system for managing and storing documents.

You probably don’t need much more.

If you do, be judicious about what you add to the mix.

You want to reduce the noise around you and simplify your workflow. You want to focus on the “precious few” instead of the “trivial many”.

The goal is to be effective, with as little friction as possible.

To do that, you need to keep things as simple as possible.

The same goes for the information you consume. Be selective about what you read. Buy fewer books and courses, re-read and study the best ones.

You don’t need every idea; you need a few good ones.

Improve your note-taking skills and habits, so you can better use the information you consume.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens will show you what to do.

Read broadly but focus on your core skills: your practice area, marketing, writing, speaking, leadership, and productivity.

One thing you should add to your workflow if you’re not already doing it, or doing it consistently, is time for planning.

Spend ten minutes every afternoon planning the following day. Spend an hour each weekend planning the following week.

This habit will help you get the most value out of your limited time.

One more thing.

When you do your planning, make sure you schedule time to enjoy the life you’re building.

Because no matter what you do, the days and weeks will continue to whiz by and you don’t want to look back someday and wonder if it was all worth it.

The only course you need on email marketing

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If they say it, it must be true

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Clients pay for your advice but often don’t want to hear it.

They don’t want to hear bad news, expensive or painful solutions, or what they did wrong.

But hear it they must.

So, you have a choice. You can tell them what they need to hear or you can get them to tell themselves.

Because if you say it, they can doubt it and fight you or blame you; if they say it, it must be true.

So, you present the facts, the whys and wherefores, the options and risks, the process and costs, but hold back on telling them what to do.

Let them figure that out for themselves and tell you what they want to do.

Spanish philosopher Baltasar Gracian said, “When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see.”

Remind them what they told you they wanted (or didn’t want) and ask questions. Lots of questions.

Questions about what’s important to them, about what they would think or do if something happened (or didn’t), about what they would think and how they would feel.

Ask questions and repeat their answers back to them, so they can hear what they’ve said and how it sounds.

“What you’re saying is. . . is that right?” Keep doing that until they decide. Guide them, but don’t decide for them.

If they ask what you recommend, go over what they’ve told you they want/prefer/want to avoid, and let them respond.

Sometimes, they’ll ask, “What would you do in my situation?” or “What do you recommend?”

What should you do when they ask that?

What do you think you should do?

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No, I don’t want more clients

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Last week, I pontificated about the value of limiting the number of clients an attorney takes on to 10, because it allows them to earn more and work less.

I also said most attorneys won’t do it.

Some attorneys do, however. Appellate attorney Steve Emmert is one of them.

In response to my email, Steve wrote:

(Heh, heh!) I currently have fewer than ten files open. Most of them have seven-digit deltas, of course, so I can still make a living. But you’re absolutely right about this.

This week I took a call from an ad guy at SuperLawyers, in which I’ve been listed for several years, though I’ve never advertised with them. He asked if I’d like to have an extra three or four clients a month. I’m probably the only guy who’s ever told him, “No” in response to that question. I told him that I start getting nervous when I have more than about 12 files open, and three or four more a month would drown me. He really didn’t know what to say.

Who wouldn’t like to be able to tell a sales rep they don’t want any more business?

Steve also shared a story that illustrates the same idea in a different way:

Years ago I attended a brilliant presentation by a guy named Mark Powers, of the legal-consulting firm Atticus. He described his trip to a big firm for an in-house presentation. As soon as the introductions were complete, Powers said, “Now, the first thing I want each of you to do is double your hourly rates.” The ensuing uproar subsided just long enough for one of the partners to stammer, “But, but if we do that, we’ll lose half our clients!”

“Exactly!” a triumphant Powers replied with a smile. He explained to them that if they got the same amount of money for doing half the work, they’d have a better quality of life.

Point, set and match.

I’ve had discussions about raising fees with many attorneys over the years. When I do, I can almost always hear the wheels turning in their head as they wrestle with idea. Sadly, their desire usually loses out to their fear.

Not my friend Steve, however, who figured this out on his own.

I know this because I interviewed him and published a book based on that interview. In it, he shares the secrets to his success, or, as he might describe them, the methods to his madness.

How to Build a Successful Appellate Practice contains valuable practice-building and career-building advice for attorneys in any practice area.

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What if you could only have 10 clients?

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What would happen if you allowed yourself to have no more than 10 clients or 10 active cases at a time? Everyone else gets referred out or turned away. Or told they have to wait until you have an opening.

Because you only take 10 clients at a time.

I’ll tell you what would happen.

You would have more time to serve your clients, which would help you attract better clients and bigger cases. You would be able to charge more, have lower overhead, spend less time on admin and marketing, have more focus, less stress, and enjoy what you do.

In short, you’d earn more and work less.

That’s the theory, anyway. Is this practical? For most attorneys, no. Not without making a lot of changes they aren’t willing to make. So I’m not recommending this way of doing business to all attorneys.

I am recommending that all attorneys think about it, however, because this is the kind of thinking that can lead to some great ideas.

Ideas that can help you earn more and work less.

So. . .

What would you change about your practice if you adopted this rule? Which clients would you eliminate to make room for your 10?

What types of cases would you turn down? What would you change about your fees and retainers and billing? What expenses would you be able to eliminate or reduce?

What would you change about your work process? How would you make things easier, quicker, or more effective?

Let your mind run with this idea. Imagine what your practice (and personal life) would be like if you fully embraced the “no more than 10” rule.

You might get some ideas you can use immediately, or start working towards. Or gain valuable insights about what you’re doing well and what you need to improve.

After this exercise, you probably won’t go “all in” on the “no more than 10” rule. But you might.

Would you like to build a “100% referral” practice? Here’s how

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Lawyers usually don’t get punched in the face

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The other night I watched an old favorite, Hard Times, starring Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Strother Martin, and Jill Ireland. It takes place in Depression-era New Orleans when a stranger comes to town to earn some money with his fists.

There are some great fight scenes in the movie and if you’ve never seen it, or want to see it again, you can rent it on Amazon Prime.

I tried to find some parallels between the world of street-fighting and the world of lawyering, but I had to tap out.

We may have long hours and a lot of stress, we may lose a case or a client from time to time, but no matter how difficult things might get in our world, no matter how much we get “beat up,” we (usually) don’t get punched in the face.

We talk, we write, we argue, and we get paid. Usually, even if we lose.

In the fight world, you either win or you’re a bum. And no matter how good you are, no matter how many fights you win, someone eventually comes along who’s better and you’re back to being a bum.

Lawyers don’t have to be the best. Frankly, we don’t even have to be that good. We can have a nice career even if we’re just average.

How about marketing? Piece of cake. I never once had to deal with gangsters or loan sharks or had my life threatened in order to keep my doors open. How about you?

Nah, we’ve got it good. Let’s raise our glasses to making a fine career choice, shall we?

No matter how bad things get, after our fight, we can dance in the ring, grab the microphone from Mr. Cosell, recite a poem, and tell the world, “I’m still pretty”.

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Hard work is for suckers

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As kids, how many times did we hear about the value of hard work and self-discipline? How many times did we hear stories about parents or grandparents who sacrificed to make a better future for their family? How many times were we told that hard work is the path to a successful and virtuous life?

A lot.

We hear it a lot today, too.

Leaders, authors, speakers, clergy, and everyone else, it seems, who has something to say about our human condition, talks about the sin of laziness and the virtue of hard work.

But is it all true?

Yes, many people have achieved great things by putting their nose to the proverbial grindstone. But just as many seem to accomplish as much without breaking a sweat.

We all know people who are successful without working hard or forcing themselves to do things they hate doing.

Could it be as simple as choosing the right career or job or business? Our grandparents may have had limited career choices, but do we?

If we choose work we love, we don’t need self-discipline. We do what we do because we love doing it.

But it’s not always possible, is it? Surely the sanitation worker doesn’t love his or her job?

Maybe they do. Or maybe they love that they perform a function society depends on, they are (relatively) well-paid, and they don’t have to put in the hours their entrepreneurial neighbors do.

Hard work is okay, if you want to work hard. But doing things that come easily to us, that don’t require self-discipline or sacrifice, is okay, too.

And, if we can’t find work we love, perhaps we can find ways to do our work that don’t cause us stress or strain.

As attorneys, we might not love all our clients or all of the work we are asked to do. But we can always find something about what we do that we enjoy.

Even if it is the satisfaction of helping people solve difficult problems and earning a good living doing it.

Working smarter means you don’t have to work harder. Here’s how

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Easy is as easy does

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You’re a professional. You done this many times before. You know what to look for, what to ask, and what to do.

Let’s face it, most of the work you do is easy for you.

And you want it to be that way.

When your work is easy, you don’t have to think about it, you just do it.

You do it quickly, without second guessing yourself, making errors, or eating yourself up with stress. You get better results and happier clients, and you make a good living.

And that’s a good thing.

But you don’t want all of your work to be easy.

If things are too easy for you, you’ll get bored. You want at least some of your work to be moderately challenging, because that’s what keeps things interesting and allows you to grow.

Cases of first impression, opening new markets, new marketing initiatives, writing a book, hiring new staff, starting a new business or investment, things that take you out of your comfort zone–this is how you take your practice to a higher level.

And some of your time should be dedicated to that.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you”.

If you’re fresh out of ideas, write and publish something. Put yourself out there for the world to see.

It will get your juices flowing and could be your ticket to the next level.

How to grow your practice with a simple email newsletter

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Unsuck your marketing

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When I started practicing I hated marketing. Primarily because it didn’t work.

It didn’t work because I didn’t know what I was doing, I spent money I didn’t have, and everything I did seemed like a colossal waste of time.

It wasn’t fun.

I kept plugging away and eventually found a few things I was good at, notably, getting referrals.

I was able to build a big practice, primarily through referrals from my clients and (eventually) professional contacts.

That’s when I came to love marketing.

Marketing that worked, that is.

If your marketing isn’t working, don’t give up. There are things you can do.

First, consider fewer practice areas. Focus on one or two and let of everything else. Marketing is easier and more effective when you don’t have to compete with lawyers who specialize. (NB: you’ll get more referrals from lawyers when you don’t do what they do.)

Second, stop doing things that aren’t bringing in the kinds of cases or clients you want. Get rid of unprofitable strategies. Get rid of (or outsource) things you hate.

Try new ideas, or old ideas you did (poorly) a long time ago.

Maybe you wrote off networking but maybe you can reinvent yourself by marketing online. Maybe you’re a better writer than you think you are. Write something and find out.

Third, niche your marketing. If you’ve been trying to appeal to “anyone who needs my services,” try focusing on smaller segments of the market.

I did these things in my practice and it made all the difference.

The Attorney Marketing Formula can help

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Do you enjoy marketing?

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For many lawyers, marketing is something they have to do, so they do it. But they don’t like it.

If you’re among them, imagine what it would be like if you loved marketing and didn’t have to force yourself to do it.

You’d do more of it, wouldn’t you? You’d get better at it. You’d be able to do it more quickly. And you’d get better results.

Sound like a plan?

Okay, a few thoughts on how to make marketing your jam.

First, it’s okay to start by not enjoying it. It’s probably best not to hate it with every fiber of your being but it’s okay if it’s not your favorite thing.

Give yourself time to try different strategies and methods, learn the ropes, and experiment.

Start small. Write one email, call one business contact, get your feet wet and see how it feels. Can you see yourself doing more of this or that? Good. Keep doing it and see if you really can.

What comes natural to you? If you like to write, do that. If you don’t like speaking or networking, don’t do those.

If you don’t like anything, or you have more money than time, delegate or hire an outside firm, or advertise. And don’t forget, “internal marketing” (great client relations leading to repeat business and referrals) is marketing and it’s okay to focus on that.

Take notes about what you did and how you felt while you did it. What worked, what didn’t, what did you enjoy, what did you want to put up against a wall and murder?

Finally, take comfort in knowing that you don’t have to do everything or be great at anything. You need to find one thing you don’t hate and do it regularly. Eventually, as you get better at it (and see better results), it may become your bff.

The Attorney Marketing Formula is a good place to start

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Hate your law practice? Here are 7 ways to fix that

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Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to love what you do to be successful. You just can’t hate it.

If you hate what you do, every day is a burden. Not only does your work suffer, so does every other aspect of your life because our work is a big part of who we are.

If you’ve got the law practice blues, you don’t have to sit and suffer. You do have options:

(1) Increase your income

Yesterday’s post was about this very subject. No, money isn’t everything, but when you have enough of it, things tend to look a lot brighter.

When I started practicing, every month was a struggle to pay rent. I was in survival mode and really didn’t like what I was doing.

Everything changed when I finally started earning a good income and could focus on growth instead of survival.

(2) Reduce your work hours

Once I had money coming in regularly, I started looking for ways to work smarter, not harder. Eventually, I went from working 6 days a week to 3 days a week (about 5 hours per day).

I had a lot more time and energy to focus on marketing and growing my practice, and time for family and fun.

One thing I did was to document every aspect of my work process and create forms and checklists for everything. This allowed me to work more quickly and efficiently.

I also hired more help and delegated as much of the work as possible.

Other options: taking a partner, outsourcing, or associating with a firm.

(3) Change your practice areas

I started with a general practice but couldn’t keep up with everything. The day I decided to specialize and eliminate everything that wasn’t in my wheelhouse, was the day I was liberated.

I enjoyed the work I was doing and referred out everything else. Specializing attracted more clients and allowed me to get “good” in my field.

(4) Change your clients

You may like the work itself but if you don’t like your clients, “fire” them and replace them.

Choose a different target market. Re-define your ideal client. And get some people you enjoy working with. It can make a world of difference.

(5) Change your business model

Practicing law and running a law practice can be overwhelming. If you can’t keep up with everything, consider remodeling your practice.

Join a firm or merge with another firm. Hire more people or hire fewer. Go out on your own or go in-house.

There are other ways to use that sheepskin.

(6) Do something on the side

Start a side business. Invest. Write, paint, play music.

Do something you love and let your practice finance it.

When you find fulfillment after hours, you might see your practice in a more favorable light.

(7) Get out

If you’re still not happy, change your career. Start a business. Get a sales job. Write, consult, teach.

I know, you invested years building your legal career. Being a lawyer is part of your identity.

It may be hard to give that up, but if hate practicing, do yourself a favor and move on.

If you’d like to talk to someone who has done most of the above, hit me up and let’s talk.

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