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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Do your clients like you?

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The prevailing wisdom is that, “all things being equal, clients prefer to hire lawyers they know, like and trust.”

How do they know they’ll like a particular lawyer before they hire them?

They read reviews and testimonials that attest to the lawyer being “nice” or having a great personality or going out of their way to help them.

They get feedback from someone who referred said lawyer.

Or they size up the lawyer when they meet them networking, via a free consultation or by hearing them speak.

Sometimes, a client doesn’t do their homework, or is fooled by what others say, and they hire someone they don’t like. Or they get along with the lawyer in the beginning and something happens to change things.

They may stick with the lawyer out of convenience or because the lawyer is very good at their job, but. . . all things being equal, I’d rather have my clients like me, wouldn’t you?

There are things we can do to increase our likability. Becoming a better listener, for example, is a skill that can be learned and is an important factor in likability.

But sometimes, we tick all the boxes and some people still don’t like us.

It happens.

I’ve said things to clients I regretted saying, and apologized, but felt my words had tainted the relationship.

Sometimes, it’s just bad chemistry. Maybe you’re aggressive and they want someone who is gentle and understanding.

What can we do to improve our likability?

We can ask for feedback and conduct surveys, but clients may not be honest with us, or it might be too late.

We can ask our employees if they think the client is happy with us and if there’s anything we should work on, but they might be wrong.

We can self-assess. Think about our conversations with our clients, give ourselves a grade and make notes about ways to improve, but that might not be enough.

We can work ourselves. Read books and take courses on personal development and practice our interpersonal skills.

We should do all of these things, and more. We must be ever-vigilant and continually seek ways to keep our clients happy and make ourselves likable.

If we don’t, we’ll have to rely on our ability to consistently deliver good results and I don’t think any of us should take that for granted.

There are many ways to improve likability (and trustworthiness) detailed in The Attorney Marketing Formula.

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Who’s on your “hot list”?

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You have contacts you want to stay in touch with. Clients, former clients, referral sources, prospective clients, centers of influence in your niche, and so on.

When you first met them or connected with them, you may have scheduled follow-up dates and stayed in touch. But you got busy, you forgot about them, or you ran out of things to talk about.

What can you do?

First, create a “hot list” of no more than 30 people you want to focus on right now–your “Focus 30” list.

Schedule time each week to look at this list. Choose one or two people and contact them.

Call, write, message them. Ask about their business, their family, their health, their latest project or their next one.

Keep notes about them and your conversations and emails. Keep a list of their websites and social platforms so you can see what they’re up to.

Keep another list of generic ideas or conversation starters, questions you can ask anyone on your list, things you can offer, things you can tell them about or invite them to.

NB: When you regularly create new content you always have something new to tell people about or offer.

Keep your list up to date. Remove people who aren’t responsive and add new ones when you find them.

Give your personal attention to your “Focus 30” and stay in touch with everyone else via your newsletter.

Here’s how to do that

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On-boarding new clients

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Remember your first day of school? You were scared, you didn’t know anybody, and you didn’t know what was going to happen or what was expected of you.

You may have wanted to go home.

To some extent, your new clients feel the same way. They’re nervous about their case, they don’t know you, and they don’t know what’s going to happen.

Part of your job is to alleviate their fears and doubts and make them feel good about their decision to hire you.

You want them to understand what’s about to happen, what to expect from you, and what you expect from them. You want to equip them to work with you, to help you achieve a good outcome for them.

And you want to set the stage for repeat business and referrals.

You need an on-boarding checklist that spells out what you will do, and when, with links to forms, emails, and lists of things you need to do or tell the new client.

Things like:

  • Introduce yourself, your staff, and your partners
  • Learn about their family, their employees, their other advisers
  • Inquire about other possible legal issues
  • Provide information about their case–the law, the procedure, the timetable, and the process you follow
  • Answer their FAQs
  • Orient them to the tools and processes you use to communicate with your clients (and ask them which apps or methods they prefer)
  • Give them a “tour” of your office and/or a virtual tour of your website and the resources available to them
  • Educate them about “what else” you do, ie., other services, practice areas
  • Provide reports, referral cards, etc., they can hand out
  • Provide exemplars of positive reviews you’ve received and links to sites where they can leave one if they’re happy with your work
  • Give them homework, to get them involved in the process
  • Send a thank you note, a welcome gift, and add their birthday to your card list

Your checklist should encompass what you will say and do at their first appointment and thereafter.

Your clients are your most valuable asset. A checklist can ensure you continue to invest in them.

How to create “referral devices” that bring in new business

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What to do when a client complains

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It happens. Someone is unhappy about something. Often, that means that other clients are unhappy about the same issue, they’re just not telling you.

They just leave. Or don’t hire you again.

But you want your clients to tell you about their complaints. Why?

  • So you can fix the problem and avoid giving other clients the same bad experience.
  • So you can keep unhappy clients from telling the world about their bad experience with you on social media, et. al.
  • So you can assess weaknesses in your systems and improve them.
  • So you can build a reputation for listening to your clients and caring about them enough to respond to their needs and concerns.

Getting a complaint from a client also gives you the opportunity to turn that client into a fan.

Studies show that many of the most loyal clients (and sources of referrals) come from clients who previously had a complaint that the attorney addressed to their satisfaction.

So, you want clients to come to you if they have an issue with anything. Encourage them to do that. Provide forms they can fill out. Let them respond anonymously if they prefer.

And, when you get a complaint:

  1. Listen to it; don’t argue or become defensive.
  2. Thank the client for calling the problem to your attention.
  3. Fix it.
  4. Apologize and promise it won’t happen again.
  5. Tell them what you will do/have done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  6. Consider offering something extra to “make it up to them”
  7. Thank them again for telling you and giving you the opportunity to make things right.
  8. Contact them again and make sure everything is okay.

You don’t have to hire expensive consultants to advise you on improving client relations. Your clients will tell you everything you need to know.

How to quickly grow a big(ger) practice

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