Should you outsource your law firm marketing?

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Hire people and let them do your marketing?

Yes, and no.

You save time by not doing everything yourself. And you get to borrow the skills and knowledge of experts who can do many things faster and better than you. You pay a price for this but if the people you hire are good at what they do, they’ll make you money.

Sounds compelling. So why do I say “yes and no”?

Because there are some things you will always do better than anyone else.

Two things, in particular.

First, a marketing consultant or firm can create articles, presentations, newsletters, and other content for you, and it will be well-researched, grammatically sound, and clearly articulated, but they can’t speak with your voice or your authority, because they don’t have your experiences, your philosophies, or your personality.

Hire others to advise you or assist you if you want to, but don’t delegate all of your content creation to them.

Second, no marketing expert can build personal relationships with your clients and professional contacts for you.

As a professional, this is your most important and valuable job.

Yes, even more important than doing the legal work. You can hire attorneys to do most of that under your supervision, but if you ask those attorneys or anyone else to build relationships for you, the only relationships they build will be between the client and themself.

No matter what kind of practice you have, or want to build, repeat business and referrals are key to your long-term success.

Don’t put that in the hands of anyone else.

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Ask this question before you decide

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You’re thinking about doing something for your practice. Something that will take time and resources away from something else. You see the benefits of starting a blog or newsletter, for example, but you’re not sure if you want to commit to it.

But it could be anything. Hiring a new clerk, using a new app, moving your office, offering a new service, or reducing your work hours.

Whatever it is, before you decide, ask yourself, What’s the hidden benefit?

You know the primary benefit. If you start a blog or newsletter, you’ll be able to bring in more clients. The hidden benefit is that it will make you a better writer, and a faster writer, which can help you in all aspects of your marketing and legal work.

Maybe you’re thinking about recording a podcast or videos. The benefit is that you will be able to connect with your audience more deeply because they’re not just hearing your words, they’re hearing your voice.

The hidden benefit is that you will improve your oral presentation skills, making you better from the stage, in interviews, and in the courtroom.

Another example.

You’re thinking about rejecting a small case. The benefit is that you won’t have to invest valuable time doing something with a small payoff.

The hidden benefit might be that you will learn about a new industry or market, or meet other professionals in that market, leading to a lot of bigger cases and clients.

Okay, one more.

You’re thinking about sharing my website and newsletter with other lawyers. The benefit is that you’ll strengthen your relationship with them, making them more likely to share marketing ideas with you and possibly willing to send you more referrals.

The hidden benefit is that by helping them learn how to get more clients, they will have more clients they can refer.

Before you decide to do something, or not do it, always ask, “What’s the hidden benefit?”

Because the hidden benefit might turn a no into a yes or a someday into today.

How to use a newsletter to build your practice

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Owning your practice vs. running your practice

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There’s a lot going on in an active law practice; if we’re not careful, we spend most of our time reacting to what happens instead of making things happen.

We handle the cases, work with the clients, fight the fights, put out the fires, send out the bills, and then we do it again. And again.

We don’t do enough (or any) planning. Or managing our plan. We don’t decide what we want to happen, and what we’ll do to make it happen.

We just keep busy doing what’s in front of us.

But if you’re in charge, there are things you need to do to make sure the practice runs the way you want it. One of these is to manage your numbers.

Tracking how many, how often, and how big. But not just the ultimate results (new clients, revenue, etc.) but the numbers that drive those results.

These are your KPIs—your “Key Performance Indicators”. They include things like advertising dollars spent, keywords, networking events attended, articles and blog posts, consultations, social media campaigns, and whatever else you do to drive traffic to your website and prospective clients to your door.

You need to know your numbers. So you can do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.

Don’t obsess over the numbers. But do watch the trends. But don’t rely solely on the numbers. Your instincts and judgement are also important.

Running a practice means keeping an eye on what’s going on. Or hiring people to do that and keeping an eye on them.

One more thing.

If you don’t run your own practice, if you work for someone, you still need to track your numbers. So that when it’s time for a performance review and you’re asked what you been doing, you’ll have some numbers to show them.

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Another reason to write your own reviews

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Yesterday, I talked about taking the nice things clients say about you, your services, and the way they were treated, putting their words into writing, and asking those clients to post a review at your favorite review site.

You get better reviews that way, and more of them.

But this is based on clients spontaneously thanking you or otherwise saying nice things to you or about you. What if they don’t? Or don’t do it enough?

You can send your clients surveys and ask for their feedback, and you should. You’ll find out what they like but may not say, and what they don’t like (so you can fix it).

But there’s something else you can do.

Sit down, sharpen your pencil, and write the review you would love your clients to write.

Yes, out of thin air.

And make it good.

Even if the things you write in that review aren’t true. Actually, especially if they aren’t true. Because this review isn’t really a review, it’s a wish list. A summary of the things you would like clients to say about you in the future.

Now for the good part. After you write this review, ask yourself, what would I have to do to get my clients to say things like this about me?

And do them.

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3 things you should do every day

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Every day, there are 3 things you should do.

The first is client work, obviously. Get the work done, the bills billed, the clients happy, and the bills paid.

The second thing is running the joint. Yes, marketing and management of your practice.

That’s true even if you work for a firm. You still want to bring in new business, build your brand or reputation, and do things that help you grow your practice and career.

It includes things like creating content, building relationships with influential people in your niche, strengthening relationships with your clients to foster repeat business and referrals, supervising and training your team, and improving your systems and workflows.

Third on the list, but no less important, is to work on yourself. We’re talking about personal and professional development. The stuff that makes everything else work.

It means improving your legal knowledge and your writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills. It means getting better at communicating, negotiating, and leading and managing people. And keeping up with technology.

So, 3 things every day.

Think of these 3 areas as legs on a stool. You need all 3 or the stool won’t stand.

How should you allocate your time? One third each? Not practical. Some days, you have nothing but client work and no time to do anything else. Some days you have other priorities.

But if you’re a rule-of-thumb type of person, that rule should be to do something in each area every day.

Even if that means making one call on your lunch hour or reading a couple of pages before you go to sleep.

Keep your hand in all 3 areas and do your best to not let a day go by without all 3.

Create recurring tasks in your task manager or calendar or habit tracker. Make this a habit.

Don’t let your stool get out of balance.

How to get more referrals from your clients

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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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