Overwhelmed?

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I’m not talking about the recent news, I’m talking about your practice.

Too much work to do, too much to read, too many projects in your pipeline that never get off the ground.

Every day, you get 50 emails about marketing and managing your practice, on top of emails relating to client work and emails from someone trying to sell you something.

You don’t want to miss something important. But sorting the wheat from the chaff takes mental energy. . . and time.

I get it. It’s daunting.

But you’re running a business with a lot of moving parts, people, and important issues, and details matter. So, in addition to the work, you have to stay on top of everything else.

Sometimes, a lot gets pushed to the side, or to the future. Sometimes, the work doesn’t get done on time. Sometimes, you finish the day exhausted.

And the emails continues to pile up.

Here’s the thing.

The lawyers who earn top dollar have as much work as you do and get just as much email as you do, but they don’t get overwhelmed.

Because they work LESS than most lawyers.

They’re able to do that because they’ve set up their practice so they only focus on the most important tasks.

The tasks that move the needle.

The tasks that bring in more clients and better clients and let them continually grow their income.

If you’d like to find out how to do it

Go here

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Oh goody, another time management rule

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Just when you thought you had things the way you want them, along comes another rule for managing your time.

This one is called “The 60-30-10 Rule”.

Basically, you allocate 60% of your time to “high value” activities, 30% to low-value tasks related to your goals and responsibilities, and 10% to other activities that support the first two categories.

High-value activities (60%) are those that advance your most important goals and long-term vision. These are your highest priorities and “MITs” (most important tasks).

In my view, high-value activities include client work, marketing and practice development, and personal development. It would also include projects that are important to you and your future.

Low-value activities (30%) may be necessary, urgent even, but aren’t necessarily important. They would include administrative and management tasks you have to do to keep your practice running.

The third category (10%) supports the first two categories and includes things like organizing and prioritizing your work, scheduling, planning your day or week, and doing a weekly review.

You can change the percentage of any of these categories to suit your responsibilities and style of working. You might go with 70% high-value activities, for example, by delegating more low-value (management) activities, and/or by reducing the third category from 10% to 5%.

What’s important about a system like this isn’t the actual percentages as much as it encourages you to think about what’s important so you can allocate more time to it.

And, if you track your time, it also allows you to see when you’re losing focus.

Do you use a rule like this to allocate your time?

If you’re ready to take a quantum leap in your practice. . .

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Email ping-pong

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We all play it. We go back and forth, forth and back, acknowledging each other’s latest email, letting the other party know their message was received and read and will be acted upon, adding thanks and emoji, and. . . it often wastes a lot of time.

It’s even worse when there are multiple people on the list.

Sometimes, you want a reply so you have a record that your message was received.

But often, you don’t.

How do you let people know they don’t need to reply?

The simplest way is to do that is to end your email with, “NO NEED TO REPLY”.

Four little words that could save you (and the other party) a lot of time.

Some people may perceive this as a statement that you’re not interested in their opinion or point of view, however, so you may want to soften it a bit by saying, “. . .no reply is necessary, I just wanted to keep you informed”.

For people you correspond with regularly, another way to handle this is to add a “short code” to the email subject line.

Examples:

  • NNTR: “No need to reply”
  • NRN: “No reply needed”
  • NRR: “No reply requested”

  • FYI-NNTR: “For your information; no need to reply”
  • NNTO: “No need to open”–when all the information they need is in the subject line, not in the body of the email. For example, APPOINTMENT THURSDAY AT 2PM CONFIRMED. NNTO.

When you DO want a reply, you could add PLEASE REPLY or PLEASE RSVP to the subject line, to call attention to the need for a response.

Whatever code(s) you use, make sure people know what they mean. You might add an explanation or “key” to the footer of your email template to do that.

How do you tell people you want–or don’t want–a reply?

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Where to sit in a meeting

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What’s the best place to sit in a conference room? It depends on the role you’re playing in the meeting, or the role you want to play.

This 12 minute video explains the science behind the options we face when we choose where to sit.

Many of these insights are obvious, but there are some interesting ideas you may be able to use in your next meeting.

Note, this covers general meetings, (board meetings, staff meetings), not adversarial encounters, (deposition, arbitration, negotiation), but some ideas are useful in those situations, too.

If you have a lot of meetings and you want to finesse the seating arrangements, this video can help.

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You should read this

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Some people think we shouldn’t tell people what to do. We should give them the options and let them decide.

Tell them what they “could” do, not what they “should” do.

I understand the sentiment but when someone looks to you for advice, they want you to tell them what to do.

When a client hires you to advise him, you can (and should) present different ways to do it, but then, tell him which option is best. They’re paying for your experience and judgment. They want to know what you recommend.

When you tell them, you’re telling them what they “should” do.

Tell your clients what they should do.

(Yes, I’m telling you what you should do. Not what you might do. You can choose to follow my advice or reject it. But at least you know what I recommend.)

You should also tell your newsletter and blog readers and presentation attendees what to do. With less specificity, of course, because you don’t know the specifics of their situation. But if you have recommendations about what someone should do in a given situation, tell them what to do.

I saw an article this morning about this subject in the context of employers and employees. The article said we should tell our staff what they “could” do, not what they “should” do.

Yes, you want to empower your staff to think for themselves and not come to you with every little issue, but if you want your secretary to call someone or email someone or bring you something, telling them what they could do or might do is just silly.

You’re not going to say, “I’m running late for my 2 O’clock with Mr. Jones. You could call him to re-schedule.”

You’re going to tell your secretary to call.

Be nice about it. Say please and thank you. But tell her.

That’s what you should do.

Questions about what to write in a newsletter? Here are the answers

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Working hard or hardly working?

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Many lawyers complain (brag) about having too much work to do. Other lawyers don’t have enough work (clients, cases, billable hours) and want more.

How about you?

Are you earning as much as you want? Working as much as you want? Are you working too hard or are you ready for more?

Hold on. It’s not as simple as getting more clients or working fewer hours. There’s another option.

You could bring in “better” clients and “bigger” cases.

Instead of clients who pay $5,000 or $10,000, what if you brought in clients who pay $25,000 or $50,000?

Instead billing $300 per hour, what if you could get clients who pay $800 per hour?

Instead of handling tort cases with $20,000 contingency fees, what if you could attract the ones with six- and seven-figure potential?

They’re out there. Someone is getting these cases and clients. Why not you?

I’ll tell you why not. Perhaps, deep down, you don’t want them. You know you’d have to do too much to get them, and if you did get them, you’d have to do more work or take on more overhead or deal with more pressure than you want.

And that’s fair.

For most of my career, I handled small to medium cases and clients, for those very reasons. And made a good living doing it.

So, if that’s what appeals to you, I’m on your side.

Right now, we’re hearing a lot about a four-hour work-week. Some companies who’ve tried it are reporting more productive and happier employees and no loss of revenue. Some companies say they’re earning more.

In my practice, I cut my work-week down to three days and saw my income soar.

Anything’s possible.

You can earn more and work less. You can build the practice and lifestyle you want.

Some advice:

This year, instead of waiting to see what happens, decide what you want to happen and find ways to make it so.

This can help

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Get more clients by making it easier to get more clients

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‘Twas a big year in Amazon land. One big reason is that they make it so damn easy to buy from them.

It’s something we all need to do.

In the new year, I encourage you to make it easier for people to hire you and refer clients to you.

On your website, make it easy to find information about the law, your services, and you. Make it easy to find your contact information and the sign-up form for your newsletter.

Make it easy for clients to hire you by offering different services or “packages” for different budgets, and different payment options.

Make it easy to say “yes” to you by offering more social proof–reviews, testimonials, success stories, endorsements, awards.

Make it easy for people to send you referrals by describing your target market and ideal client, and explaining the best (and easiest) ways to make referrals.

Make it easy to stay in touch with clients and prospects and referral sources by instituting a routine process for updating your files with their latest contact information.

For more ways to get more clients and increase your income, get my latest: The Encyclopedia of Attorney Marketing book series.

Amazon has made this easier by posting pages for the entire 5-volume series:

Print version

Ebook version (with “easy” one-click buy button).

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Do two things every day

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The practice of law is complex. Lots of people to please, things to do, rules to follow. If you want to succeed, you have to get a lot of things right.

But clearly, some things are more important than others.

Some cases are bigger. Some clients are more valuable.

Make sure that every day, you work on your biggest case or you do something for your most valuable client.

Make this your priority. Do it first, if possible, and no matter what else occurs the rest of the day, your day will be a success.

Your practice is also a business, however, and you need to work on that, too.

Your business continually needs new clients. New people learning what you do and how you can help them or their friends or readers or clients.

So, every day, you should do your most important business-building activity.

That’s the plan. Do two things every day, one for your clients, one for your practice.

And yes, you need both. Because a professional practice doesn’t build itself.

In his Masterclass, David Mamet tells aspiring screenwriters, “You’ve got to do one thing for your art every day, and you’ve got to do one thing for your business every day.”

What “one thing” will you do today to build your business?

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The ‘Trader Joe’s’ of law firms

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An article in Forbes is about what makes the ‘Trader Joe’s’ grocery chain so successful. It talks about how they provide good value, keep things simple, and give customers an enjoyable experience.

As a regular shopper myself, I have to agree.

But one point in the article, in particular, caught my eye. The way they value and support their employees.

TJ’s, as all the cool kids call it, understands that it is their employees that make everything work. Their employees are well-paid, respected, and empowered to provide customers with outstanding service.

Happy employees make happy customers.

And they do a good job of it. When I ask for something I can’t find, they don’t just tell me which aisle it’s on, they walk me to the item. They always smile and laugh at my jokes in the checkout line.

The people who work at TJ’s are friendly and happy and have a personality.

So, when I read this article, naturally I thought about you and your employees.

Okay, I thought about me and my (former) employees. Did I treat my staff as well as TJ’s treats theirs?

I think most of my employees liked working for me (most of the time). I paid them reasonably well, I didn’t micromanage them or chastise them when they messed up, and since the clients seemed to like them, I think I did okay.

Not up to TJ’s standards, I’m sure. But then TJ’s came in at number 23 on Glassdoor’s list of best places to work.

Truth be told, we could “get away” with a lot more back then. Many people were glad to have a job, even if it meant putting up with a boss who didn’t treat them well.

Today? Not so much.

Okay, over to you. How do you do with your employees?

Do you pay them well? Value their work and their contributions to your success?

Do you empower them to provide extraordinary service to your clients?

Do you go out of your way to keep them happy?

It used to be that the client was always right. If a client didn’t get along with one of your employees, for example, you usually took the side of the client.

Today, not so fast.

Employers have come to realize that the client isn’t always right and when they’re wrong, we need to stand up for our employees.

I’m pretty sure that’s how TJ’s does it.

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Thinking small pays big

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I’ve written before about the wisdom of regularly examining your expenses and ruthlessly cutting them. All those $5 or $25 per month charges may seem insignificant but they add up.

When you cut them, you not only reduce your overhead and increase your net income, you increase the overall value of your practice because one of the most important elements in the value of your practice is your cash flow.

Cutting $20 per day off your expenses will increase in net income of $600 per month. That may increase the sales value or borrowing power of your practice by five or ten times that amount.

It also frees up cash you can invest in marketing.

The same dynamic applies to increasing your income. Adding a few hundred dollars per month to your (net) income via additional fees will similarly improve your bottom line.

So, what if in addition to targeting bigger cases and clients you also paid attention to bringing in some smaller ones? All those $1000 fees also add up.

A few new small clients per month might allow you to hire more staff or buy more ads which could bring in many times what they cost. And, don’t forget that smaller clients and cases can lead to bigger ones.

You should also regularly consider your options regarding increasing your fees. A five or ten percent increase in your billing rates or fees could have a profound effect on your net income.

Don’t obsess over any of this but if you want to increase your net income, don’t ignore the little things.

Because every dollar counts.

How to increase your fees without losing clients

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