Clean up on aisle nine

Share

I’m cleaning up my filing system. Why? Because I’ve got too many digital files (and duplicates thereof), in too many folders, on too many hard drives and in too many cloud accounts.

It’s a mess and I’m in the process of cleaning it up.

The first step is to move everything into one digital pile, to eliminate duplicates and see what I’ve got.

(I still have some paper docs which I’ll scan and upload later.)

I’m using Google Drive but you can use any cloud service, a local drive, or both (i.e., to back up your backups).

My new system reflects the different roles or areas of focus in my life and consists of these top-level folders:

Personal, Business One, Business Two, and Miscellaneous. I also have an Inbox.

Each of the top level folders has sub-folders related to different areas of my work or personal life, or different steps in my workflow.

There are many ways to organize sub-folders:

  • Category
  • Date
  • People (Clients, Partners, Family, etc.)
  • Cases
  • Steps/stages
  • Type of media
  • Projects
  • Subject/topic

I’ll use different organizational structures for different areas of my life and for different projects.

As for file-naming, I plan to be specific but not too specific because it would take too much time to maintain this and because each file will enjoy the context of the folder(s) that house it, meaning I’ll have clues as to what something is by where it is filed.

When I’m done, I plan to add shortcuts to “frequently accessed files” on my desktop (Quick Access menu), and/or by adding a star in Google Drive.

And then, I’m going to re-organize my notes (in Evernote, etc.) with a similar setup.

This is a work in progress and I’m open to ideas. What does your file system look like?

Share

Do you have a Zoom headache?

Share

I heard from a friend who has been on one too many Zoom “conference calls” lately and is feeling overwhelmed.

These calls or chats take up a lot of time, time she could use to build her business.

And, she didn’t mention this, but I suspect there are times when she would rather not have to dress up or “put on her face” to get on a call.

I’m sure she’s not alone.

The worst part, however, is that these calls are so impersonal.

Many people thrive on meeting people in person, one-on-one and in groups. This was the norm for my friend before and I know that not being able to do this now makes here a bit. . . sad.

For a lot of people, this new way of doing business has become tiresome and they would like things to go back to “normal”.

What can we do?

For now, if you’ve taken to conducting video conferences to communicate with your team or your clients or colleagues, consider standing down a bit and communicating the old-fashioned way: email, text, or regular mail.

Let folks see the information on their own schedule.

If you don’t have to see each other or talk to each other, let it go.

And, if you do need to talk to each other, consider using the phone.

You can do group calls on the phone and nobody has to dress up. And you can do one-on-one calls, talk to each other and have a real conversation, without anybody focusing on how anyone else looks.

If you’re being asked to get on one too many video conferences and you’re finding it a bit much, talk to the organizer and let them know.

This new age of video conferencing is amazing and tremendously useful. But like any “shiny new object,” perhaps we’ve all taken things too far.

Hey, want to know a secret? I wrote this without combing my increasingly unruly hair. How about them apples?

Share

How to choose your priorities

Share

Someone once said, “You can be, do, or have anything, just not everything, because there isn’t enough time.”

So, what will it be?

What’s most important to you? What are your highest values? Your biggest goals?

Yes, we’re talking about your priorities.

With so many options available, how do you choose?

The best way to do that is to look at all of your options and compare them to each other.

We don’t make decisions in a vacuum. We look at everything in the context of everything else.

At one point in your life, you could have chosen medical school or law school or some other career path. In making your choice, no doubt you looked at your other options and compared them.

You may have fallen into your practice area or areas, but at some point, you examined your other options and compared them to what you were already doing.

You have followed a similar process with other aspects of your work and personal life.

You didn’t choose your spouse randomly, did you? When you met them, you compared them to other people you had met or dated. You may have loved other people, but the odds are you loved the one you chose even more.

Prioritizing is about making choices. This instead of that, these things more than those things.

Sometimes, your priority is clear. Sometimes, you like a lot of things and have difficulty choosing.

This article suggests a way to make choosing easier. It describes an exercise for groups or teams but there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself.

The basic idea is to examine each option and compare it to another option. You may like both options but decide you prefer one “even over” the other.

For example, you might like getting clients via referrals and via search, but decide you like referred clients “even over” clients who find you via search.

Knowing your priority will inform your marketing decisions–what you do, what you don’t do, how you allocate your time and resources.

Sure, you can use both marketing methods, and others. But knowing your priorities gives your clarity and allows you to focus on doing things that matter most.

Ready to take a quantum leap in your marketing?

Share

How to get great testimonials from your clients

Share

There’s nothing better than getting a letter or email from a satisfied client, telling you how happy they are with what you’ve done for them, praising you and thanking you for your help.

It really makes your day, doesn’t it?

Testimonials also make your marketing much more effective.

The trouble is, you don’t get them very often.

Your clients may be happy, and willing to provide a testimonial or a positive review. They just don’t take the time to do it.

One solution is to send all of your clients a survey at the end of each case. The feedback you get can be turned into testimonials.

How? Provide a check box at the end of the survey where the client authorizes you to use their words (with or without their full name) on your website or elsewhere in your marketing.

When you receive the completed survey, contact the client, thank them, and send them an edited version you’d like to use. Don’t change their thoughts, just the presentation, and tell them to feel free to add or change anything.

Another option, when you speak to a client at the end of the matter, ask them if they’re happy with the way things worked out. If they are, write down what they tell you and ask them if you can use what they’ve said in your marketing.

Simple, huh?

The best testimonials address 3 subjects:

1) Before they hired you.

What was going on in their life that prompted them to seek you out. Problems, frustrations, results they wanted but weren’t getting.

2) During the case.

What was it like working with you? Did you explain everything? Keep them informed? Make them feel appreciated? Protected? Did you bill fairly and promptly?

3) After the case.

What changed about their situation? Was the problem resolved? Did they get the results they sought? Would they hire you again and/or refer others to you?

Your survey should prompt them to talk about these things, and ask them to be as specific as possible. You can also delve deeper when you speak to them.

But, if they only address one of these areas–if they’re thrilled with the way you kept them informed, for example–take the win. And then go get some more.

When a client is happy, they want you (and others) to know it. They’re willing to provide you with a testimonial. They just need a little nudge.

Ready to take a Quantum Leap in your marketing?

Share

Hate your law practice? Here are 7 ways to fix that

Share

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to love what you do to be successful. You just can’t hate it.

If you hate what you do, every day is a burden. Not only does your work suffer, so does every other aspect of your life because our work is a big part of who we are.

If you’ve got the law practice blues, you don’t have to sit and suffer. You do have options:

(1) Increase your income

Yesterday’s post was about this very subject. No, money isn’t everything, but when you have enough of it, things tend to look a lot brighter.

When I started practicing, every month was a struggle to pay rent. I was in survival mode and really didn’t like what I was doing.

Everything changed when I finally started earning a good income and could focus on growth instead of survival.

(2) Reduce your work hours

Once I had money coming in regularly, I started looking for ways to work smarter, not harder. Eventually, I went from working 6 days a week to 3 days a week (about 5 hours per day).

I had a lot more time and energy to focus on marketing and growing my practice, and time for family and fun.

One thing I did was to document every aspect of my work process and create forms and checklists for everything. This allowed me to work more quickly and efficiently.

I also hired more help and delegated as much of the work as possible.

Other options: taking a partner, outsourcing, or associating with a firm.

(3) Change your practice areas

I started with a general practice but couldn’t keep up with everything. The day I decided to specialize and eliminate everything that wasn’t in my wheelhouse, was the day I was liberated.

I enjoyed the work I was doing and referred out everything else. Specializing attracted more clients and allowed me to get “good” in my field.

(4) Change your clients

You may like the work itself but if you don’t like your clients, “fire” them and replace them.

Choose a different target market. Re-define your ideal client. And get some people you enjoy working with. It can make a world of difference.

(5) Change your business model

Practicing law and running a law practice can be overwhelming. If you can’t keep up with everything, consider remodeling your practice.

Join a firm or merge with another firm. Hire more people or hire fewer. Go out on your own or go in-house.

There are other ways to use that sheepskin.

(6) Do something on the side

Start a side business. Invest. Write, paint, play music.

Do something you love and let your practice finance it.

When you find fulfillment after hours, you might see your practice in a more favorable light.

(7) Get out

If you’re still not happy, change your career. Start a business. Get a sales job. Write, consult, teach.

I know, you invested years building your legal career. Being a lawyer is part of your identity.

It may be hard to give that up, but if hate practicing, do yourself a favor and move on.

If you’d like to talk to someone who has done most of the above, hit me up and let’s talk.

Share

Ready to reinvent yourself?

Share

According to a 2013 Harvard study, 80% of businesses are using a business model that is at least partially obsolete. They continue to use it because that’s what they’re used to.

How about you?

Have you followed the same methods and models for building and running your practice since day one? More importantly, will you continue to do so as we come out of our caves and get back to a regular schedule?

Will it be business as usual or will you make any changes?

To some extent, change is inevitable. We live in a different world today than we did a few months ago. Clients have different expectations and priorities. We have to at least be willing to meet them halfway.

But this is more than putting hand sanitizer in your waiting room. Maybe a lot more.

It might be about letting go of some practice areas, or taking on new ones. You might target new markets, change how you go about marketing, or dramatically reduce your overhead.

You might create strategic alliances with other lawyers or firms, take on new partners, or split up and going your own way.

And you might change your fee structure and billing practices.

That doesn’t mean “going small” necessarily. It might mean “going big”. You might raise your fees and let go of small cases and low-end clients.

I don’t know what’s right for you and your practice. I just know you have to consider all of your options.

And be prepared to get out of your comfort zone.

On the other hand, you may decide not to make any significant changes. You may reinvent yourself into the same person you always were.

Which is okay, too.

Just remember that while you may look the same and offer the same services from the same office, in some respects you will be a different person.

As will we all.

Whatever you do, take your clients and their referrals with you

Share

4 reasons you should read what other lawyers write

Share

Lawyers are writers and you should make time to read them.

Read their blogs, subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on social.

See what they’re saying and what they’re doing. Here are four good reasons:

  1. Law/legal news. Keep up with the law in your field and allied fields. Cases you need to read, proposed legislation, rules you need to know, emerging trends, etc.
  2. Content ideas. Get ideas for your own articles and posts. Agree or disagree with them, offer your own examples, slant, predictions, etc.
  3. Marketing and practice management ideas. Learn what your colleagues are doing to get clients and manage their practice. What marketing methods do they use? Which productivity methods do they use? Which vendors do they use?
  4. Networking opportunities. Find lawyers with whom you can conduct strategic alliances, e.g., cross-referring, writing for each other’s blogs, interviewing each other, creating an event together, promoting each other’s content.

My challenge: Before the end of the day, find one lawyer in your field and one lawyer in an allied field; spend 30 minutes reading their blog (and taking notes), (b) follow them on social, and (c) sign up for their newsletter.

You’ll thank me later.

Build your practice with an email newsletter

Share

File this for later

Share

Work may be slow right now but the day will come when you’ve got too much to handle and you’ll want to get some help. When you do, this might come in handy.

It’s about delegation.

I know, you have a love/hate relationship with the concept.

You love that it can free up your time to do your most important work and that you can make money on the difference between what you pay an employee or outside contractor and the fees you receive from the client.

You hate dealing with people who are slow or who make mistakes, and the time and money you have to spend to supervise them and to fix their messes.

But you’re smart, and realize that while you may be able to do things better yourself, you’ll never get rich if you do it all yourself.

Anyway, when you’re ready to take the plunge (again), take a deep breath, say to yourself, “This is a good thing,” and keep these 5 tips handy:

  1. Choose the right person for the job. Make sure the OP has the necessary skills or is capable of learning them under your tutelage. (Yes, easier said than done but it has to be done.)
  2. Provide complete instructions. Assume nothing, tell them everything. Give them step-by-step instructions and examples of what you’re looking for; record videos to show them the process.
  3. Define success. Tell them the outcomes you expect from them once the task is completed. Give them numbers to hit, results you want to see, and deadlines for getting it done.
  4. Have them explain it to you. Once you’ve given them instructions, ask them to tell you if anything is unclear and then have them explain to you what they understand you want them to do.
  5. Schedule check-ins. Don’t wait until they’re finished, do a daily or weekly or other regular check-in, to evaluate their progress, answer questions, provide supplemental information, and make sure they’re on course.

A few bonus tips.

  1. Don’t go cheap. It winds up costing you more in the end.
  2. Start with admin work. Get to know the new hire, see how they do, before giving them anything mission-critical.
  3. Notify your E and O carrier. Because stuff happens.

Okay, one more.

If you want to earn a lot more and work a lot less, follow Master Cylinder’s (that’s me) rule: “Delegate everything, except those things that ONLY you can do.”

Get a marketing assistant and teach them this

Share

I’ve got good news and bad news

Share

Have you ever asked a client, “Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”

You might want to stop asking.

It turns out it’s better to give the bad news first and finish with the good news. According to research, people remember an experience more favorably when you finish the conversation on a positive note.

Psychologically, we prefer experiences that improve over time.

So, give clients the bad news first.

It works the same for you.

When you have to deliver bad news to a client, schedule them early in the day. That way, your day will end on a positive note.

Get the hard stuff out of the way so you can end the day on a high note.

I love it when a plan comes together.

How to get referrals without asking for referrals

Share

Your post-pandemic plan

Share

Soon. That’s when the world will return to a semblance of order. The fear and restrictions holding us hostage will subside, the economy will recover, and we will carry on.

But there will be changes.

Changes to what we do and how we do them. So, I suggest the need for a plan.

To create your plan, start by asking yourself a series of questions, to help you think about what you need to do.

Some questions to help you get started:

Your office and staff

  • What do you need to do to make the office germ-free and help clients and staff feel safe? What procedures will you follow? What supplies will you keep in stock?
  • Will you let (require) any employees to continue working from home? How will you equip them? How will you supervise them?
  • What will you do to accommodate clients who still aren’t comfortable coming to your office?
  • What will you do to bring on new employees, or let go of existing ones? What will you outsource?
  • Will you change any of your billing and collection practices?
  • What expenses will you cut?
  • What changes to your office/employee manual will you make?

Your marketing

  • How will you lesson dependence on face-to-face meetings?
  • What changes will you make to your warm market marketing systems (Newsletter, client appreciation, referrals, etc.)?
  • What changes will you make to your cold market marketing efforts (advertising, social media, websites, networking, speaking, etc.)?
  • What changes to your marketing budget do you need to consider?
  • Which practice areas do you want to ramp up? What new practice areas will you add? Which practice areas will you curtail or phase out?
  • Will you run any kind of promotions to celebrate the re-opening of your office?

You should also ask questions and create a plan for your personal life.

As you consider your options, you should also consider that the world, and your practice, won’t return to business as usual overnight. It will likely be many months before we’re fully up to speed and there will no doubt be permanent changes.

So, be prepared to regularly update your plan with new questions and new answers.

Whatever you do, don’t fret about anything. Yes, the world has changed but the fundamentals have not.

And good things are on the horizon.

Share