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4 words that helped me pass the bar exam

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In law school, as we learned how to ‘think like a lawyer,’ we learned the importance of being able to look at both sides of an issue and argue either one. On exams, that’s precisely what we did.

On exams, I routinely used a four-word expression to transition from one side to the other: “On the other hand”.

No doubt, you did too.

We need to remember those four words when crafting (or signing off on) a marketing message (presentation, ad, conversation, etc.) directed to prospective clients.

Prospective clients know there are alternatives to hiring you. When you acknowledge this, you gain trust. You don’t look like a salesperson, you look like an advisor.

So you might say, “Here are your options:”

  1. “You could do nothing. That may work out if. .  On the other hand. . .”
  2. “You might wait and see if X happens. If it does, you should be okay. If it doesn’t. . .”
  3. “You could handle it yourself (e.g., write a letter, talk to the other lawyer). But, you’re taking the risk of [bad things that could happen])”
  4. “Or, you could let me handle this for you. Here’s what I’ll do. . .”

Given these options, most prospective clients will make the decision that’s best for them, which is usually the one that’s best for you.

How to get more repeat business and referrals

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Start with no

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Whenever you consider taking on a new project your default decision should always be “no”. You have enough on your plate. You need to focus on the things you’ve already decided are a priority in your life. Anything that would distract you from those priorities should be turned down.

You might change your mind tomorrow or even later today. A no can become a yes but the project has to earn it.

You have to see the value of diverting resources to take on something new. What will it cost? What will you have to give up or delay? Why should you do this instead of what you had already planned to do next?

Okay, you get it. You probably already do this to some extent. But do you also do it when someone else asks you for something?

When someone asks for a favor, your time, a donation, or anything else, your default answer should also be no, although you might not want to say that out loud.

Their request might be easy to fulfill. You may want to do it. Still, pause for a moment and consider what you’ve been asked and give yourself the option to turn it down.

Don’t be a Scrooge. But do reflect on what you might have to give up or delay if you say yes.

It’s about putting yourself first. Valuing your time and resources and not giving them away willy-nilly. Protect your time, protect your health, protect your fortune.

If you don’t take care of yourself, eventually you won’t be able to help others. And the more you take care of yourself, the more you will be able to help others.

Take care of your clients and they’ll send you referrals

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Are you bludgeoning prospective clients?

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I saw this headline yesterday: “5 Privacy Apps You Need to Install IMMEDIATELY”. I wondered what would happen if I didn’t install all 5 apps immediately. Or ever.

I didn’t install any of them. I didn’t even read the article.

What I can say, I like living dangerously.

Actually, I get “imperative fatigue” with all the articles and posts and emails mandating what I need to buy, do, or read.

32 must-have extensions, 27 must-see websites, 21 essential books to read right now. . .

Enough. I can’t keep up. I don’t want to keep up.

If this kinda thing annoys you like it does me, if your eyes glaze over when everyone tells you all the bad things that will happen if you don’t fall into lockstep with everyone else, if you find yourself avoiding articles like these, well, guess what? Your clients do, too.

So don’t do this to them.

In your marketing, presentations, and conversations, don’t smother them with too many problems, too many options, or too many things they MUST do (immediately), OR ELSE.

They’ll shut down. Stop listening to anything you say.

Slow your roll. Be different. Instead of clubbing them over the head, seduce them.

When everyone else tries to force-feed them a complete meal, give them a tasty appetizer. Instead of showing them your entire menu, talk to them about one of your signature dishes.

Invite them to take a bite and see what they think. If they like it, you can show them the rest of your menu.

In marketing, your number one task is getting the prospective client’s attention. Because if they don’t read what you wrote or listen to what you said, they’ll never become a regular at your restaurant.

Marketing made simple

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Say what?

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You may have heard the pejorative term “hairography”. According to the Urban Dictionary, this is “choreography using a lot of dance movement with the head that causes the hair to thrash about.” Basically, it’s done to disguise a lack of dancing skills.

Sadly, some lawyers do something similar when they hide behind big words and legalese.

I call it “lexography”.

I have to admit, as a fledgling attorney, I spoke the lingua franca. My letters and pleadings sounded like they were written in another century. Formal, stilted, passive voice, and boring.

I didn’t want to be seen as lacking experience in the arcane world of the fraternity I had recently joined. I wanted to sound like a lawyer and I thought that’s what I had to do.

I even did it with clients. I was young (and looked it) and I wanted to sound like a grown up.

It all ended quickly. I hated the way I sounded, and it was too much work to keep up, so I said, “the hell with it” and I stopped.

What a relief!

I spoke plainly. Simple words. Colloquial expressions. Cliches.

I used short sentences.

Like this.

Nobody complained or looked down on me. Nobody refused to hire me because I sounded inexperienced or unprofessional.

So, if you’re new to this club, or you (still) have issues with “sounding like a lawyer,” let it go.

I get a lot of email from lawyers. Some lawyers (lawyers!) can’t communicate a cogent thought to save their life.

Seriously. I can’t understand them.

C’mon, people. We are word merchants, you and I. We get paid to communicate. We need to be on top of our game. Better than good. Clear, concise, and persuasive.

You don’t need to be eloquent but if writing doesn’t come naturally to you, do what you have to do to get better. Take classes, get an editor, read outside your field.

Get a writing “workout partner”. Get lots of practice. And most of all, have fun with it. You’ll be glad you did. So will your clients.

How to write a “special report” that brings in clients

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Why you should zig when everyone else zags

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You really don’t want to stand out, do you? You’ve heard the reasoning behind it and you get it, but if you have a choice, you’d rather blend in with all the other guys and gals who do this legal thing.

You want to be left alone to do your work. You don’t want people to pay attention to all your typos and blemishes and weird ideas.

And yet, you must. You must put yourself “out there”. You must take the risk.

If you don’t give people reasons to notice you, remember you, and hire you (instead of any other lawyer), you shouldn’t be surprised when nobody does.

So, baby steps. Start with something easy. It almost doesn’t matter what it is so long as its different from what most lawyers do.

I’ll give you one. Email. When every other lawyer (and other professional) sends fancy newsletters, with pretty pictures, stylish formatting and modern layouts, do the opposite.

Plain text.

Go on, I dare you. It is a very simple way to stand out.

Plain, ugly, mono-type. The plainer the better. Like I do. Your newsletter won’t look like everyone else’s. It won’t look like something you bought from a company. It won’t look like a commercial product.

It will look like an email. Which is why it will stand out. And why it gets read.

Make your email look like a personal communication, not an ad. It’s an easy way to stand out and build a relationship with the people on your list.

You do know how to write an email, don’t you? You just put your lips together and. . . okay, nevermind. We’ll talk about that another time.

Need ideas for your newsletter? Get them here

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You’ve got to make people feel something

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We’re good with facts, you and I. We’re good at explaining the facts and helping people understand what they mean.

That’s important, but marketing requires a different skill.

To get people to hire you, send you business, share your content, sign up for your list, or do anything else you want, you can’t rely on just giving them the facts.

You’ve got to make them feel something.

Make them feel safe, understood, appreciated, or cared for. Talk about the relief they will feel when they hire you and the pain they will feel if they don’t.

You’ve heard the expression, “Facts tell, but stories sell”? Stories sell because they touch people’s emotions. That’s why you tell people about clients who didn’t listen (and got hurt), and about clients who did and got saved.

But don’t ignore the facts. People “buy” for emotional reasons, and justify their purchases based on logic. When you quote a big fee, for example, and tell the prospect what might happen if they don’t take action, you should also show them how they will save money in the long run by taking care of the problem now, before it gets worse.

In your next article or post, or the next time to speak with a prospective client, if you’re telling them to do something you know to be in their best interest, make sure you include an emotional appeal.

If you don’t, and they get hurt, it’s your fault, not theirs. If you do, and they get saved, you’re a hero.

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Make sure they can see what you’re saying

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I heard a podcast this morning that featured a financial advisor being interviewed about his productivity habits. He had some good information to share but I couldn’t follow all of it because he spoke in the abstract.

He would make a point and, while I was processing it and thinking about how I might apply it, he was off to another point. He didn’t explain what he meant or tell us how he applied it in his practice, which would help me to see how I could apply it to mine.

As I listened to him make a point, I said more than once (and probably out loud), “give us an example!” But examples didn’t come.

The interviewer should have asked questions to clarify what the guest meant and help listeners to “see” what he meant. I’m not sure why he didn’t do that.

Whenever you communicate–whether you’re being interviewed, conducting a webinar, writing an article, or talking to a prospective client–your job isn’t just to present information, it is to help people understand what you mean and how they can use this information.

When you make a point, illustrate it with one or more examples.

For example, (see what I did there), if you write an article about comparative liability, after you quote the code section and/or some case law, you should then illustrate what the law means by relating a fact pattern or two, either hypothetical or from actual cases.

Examples help translate what you’re saying so that your audience can see what you’re saying.

You can also help your audience understand and remember your message by explaining it in other ways. Say, “What that means is. . .” and then explain it a different way.

If you’re speaking with someone directly, their questions will often tell you if they understand. If you’re not sure, offer to explain further or provide additional examples.

For presentations and articles and the like, put the work product aside for a couple of days or a few hours and come back to it with fresh eyes. Or, have someone else read it and edit it or point out areas where you could be clearer.

I know you know this and you probably do it most of the time. But it couldn’t hurt to stop and assess your communications, to make sure you are being as clear as you mean to be.

Clearly explain to clients the kinds of clients you want and you will get more referrals

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A critical marketing skill

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Marketing requires a number of skills. One of the most important and valuable is the skill of being able to look at things the way prospective clients and others do.

Most people could use a little practice in this area.

This morning, on my walk, I saw a sign pointing to an open house. The name of the agent was on the sign, along with her phone number. I noticed that the phone number had a 714 area code, whereas the open house, where I am, is in the 949 area code.

I’m pretty sure the agent doesn’t live in the 714 area. It’s too far. My guess is that the agent used to live in 714 but moved here and kept her number. A lot of people do.

Another possibility is that the property is a “one-off” listing she’s handling in my area.

Here’s the thing.

When prospective clients, buyers or sellers, see her 714 number, some of them might think, even on a subconscious level, that she’s not the best agent for the job because she’s not local.

That’s just silly, isn’t it? Most people won’t even notice the area code. Most of those who do notice won’t care.

But some will, and instead of putting aside their doubts (or asking her about it), they’ll go with another agent.

This won’t happen often. It really won’t. But if it only happens once every other year and you factor in the loss of repeat sales and referrals, over the next ten years she could lose a bundle.

I may sound a bit nutty for thinking this, but if you don’t at least think about how people might interpret your actions and messages, you’re not thinking like a marketer.

Nutty people buy and sell houses. And hire attorneys.

It’s important to consider things like this. As you create marketing documents, update your website, talk to referral sources and prospective clients, speak, write, email, or do anything else to communicate with the world, before you click the send button or open your mouth, take a moment to do a “safety check”.

Think about how people might interpret your message. Think about the words you use and the context where your message will appear. Consider the details and nuances.

Because if you don’t, somebody else will.

Make your website great again

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Different vs. better

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You often hear me urge you to tell prospective clients (et. al.) how you are “better or different” from other lawyers who do what you do.

What’s the difference?

“Better” means that you deliver more value or better results. It might also mean that you give your clients better service–making them more comfortable with you and the process.

And it might also mean that you do things for them that go beyond the core services you are hired to deliver. An example might be your reputation for helping clients find other professionals, vendors, or business connections, for matters unrelated to the legal work you’re doing for them.

Okay, what about “different”?

Different often means you do what you do in ways other lawyers don’t do it. You conduct the first interview personally, for example, instead of having a staff member do it. Or you make house calls. In communicating with your market, your job is to translate how your differences are  “better” for the client.

Being different is also a way to stand out in a crowded market. You might always wear purple neckties, for example; that’s different, not better, of course. But if people remember you via your signature color, you’ll have more opportunities to talk to prospective clients and show them how you are better.

Look for ways to differentiate yourself from other lawyers. Show them how you are better. If you aren’t better, be different. You do that by being yourself.

Ultimately, most clients aren’t going to hire you because you offer dramatically better legal services than other lawyers. They’ll hire you because of you.

How to earn more without working more: the formula

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It’s not about how much you know or how good you are at what you do

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Education marketing is about showing your market what they need to know about their legal issues and the available solutions. It’s about teaching them the benefits of taking action and the risks of delay.

That’s why you create content and deliver it to your target market. But if that’s all you do, you’re not doing enough.

Effective content isn’t about showing people how much you know. It’s not about showing them how good you are at what you do. It’s not about those things because effective marketing isn’t about you, it’s about your audience.

Your articles, posts, and presentations need to map what you know and what you do to the fears and desires, wants and needs of the people consuming your content.

Think about your ideal client. What keeps them up at night? What are they worried about? What do they fear might happen?

What keeps them going during the day? What are they working to achieve? What makes their sacrifices worthwhile?

Once you know what makes them tick, show them how you can help them get what they want.

You do that by speaking to them, not at them.

Engage them. Show them that you truly understand their situation–their problems, their pain, their desires–either because you’ve been in their shoes before or because you’ve worked with and helped people in that situation.

Tell stories about your clients and former clients who are like them. Describe their background, occupation, and legal situation. Use the terminology common to their industry or market. Use quotes from people they recognize.

Turn up the heat and acknowledge your reader’s pain. Dramatize their problems and warn them, in no uncertain terms, of what might happen if they don’t take action or they make the wrong decision.

Wake them up and shake them up and tell them what to do to get relief.

Don’t deliver a white paper, sell them on taking the next step. Because you can’t help anyone until they do.

How to write a report that gets prospective clients to call you

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