Do your clients know how smart you are?

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My accountant and I recently started using a shared Dropbox folder to exchange documents. I spoke to him the other day about a bunch of things and when we were done, I asked if he wants me to keep everything in that folder, or could I remove them.

Some things I want to put elsewhere. Some things I want to trash.

He said I could do anything I wanted with those documents, they’re all copies.

One reason I asked is that every year he sends me an inch-thick booklet of “literature” to read, information about changes in tax law, recommended record-keeping practices, and various strategies for reducing taxes.

It’s a lot to read and I’m sure it’s very good but I usually don’t read it.

I always assumed it was canned material, purchased from a service that sells research and recommendations to CPAs to send to their clients. Something he and a thousand other CPAs stick in the envelope (or dropbox folder) they send to clients each year.

Boilerplate. Generic. Boring.

But I was wrong. He told me he writes all of it.

I was impressed (and told him so) and embarrassed that, at best, I only skimmed his good work.

My fault for assuming. His fault for not letting me know he wrote it.

Had I known that, I would have read (some of) it and probably found something I could use. At the very least, I would have been even more impressed at how smart he is and how hard he works for his clients.

So that’s my message to you. If you write or record something, send it to your clients and prospects, even if it’s not completely applicable to their case or situation. And make sure they know you wrote it.

You want them to know that you’re smart, good at your job, and work hard for your clients. You want them to feel good about choosing you as their attorney.

Pretty sure you want that too.

How to write a newsletter that brings in more business

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What could you improve?

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The other day I stopped at a light. On the corner, a building was under construction and I saw a tradesman poised on a beam, doing something with a piece of lumbar. I couldn’t tell what he was doing but I could tell he was doing it purposefully and carefully.

Like he wanted to do it right.

No doubt he’s proud of his work, I thought, and wants to do a good job so he’ll be hired again.

And because he knows his work will be scrutinized by a building inspector.

That’s when I thought about you.

You do your best work because you are a professional and you’re proud of what you do. Like the contractor, you have a client who expects and deserves your best work.

Your client is interested in the results you obtain for him, and wants to know he got his money’s worth, but he won’t “inspect” your work like a building inspector.

So it comes down to you.

From time to time, you might ask yourself a question: “If my work was inspected by the bar, by my insurance carrier, or by another attorney my client hired to get a second opinion, what would they conclude?”

Did I cut any corners? Omit steps? Make mistakes?

A little introspection is good for the soul, and the pocketbook.

But don’t stop there. Don’t focus solely on avoiding mistakes, consider ways to improve what you do well.

At the end of each case or engagement, examine the steps you took and the order in which you took them. Do you see a way to improve your process? To do a better job or get the work done more quickly? To make it easier for you to do that work for the next client?

While you’re at it, examine how you treated the client. Did you make them feel appreciated? Did you make them feel like you gave them their money’s worth?

Ask yourself questions like these and take notes. Write down what you did well and what you could improve.

Because you are your own building inspector. And you don’t want to merely be up to code, you want to be the best you can be.

Ready to take a Quantum Leap in the growth of your practice? This will show you how

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The most important element in marketing legal services

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What’s the most important thing in your marketing?

Trust.

Whether it’s with client relations, nurturing prospects, building relationships with professional contacts or building your reputation in your niche market or community, trust is everything.

Because without it, nothing else matters.

People may know and like you, but if they don’t trust you, they’re not going to hire you, refer you, or help you.

Yes, it is that simple.

How do you create trust? Start by keeping your promises.

Show up on time, call when you said you would call, deliver your work product or updates on schedule.

Do what you said you would do, and what reasonable people would expect you to do.

Another way to build trust is by being consistent.

Consistent quality, for example, shows people you’re a professional and can be counted on to get the job done.

Consistently showing up in their inbox is another way to build trust. Especially when you consistently deliver relevant, valuable content.

Your content shows people you know what you’re doing and have helped other people with the same or similar issues.

It shows people that many others have trusted you, suggesting that they can trust you, too.

Consistently showing up in their inbox also reminds people that you’re still “in business,” ready to help them when they need you or know someone who does.

Contrast that to the lawyer who writes once in a while, or doesn’t write at all.

Yes, building trust is simple. But it’s also easy to mess up.

So don’t do that.

Do what you said you would do and do it consistently.

More ways to build trust: here

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How to say no without coming off as a jerk

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Your inboxes and ears are filled with requests from clients, friends, family, co-workers, subscribers, people in your social network, and others who want something from you but can’t or won’t hire you.

How do you say no without feeling guilty or appearing to be a jerk?

First, make sure you’re clear about your areas of responsibility, so you can focus on what and who are important. If building stronger relationships with your clients is important to you, giving a client 30 or 60 minutes of your time without charge might be a very good use of your time.

Second, do what you can to manage the expectations of the people in your life. Your new client kit or welcome letter should spell out things like how you bill, when you will respond to calls or emails, and what to do in case of emergency (and what constitutes one).

Make sure your website has answers to FAQs and tell visitors you can’t respond to every comment or request.

If you have partners or work on projects with other people, clarify who handles what, deadlines, and other agreed standards.

Third, understand that you don’t have to respond to every request. You can (and should) ignore spam, and just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

If you feel the need to respond, do it in a way that validates the other person but makes it clear that you can’t drop everything to give them what they want. Respond with one or two sentences, to let them know you’re not ignoring them, but don’t lead them to believe there’s more to come.

Fourth, tell them “not now” instead of no. Tell them you need more information or time to think about what they’re asking, or you’re not sure when you’ll be able to do it because of your other commitments. They may find other ways to get what they need, or realize they no longer need it.

Finally, when you turn someone down, do what you can to direct them to another person or resource that might help. Refer them to another lawyer, give them a website or two, or a book you recommend.

The key is to make people feel that while you can’t help them, you heard them and support them and invite them to contact you again.

How to get your website to bring in more business

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My lawyer is a poophead

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Ah, the joy of getting a bad review. And by joy, I mean blood-boiling anger and massive regret that you ever met, let alone helped that ingrate of a client.

You worked your assimus maximus off for them and they tell the world you’re mean or incompetent or didn’t deliver what you promised.

Hold my beer. 

A negative review isn’t always the kiss of death, but it’s clearly not good for business.

Do you ignore it? Post an apology? Call the client and try to make amends?

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do. Your only hope is that the one stinker gets buried on the page by a legion of positive reviews. (So make sure you encourage your happy clients to post a review).

But often, there is something you can do about a bad review and it pays to consider your options.

How to Effectively Address Client Reviews offers advice on handling critical reviews, and what to do with good ones.

My advice? Whatever you do, cool your jets before you write or say anything. And that beer you asked someone to hold for you? Drink it after you respond, not before.

For lawyers: The Quantum Leap Marketing System

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Do your clients have kids?

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Many attorneys are transactional. They get a case or client, do the work, get paid, and wait for the next case or client to show up.

They wait for their clients and prospects to contact them if they have another matter, a question, or know someone who might need help.

These attorneys know they do good work and expect that this is enough to get repeat business and referrals.

Often it is. But not often enough.

Lawyers who aren’t protectively building a relationship with their clients are missing the boat.

You need to get to know your clients as individuals, not just an entry on a ledger. Find out what they do when they’re not being a client. Find out where they went to school. Find out about their work and their personal life.

Get to know them and the people they know. You might find you have some mutual contacts, or get yourself introduced to some new ones.

Find out the names of their kids so you can ask about them by name.

Have you ever had a client leave, and you didn’t know why? Or find out a client had a referral but didn’t tell you? Or a client had a possible case but didn’t contact you because “they didn’t want to bother you”?

That happens when you don’t know your clients and they don’t know you.

When you know your clients and they know you, they’ll tell you when they have a new legal issue, a question, or a referral. They’ll tell you when you’re doing things right, so you can do more of that. They’ll tell you when they’re unhappy about something you said or did, so you can fix it.

Your clients are your partners in the future of your practice. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.

How to use a newsletter to stay in touch with your clients

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If I put someone on hold, I’ll get back to them in 30 seconds or less

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Have you ever used a service like IFTTT.COM (“If this, then this”) to automate digital functions? For example, “If I tag an Evernote note with #dropbox, save a copy of that note to Dropbox”.

Anyway, some of the “recipes” are quite handy. If you’re not familiar with the site, check it out.

Also consider how you can do something similar with non-digital processes. A series of “If/Then” formulas for you or your office procedures manual.

Examples regarding the phone:

  • “If I answer the phone, I’ll say ‘Good Morning/Afternoon, Law Offices'”
  • “If the phone rings, I’ll answer it in 3 rings or less”.
  • “If I need to put someone on hold, I’ll ask them if it’s okay first”
  • “If I put someone on hold, I’ll get back to them in 30 seconds or less”.
  • “If a prospective client calls, I’ll ask them where they heard about me (us)”.
  • “If I take a message/need to call someone back, I’ll give them a day/time window and ask if that’s okay for them”

These statements serve as agreements with ourselves that when certain conditions are met, we will do certain things, or do them in a certain pre-determined way.

By thinking these through and writing them down, we train ourselves (and our staff) to provide a consistent level of “customer service”.

We can also use “If/then” statements to improve our productivity.

For example, “If I’m recording a video, I’ll review my “video checklist” before I begin.”

We can use “If/then” agreements for any area of life:

  • “If it’s a weekday, I’ll exercise for at least 20 minutes”
  • “If I’m going to the ABC market, I’ll fill up my gas tank at Chevron on the way”
  • “If it’s raining, I’ll ask delivery services to ring the doorbell when they arrive [so they don’t leave the package to get wet”

Simple, but effective, albeit a bit Adrian Monk-ish.

Try them. You’ll thank me later.

One more: “If I liked this post, I’ll share it with a lawyer friend”

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Who’s on your ‘top 30’ list?

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Some clients are better than others. They give you more business, send more referrals, and otherwise contribute more than other clients to your bottom line and your success.

The same goes for professional contacts. Some send more referrals, promote your offers, and help you build your list of contacts and subscribers.

I encourage you to go through your list(s) and write down the names of your best clients and professional contacts.

Then, cut this down to 30 names. Your top 30.

Call it ‘My Top 30’ list or ‘My inner circle’. And keep that list in front of you.

These are the people in your professional life with whom you should connect most often and most deeply. Call them, write to them, talk to them, spend time with them, because they contribute the most to your success.

And what we focus on, grows.

Your ‘top 30’ should get more access to you, extra favors from you, more of your time and attention.

Do something special for them. Schedule “call-in days” where they can ask you anything. Give them extra content and/or early access to content. Give them special offers, introduce them to your other contacts, and otherwise make them feel valued and appreciated.

Because, I’m sure, they are.

What if someone “drops out”? They close their business, retire, stop hiring you or sending you referrals? Put them on another list and give their “spot” to someone else.

Your “inner circle” should max out at 30 people because, if you’re doing it right, that’s about all you’ll have time for.

Nurture your inner circle. Take care of them. Because they take care of you.

Do you use Evernote? Get my ebook, “Evernote for Lawyers”

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Thank you (and a challenge)

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Thank you for being a loyal reader of my blog and newsletter and for everything else you do.

Thank for your comments and questions. They help make me better at what I do.

Thank you for your reviews and testimonials. They show other lawyers that “this stuff really works” and encourage them to take a chance on me.

Thank you for sharing my content with colleagues. It helps me build my list and my business.

Thank you for buying my books and courses and hiring me to coach or consult you. Your support helps me continue to do what I do.

So, thank you. I appreciate you and want you to know that.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m sure you’re telling your clients and others that you appreciate them. Most people don’t say thank you, and when you do, don’t for a minute think it goes unnoticed.

Which leads to my challenge:

Send a “thank you” email to someone every day.

Send a thank you to a new client. You probably already did that; do it again.

Send a thank you to a fellow professional for sending you an article or for sharing your article with their clients.

Send a thank you to a prospective client for considering you as their attorney.

Send a thank you to someone who referred someone to you, even if they didn’t hire you.

Send an email to opposing counsel, thanking them for making your job a little less miserable.

Send a thank you to a personal friend, for being your friend.

Put “thank you” on your daily calendar, to remind yourself to thank someone for something. Train yourself to look for reasons to tell someone you appreciate them.

What will happen when you do?

You’ll make someone feel good about what they’ve done, and about themselves, making it more likely they’ll do it again.

You’ll feel good about yourself for remembering to shine a light on someone’s good deed or ongoing support.

You’ll stand out in a world where most people don’t say thank you, or don’t say it enough.

Imagine waking up, opening your email and waiting inside was a message from someone telling you how much they appreciate you. Imagine what you’ll think about that person.

Make a daily “thank you” email your new habit. You may be surprised by how much it improves your career and your relationships.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Client relations starts before the client hires you

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Everyone touts the importance of excellent client relations, aka “customer service”. And rightly so. 

Making our clients feel appreciated, minding our manners, giving clients more value than they expect, being fair and honest in our fees and billing, keeping clients informed–this is how we build trust, get good reviews, and generate repeat business and referrals. 

We build our reputation and a loyal client following by the way we treat our clients, at least as much as by the outcomes we deliver. And we generally do a good job of it.

But we can do better. 

Because it’s not just how you treat a client after they come to see you, it’s the entirety of the client experience, which begins before you ever speak with them. 

When someone refers a prospective client to you, what do they tell them about you? 

When a prospective client watches your video, reads your article or blog post, or hears you speak, what does your content and delivery tell them about your abilities and experience?

When they visit your website, what do they learn about your services, your experience, and what it will be like to have you as their attorney?

When someone subscribes to your list, what do you send them, tell them, and offer them, and what does that say to them about you?

And when someone contacts you, to ask a question or schedule an appointment, what are they asked, what are they told, and how do you make them feel?

Because your success depends on how you make people feel–about their case or issue and about you.

A successful legal career isn’t a series of transactions so much as a journey, and how many people you can bring with you. 

And that journey begins well before the client’s first appointment, and continues long after their last one.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System for Lawyers

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