You can change your name, but not your stripes

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Jimmy, the protagonist in Better Call Saul, couldn’t do it. Changing his name didn’t change who he was.

That’s true for all of us. How we think, what we do, who we are.

Our beliefs about ourselves and the world are the core of our “operating system”. And while we can change our beliefs, we can’t do it by changing our name.

Our beliefs determine our attitudes towards the choices we make, the things we do and how we do them. Our activities determine the results we get. And our results determine our success and lifestyle.

Look at how this works in the context of marketing and managing a law practice.

(1) Our beliefs determine our attitudes

If you believe that that nothing is achieved in life without hard work, that there are no shortcuts, no such thing as “working smarter,” you will no doubt be skeptical about strategies that suggest otherwise.

You would be reluctant to try these strategies because they are inconsistent with your core beliefs.

If you did try any of these strategies, you might do so with an attitude that says, “Those things never work” and you may seek to prove you’re right.

On the other hand, if you believe that some “working smarter” strategies can work, you’ll be open to learning more and giving some strategies an honest try

(2) Our attitudes affect our activities

If you believe working smarter is possible, that you can increase your income without working more hours (and even by working fewer hours), you’ll be willing and perhaps eager to explore strategies that promise that outcome.

Your attitude will be “let’s see” instead of “no way.” And if you try those strategies, you’ll look for ways to make them work instead of trying to prove they won’t.

You may have always used hourly billing in your practice, for example, but you may be willing to try flat fee billing. If you’ve tried it before, you may be willing to try it again.

You’ll at least be open to getting more information about ways to do it effectively and to see how other lawyers are doing it.

(3) Our activity determines our results

Your activities—what you do, how you do it, how much you do and for how long, determine the results you get.

Do more marketing activities, do them better, and you’ll bring in more clients. Try different billing methods and if you find one that allows you to earn more from the same work, you’ll increase your income without putting in more hours.

Maybe even by working fewer hours.

(4) Our results determine our success and lifestyle

If you are able to increase your income by working smarter instead of working harder, in the case of our example, by successfully implementing flat fee billing, you will earn more without working more.

You’ll be able to do that because you believed it was possible.

Our beliefs guide our attitudes, our attitudes affect our activities, our activities determine our results, and our results are how we measure success.

How does this explain the success of people who lie, cheat, and steal their way through life? Who believe that the way to succeed is to do whatever it takes, even if it’s wrong?

They may get away with it, but only for so long. Eventually, their nature catches up with them.

And changing their name, or the name of their company, won’t stop that.

Get the Check: Stress-Free Legal Billing and Collection

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Your core work

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Yes, you perform legal services that deliver solutions and benefits to your clients. That’s your core work. That’s what you’re paid to do.

But that’s not the whole picture.

You can’t deliver those solutions if you don’t have clients who are willing and able to hire you.

So your work necessarily includes marketing.

Even if you aren’t required to do any “outside” marketing, you are responsible for keeping your clients happy so they will return and refer. You must invest time and other resources to do that. And while you can delegate some of it, you can’t (shouldn’t) delegate all of it.

You also have other responsibilities. You may not have to do the billing, bookkeeping, compliance, and other admin work, but you have to know what needs to be done so you can supervise the ones who do.

Here’s the truth some lawyers don’t want to admit: the practice of law isn’t just a profession, it’s a business.

Unless you work for someone else, or have partners that take care of the business side of the equation, you can’t practice your profession without building and maintaining the structure and systems that make the business run.

Your “areas of responsibility” include other things besides your core work.

As you sit down to plan the remainder of this year and the beginning of next, I urge you set goals for each of your areas of responsibility, choose appropriate projects that will help you achieve those goals, and schedule tasks you are committed to doing to move those projects forward.

Spending a little time thinking and planning will help you focus and do the work that matters most.

You’ll be able to run your business, so you can practice your profession, maximize your income, effectively use your time, and enjoy peace of mind, knowing you’re on top of everything.

How to create a simple marketing plan that really works

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Wham, bam, see the cashier

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I went to a new optometrist last week. To my surprise and delight, I was treated like a valued patient, not a commodity, as many doctors’ offices do.

I had an appointment and when I arrived, the young man behind the counter made eye contact and greeted me by name. I can’t be sure, but I think he had a smile under his mask.

I’d already filled out most of the paperwork online and was escorted to the exam room, get this, 2 minutes after I arrived.

The entire staff was friendly and treated me with respect. They made small talk while the machines came to life. They even laughed at my jokes.

And it was the most thorough eye exam and consultation I’ve ever had.

The appointment wasn’t just for a new prescription. I have an issue that needed addressing. The doctor patiently explained everything and answered all of my questions. I was there for nearly 90 minutes.

Before I left, I thanked the young man who greeted me for being so friendly and making me a priority instead of my insurance card. I also told the doctor about the great job he did and thanked her for her own patience and thoroughness.

When I saw an ophthalmologist for the same problem earlier this year, the doctor explained almost nothing, talked mostly to her assistant rather than me, and was done with me in 10 minutes.

Over the years, I’ve written about some of the less-than-stellar experiences I’ve had at doctor’s offices. I complained about having to wait (a big pet peeve of mine) and then being rushed through the exam or procedure.

Their time is valuable, but so is mine.

Now, I’m writing about an office that gets it right. No wonder they have a long list of 5-star reviews. They’ll continue to get my business and my referrals.

What does it take to achieve this?

Perspective.

Seeing your patients (clients) as your top priority. Giving them the time and attention they need and treating them like human beings, not livestock.

Show them you appreciate them, even if your accountant says you can’t afford it.

And remember to laugh at their jokes.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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If you’re not growing quickly enough, this may be why

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If your practice isn’t growing as quickly as you want it to, or you seem to be going in the wrong direction, it might be because of what you’re not doing.

For example:

You’re not keeping things simple

The simpler your system and process, the faster you can grow. There are fewer moving parts, fewer decisions to make, fewer parties to involve, and fewer things to do to go from point A to point B.

If your system is complex, everything is more difficult and takes longer, and there are too many things that can go wrong

You’re not spending your time on the things that matter most

To get you where you want to go, you have options. Different projects to start, different goals to focus on, different methods to implement, but not all options are created equal.

Some things are more important than others. 20% activities that deliver 80% of your results.

Figure out what they are and focus on them.

You’re not tolerating enough risk

To grow, you have to try new ideas, work with new people, and otherwise put yourself at risk.

If you’re not doing that enough, you may put limits on how far you can go or how fast.

In any business or professional practice, we are called upon to intelligently manage risk, not eliminate it.

To do that, you may need to loosen up.

So, there are three reasons you might be limiting your growth, and what to do about them. .

One more thing you might not be doing: giving things enough time.

You need enough time to fail so you know for certain what doesn’t work and you can correct course, and enough time for the things that do work to compound.

We all overestimate how much we can accomplish in a few months, and underestimate how much we can accomplish in a few years.

A bit of a dichotomy, yes? You want to grow faster, but to do that, you probably need to give things more time.

This marketing system can help you get bigger, faster

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Why do lawyers go out of business so infrequently?

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According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of business owners fail by their 10th year in business. In some industries, the failure rate is much higher.

So why do lawyers and law firms fail much less often?

Lawyers close shop because they don’t like the work or they find something else they’d like to do, but not so many leave because they couldn’t make it. Even with plenty of competition and tough times, lawyers can hang in there if they want to.

But why?

Many people start a business who have never run a business before. They may be good at making widgets or installing water heaters, but as Michael Gerber points out in The E-Myth, those skills don’t necessarily qualify someone to start and run a business.

But isn’t that also true for lawyers?

Just because we know how to prepare a lease or take a deposition doesn’t mean we’re qualified to run a law practice.

In addition, lawyers are far more risk adverse and often lack “people skills” that are the driving force of many businesses.

So why do we have better numbers?

Overhead and margin.

Lawyers have no inventory, lower rent, lower debt service, and a lower cost of doing business. It takes a lot less income to keep the doors of a law office open compared to many other businesses.

In addition, most businesses have smaller margins compared to a law practice. A business might markup their products by a few percentage points, requiring a lot of sales to make a profit, whereas a lawyer might need only one or two cases or clients a month to do the same thing.

The bottom line, therefore, is the bottom line. Lawyers don’t go out of business as often because they have staying power.

Lower expenses and higher margins give us time to learn how to build and manage a practice. We can survive lean times and growing pains and stick around long enough to become successful.

But don’t take anything for granted.

There are still lean times. Competition that wants to eat our lunch. A lot to learn and a lot to do.

If you’re like a lot of lawyers I know, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A simple business development productivity system

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You want to bring in new clients and build your practice. You have a list of projects that will help you do that.

You might want to work on your website or start a newsletter, update your social media profiles, consolidate your contact lists, or watch videos about a new note-taking app you’ve heard so much about.

But you’re not doing them.

You scheduled time to work on X this week but when you sit down to do it, you realize you don’t have enough time, you need to do more research, or you just don’t feel like doing it.

So you do nothing.

“I’ll work on that next week,” you tell yourself, but do you?

There’s a simple solution.

Instead of scheduling to do X (today, this week, next), schedule time to work on business development (marketing, operations, systems, etc.), and keep of menu of projects to choose from during that time.

So when you don’t feel like working on X, you can work on Y or Z.

Here’s how you might set this up.

  1. Make a list of 5-10 projects or tasks you are committed to working on soon.
  2. Choose a day of the week to work on “Business Development” for one hour. A Wednesday afternoon, a Saturday morning, or whatever.
  3. Set up a weekly recurring task in your task management system, calendar, or reminder app, or use a free email service like FollowUpThen.com, so that every week you are prompted to work on business development for one hour.
  4. Add your list of 5-10 tasks or projects as sub-tasks, or a link to your list.
  5. Each week, when your system prompts you to work on business development, look at your list and choose something you want to do.

This week, you might write an email or two. Next week, you might outline a new presentation. The following week, you might modify your new client intake form.

You always have several options and it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Each week, you do something related to business development, and that’s better than doing nothing.

Ready to work on a newsletter? Here’s all you need

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Build a simple system first and improve it over time

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Your marketing plan, or any plan for that matter, should be as simple as possible. So simple it can be written on the back of a napkin. So simple you (and your team) can easily understand it, remember it, and follow it.

If your plan is simple, you’ll be more likely to follow it. If it is both simple and well thought out, it will (eventually) allow you to build an empire.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA tells us:

“Gall’s Law states that all complex systems that work evolved from simpler systems that worked. If you want to build a complex system that works, build a simpler system first, and then improve it over time.”

A law practice has many systems—marketing, HR, continuing education, training, compliance, client onboarding, risk management, and on and on. For the practice to succeed, each of these systems must be successful and you need a plan for each system.

Start with marketing. Because if you don’t get and keep good clients, you won’t have a practice to manage. And because marketing drives revenue and revenue will help you build the other systems.

Your plan won’t be perfect, just something you can do and you want to do. A flawed plan relentlessly and enthusiastically implemented will always beat a complicated plan that sits on your hard drive and never sees the light of day.

And you can improve your plan over time.

What’s in a (simple) marketing plan?

  1. The services and benefits you offer
  2. Your target market and ideal client
  3. How you will help prospective clients find you
  4. What you will say and do to persuade them to hire you
  5. What you will do to keep them and get them to send you referrals

Answer these questions and you’ll have your plan. Execute that plan and you’ll be on your way to building your empire.

How to write a simple marketing plan

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If it’s important enough, you’ll find the time

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You want to improve your marketing, but you don’t have the time.

You want to start a side project, but you don’t have the time.

You want to write a book, learn how to invest in precious metals, or take an exercise class, but you don’t have the time.

But is that really true?

You have as much time as anyone else on the planet, and you get to decide how to spend it.

If something is important to you, you’ll find a way to do it. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.

You have time to eat, don’t you? Because staying alive is a top priority. What else do you do that’s important to you?

That’s what you need to figure out.

Make a list of everything you do in the course of a day or a week, and a list of everything you would like to do but don’t (because you don’t think you have the time).

Then, go through your lists and add a flag or tag or label next to each activity, to designate its level of importance.

Which are your top priorities? Which aren’t?

If you have trouble deciding, slowly think about each task, make no assumptions about its importance, and ask yourself why you do it (or want to). What’s the value? How do you benefit? What would you give up if you didn’t do it?

Write this down next to each task or activity.

In fact, you might get into the habit of doing that each time you add a new task to your list or schedule. Write “Because. . .” or “So that. . .” next to each task, to remind yourself why it’s important.

You can’t do everything. You have to make choices. Not everything has the same priority.

By consciously reviewing how you currently spend your time, you might discover you have more time than you thought. Or find some low-priority activities you can cut down or eliminate, to make room for others.

If something is important enough, you’ll find the time to do it.

The best way to improve your marketing is to get better at getting referrals

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Meh

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I watched the Windows 11 “reveal” video and was underwhelmed.

Some nice updates, but nothing special. Nothing game changing.

I like the new aesthetics. I like that the OS runs faster. I like the new “snap” feature. But I didn’t see anything that had the wow factor.

I wanted a killer feature. Something so big and exciting it would persuade Mac folks to consider switching to Windows.

Mac folks, you can stop laughing now.

Alas, Windows 11 doesn’t do anything I can’t already do. It won’t bring me coffee in the morning or tuck me into bed at night.

No killer feature.

What’s your killer feature? In your law practice, I mean.

What’s one thing you do that makes you stand out from other lawyers? Something that differentiates you and helps people remember you?

I’ll give you a minute to think about it.

I don’t expect it to be amazing. Just different.

It could be as simple as always having a plate of fresh-baked cookies in your waiting room.

No, that probably won’t persuade anyone to choose you as their attorney. Then again, billions of people are going to upgrade to Windows 11, including me, and their cookies aren’t even fresh.

How to differentiate yourself from other lawyers

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Turning down clients for fun and profit

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When you’re a new attorney trying to pay the bills, you take any work that comes your way. At least that’s what I did.

If someone needed help and had a few bucks, I was your guy.

If I didn’t know what to do, I figured it out. It wasn’t as though I was taking time away from other better-paying work. In the early days, there wasn’t any.

So I did what I had to do and (eventually) built a successful practice.

If you’re just starting out, this might be a good plan for you. If you’re not starting out, however, this is not a good plan.

You can’t take “anything”. You have to be selective.

That means turning down work that doesn’t pay well. The small cases and clients, the work that doesn’t align with your vision and goals.

You can’t afford to take the small stuff because it takes time away from the big stuff.

Ah, but what if you’re not that busy? What if your dance card isn’t currently filled with high-paying clients and life-changing cases?

You have two options.

Option one is to take the small case, not for the money necessarily but as a marketing strategy. Help someone with a small case today, tomorrow they may bring you a big case. Help the start-up get going and they may one day have a steady stream of business for you.

The “low-paying” work you do for these clients is an investment in the growth of your practice. You earn less today so you can earn (a lot) more tomorrow.

I’ve done this. I’ve taken small cases that paid little or nothing and was rewarded with some fat, juicy cases down the road.

If you consider this option, the idea is to think in terms of clients, not cases. The case isn’t important, the client is. If it is a client who knows a lot of people, for example, they could send you a lot of business, even if their own case isn’t much to write home about.

Capiche?

Option two is to stick to your guns. Turn down (or refer out) the small stuff or the work that’s not in your primary practice area. When you do that, you can use the time this gives you to focus on marketing and bringing in the types of clients and cases you really want.

I’ve done this too. It was key to my going from “just getting by” to building a big practice.

So, both options work.

What also works is to do a little of both. Turn down most of the “wrong” work but take some of it when it makes sense to do that.

I know, it’s complicated.

Which option is best for you? You might find the answer by looking at a spreadsheet or your bank account. Or by trying it one way and then the other and seeing what works best.

If that sounds even more complicated, you might do what I did.

Stop counting beans and start trusting your gut.

This can help

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