I’ve got a legal problem and I need your advice

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A man contacted me with a legal problem. He explained what had happened and asked, “What should I do?”

I said, “You should get our your checkbook and write me a big fat check with lots of zeros in it. In fact, empty your bank account. I’m good at what I do, my advice is extremely valuable, and I don’t work for free. So pay up, bub, or get lost and never darken my doorstep again.”

And then I woke up.

I think it was my subconscious mind reminding me to be nice, explain prospective clients’ options, tell them your policy regarding fees and retainers, and ask them what they wanted to do.

Damn subconscious. What, did it graduate from a seminary? Work for the state bar? Talk to my wife?

I was thinking about this and wondering why I ever bothered to go to law school. I’m not cut out for being nice to people. What was I thinking?

And then I woke up. I realized I wasn’t a lawyer after all, I was having a nightmare about the last few decades and none of it was true.

What a relief. Being a lawyer is hard. You have to talk to people and do things for them and you don’t earn anywhere near what most people think. Law school is a scam!

Can you guess what happened next? Yep, I woke up. Realized it wasn’t a dream, I was an attorney, and I had an email to write and send you. So I got busy and wrote down what you just read.

The point? The point is it’s Friday, most of us didn’t lose our home to a Cat 5 hurricane, we don’t live in Venezuela or North Korea, we have our health, people who love us, work we care about, (and the ability to change anything if we want to), and we all need to lighten up. Have some fun with this thing before it’s over.

My challenge to you: write a semi-silly email (that actually makes a point) and send it to your clients and prospects. Make stuff up. Pretend it’s April Fool’s Day. Write something you would never otherwise write, just to see who’s out there and who’s paying attention.

I promise you, it will be a lot of fun. Especially if you actually send it.

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I love it when a plan comes together

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Yesterday, I poked you in the eye and dared you to write an email newsletter to your clients and prospects, or if you already do that, to do it more.

Gordon Firemark practices in Los Angeles and is a long time subscriber and friend. He told me what he does email-wise and kindly agreed to let me share it with you:

Hi David,

Just to add to what you’ve said about emails… Often the challenge for people is not knowing where to start… So having “framework” set up in advance makes it much easier.

Here’s what I do for my weekly newsletter emails.

1. Something “this week” related or personal. (i.e., “This day in legal history”, Trivia, etc.) ( This typically takes a quick google search if I don’t already have something in mind.)

2. Something “curated” – “I read this blog post about ___ and thought you should know about it…” (just bookmark it when I see it during the week)

4. Something I have created or made (video, podcast episode, blog post, or a downloadable checklist, worksheet, etc.) ( which allows me to segment the list based on who downloads what materials) (this is the heavy lifting, but I’m doing it pretty regularly. If not, I do a throwback to something I did last year, or whatever)

5. Some kind of OFFER: “Call for a consultation about [trademark registration|forming a corporation|collaboration agreement] etc.]” “Sign up for Xyz”

6. And a quick personal-feeling sign-off: “enjoy the weekend.. I’m going to the ___ film festival, what are you up to?”

And done. 6-8 paragraphs that almost write themselves. And I’ve got an appointment on my calendar each week that’s set-aside for creating this.

Easy as pie. (and if I’m coming up short on one of these once in a while, I just omit it)

I always try to ask a question that gets them to respond to me… (like I’m doing now), since the engagement improves relationships. My favorite: “What are you struggling with about XYZ these days? What problem can I help you solve?”

Here’s last week’s as an example: https://ckarchive.com/b/mvu7h5hq98od

This went out to a few thousand people on my list. I got dozens of responses to the questions about struggles (valuable data)… 5 unsubscribes, and 3 booked appointments for trademark consultation, which I predict will lead to about $5000 in business. (about half of that already in hand) Not bad.

Thanks for all you do.

-Gordon

So, there you go. Email newsletters work. And if you use a “framework” like Gordon does, you’ll have an easier time of it.

Or you can do like I do, fart out some words and click “send”. Whatever floats your boat.

Anyway, I hope this inspires you to start a newsletter and most of all, to have some fun with it.

Because if it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.

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Forget pretty. Forget brilliant. Just fart out some words.

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When was the last time you sent an email to your list? No, not to a client about a specific case, I mean an email you send to all clients and former clients and prospective clients, staying in touch, sharing information, reminding them that you’re still in business.

Yeah, like a newsletter.

Too much time? Look, if you can’t invest 30 minutes a week for marketing, I can’t help you.

Too much effort? Me thinks not. You write every day. A little more writing won’t kill you.

Nah, there are only two reasons why you’re not doing this. The first is that you’re not sure it will be worth it. Will you really get more business? (Don’t tell me you’re practice is different. It’s not.) Anyway, the only way to resolve this debate is to try it.

What if it does work? What if you’re able to bring in several new clients each month just from writing emails once a week?

The other reason why you don’t commit to writing a newsletter is that you’re scared. What if you inadvertently say something that offends someone? What if your clients say you’re emailing too often? What if you make a sincere effort and it doesn’t work?

Get over it.

Seriously. You owe it to yourself to start or restart a simple email “newsletter” to stay in touch with the people who pay your bills and can send you referrals. You owe it to yourself to see how effective this is for building your practice.

Look, marketing doesn’t get any simpler than this. Once a week you email a few paragraphs to people you know. You share some information, a story, a resource, or anything else that strikes your fancy, and you don’t worry about making it perfect.

If it helps, don’t call it a newsletter. It’s just an email.

Yes, I know I talk about this a lot. Nag, nag, nag. I’m your annoying little brother, right? But you know why I do it, don’t you? And deep down, you know I’m right.

Learn how to start your newsletter 

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Wanna know my secret?

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A subscriber sent an email recently, praising my newsletter. I share it with you because it reveals my “secret” for building readership, fans, and clients.

See if you can spot the secret:


David

Thank you for your newsletter.

Yours is one of the few newsletters that I read everyday!!!

It always adds value and it is not always hyping the latest greatest webinar or makes me watch a 5-minute video to find out if I am even interested (which means I usually DONT watch the video).

I like how you provide value in a time efficient manner but also include a link for more information.

To me, this positions you as a more credible expert who gets someone’s interest by providing value so the person wants to learn more.

If I have to jump through a lot of hoops (aka watch a bunch of LONG videos) then I will probably never do it.

By the way, I have bought several of your publications and books.

Have a great day!!

He also forwarded an email he got as an example of what he doesn’t like. It was a freak show of graphics, hype, and obnoxious calls to action. A melange of “yuck”. (It was also unclear what they were even selling).

If you compare that mess with my emails, you’ll know that my secret isn’t really a secret at all.

It’s not that my emails are plain text emails instead of a “pretty” HTML newsletter, although that’s part of it. It’s not that I’m not “in your face” with aggressive sales pitches and hype and zero value. It’s not that I just say what I want to say instead of forcing you to go watch videos.

It’s not any of those things, it’s all of them. And more.

It’s the subject matter of the emails. I share ideas that can help you increase your income, be more productive, and make your day a little less stressful and a little more fun.

It’s the stories I tell, often based on personal experience, which illustrate my points and provide a glimpse into me, the person, and not just me, the attorney.

It’s my informality and (lame) humor. You may not laugh but you won’t fall asleep.

It’s that I write “to” you, not “at” you. Just the two of us, having a chat.

And it’s the brevity of the messages. In a few minutes, you get a dose of something to think about or something to do. I give homework, but it’s not overwhelming.

The secret is that I write what I would want to read. And because I was in your shoes for many years, I know what you want to read.

So there you have it. Write to your clients and prospects what you would want to read. You know them, so give them what they want.

Keep it short. Keep it real. Keep it simple. And have some fun with it.

If you do, your clients will look forward to hearing from you, praise you, and buy everything you sell.

Here’s how to use email to build your practice

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What if I’m right?

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I get it. The two reasons you don’t have an email newsletter or blog or, if you do, you don’t write or post very often:

You don’t have enough to write about, and/or, you don’t have the time to do it.

I say you do. I say you have plenty to write about, way more than you realize, and you have more than enough time to do it.

Give me a chance to prove it.

Set up a new notebook or file for this email/blog project, open a page and label it “ideas”. If you have any that come to mind, write them down. If you have other files with blog post or content ideas you’ve collected, add them to your new file.

Go through your hard drive, reading list, saved article files, and do the same.

Next, write down the questions prospective clients and new clients typically ask you–about the law, procedure or process, about their legal rights and options, about what you can do to help them.

You should be able to quickly write down ten or twenty questions.

If you find yourself running short, visit some online forums where people post questions for attorneys to answer, and see what’s being asked.

You can also visit article directories, other attorney’s blogs, and websites that feature legal content and see what visitors are asking in the comments. You can search your keywords on social media and see what people are talking about.

Okay, that’s enough for now. More than enough, actually. You should now have enough ideas to keep you busy for the next several years.

Will you have the time to use those ideas? Let’s find out.

Go through your idea list and pick one. It doesn’t matter what it is, just pick something you have an opinion on or experience with, or something that interests you that you think might interest others.

Now, write down three words or phrases related to that idea.

If you’re a personal injury attorney and you’ve chosen to write a response to the question, “How much is my case worth?” your three words might be, “damages, liability, and insurance,” for example.

Next, take your idea and your key words, set a timer for five minutes and start writing. You can type or use a pen or dictate but don’t stop writing (or talking) until the five minutes is up.

Don’t edit, don’t worry about grammar or punctuation, don’t slow down or stop. Just keep pushing your pen or pounding the keys.

For. Five. Whole. Minutes.

I don’t care how busy you are, you can write for five minutes.

When you’re done, you probably learned that

  • You have a lot to say about certain subjects
  • You can get a lot of words on a page in five minutes
  • You wind up with a mess but it’s not as bad as you thought

At least that’s what I found out the first time I did this exercise.

You now have the first draft of an email or blog post or article. Put it aside and re-write or edit it later. When you’re done, you should have a few hundred words, enough for a blog post or email.

Then, tomorrow, or next week at this time, do it again. Pick another idea, write down three words, write for five minutes, edit later.

Continue doing this until you have at least ten posts or emails.

Now it’s time to decide what to do with them.

You could start a blog. You’ll have ten weeks (or days) worth of material to post.

You could start a newsletter. You’ll have ten emails to load into your autoresponder.

Or you can gather up what you’ve written and turn them into an ebook or report.

The point is, you now know you can do this. You can write something in 30 minutes or less, including editing. (Okay, it might take longer at first but you’ll get faster.)

The only remaining question is, “Should you?” Will it be worth it for you to write something once or twice a week and post or email it? Will it bring in business?

There’s only one way to find out.

For more ideas, and more ways to get ideas, get this

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Small but tasty morsels versus a huge buffet

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As I’ve mentioned, I’m a beta tester for a plain text writing app under development. The app still has a way to go, but I’m excited about its future.

I don’t use the app every day, however. I’m using another new plain text app which is further along in the development curve. In fact, I’m using it right now to write this post.

The two apps approach releases differently. With the first app, months go by with no news and then we get a big update.

The second app provides small updates almost every week.

When I get notified that the next update is available, I get excited. Even though the updates are usually minor, I can’t wait to download the app and try it out.

But this isn’t about writing apps or software development. It’s about the psychological effect of frequent updates and why you should use them to connect with your clients and contacts.

Don’t save up all your news and information and send a big newsletter once or twice a year, as many lawyers do. Send shorter messages more often.

A few paragraphs is all you need. Mention the new article on your website. Offer a legal tip. Talk about an interesting case or client. Recommend a book, website, or app.

Say something interesting or entertaining and your clients will look forward to hearing from you.

No, they probably won’t get as excited about your news as I get about updates to writing apps. But whatever level of interest they have will be enhanced by hearing from you often instead of once in awhile.

How to get more clients online

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Your future clients are only a click away

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Justin is an attorney in Australia and a long-time subscriber and client of yours truly. In response to yesterday’s post (about doing less so you can do more of what’s important), Justin wrote:

Love this – so many blogs and “success” tips out there but I always read yours and delete virtually all the others.

You are spot on! Big fan of DW over here.

Thank you, Justin. Mission accomplished.

When it comes to legal marketing, I’m Justin’s “one and only”. He reads me and no one else. What does that mean? It means that when Justin needs help with marketing his practice, the odds are he’ll look to me.

Imagine that happening to you. Imagine that you are the only lawyer your subscribers read.

When they need legal help, do you think they’re going to go to a search engine, drag out the yellow pages, or rifle through a drawer looking for the business card of a lawyer they met at a party three years ago? Do you think they’ll ask their friends if they know a good lawyer who does what you do?

Or do you think they’ll simply check their email, find your number, and call?

How about referrals? If someone asks them if they know a lawyer who does what you do, who do you think they’ll recommend?

You. Because they know, like, and trust you. They may have never spoken to you but they have a relationship with you.

So, how do you get there? How do you become their one and only, or at least one of the few?

By delivering value. Helpful information, presented in an interesting and/or entertaining way.

And doing it frequently. Emailing often, keeping your name in front of them, reminding them about what you do and how you can help them.

The people on your email list are the future of your practice. You owe it to yourself to stay in touch with them and email is the simplest way to do that.

To learn how to do it, go here

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Thinking like a lawyer? Fine. Just don’t write like one

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Stop. Really, just stop. Stop writing like a lawyer when you communicate with your clients and prospects. You cannot bore anyone into hiring you or sending you referrals.

And let’s face it, most legal writing is boring, even to other lawyers.

Write the way you must in your briefs, motions, and memoranda. Shovel in the prophylactic latinate phrases and legal terms of art in your contracts, leases, and trusts. Write the way lawyers write when you’re being a lawyer.

Just don’t do it in your emails or newsletter.

I know it can be difficult to switch roles. But if you want to attract business, you have to know when to put the law dictionary back on the shelf.

It takes practice. It takes a fair amount of re-writing. Having someone edit your early drafts is a good idea.

But you can do it.

Actually, it’s easier than you think.

You already know what to do. “Write like you talk” and “Imagine you’re speaking to a client sitting in the office” will get you most of the way there.

The hard part? Letting go. Unclenching your sphincter muscles because your brain is telling you that writing naturally and informally isn’t professional.

The solution? A stiff drink.

Hemmingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober”. You probably shouldn’t follow that advice literally, but you can do the next best thing by giving yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.

Write quickly. Pour it out. Let your fingers fly. Get it down on paper any way it wants to come out and don’t give it another thought because nobody is going to see your first draft.

The first draft is just for you.

Write every day. You will get better, and quicker. Eventually, you’ll be able to flip a mental switch and instantly turn off the legal draftsman and turn on the communicator.

You need both, of course. You need the lawyer to do the work, of course. But you need the communicator to bring in the work.

How to use your communication skills to get more referrals

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I dare you to take my marketing challenge

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I’ve got a marketing challenge for you and it will only take five minutes. I want to prove something to you, or rather, I want you to prove something to yourself.

I want you to see that you really do have time for marketing and that it’s a lot easier than you thought.

With me? Great. Let’s get started.

Yes, right now. As soon as you’re done reading this. Because “right now” is the best time to do just about anything.

Okay, grab a pen or open a new page or tab. I want you to write something. And remember, it’s only five minutes so no excuses about being busy.

I want you to write a note to your former clients. In your note, I want you to simply say hello.

You might say, “I wanted to send you a quick note to say hi and see how you’re doing”. Or, “I haven’t talked to you in awhile and wanted to check in and see what you’re up to.” Or wish them a happy and successful new year.

Nothing brilliant. Just touching base.

If you want, you can add a line or two of news about your practice (e.g., mention your new office, new employee, new website, etc.), or share some personal news (e.g., your daughter got married, your son just got accepted to law school, etc.)

But no selling. No promoting. Nothing serious. Just saying hi.

A few lines. Write quickly. Write without stopping.

Five minutes and done. Ready, set, go.

There, that wasn’t difficult was it? (If you haven’t done it yet, go ahead and do it now. C’mon on, I’ll wait. . .)

Now what? Now, put your note in an email and send it. That’s it. That’s all you have to do.

Tomorrow, or maybe even later today, you’re going to see what happens.

I’ll let you find out for yourself what that is but I’m pretty sure you’re going to like what happens.

Will you take my challenge? It’s just five minutes, unless you don’t have an email list of your former clients, in which case you’ll need to take care of that, first. And trust me, you’ll want to do that because once you see what happens with your first email, you’ll definitely want to email again.

Let me know what happens so I can say, “I told you”.

Everything you always wanted to know about email marketing (but were afraid to ask)

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How often do you do it?

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I heard from a subscriber who told me he does it twice a month and wants to do it weekly but his wife thinks this is too often.

I’m talking about email, of course. What were you thinking I was talking about?

He sends his clients and former clients an email (newsletter) every two weeks and wants to bump this up to weekly. His wife thinks that his subscribers will “get annoyed by that many emails and start tuning them out.”

His wife is right. If he increases the frequency of his emails, some clients will be annoyed. Some will stop reading them. Some will complain. Some will ask to be removed from the list. But none of this is necessarily a bad thing.

If your subscribers don’t enjoy reading your emails, you don’t want them as subscribers. You don’t want to cater to the lowest common denominator. You want to build a list of fans.

If your emails are interesting, entertaining, and otherwise valuable, most of your subscribers will look forward to them, read them, and act on them. And it’s those people who matter because they are the ones who will hire you (again), send you referrals, and otherwise help you build your practice.

Sending emails to clients and former clients is about strengthening your relationship with them. Yes, it’s also about keeping your name in front of them, but you need quality, not just quantity.

Just like in the bedroom.

If you are delivering emails that people want to read, you can write every week or every day. If you’re up to it, you can even write several times a day.

Just like in the bedroom.

On the other hand, if your emails are boring and lack value, if you fail to please your subscribers, it won’t matter how often you email, your emails aren’t going to get the job done. Yep, just like in the bedroom.

Once a week is not too often. It just isn’t. Try it, and see for yourself. You will get people asking to be taken off your list but you will also get people thinking you for your words of wisdom, your valuable information, and your wit. They will look forward to hearing from you.

Don’t worry about the ones who don’t. It’s better to have a list of 100 people who love you than 10,000 people who are relatively indifferent.

I used to email once a week and I was nervous about what might happen if I starting emailing daily. (I also wasn’t sure I could keep up with that schedule). But I did it and I’m glad I did.

Is it different if you’re writing to lawyers or to “regular folks,” i.e., clients? No. If anything, busy lawyers would seem to be less tolerant of more frequent emails. But (most of) my subscribers read and like my emails because I deliver value.

Tell your subscribers (in your emails and on your website) how often they can expect to hear from you and remind them that they can opt out at any time. And then have at it.

If you’re still not sure, or if your wife is nervous about how often you want to “do it,” conduct an experiment. Continue emailing clients and former clients on your current schedule but email more frequently to prospective clients. When you see good things happening, you can have another talk with your wife.

Get good at building an email list and using it to build your practice

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