Tooting your horn when your horn needs tooting

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When you win a big case, get an award, or achieve an important milestone, don’t keep it a secret.

Tell people about that great testimonial or endorsement you received. Tell people about the results you obtained for a client.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel.

Tell you clients and prospects about your accomplishments, because they want to know they are dealing with a lawyer who knows what they’re doing. It validates their decision to hire you or send you referrals, or tips the balance in your favor if they haven’t yet taken that step.

Share your good news, especially if it suggests you’re growing–your new hires, new offices, new clients, new services or new practice areas.

When you write a (new) book, start a video channel, update your website, start a newsletter, or get invited to speak at a prestigious event, let everyone know.

It’s not bragging if it’s true.

And if it’s true, it can help you.

On the other hand, while your clients and business contacts like knowing they work with a lawyer who is smarter than the average bear, nobody really cares that much.

It’s nice, but they’re a lot more concerned about themselves.

So, toot your horn when your horn needs tooting, but don’t lay on the horn.

Because that can get annoying. Maybe even make some people jealous.

How much is too much tooting? I’d focus mostly on the big stuff, the stuff that moves the needle, and the stuff that directly benefits your clients and contacts.

Tell them about cases you win that make new law or receive a lot of press. Tell them about your new office, your new services, or the new content on your website.

But don’t ignore the review you got from a client who thanked you for being so supportive and working hard to help them. Or the new software you installed that makes things easier for you and your clients.

And when you toot, make sure you look good doing it.

Be brief, say you’re honored or thrilled, thank the people who need to be thanked, and move on.

Toot well, my friend.

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The quickest way to build your authority

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Many people assume that because you are an attorney you know what you’re doing. You’ve got a license, you’ve been vetted, you don’t have anything to prove.

Clearly, not everyone feels that way.

Your colleagues, sophisticated clients who want to hire the best of the best, business leaders who can send you referrals, promote you, and open doors for you, usually want to see more.

If you want them to see you as an authority, you can’t rely solely on your license.

To build your authority and achieve “expert” status, you typically need to do the kinds of things experts do–write for authoritative publications, speak to important groups, get invited to corporate boards, and represent top-tier clients.

You start by writing and posting authoritative information on your blog or website, along with success stories of clients you’ve helped.

You write guest articles and posts for blogs and newsletter in your target market.

You get interviewed by smaller publications, podcasts and channels, building your speaking skills, making new connections, and driving additional traffic to your website.

You teach CLE courses, serve as an arbitrator or mediator, join authoritative organizations, do charitable work and volunteer for their committees, and build your contacts and your bio.

And you use your existing contacts to meet other professionals and centers of influence in your niche, building strong relationships with key people who can help you get to the next level.

You can do these things, and you should, but it can take years for these things to bear fruit and, well, you’re in a hurry.

There is something you can do, right now, to dramatically speed up the process.

You can write a book.

Experts write books. You can, too.

You don’t have to wait years to become qualified to do it, or to be asked to do it, You can write it and self-publish it in the next few weeks.

Your book will position you as an authority. (An “author” is, by definition, an “authority”.) People will hire you and refer you and invite you to speak and write and join their group or cause because you wrote a book and other attorneys didn’t.

Writing a book is the quickest way to build your authority, and a smart way to build your practice or career.

Once you’ve written your book, promote it. Give it away, send it to everyone you know and everyone you want to know. Make sure your clients have copies for themselves and to give to friends, offer it to prospective clients, bloggers, editors, meeting planners, and influential people in your niche.

When you talk to someone who wants to know what you do and how you can help them, their clients, or their readers or listeners, stop talking and send them a copy of your book. Your book will tell them everything they need to know.

What to say when someone asks, “What do you do?”

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Marketing legal services, James Bond style

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I recently wrote about the need to look and sound the way prospective clients expect an attorney to look and sound, and at the same time, appear different from other attorneys.

It’s a paradox, and a challenge.

Another challenge in the marketing realm is displaying the right posture.

On the one hand, you want prospective clients to know you want their business. You’re ready to help them, you promise to work hard for them, and you hope they choose you as their attorney.

At the same time, you want them to know that while you want their business, you don’t need their business. You’d love to work with them and help them but it’s fine if they choose someone else.

Thus, the paradox.

The message is that you are extremely busy because you are very good at what you do. Anyone who gets you as their attorney is fortunate.

If you were a restaurant instead of a law office, people would see a parking lot filled with cars and a line outside the door, waiting to get in.

Because you’ve got the best food in town.

In marketing, you want to be like James Bond–calm, cool, collected. Someone everyone wants because they know you will get the job done.

Bond never chased the girl but he always got the girl.

Be like Bond. Let the girl know you want her but make her come to you.

How to get more referrals

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Is it okay to tell a client, “I don’t know”?

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When we prep a client for a statement or depo we tell them it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”. It’s safe. A way to keep them from guessing or lying and getting caught.

If you don’t know, you don’t know, so that’s what you should say.

But what if it’s something they should know? Won’t they look bad if they say they don’t?

Sometimes they will.

If the question is, “Where were you seated in the vehicle?” yes. They will look bad if they say they don’t know.

You sign ’em up and you take yo chances.

But what about us? Lawyers who have clients (and spouses) who ask us questions we should be able to answer. Is it okay to tell them you don’t know?

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not.

When a client asks, “How much is my case worth?” you better not give them an answer that doesn’t include the words “it depends.” On the other hand, if your spouse asks, “Do you love me” you damn well better have a different answer. And, for the record, if your spouses asks, “How much did you have to drink?” you probably don’t want to say you don’t recall.

But those are easy. What about difficult questions?

When a client asks you about the law, is it okay to say you don’t know? Should you offer an ambiguous “it depends” type of answer, tell them you’re not sure, or admit you don’t have a clue?

If you admit you don’t know something you should know, doesn’t that show weakness?

It’s certainly a good way to show the client you respect them and aren’t trying to bluff your way through an answer. It’s refreshing to hear an attorney provide a straight answer for a change, isn’t it?

Yeah, I know, it depends.

If you don’t know the answer, and you don’t know if you should admit that, I’d suggest going with, “I need to do more research.”

On the other hand, speaking from experience, I can tell you that’s not a good answer when your wife asks you (anything).

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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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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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Trust me, I’m a lawyer

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If people don’t trust you, they won’t hire you. At first, they may give you the benefit of the doubt, especially if you were referred to them, but that trust can be lost in a heartbeat.

My wife used a referral service she likes to have some roofers come out for an inspection. First one, great. On time, friendly, plain spoken. He showed her photos of some minor issues that need work and gave her an estimate. She liked what he said and he’s in the running.

Yesterday, the second one showed up (from the same referral service), but there was a problem. He couldn’t get up on the roof.

It seems he had a short, fold-up ladder, which he transported in the trunk of his car, and it wouldn’t reach. When my wife asked why he didn’t bring a longer ladder, he explained that he would need to drive a truck and the gas would be too expensive.

Yikes.

He said he could send someone with the truck later in the week. Right, after experiencing this guy’s bewildering lack of preparedness, we’ll sit around waiting for one of his guys to show up.

Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.

If you’re in a competitive field, where clients talk to more than one lawyer before making their choice, consider that prospective clients aren’t looking for a reason to hire you so much as a reason to disqualify you.

It doesn’t take much for them to do that.

If you are unprepared, if you squawk about your costs of doing business, if you say or do anything that says “unprofessional,” that’s it. You’re off the list.

And anything can knock you off that list.

Someone doesn’t like your photo on your website because you look mean, or there is no photo so they can’t look at your eyes, or you didn’t call them back right away, or you yawned on the phone and sounded like you didn’t care.

Anything.

Am I saying you have to meet certain minimum standards to even be in the running? Yes. Getting the basics right only gets you in the game. If you want to get the job, you have to do even more.

Yes, it’s hard. You have to be ever vigilant and pay attention to detail. When you are in a service business or a profession, it’s not just the quality of your work or the results you deliver that count, it’s the entire client experience.

Which begins with trust.

Want more referrals? Do a 30-Day Referral Blitz

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I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. Demille

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“Zoom Gloom” is causing a dramatic rise in plastic surgery. People are getting face lifts, Botox treatments, and other procedures, because they don’t like the way they look on camera.

“Noses and wrinkles seem to be the most common complaints generated by this phenomenon, which the experts have dubbed ‘Zoom Dysmorphia'”

Hey, I’m not crazy about seeing myself on camera, but aren’t there other things we can do besides surgery?

Many articles and videos show how to position our camera and adjust our lighting for a more flattering look. The right lighting can hide wrinkles and blemishes and even out skin tones.

A better camera might help.

More ideas:

  • Makeup that suits your skin tones, especially under harsh light
  • A different hair cut, style, or color
  • A tan
  • Teeth whitening
  • Losing weight (or gaining it) as appropriate
  • Different eye glass frames
  • Different clothing (style, color)
  • Drinking more water (just not before you go live!)

For many of us, just getting more sleep can make a big difference.

We all want to look our best. These are some thoughts about how to do that without going under the knife or needle.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, here’s the infamous scene. If you’d like a good laugh, check out one of Carol Burnett’s Nora Desmond parodies.

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3 ways to position yourself as an expert

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If you want to stand out in your field and attract more and better clients, being an attorney isn’t enough.

There are too many of us and we all look alike.

The good news is that it isn’t especially difficult to help the world see you as an expert in your field or niche.

Here are 3 ways to do that:

  1. Specialize.

Prospective clients and the people who refer them prefer lawyers who specialize. They see specialists as having more knowledge and experience, greater capabilities. They see less risk in hiring you or referring clients to you versus other attorneys. And, specialists can charge more than attorneys who don’t specialize.

You can specialize in your practice area and in the types of clients or cases you represent.

  1. Educate the market.

Make sure your website provides lots of information about your field–issues, problems, risks, time lines, and available solutions, especially the ones you provide.

Write about your target market’s world–news about their industry or local market, prominent people in that market, and other matters that would interest the people in your niche.

Tell people why you’re different or better than other attorneys in your field.

Continue to educate the market via articles you publish on authority sites, in your presentations, in interviews, and in your newsletter.

  1. Social proof.

Your bio should confirm your authority status. It should cite articles by or about you, note your speaking engagements, describe awards you’ve received, and detail other distinctions–e.g., Judge Pro Tem, Arbitrator, clerkships, CLE classes, former industry jobs, etc.

Other forms of social proof include testimonials, client reviews, and endorsements by influential people.

It also helps to network with other authorities.

Finally, if you wrote a book, mention this–everywhere. Authors are, by definition, authorities. And if you haven’t written a book, start. Not only can it build your authority, it can also attract a lot of prospective clients to your door.

For more ways to assert your authority and build your reputation, see The Attorney Marketing Formula.

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Haters gonna hate

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Surprise: not everyone loves you. Truth be told, many people don’t like you at all.

Because you’re a lawyer.

And they don’t like lawyers. Never have, never will.

They think we’re corrupt. We lie, cheat, and steal as a matter of course. We’re greedy. We think we’re better than them.

Lawyers are evil. End of story.

And then there our clients. The ones who think we failed them or overcharged them or were mean to them. The ones who leave bad reviews, file complaints against us, and tell everyone they know to avoid us.

Yes, we’re in a tough business. Clients with stressful legal situations, a society that needs a scapegoat to blame for its ills, and, let’s face it–we’re not cheap.

So it’s easy to blame us and be jealous of us.

We shouldn’t be surprised when people talk bad about us or about our profession.

Because that’s never going to stop.

What can we do? We can ignore the haters. Don’t let their vitriol seep into your psyche.

Ignore them and focus on the people who appreciate you.

Many of your clients love you. They know you care about them and work hard for them. They trust you and will come back to you when they need you. They will tell their friends good things about you.

Focus on them.

And remember, when the haters need you, when their liberty or dignity or bank account is on the line, they’re going to call you and pay what you ask.

Because they need you.

Also remember that the best clients don’t begrudge what you earn. The best clients know you’re worth every penny.

You solve problems for them and help them achieve their goals and they gladly pay you to do that.

The best clients want their lawyers to be well-paid.

If you’d like to get more of those types of clients, then check out my video course on using leverage to grow your practice.

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