4 reasons you should read what other lawyers write

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Lawyers are writers and you should make time to read them.

Read their blogs, subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on social.

See what they’re saying and what they’re doing. Here are four good reasons:

  1. Law/legal news. Keep up with the law in your field and allied fields. Cases you need to read, proposed legislation, rules you need to know, emerging trends, etc.
  2. Content ideas. Get ideas for your own articles and posts. Agree or disagree with them, offer your own examples, slant, predictions, etc.
  3. Marketing and practice management ideas. Learn what your colleagues are doing to get clients and manage their practice. What marketing methods do they use? Which productivity methods do they use? Which vendors do they use?
  4. Networking opportunities. Find lawyers with whom you can conduct strategic alliances, e.g., cross-referring, writing for each other’s blogs, interviewing each other, creating an event together, promoting each other’s content.

My challenge: Before the end of the day, find one lawyer in your field and one lawyer in an allied field; spend 30 minutes reading their blog (and taking notes), (b) follow them on social, and (c) sign up for their newsletter.

You’ll thank me later.

Build your practice with an email newsletter

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File this for later

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Work may be slow right now but the day will come when you’ve got too much to handle and you’ll want to get some help. When you do, this might come in handy.

It’s about delegation.

I know, you have a love/hate relationship with the concept.

You love that it can free up your time to do your most important work and that you can make money on the difference between what you pay an employee or outside contractor and the fees you receive from the client.

You hate dealing with people who are slow or who make mistakes, and the time and money you have to spend to supervise them and to fix their messes.

But you’re smart, and realize that while you may be able to do things better yourself, you’ll never get rich if you do it all yourself.

Anyway, when you’re ready to take the plunge (again), take a deep breath, say to yourself, “This is a good thing,” and keep these 5 tips handy:

  1. Choose the right person for the job. Make sure the OP has the necessary skills or is capable of learning them under your tutelage. (Yes, easier said than done but it has to be done.)
  2. Provide complete instructions. Assume nothing, tell them everything. Give them step-by-step instructions and examples of what you’re looking for; record videos to show them the process.
  3. Define success. Tell them the outcomes you expect from them once the task is completed. Give them numbers to hit, results you want to see, and deadlines for getting it done.
  4. Have them explain it to you. Once you’ve given them instructions, ask them to tell you if anything is unclear and then have them explain to you what they understand you want them to do.
  5. Schedule check-ins. Don’t wait until they’re finished, do a daily or weekly or other regular check-in, to evaluate their progress, answer questions, provide supplemental information, and make sure they’re on course.

A few bonus tips.

  1. Don’t go cheap. It winds up costing you more in the end.
  2. Start with admin work. Get to know the new hire, see how they do, before giving them anything mission-critical.
  3. Notify your E and O carrier. Because stuff happens.

Okay, one more.

If you want to earn a lot more and work a lot less, follow Master Cylinder’s (that’s me) rule: “Delegate everything, except those things that ONLY you can do.”

Get a marketing assistant and teach them this

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I’ve got good news and bad news

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Have you ever asked a client, “Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”

You might want to stop asking.

It turns out it’s better to give the bad news first and finish with the good news. According to research, people remember an experience more favorably when you finish the conversation on a positive note.

Psychologically, we prefer experiences that improve over time.

So, give clients the bad news first.

It works the same for you.

When you have to deliver bad news to a client, schedule them early in the day. That way, your day will end on a positive note.

Get the hard stuff out of the way so you can end the day on a high note.

I love it when a plan comes together.

How to get referrals without asking for referrals

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Your post-pandemic plan

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Soon. That’s when the world will return to a semblance of order. The fear and restrictions holding us hostage will subside, the economy will recover, and we will carry on.

But there will be changes.

Changes to what we do and how we do them. So, I suggest the need for a plan.

To create your plan, start by asking yourself a series of questions, to help you think about what you need to do.

Some questions to help you get started:

Your office and staff

  • What do you need to do to make the office germ-free and help clients and staff feel safe? What procedures will you follow? What supplies will you keep in stock?
  • Will you let (require) any employees to continue working from home? How will you equip them? How will you supervise them?
  • What will you do to accommodate clients who still aren’t comfortable coming to your office?
  • What will you do to bring on new employees, or let go of existing ones? What will you outsource?
  • Will you change any of your billing and collection practices?
  • What expenses will you cut?
  • What changes to your office/employee manual will you make?

Your marketing

  • How will you lesson dependence on face-to-face meetings?
  • What changes will you make to your warm market marketing systems (Newsletter, client appreciation, referrals, etc.)?
  • What changes will you make to your cold market marketing efforts (advertising, social media, websites, networking, speaking, etc.)?
  • What changes to your marketing budget do you need to consider?
  • Which practice areas do you want to ramp up? What new practice areas will you add? Which practice areas will you curtail or phase out?
  • Will you run any kind of promotions to celebrate the re-opening of your office?

You should also ask questions and create a plan for your personal life.

As you consider your options, you should also consider that the world, and your practice, won’t return to business as usual overnight. It will likely be many months before we’re fully up to speed and there will no doubt be permanent changes.

So, be prepared to regularly update your plan with new questions and new answers.

Whatever you do, don’t fret about anything. Yes, the world has changed but the fundamentals have not.

And good things are on the horizon.

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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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