If your mom managed your law firm

Share

When we were kids our moms made sure we followed the rules. We ate our peas, did our homework, studied for tests, and told them if we were going to be late for dinner. Our parents wanted to protect us and get a good start in life so they made us follow the rules. Or else.

If your mom managed your law firm, she would do the same thing.

She’d make sure you did your work, calendared every date, filed every document, and billed every client. If a client didn’t pay, she’d be on the phone, reminding them and threatening to call their mom.

No doubt, she’d also make you tidy up your office at the end of the day.

You would be more productive and profitable but nobody wants their mom telling them what to do, or telling everyone embarrassing stories about something we did when we were six.

Besides, we have administrators to do most of the things our mom would do.

The problem is, an administrator does what you tell them to do, not the other way around.

So you need self-discipline. Which is loosely defined as doing things you need to do whether you feel like doing them or not.

Self-discipline means conquering procrastination and developing consistency. Not because your mom made you but because you made yourself.

One way to develop self-discipline is to start small. If you find it difficult to do marketing 15 minutes a day, start with 5 minutes. Or one minute. Or start doing it once a week.

Develop the habit of doing it consistently, first, and go from there.

Another way to develop self-discipline is to first develop it in other areas of your life. If you are undisciplined about following your task management system, start by getting self-disciplined about reading every day or going to bed 30 minutes earlier.

Someone said, “How you do anything is how you do everything,” and if that’s true, when you develop discipline in one area of your life, it helps you become disciplined in others.

A good place to start is with physical activity. Taking a twenty-minute walk three days a week, for example, is easy to do and easy to measure. You’re either doing it or you’re not.

Walking will not only improve your health and give you more energy, it will help you to become more disciplined about doing more cerebral activities like writing, personal development, or marketing.

Walking is also good for getting ideas. Where do you think I got the idea for this post?

Does your website need more content? This will help

Share

Disaster preparedness for law firms

Share

Houston, TX. is undergoing a world of hurt right now. Some say that certain public officials were warned but didn’t do enough to prepare. True or not, their plight should serve as a warning to all of us about the need to prepare for emergencies.

In your home and in your office, you need tools and supplies.  You need food and water, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, flashlights, batteries, and tools to shut off the gas and water.

You also need to know what you will do if there’s a fire, flood, or earthquake. How will you get out? How will you communicate if phones are down?

Take some time to craft a plan and make sure everyone you care about has a copy.

But that’s just the beginning. You also need a plan in case of financial and business disasters.

What will you do if a Bar complaint or a lawsuit is filed against you? Who will you call? What will you say or do?

Put it in writing so if and when it happens, you don’t have to think about it, you can just “do”.

What should your family and employees or partners do if you become incapacitated or die? Put it in writing.

What will you do if a major client leaves and takes a third of your revenue with them? What will you do if you suffer a big financial loss due to embezzlement, bad investments, or partnership disputes?

If something big could go wrong, you should have a plan in place to address it.

While you’re thinking about what to do if disaster strikes, you should also think about what you can do to prevent it and/or mitigate your losses.

Make sure you have redundant systems in place for your calendars. Make sure your client data is encrypted and stored safely. Make sure you have enough insurance and enough cash in savings.

Yeah, I know, it’s no fun being an adult. But these things have to be done. If you find yourself procrastinating, or you realize you’re not very good at this sort of thing, ask someone else to do it. Ask your spouse, your office administrator, or a lawyer-friend for help.

Just make sure you get it done.

Be safe, not sorry. Make sure you have a plan in place for getting referrals

Share

Quantity or quality?

Share

If you had to choose, would you choose more clients or better clients? Quantity or quality?

There are benefits to having a lot of clients:

  • More opportunities to learn and improve your skills
  • More opportunities to test different approaches and strategies (marketing, client relations, promotions, etc.
  • More clients mean more people contributing to overhead
  • Protection from loss. If you lose a few clients, you’ll have others to fill the gap.
  • More opportunities for repeat business, referrals, and introductions to other professionals
  • More opportunities to grow with small clients who become big clients

On the other hand, more clients mean more risks. More opportunities to make mistakes, more people clamoring for your attention, more people who might be unhappy and file a complaint or leave a bad review. There’s also more competition for smaller clients from the majority of lawyers who focus on them.

Well, how about the benefits that come with quality?

  • Bigger cases or clients means higher margins; you earn more per case or client
  • Higher profits allows you to deliver more value to each client, earning their repeat business and referrals
  • Better clients have more work for you; you don’t have to do additional outside marketing to get it
  • Better clients means referrals and introductions to better prospective clients
  • Better clients make it easier to build your reputation and stand out from the crowd
  • Leverage: one client could provide you with ten times the revenue of one new average client
  • Potential for more interesting work

But better clients aren’t all sunshine and lollipops. Lose one big client and your income could drop precipitously. Bigger clients aren’t as easy to replace. Bigger clients can be more demanding and more expensive to serve (more staff, better office, bigger overhead).

So, if the question is quantity or quality, what’s the answer?

How about “both”. How about a quantity of better clients and bigger cases?

That’s the goal. Getting there is a process.

When you’re starting out, you take what you can get. Later, you replace smaller clients with bigger and better ones and reject or refer smaller cases.

Your client mix changes over time as you continually work to increase revenue, lower costs, and increase profits. And it never stops. You never find the perfect balance because as soon as you get to a certain level you’ll want to get to the next one.

The only constant is constant change. Managing that is why you earn the big bucks.

Learn how to choose your target market and ideal client

Share

Thinking like a lawyer may be costing you money

Share

On my walk today I saw a car parked in front of a neighbor’s house. On the car door was a magnetic sign advertising, “Pam’s house sitting and pet sitting” business. Attached to the sign was a plastic business card holder which was filled with her cards.

Many lawyers who saw this wouldn’t give it a second thought. They’re busy thinking about their cases and clients and all the work they need to do. Or they would think about whether Pam is bonded and insured. Does she have employees and are they also insured? Does she supervise them? Did the owner of the house put the jewelry in a safe deposit box before they went out of town?

You know, lawyer stuff.

Enlightened lawyers would look at that sign and think about marketing.

No, I’m not suggesting a lawyer put a magnetic sign on their car. But if you’ve trained yourself to think like a business owner as well as a lawyer, seeing that sign might prompt you to start asking yourself about other ways Pam might be building her business.

Does she rely solely on that sign and word of mouth or does she do other kinds of marketing? Does she have a website? Is she listed in business directories? Does she advertise in our community newsletter? Does she distribute flyers?

Does she network with other business owners who might have customers or clients who need her pet sitting services–pet stores, vets, dog groomers, and kennels for example? For house sitting, does she network with real estate agents and travel agents?

Does she have a mailing list? How much repeat business does she get? How about referrals?

Does she know other house and pet sitters and do they cover for each other when one is overbooked? Has she considered expanding her services to include dog walking or pet food delivery?

This is how a business person thinks. Lawyers need to think this way, too because a law practice is also a business.

Ideas are everywhere. You just have to look for them. You might not be able to use many of the ideas you see (like car signs) but ideas you can’t use often lead to ideas you can use.

You know you want them. Here’s how to get more referrals

Share

Following up with leads

Share

My wife visited a real estate website and filled out a form to get some information. As you might expect, an agent called and left a message, offering information, encouraging my wife to call, yada yada. She did the same thing via text.

My wife didn’t respond, so naturally, the calls and texts continued.

A month later, they’re still coming.

My wife thought she would be nice and put the agent out of her misery. She called and politely told her that our plans had changed and we weren’t interested in getting more information.

The agent’s messages had been cheerful and positive. When my wife told her our plans had changed, the agent’s demeanor did a 180. She wasn’t rude or dismissive. More like defeated and unhappy.

When my wife told me the story, she said she would never want to work with an agent who is that moody.

What agent of any experience doesn’t know that leads are a numbers game and that most don’t turn into sales? What agent lets people who say “not interested” (which should be interpreted as “not now”) hear their disappointment?

What a missed opportunity.

A “no” today might be a “yes” tomorrow. Or a referral. Sadly, my wife and others we may assume, won’t contact Miss unhappy pants if and when things change.

Of course, this never happens to most lawyers. That’s because most lawyers don’t follow-up with inquiries and leads, even with people they’ve spoken to. They don’t follow-up at all.

And that’s even worse.

When someone contacts you to ask questions or get information, don’t give up on them if they don’t take the next step. Stay in touch, offer more information, and continue to let them know how you can help.

Should you call or text? Maybe once or twice in the beginning. Have your staff do it. After that, use email and snail mail.

They were interested once. They may be interested again. Follow-up until they buy or die. Or tell you to stop. And no matter what, never let them see you sweat.

They may never buy but they can send you referrals

Share

Stop telling clients you’re not in your office

Share

Your clients don’t need to know that you are away from the office. Or on vacation. They don’t need to know that you received their email, or be told that you will reply as soon as possible.

So why do you tell them?

Being accessible is important, especially when so many attorneys aren’t. But that doesn’t mean you should put yourself on a leash.

Away messages, vacation messages, and “I got your email” messages send the wrong message. They say, “I’m here, you can always reach me, and if I’m away for a bit, I’m sorry, don’t worry, I’ll be back soon.”

It’s bad posture. It says, “I need your business,” when in truth, the message you want to convey is just the opposite.

Your clients need to know that you’re good at what you do, you work hard for them, and if they have you as their attorney, they are very fortunate.

They need you. You don’t need them.

Most clients shouldn’t even have your personal email address. They should have an “office” email and know that it is monitored by someone who works for you. If a client writes, they need to know that someone will read it and reply promptly.

That someone probably won’t be you.

You want clients to know that you’re busy, in demand by other clients, and successful. Your time is extremely valuable and you have people working for you who do most of the front line communication on your behalf.

You’re there, behind the scenes, calling the shots. If your staff can’t help them, or there’s an emergency, they can reach you.

But your clients need to go through them.

Just like when they call.

Delegate more and you will earn more

Share

Are you a finicky lawyer?

Share

I told you about a program I saw profiling a 20-year-old woman with a strange and dangerous addiction to sugar. She drinks 30 cans of cola a day and is on the fast track to a major illness.

The program is called “Finicky Eaters”. My wife found replays on YouTube. We’ve since seen episodes about a guy who has eaten nothing but cheeseburgers for the last 25 years (yep, three meals a day), the gal who eats nothing but french fries, and another about a man who likes to eat raw meat and little else.

As far as I’m concerned, this is more than finicky eating, it’s a sickness. Had these folks not received professional help, they would no doubt be looking at debilitating illness or death.

I was thinking about these poor souls on my walk this morning. It made me think about how many lawyers also have unhealthy habits with respect to their practices. Although usually not fatal, these habits prevent them from reaching their potential.

Many lawyers steadfastly refuse to delegate, for example. Doing all the work themselves can add stress and lead to burnout. It also limits their income. (I know, there’s a trade-off. If you’re not careful, delegating can lead to other problems. Note to self: delegate, but be careful.)

When it comes to marketing, many lawyers also have bad habits. They get set in their ways, refusing to try new strategies, or update old ones, and find themselves falling behind the competition.

How about you? Do you have any bad habits about how you manage your practice? Things you do that you shouldn’t, or things you should do but don’t?

Do you continue doing something a certain way because that’s how you’ve always done it, or because that’s how everyone else does it?

Do you stay in a bad partnership out of habit or fear that the alternative might be worse?

Do you continue paying for products or services you no longer need or could replace with lower-cost or better alternatives?

Start a new habit today of regularly examining what you do and how you do it. Pay attention to your habits, routines, and go-to strategies and consider what you might change or improve.

If you decide that you’re doing fine and no changes are necessary, I have one last suggestion for you: get someone else to take a look. Ask a friend, or hire a professional, to examine your ways and tell you what they see.

Because most of those finicky eaters didn’t realize they had a problem until someone else pointed it out to them.

Are you getting all of the referrals you want? 

Share

How smart lawyers get better reviews

Share

I heard from a couple of smart lawyers who shared what they do to get better online reviews.

Sharon said, “I only ask clients for a review if I’m confident they were happy with my services. If they don’t get around to it, I do not repeat the request–I don’t wish to annoy people.”

Joshua said, “One thing we do at our office to control or screen for good reviews is that we do an in-office review first before asking for an online review. If someone had a great experience then we will ask for an online review and follow up with them a few times.”

A few takeaways and suggestions:

(1) Make sure the client is happy before you ask for an online review. 

If the designer I talked about yesterday had done that, she would have known not to ask me to post a review.

At the end of the case or matter, interview the client about their experience with your firm or ask them to fill out a form. Get their feedback and comments. Find out if they would recommend you to others.

If they’re happy, ask them to post their comments online.

If possible, while the client is still in the office, call up the review site of your liking on your computer. Help them register and post their review, or at least show them how to do it (and give them a copy of their in-house review), so they can do it when they get home or back to work.

(2) If the interview or in-house review reveals issues, fix them. And learn from them.

If you fix the problem quickly and completely, or the problem wasn’t your fault and you can make the client see that, it might be okay to ask for an online review. Do another in-office review first, however, before you decide to do that.

(3) It’s okay to remind clients to leave an online review. Remind but don’t push.

At the time they complete the in-office review or interview and agree to post an online review, ask for permission to remind them. “I know you’re busy, I’ll have my secretary send an email reminder, okay?”

Thank them again for their positive review and point out that posting that review online is important. It will help other people who are looking for an attorney, and it will help you.

If you want to get more reviews, and better reviews, this is how you do it.

Earn more without working more. Here’s how 

Share

When is good enough good enough?

Share

When is the document you drafted good enough to file? When is the letter you wrote good enough to mail? When is your case prepared enough to take to trial?

I don’t know but you do.

Maybe not consciously, more like a feeling in your gut. You know something isn’t perfect but you know, somehow, that it’s good enough.

One thing’s for sure, when you have a deadline, the notion of what’s good enough gets hazier. You’ve got to get it done or there will be consequences so you get it done. It is deemed good enough because it has to be.

In a pleasant bit of irony, the pressure of a deadline doesn’t necessarily cause more errors. Instead, it often allows you to cut through the fog and quickly find the right path. When you don’t have time for minutia, it’s easier to zero in on what’s important.

So good enough is a relative term. It means different things under different circumstances. How do you get comfortable with this murkiness? I think it comes down to understanding a few things:

  • Good enough really is good enough. You will get most things right most of the time. Most of what you fear will never happen.
  • While many errors are embarrassing, most aren’t fatal. If you can’t fix something, you’ve got insurance to protect you from the worst case scenario.
  • You can minimize problems with checklists, forms, templates, and boilerplate language, and by having another set of eyes edit or at least look at your work product.
  • You’ll get better over time. Experience will help you minimize errors and improve your ability to make decisions. You’ll also get things done faster because you’ve done the same thing so often.

Ultimately, the best way to find out if something is good enough is to release it into the world. The world (your clients, your opposition, your target market) will tell you if something is good enough. Most of the time, the answer will be in the affirmative.

Are you getting paid for all of your work? This can help

Share

Write your own Yelp reviews

Share

Many lawyers complain about review sites like Yelp. They point out that one bad review can do tremendous damage and that many bad reviews are dishonest and unfair.

You can’t stop the crazies from posting their opinion. All you can do is encourage your happy clients to post positive reviews and drown out the bad ones.

And that’s exactly what you should do.

Whenever a client thanks you or praises you or your staff, they should be asked to post a review. Explain that even a few words can make a difference. Tell them how much you appreciate it and point the way to your “page”.

You should also stimulate more good reviews by conducting surveys at the end of every case or engagement. A few questions will do the trick but make sure to include a field that allows them to add comments. When you see positive comments, ask the client to use those comments to post a review.

There’s something else you can do to get more positive reviews. Write your own.

Hold on, don’t get your panties in a festival. I’m not suggesting anything nefarious or unethical. Just the opposite.

Let me explain.

Go to Yelp or another review site and peruse a bunch of reviews for attorneys. Find some of the good ones, especially of attorneys in your practice area. Copy those reviews into a document. Then, do the same thing for the bad reviews.

Bad reviews? Yes, you’ll want those too.

Next, take the good reviews and pull out phrases and sentences and stories that resonate with you. Imagine that these things were said about you and your practice. Then, use them to write a mock review, saying nice things about yourself from the point of view of an extremely satisfied client.

Grab this faux review and a pile of negative reviews about other lawyers and call a meeting with your staff. Show them the faux review and point out why it so good. Then, let the brainstorming begin.

Ask for suggestions about how you could bring about the kinds of results mentioned in the faux review. What do you need to do or change to earn reviews like this one? Write it down.

What you’re doing is creating a manifesto for your firm. Things to do to make your client’s experiences so incredible they feel compelled to write (real) positive reviews. A standard to live up to from this day forward.

One more thing.

Break out the bad reviews and share them. Have a laugh or two, and thank your lucky stars that these things weren’t written about you. Take those bad reviews and add a bunch of “don’ts” to your manifesto.

Follow your manifesto and you won’t ever worry about reviews again.

Reviews are just one way your clients can help your practice grow

Share