It’s time for that math talk again

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Early in my career, when I started to get busy, I wasn’t yet making a lot of money, but I decided to hire some people. It was one of the smartest things I ever did.

I freed up time to do more billable work, more marketing, and to (finally) enjoy some time off.

Yes, I had to invest time to find them, train them, and supervise them, but basic math told me I was way ahead.

In today’s dollars, the math might look like this:

$40 an hour administrator vs. $400 an hour billable.

$10 an hour virtual assistant vs. $400 an hour billable.

Besides the math, think about all the things you do in your practice you don’t enjoy. Wouldn’t you like to have someone else do them for you?

“I can do it better,“ you say. “And faster.“

Probably so. But as long as the people you hire are “good enough,” you still come out ahead. And, if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll find that many people are better at some things than you are.

“They might screw up and cost me. I’ve been burned before.“

That’s why you supervise them. And maintain insurance.

“I don’t want to let go.”

I didn’t want to let go either. But I didn’t want to stay where I was, doing things I didn’t like and missing out on opportunities to grow.

“Good people are expensive.”

True. But not as expensive as you. Yeah, we’re back to math again.

“If I hire another attorney, they might leave and compete with me.”

Yes, they might. But they might not.

“I have people working for me now. I don’t want any more.”

Does that mean you don’t want more business? Bigger cases? More income?

Or more free time?

You don’t?

Is that your final answer?

Fair enough. You might have everything you need and want, just the way you like it.

One more question and I’ll let you go.

If someone really good came along and offered to work for you for free, would you be able to find something for them to do?

What’s that? They would have to pay you to work for you?

Your math skills are Jedi level. I’ll stop talking now.

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Remember to wear pants

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You’re speaking to a prospective employee over Zoom. You ask questions, they ask questions, it’s going well, and then they ask you to do something unusual. They ask you to move your camera and show them around your office.

What? Why?

Maybe they want to see your books or tchotchkes, what’s on your desk or hanging on your wall. Maybe they want to see if you’re organized and tidy, or you’re a slob.

Would you show them? Would you object?

A woman had to make that decision recently during a job interview. The recruiter asked her to “show her around the room”. When she asked why, the recruiter said, “You can tell a lot about a person from the way their room looks.”

The interviewee said she was uncomfortable and the recruiter backed off.

And then there were the comments.

Many were indignant or angry on behalf of the interviewee, using words like, “Invasion of privacy,“ “Intrusive,“ “Unprofessional,“ and “Unfair”.

But some thought it was a reasonable request.

What say you?

I say, you might ask this question, or something similar, the next time you interview a prospective employee.

No, not to see if their office is a mess, they worship Satan, or they have a pet alligator, although it might be good to know those things. The real reason is to see how they respond.

Are they uncomfortable? Frazzled? Angry? Defensive? Or cool as a cucumber? Do they blush and get tongue-tied or do they laugh it off and say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”?

If they decline, do they do it respectfully or do they tell you to bugger off?

You want to know if they can handle a little pressure, don’t you? Because that goes with the job.

Of course, they may also ask you to show them around your office, so remember to hide your alligator and put on some damn pants.

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Make sure your clients have these

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You want your clients to make your job easier, don’t you? To help you do a better job for them?

Yes you do.

You also want your clients to help you prosper. Send you more work (theirs and referrals), promote your events, send traffic to your website, and do other things that help your practice grow.

So, help them. Send them the information you want them to know.

  1. About their legal matter—what will happen, what they need to tell you, what they need to do, what they need to avoid.
  2. About you. What you do, what it’s like to work with you, why they made a good decision to hire you (and stick with you).
  3. How to help the people they know get the benefits and solutions you offer.

Substantive information (reports, checklists, forms about the law and procedure), and information about you and how to work with you.

Examples of the latter:

  • A summary of your practice areas and services—your capabilities and solutions
  • Information the client should record and/or send you
  • FAQ’s—Questions prospective clients and new clients ask, and your answers
  • Your bio, your firm’s bio
  • Awards and accomplishments
  • Testimonials, reviews, success stories
  • A description of your ideal client (and what to do when they recognize them)
  • Hand outs: information reports, business cards, checklists, referral cards
  • Links to your socials, websites, channels
  • Your content: books, blogs, articles
  • Your events (seminars, videos, podcasts)
  • Talking points: what to say to people about you and your solutions
  • Your policies and procedures re protecting your clients and safeguarding their data
  • Other: what to do in an emergency, where to park, how to reach someone after hours, how to do a Zoom, what not to send via email, etc.
  • A pitch to sign up for your newsletter and/or subscribe to your blog
  • What to do if they have questions, a new legal issue, or their existing problem worsens
  • When to contact you about an update or to discuss additional services

Make a list of information you want your clients to know and a schedule for delivering it. Some should be sent to (or handed to) new clients, some should be sent at the end of the engagement, some in the weeks and months that follow, and some should be sent every year.

And get writing.

Then, do something similar for your professional contacts.

It may seem like a lot of work, but (a) you don’t have to do it all at once, (b) you probably have a lot of content you can use, and (c) most of what you write will only have to be written once.

Which means you’ll be able to automate the process of helping clients help you.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Audit thyself

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Once a year, or at least once in a while, sit down with your bad self and figure out how things are going.

Take inventory of what you have, what you want, and what you do, and see if you are on track to meet your goals.

Start with how you spend your time.

What do you do every day and every week to produce value for yourself and your clients?

Look at your calendar, task list, projects, and your plans for the next few months. What could you eliminate or combine with other activities? What could you delegate, outsource, or automate?

Cut out the fat and you’ll have more time to do things that produce more value, or more time for yourself.

Then, do the same thing for your expenses.

What could you cut out or cut down? Where should you consider spending more?

Changing these two areas—time and money—might allow you to claw back a few thousand dollars a month or free up several hours a week.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

You should also inventory your cases and clients. Some are worth more than others in terms of revenue and overall profitability. Which ones should you focus on? Which ones should you consider letting go?

Are you employees worth what you pay them? Maybe you should pay them more, or maybe it’s time to have that talk.

Examine the tech you’re using. Is it time for an upgrade? Are you still using something that is long overdue to be retired? Could one piece of tech replace two?

Examine your workflows. Go through your checklists, forms, and templates, and look for ways to make things more efficient and more effective.

Auditing your practice (and personal life) will help you reduce overhead, simplify (and shorten) your workday, and help you get more results with less effort.

That’s an audit you can look forward to.

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Survival mode

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What’s the minimum you need to earn to keep your practice going? To cover your basic overhead and take home enough to keep the home fires burning?

What’s the minimum you need to cover your “nut”?

Once you have a number, figure out what you have to do to earn that. The activities you need to do to be reasonably assured that you will continue to stay afloat.

Doing this will allow you to identify the activities that are important to your practice right now. What’s essential and what isn’t.

You might realize that if you continue to work with your current crop of cases or clients, you will generate enough work now and, via repeat business and referrals, enough work to keep you going for the foreseeable future.

Cool.

On the other hand, you might realize that while you’re okay right now, you’re not replacing cases or clients fast enough to sustain revenue and continue growing, and you need to do something about that.

Or you might realize that some of your practice areas, services or marketing strategies aren’t bringing in enough revue, at least compared to other things you do. You might see value in jettisoning them or changing them and freeing up resources that are better used doing something else.

Once you have a clear picture of your current reality, take stock of other options. Everything else you could do to create growth and build your future.

Doing this exercise will help you get clear about where you are, where you want to be in the next few years, and what you need to do to get there.

This will help you plan your future

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New clients need TLC

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They may be sharp. Sophisticated. Tough as nails. But new clients don’t yet know your wicked ways and could benefit from a little hand holding.

That goes double for clients who aren’t all of the above.

So, you give new clients lots of information, about you and how you work,and about their case and what to expect.

You tell them what’s going to happen, explain what happened, and spell out what will happen next.

And you encourage them to ask lots of questions. But you don’t wait for that, you contact them often and keep them informed.

You show them you’ve done this before and will take good care of them.

But while you want them to know everything they need to know, you don’t want to overwhelm them.

Don’t send them everything all at once.

No firehoses allowed.

One way to slow your roll is to space out your onboarding email sequence so they don’t get everything on day one.

You might send them an introductory email that thanks and welcomes them, gives them some basic information, and makes them feel good about their decision to hire you.

A follow-up email sent in a day or two can provide them with more information, a checklist or timeline, and links to articles on your website they might want to see.

Subsequent emails, over the ensuing days or weeks, can supply more details and resources, and lots of encouragement.

You might want to number the first few emails. If you plan to send them four emails in the first few days or the first week, for example, number them “1 of 4,” “2 of 4, “and so on, so they know what to expect.

Make sure the final email in your initial onboarding sequence explains when they will hear from you again about (a) their case, and (b) other information—about the law, other legal matters they need to know about, how to’s, recommended resources, and more.

You know, your newsletter.

How to use an email newsletter to build a more successful law practice

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Don’t just do something, sit there

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Do the work, bill the client. That’s what brings in the bacon. Or the kale if that’s your thing. Billable work is your bread and butter. (Okay, now I’m getting hungry.)

But your work involves more than dictating, drafting, and negotiating. At least it should.

You need time when you’re not outputting but inputting.

Digesting information you can use to create content (to bring in more business), to better understand and relate to your clients’ industry or niche, and to have something to talk about when you’re not talking about the law.

You also need time to learn about marketing, productivity, technology, and other subjects that help you improve your skills and drive the growth of your practice. And CLE, to make sure you’re at the top of your game.

Building a successful practice requires more than cranking out billable work.

You should embrace the idea of spending time doing no “work” and instead, doing nothing but soaking up information.

Put time for this on your calendar. Blocks of time every day for reading and listening and taking notes, and to ponder what you’ve learned and how you can use it.

It may feel like this you’re goofing off. You may feel guilty watching videos or reading something from me and tell yourself to get back to work. But learning is just as important as doing, because it helps you do what you do better.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System — everything you need, nothing you don’t

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Get more feedback and reviews

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I need new eyeglasses and went for an exam the other day. I was impressed with the thoroughness of the exam and the help the optometrist’s staff provided me with choosing the right options. They took their time, answered all my questions, and dutifully laughed at my dumb jokes.

My original plan was to get the exam at the optometrist’s office and buy the glasses somewhere less retail. But I changed my plan and bought from the optometrist.

I didn’t even negotiate. Bad lawyer.

I bought from them because they did such a good job with me, I felt a little guilty buying elsewhere, and because they made it so easy for me to say yes and be done with it.

Great service and convenience cost me more, but it was worth it.

Your clients will often “pay retail” for the same reasons.

The next day, I got an automated request for a review from the doctor’s office. But as much as I was happy with them and would recommend them, I didn’t respond because the email said the review would automatically be posted online and would include my full name.

No option to provide feedback anonymously, or to provide a review with just my first name and last initial.

So now, the doctor won’t get a review or feedback about what I thought they did right and what they could improve. (I had two small issues I would have “complained” about if I could have responded anonymously, or at least privately.)

Don’t make that mistake.

Ask all your clients for feedback and have it come back to you, not automatically made public.

If the feedback is negative, you don’t want that posted online.

If the feedback is positive, reply to the client, thank them, and ask for permission to post their feedback (review) online, or ask them to do it and give them the link.

And whatever you do, if you want more reviews, give the client the option to provide one without using their full name.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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I don’t know if my marketing is working

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You’re spending money and time engaging in marketing activities, but you don’t know which of those activities are working or to what extent. You’re thinking you’re spending too much on advertising or wasting time on ineffective strategies and you’re thinking about cashing in your chips and looking for a Plan B.

Before you do that, here are some things to think about.

If you’re spending serious money on advertising, you need to track keywords, clicks, leads, clients, and revenue. Software can do most of that for you and you shouldn’t advertise without it. If you don’t know how to interpret the tea leaves, hire someone who does.

You should also ask everyone who calls or comes to see you where they heard about you, which keywords they used to search, and/or who referred them, or you won’t know if what you’re doing is working, or how well.

You need to know if that $1000 ad is showing a profit. If it isn’t, change it or pull it. But before you decide, you need to consider your back end—the lifetime value of a new client.

If you’re good at getting repeat business and referrals, you can actually come out ahead on ads that break even or lose money.

If you’re not doing a lot of advertising, or decide to cut down or move away from that, focus on other marketing strategies that don’t require a lot of money: referrals, networking, blogging, interviews, presentations, and other forms of content marketing.

You have to include the cost of your time, and/or the time of the people you hire to do that or help you do that, but if you do it right, you should see a significant return on that investment.

If you’re still not clear on what’s working and what isn’t, you might stop relying exclusively on bottom line numbers like the number of new clients and the amount of revenue, and consider “leading edge” metrics like email and/or channel subscribers, video views, leads, and appointments.

Because if those numbers are growing, your practice is probably growing—or soon will be.

Yes, who is on your list is important. But all things being equal, if you’re seeing more people watching your videos or listening to your podcast, if your email list is bigger today than it was six months ago, if you’re taking more calls and talking to more prospective clients, you’re doing something right—and you should continue doing it.

But don’t stop looking for ways to do it better.

Quantum Leap Marketing System—when you’re ready to get big, fast

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Onboarding

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There are two key moments in your client’s relationship with you that can make or break that relationship. The day you deliver the outcome or work product and the day they first become your client.

The first day is the most important of the two because it influences everything that happens after that.

New clients are often nervous, worried about their situation, and not yet sure they can trust you or the legal system. You may have met with them or spoken to them before, but everything changes when they write that first check.

Your new client onboarding process is your first and best opportunity to make them feel good about their decision to hire you, set the stage for a successful outcome, and lay the groundwork for repeat business and referrals.

When you do it right, the new client will have more confidence in you, be more hopeful about their situation, know what to expect and what they can do to help you help them.

No pressure.

Okay, there’s pressure. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your onboarding process, and to regularly update and improve it.

Start with a list of goals. What do you want the new client to know, what do you want them to do, and most importantly, how do you want them to feel after they leave your office?

Then, make a list of what you can do to achieve those goals.

What will you tell them about

  • Their case
  • The law
  • The process and time table
  • Contingencies, risks, and options
  • Your office, staff, and resources
  • What happens first, what happens after that
  • What to do if they have questions
  • What you want them to do, and not do
  • What to expect about fees and costs

Will you introduce them to your staff? Give them a tour of your office?

Will you give them or send them (or direct them to download) any forms, checklists, documents—things to read and things to fill out?

And, because relationships can’t be only about the work, what will you ask about them about their personal life, and what will tell them about yours?

You’re not going to give them everything on their first visit—you don’t want to overwhelm them. Figure out what you will do immediately and schedule the rest.

When they leave your office, you want them to feel a sense of relief, knowing that their problem is in good hands. You’ll prove that to them in the weeks and months that follow, but it all starts on day one.

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