Work-work balance?

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The world is coming to realize that working too many hours is counterproductive. You can’t do your best work if you’re always exhausted, or win friends and influence people if you’re always grumpy.

We all need time off. Which is why folks are talking about and starting to implement a shorter work-week.

That might be a problem for those who bill by the hour, which is why I stopped doing that years ago and have urged you to do the same. A lawyer’s value is (should be) measured by the value you create for your clients, not the time it takes you to create it. If you can create that value in a four-day week instead of five (or more), why wouldn’t you?

But there’s more to work-life balance than the number of hours worked. Creating balance can also be achieved by changing how you do what you do.

The CEO of Doist, creator of the Todoist app, manages his time a bit differently:

Amir Salihefendic, CEO of Doist, prides himself on having a nearly empty calendar. “Being in meetings all day long, resolving things via meetings, that’s not really an effective way to scale and grow,” he said. Instead, he’s become a loud evangelist over the last year of the idea that remote and asynchronous work — or async — are the future. Async boils down to this, Salihefendic said: “When you send a message, you don’t expect a response right away.”

So what does a truly async day look like? For Salihefendic:

A couple of hours with his kids in the morning before walking over to a co-working space.

He tries to do deep work all morning, take time in the middle of the day to recharge and then spends the afternoon catching up on messages and the rest.

If there’s something hugely time-sensitive — which Salihefendic bets is true less often than you think — he turns to Telegram, or (gasp) a phone call.

Since nobody expects Salihefendic to be around every second, he said, nothing bad happens when he’s not.

Source: https://www.protocol.com/newsletters/protocol-workplace/remote-work-wars?rebelltitem=6#rebelltitem6

A non-traditional approach may work for some (enlightened) corporations, but would it work for lawyers?

Show of hands: Who wants to find out?

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Spying on clients and competitors

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Do you know what’s going on in your clients’ businesses? The latest good news? The latest dirt?

You should. And you can. Just set up google alerts for the business and their key people and you’ll get an email whenever something happens.

When someone gets sued, investigated, or arrested, when someone wins an award, gets married, or dies, you won’t have to wait for someone to tell you, you’ll know. You can contact your client and congratulate them or express condolences.

Do the same thing for their industries and major competitors. When you learn something your client may need to know, they’ll appreciate your telling them, even if they already know.

If you represent consumers, set up alerts for their employers, their employer’s industries, their places of worship, and their local markets.

While you’re at it, set up alerts for your major competitors, your practice area, your referral sources, and yourself. You need to know when someone is talking about you or doing something that interests you or may concern you, things that present an opportunity or a threat.

And yes, you can also get a lot of ideas for your newsletter or blog this way.

Go here and set up an alert or two. You can always remove it, modify it, or add more.

Automate your market (and marketing) intelligence. Let technology bring the information to you so you don’t have to go looking for it.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Know thy client

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I read an article in the Wisconsin Lawyer that provided “tips for writing in ways that attract the attention of search engines, readers, and new clients.”

It’s good information. And a good reminder about the importance and value of writing in building a law practice.

But that’s not why I’m telling you about it.

At the end of the article, in her “bio,” the author tells a story about one of her consulting clients who was unhappy with her advice:

A few years ago, an attorney I was working with called me to complain because one of their former clients gave them a bad online review. I had encouraged them to follow up with clients to thank them for their business and ask for reviews, so the bad review they received was, in their mind, my fault. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to tell attorneys that they should only ask for reviews from clients they suspected had a positive opinion of them. I now emphasize that you should never ask for a review you don’t want. It’s the legal marketing equivalent of the age-old advice that you should never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to!

It seems so simple. Ask for reviews; don’t ask for reviews from clients who might not love ya.

You want reviews. You need reviews. Good reviews can bring in a boatload of clients.

Seriously.

So you should ask for reviews.

But how do you avoid bad reviews?

Simple.

Ask for reviews, but do it in stages:

  1. Routinely send every client a form to fill out to provide feedback about you, your services, your office, etc. Include a question asking if they would recommend you to others, and why or why not.
  2. When the client provides positive feedback and says they would recommend/refer you, ask them to post this in a review (and give them a link to the site you prefer).

Keep your enemies close. Keep your friends (and clients) closer, because you never know what they might say about you.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System

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You can’t hire someone to do your pushups for you

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Jim Rohn said it, and he was right. Some things can’t or shouldn’t be outsourced.

Your marketing is one of them. Because professional services are personal services.

Committees and corporations may pay you, but you are hired by and build relationships with individuals.

You can outsource or delegate many marketing activities, but most of them should either be done by you or supervised by you.

You wouldn’t hire someone to go on dates with your spouse and you shouldn’t do that with your clients. You need to know them, so you can serve them, and they need to know you so they will give you that opportunity.

Staff and outside vendors can assist you, advise you, and do a lot of the legwork for you, but they shouldn’t do everything for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe you should delegate as much as possible. I’ll say it again, “you should ONLY do those things which ONLY you can do”.

One of those things is building relationships.

Where do you find the time to do that and also do the legal work?

I’m glad you asked.

The answer is to delegate as much of the legal work as possible.

If it can be done by an employee, it should be.

You diagnose the problem and write the prescription. Your staff carries out your orders. You supervise, make sure they’re doing the right things, and doing things right.

Marketing is a lot more than building relationships, but with a professional practice, it’s the most important part.

Make sure you allocate time to do that.

Ready? Quantum Leap Marketing System

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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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