What is the secret to your success?


One day, a young lawyer just starting their career will contact you and ask for your advice. They’ll ask, “What is the your secret to your success?”

How will you respond?

Will you attribute it to hard work? Timing? The right practice area?

Is it good marketing? The right connections? Lots of experience?

A combination of several factors?

Simon Cowell may not be an attorney but I like his answer to that question. He said, “The secret of my success is that I make other people money.”

Quintessential business advice.

Note that he didn’t say things like delivering great TV shows or music or pleasing viewers and record buyers. He spoke about helping his business partners become more successful. Of course one of the ways he does this is by delivering great TV shows and music.

You might think about this as you craft your answer to the question.

You help your business clients make (or save) money. You help your consumer clients solve problems and feel safe. You help your “business partners” (i.e., other professionals, referral sources) look good to their clients and contacts.

Now matter how you answer the question, one thing is certain. The secret to your success involves helping people.


What do you “know” to be true about legal marketing?


Smart people once believed that it was impossible for man to fly. Most accepted this as truth and never considered challenging it. The Wright brothers thought differently and changed the world.

Orville Wright said, “If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”

It got me thinking about what we (lawyers, society) believe is true about the subject of legal marketing.

Not long ago, many lawyers said that other than writing scholarly articles, public speaking, and networking, marketing wasn’t appropriate for an attorney. While this is still true in some places, most of the world has evolved.

Advertising was long thought to be inappropriate, even unethical. Most western jurisdictions now recognize that with certain standards in place, advertising isn’t the stain on the profession it was once thought to be.

Question for you. What do you know to be true about legal marketing? What do you do, or refrain from doing, to market your practice based on your beliefs?

Let’s take the subject of referrals. It is widely understood that you get more referrals if you ask for them. Yet many attorneys don’t ask. They think it makes them look weak or needy, or they don’t know what to say so they don’t even try.

Our beliefs create our reality. If you believe that asking for referrals makes you look weak or is an imposition, you won’t ask. On the other hand, if you believe that referrals are good for all three parties (the referral giver, the client, and you), your entire framework changes.

You’ll ask for referrals because you know that a referral helps the referred client save time and avoid the risk of making a bad decision. You’ll ask for referrals because you’ll know that your clients and contacts want to help the people they know get the benefits you offer and you’ll know they also want to help you.

If your beliefs about referrals currently preclude you from asking for them, changing those beliefs could transform your practice.

It’s time to re-examine all of your beliefs about legal marketing and re-validate them. Are they still true? Has anything changed? Are there any exceptions?

Have you “closed the door” to things you might now consider?

Have you looked at things as black and white and not seen the gray areas within within which you could operate?

Step away from the construct that is your existing practice and look at it from a distance. See your practice and all of your existing beliefs as contained in a giant box.

How can you think outside that box?

Because progress never occurs inside the box.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula


What to do when you have nothing new to offer


What’s new?

Unfortunately, for most attorneys, the answer is “nothing”. They offer the same services today that they offered last year, and the year before that.

The clients change, the cases have different elements, but for most attorneys, same old same old. Even if they offer a menu of services, the menu rarely, if ever, changes.

Worse, many of their clients need them only once in their lifetime.

If attorneys owned any other type of business, they would regularly offer new products or services. Their business would always be growing.

But if a client doesn’t need another divorce, or doesn’t get in another accident, it’s game over.

It would be great to be able to offer the client another service, wouldn’t it? But if you specialize (as you should), you probably don’t have anything else.

Some attorneys offer updated documents, reviews, and modifications, and that’s good. But what about everyone else?

Well, there are a couple of things every attorney can do.

First, you can partner with other attorneys and promote their services to your clients. In return, your partner promotes your services to their clients. You can also do joint ventures with other types of professionals, and businesses, too.

Your clients have problems and needs that go beyond what you can do for them. They need help finding high quality professionals and vendors. They would love to get a good deal, or at least know they aren’t getting a bad one.

You can help them, and in so doing, help yourself.

Think “clients” not “cases” or “engagements”. Continually look for ways to help your clients with their other business or personal needs.

See The Attorney Marketing Formula for different ways you can work with joint venture partners.

Second, no matter what kind of practice you have, you should continually be creating new content.

Every article, blog post, report, seminar, video, or ebook you produce and put out into the market place can bring you new clients.

They can bring traffic to your website via search and social sharing. You can ask your clients and contacts, (and joint venture partners), to share our content with their clients and lists. You can offer them for sale on Kindle and other venues, where millions of prospective clients can find them.

Each piece of content you create educates prospects about what you do and how you can help them. It pre-sells them on the need for an attorney, and why that attorney should be you. And it prompts them to contact you to ask questions, make an appointment, or sign up for your list.

New services, albeit someone else’s, and new content. These are your new products and services. This is what you should continually create and offer.

Then, when someone asks, “What’s new?” you’ll be able to show them.

To learn more about joint ventures, get this


99% of attorneys give the other 1% a bad name


Attorneys are often regarded as selfish bastards who eat their young. We rank below used car sales people and politicians on the trust and likability meter. So I read with interest a story about an attorney who drove a stake through the heart of this stereotype.

It happened in an Oregon courtroom where Castor Conley, a 27-year-old married father of a 17-month-old girl, was charged with paying $150 to $200 for a stolen Nissan, which he sold for $275 to another buyer, who then sold it for parts. Conley pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, but the deputy district attorney agreed to classify it as a misdemeanor if he paid $983 in restitution to the owner of the truck.

Conley couldn’t come up with the money, however.

Attorney Colin M. Murphy was in the courtroom on another matter and overheard the conversation. He didn’t know the defendant but realized that a felony conviction would affect his job and housing prospects and he volunteered to pay the money.

‘All of us sometime in our lives have done something we would rather not have done,’ he told The Oregonian. ‘And the time will come when perhaps we are going to be held accountable. And I think at that point we would like to have somebody show us mercy.”

The judge told Conley he should eventually pay back Murphy, but Murphy said he was happy to give the man a chance. “If I get paid back, great,” Murphy said. “If I don’t, no problem. I’m not going to hold the kid to it.”

I know it’s the Christmas season, but Murphy needs to stop this nonsense. He’s making the rest of us look bad.


An attorney who gets it


I may not use the word “posture” but that’s what I mean when I recommend charging top dollar for your services, refusing to discount or match another lawyer’s fees, and being confident enough to tell prospective clients to talk to other lawyers, as I did in yesterday’s post. Virginia appellate attorney Steve Emmert gets it.

After reading yesterday’s post, he emailed me the following:

Hi, David –

I read this entry, and it suggested a related topic. You may recall that I’m an appellate lawyer. Because my state’s appellate bar is small, we all know each other and we’re all pals. I therefore have a ready database of available alternate counsel.

My “related topic” is my fees. I have intentionally set my fees at the upper end of the range for appellate lawyers here. When someone – either a prospective client or one of my “customers,” a trial lawyer – calls and asks about my fee, I tell them up-front that I’m one of the most expensive appellate lawyers in the state. I then quote them a fee based on that premise.

As you might imagine, my fees dissuade many customers and clients from hiring me. I’m never upset when they can’t afford me; I tell them I can find them another capable appellate lawyer who can do it for less money. That makes everybody happy – my pal gets a new case that he would never have seen otherwise, and the client/customer gets to experience the unthinkable – an attorney telling him or her, “Don’t give me your money.” That usually floors them, and I have received more than one message, a year or two later, thanking me for my honesty and for the referral.

Finally, the real point of this overlong note:

Some customers or clients ask me to reduce my fee. My stock reply harks back to the previous paragraph: “No, but if you want, I can find you a capable” etc. This usually generates one of two responses. The first is, “Yes, please, I’d like to save some money.” I give those folks a name or two and then go about my life with a clean conscience. People who want to economize on a lawyer are not high on my target list of incoming business.

The other possible answer, which often comes after a day or two, is “I’ve thought about it, and while I appreciate the offer of a less-expensive lawyer, I’ve decided that I really want you to represent me. I’ll pay your quoted fee.” Imagine what that feels like; these are the kind of customers that you really go the extra mile for.

As you might surmise, Steve loves what he does. He gets to pick and choose the cases he accepts and because he charges top dollar, he doesn’t need lots of business to enjoy a very comfortable income.

Hold on, you say? That’s fine for someone with his years of experience and stellar reputation. One look at his website and you know that this is the guy you want to hire. Most attorneys can’t be that choosy. Most attorneys can’t get away with being “one of the most expensive” in their field.

And you are right. Most attorneys can’t. But far more could do so than even make the attempt.

Look, you’ve got to be good at what you do and you’ve got to be able to prove it. You have to have the chops. You can’t be the new kid on the block and expect to charge what lawyers with thirty year’s experience charge.

But you can charge more than you think.

Most attorneys play it safe. They “price match” what other attorneys charge, or they undercut them. They’re afraid of the competition. They expect that all clients choose their attorney based on price (they don’t) and believe they have to be competitive to get their “share” of the work that’s available.

They operate in fear, not confidence.

Who’s to say you can’t charge more than you do? Who’s to say you’re not as good as other lawyers who charge more, if not better?

I don’t know if you have what it takes to be “one of the most expensive” attorneys in your market, but I have long advocated setting fees that are at least in the upper one-third of the market. Obviously, most attorneys don’t.

If you’re not good enough yet, do what you have to do to get there. But if you are, don’t let a lack of confidence or a fear of losing business to other (cheaper) lawyers stop you from getting what you’re worth.


Why you should tell prospective clients to talk to other lawyers


I read an article this morning written for people looking for a lawyer on how to find the right one for the job. I’ll summarize it:

  • Attorneys specialize and it’s important to find someone who handles your type of case; [examples]
  • Keyword searches are a good way to find some candidates; avoid referral sites and directories, you don’t need a middleman
  • Check out their websites and choose three or four attorneys who handle your type of case; [examples]
  • Call all of them and ask questions about them (how long practicing, what percentage of their practice is this type of matter?), and about your case (what are the options, how much will they charge?)
  • Meet with them, ask more about the case, about how they will work with you, accessibility, fees, etc.
  • Most people looking for a client won’t do half of this, they will hire the first attorney they speak to, and that’s not wise. You have many lawyers to choose from so take your time and choose the one that is most qualified and “feels” right

Twelve paragraphs. Basic stuff. Something any attorney could write.

Including you.

Have you written an article like this and submitted it to blogs and websites in your target market? You should. It will bring visitors to your website who like your information and the honesty with which you presented it. They’ll want to learn more about you and put your name on their short list of candidates.

But here’s the thing. They probably won’t call other attorneys, as you advised, or if they do, there’s a good chance they will come back to you. They “met” you first. You helped them. You know what you’re doing.

And let’s face it, if they wind up hiring someone else instead of you, they were probably going to do that anyway.

One more thing. After you write an article like this, post it on your website, too. Yes, tell visitors that they should call other lawyers who do what you do, and tell them what to ask. Crazy? Not at all. They will respect you for being so forthcoming. They will see your confidence, and like it, and like you.

Just do it. You’ll thank me later. You’ll get lots of traffic from people searching for “how to find a _____ attorney,” and a good percentage of them will hire you.

Marketing online is simple when you know what to do


How to eliminate 80% of your law firm’s past due accounts


According to a survey by LexisNexis, 73% of law firms report having past due accounts. Lawyers in small firms reported that up to 39% of their total client base is past due.

What causes this? And what can be done about it?

More than 80% of the law firms surveyed said that client financial hardship was the biggest cause. This suggests that the best way to reduce past due accounts is through better client selection. If you refuse to accept clients who are having financial issues, you will eliminate the number one reason clients fall behind.

Make sure clients have the ability to pay you before you do any work. Ask them to submit a financial statement before you accept them as a client.

This is not always possible of course, and financial statements don’t always reflect reality, so in addition, make sure you get a sufficient retainer at the time of the engagement, and make sure this is replenished when it falls below a certain threshold. You can also request collateral and personal guarantees, and get set up to accept credit cards and other financing arrangements.

Next, make sure that you bill promptly and frequently. A delay in billing is one of the biggest factors in clients’ falling behind. If you want to get paid on time, send a detailed invoice no less than every 30 days.

Finally, if you want to avoid large unpaid receivables and write offs, make sure you have procedures in place for addressing late payments immediately after they occur. Don’t let a small unpaid balance become a big one.

These three strategies, better client selection, sufficient retainers, and prompt and frequent billing, should help you eliminate 80% or more of your billing and collection problems and increase your cash flow. For more strategies, get my ebook, Get the Check: Stress-Free Legal Billing and Collection, as a PDF or on Kindle.


Go to law school and join the Billionaire Boys Club


I read an article about the top five industries in which the world’s self-made billionaires made their fortunes. Financing and investments were at the top of the list with a little over 19%. Surprisingly, technology wasn’t one of the top five.

Not surprisingly, the legal industry wasn’t on the list. In fact, I can’t name any lawyer who became a billionaire practicing law. I do, however, know of more than a few billionaires who have a law degree under their belt.

Practicing law may not be a direct path to earning ten figures, but it clearly is an indirect path. Your law practice can introduce you to entrepreneurs and others who are on their way to joining The Billionaire Boys Club, and if you play your cards right, you can come along for the ride.

When you know the right people, you can use those contacts as a stepping stone to wealth. Even if they are not your clients, being a lawyer can give you access to people, information, advice, and the opportunity to invest in other people’s ideas or go to work for their companies.

My father pointed this out to me when I was in high school. He wanted me to go to law school, something I was pretty sure I did not want to do. He told me I didn’t necessarily have to practice law, my law degree could open doors for me and prepare me for anything else I might want to do.

I did practice law, for more than twenty years, and it seems he was right. I made a lot of money in my law practice, but I’ve made a lot more doing other things.

How about you? Is being a lawyer your end game or do you see it as a stepping stone to something else? Do you want to join the billionaire club or would you be happy with tens of millions?


How to beat the competition in marketing a law practice


If you want to build an average law firm, find out what other lawyers are doing and do the same thing. Target the cases and clients they target, network where they network, and make your website look like their website.

If you’re lucky, you will get average results. Why lucky? Because they got there first and will always be one step ahead of you. But in time, you may achieve parity with them. And hey, compared to digging ditches, being an average lawyer is not too shabby.

What’s that? You don’t want to be average? You want more? You want better?

Okay then. You need to be a little different.

Not radically different or spectacularly better. A little different. A little better.

Take your website for example.

Average lawyers have a piss poor website. There’s very little helpful information on it. No articles that help visitors understand their legal situation and options. What’s there is often poorly written. The articles aren’t optimized for search engines and the sites have no social media integration, so few people ever find the sites or share the content.

Good news for you. You can stand out from the average lawyer by posting some well written, helpful content on your site and making it easy for people to find it and share it. Not hundreds of articles. Ten will do. That’s all you need to stand out.

You can do the same thing with other aspects of your marketing. If other lawyers hang out at the chamber of commerce, go somewhere else. Network where they don’t. Don’t go head to head with them. Remember, you don’t want to be average, you want to be better.

How about client relations? The average lawyer does an average job of communicating with their clients. You can be better by contacting clients more often, explaining things more thoroughly, and injecting more of your personality into the mix.

How about billing? Now there’s a common sore spot for attorneys and clients alike. When average attorneys lose clients, it’s often over a billing issue. Can you be better than average by adopting better billing practices? Yes you can. In fact, I wrote a book about it.

I find that the average lawyer doesn’t want to be different. They don’t want to stand out. That’s where you have your biggest advantage.

You’re not afraid to study marketing and try new things. You dare to be different. You want to stand out.

And that’s why I’m putting my money on you over your competition.

Marketing a law practice online: click here


Is it unethical for lawyers to use ghostwritten blog posts?


Kevin O’Keefe says that ghostwritten blog posts are unethical for lawyers. Unlike legal briefs or other work a lawyer may have penned by others, blogs are considered a form of advertising. If you say you wrote the piece but you didn’t, you are guilty of misrepresentation.

O’Keefe says that clients rely on blog posts to choose attorneys. “The ghost-written post may be better written, funnier, or just plain different than the attorney’s own work product. Even worse, the post may have a completely different perspective or contain better ideas than what the attorney is capable of.”

Basically, clients might hire you because you made them believe you are a better lawyer than you really are.

I have a question. What if you’re a great writer but a mediocre lawyer? Don’t your blog posts misrepresent your abilities? Should we tell average lawyers who write well to dumb down their writing, lest they entice unsuspecting clients to hire them under false pretenses?

How about lawyers who are better at public speaking than they are in the courtroom. Doesn’t their speaking ability give people a false impression of their lawyering skills?

While we’re at it, should we also charge lawyers with misrepresentation if they wear a hairpiece, makeup, or an expensive suit? Won’t prospective clients think they are better looking (and thus more effective) or more successful than they really are?

Just out of law school? Better not have nice office furniture. Clients may think you have more experience than you do.

Are clients so stupid and helpless that we have to protect them against every possible harm? By attempting to do so, don’t we make it more likely that someone will get hurt because people rely on the government to protect them and stop thinking for themselves?

I realize lawyers are held to a higher standard, but what part of arms length transaction is unclear? When did caveat emptor become bad advice?

Anyway, if people who can take away our licenses say we mustn’t say we wrote blog posts we didn’t write, we probably shouldn’t ignore it.

Are there any loopholes?

Can you use ghostwritten material without any byline? If you add the name of the ghostwriter to the byline will that do the trick? How about a disclaimer that the article wasn’t written by you but is posted with your approval?

I don’t know if any of this will suffice to stave off the wolves, but I have another idea.

See, I don’t recommend using “canned” articles or hiring a ghostwriter to write you blog, but not because they may cause harm. I’m against them because they aren’t very good.

Canned articles are usually generic and simplistic. Lifeless and boring. They don’t reflect the real life experiences or opinions of the attorney, and thus, aren’t effective at connecting with readers or persuading them to choose the lawyer who posts them over anyone else.

All this huffing and puffing about how ghostwritten articles get clients to hire lawyers under false pretenses is much ado about nothing. If anything, they usually do the opposite.

Ironic, isn’t it? You post canned articles, thinking clients will be impressed and choose you, but they yawn and look elsewhere instead.

The system polices itself. Imagine that.

On the other hand, ghostwritten material may still be useful by giving  you a place to start.

Re-write the ghostwritten article. Put it in your own words and add your own examples and stories.

Problem solved. The final piece will be more interesting and engaging than the original, and you can honestly say that you wrote it.

Just make sure it’s not too good, or that your head shot isn’t too flattering. The bar police are watching.

Want to get better at writing blog posts? This is what you need.