Nobody owes you jack squat


You’re a lawyer. Big flippin deal. So are a million other people. You have a fancy degree and a fancy office but as far as clients are concerned you charge too much and barely do anything for the big bucks you demand.

What’s so special about you? Why should I hire you instead of any other lawyer? Why should I pay you all that money?

In fact, why should I even visit your website or listen to you talk? Talk is cheap. What are you going to tell me that I won’t hear from every other lawyer with a fancy office?

This is what you’re up against my little droogies. Nobody trusts you. Nobody believes you. Nobody owes you the benefit of any doubt.

This is your ultimate marketing challenge and you must never get complacent.

You want clients? You have to earn them. Prove to them that you can do the work they need and prove to them that you will do what you promise.

Repeat clients? Just because you helped them once doesn’t mean they will come back. You have to stay in touch with them. Because people forget and because other lawyers tell them they can do a better job or do it cheaper or faster.

Referrals? Clients don’t know you want them. They think that if they send you business you won’t have time for them. They’re lazy and don’t know what to do. You need to tell them why referrals are good for everyone and tell them what to do to make them happen.

Nobody cares what you want, they care about themselves.

Assume nothing. Tell them everything. And prove it, again and again.

Because nobody owes you anything.

How to talk to clients about referrals


Digging for gold on your hard drive


You have a list. People who know who you are and are willing to listen to what you say.

If you call them, they’ll talk to you. If you write, they’ll read your letter or email. If you meet them in person and they recognize your face or name, they’ll say hello.

Your list may take many forms. It may be in a database, contact management app, or email autoresponder. It may be on paper, buried in the bowels of your closed files. It may be online, stored on the servers of various social media platforms.

But your list exists and it has value.

How much value? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that your list is much more valuable than a list of people who don’t know who you are.

Yes, I’m harping (again) on the need to stay in touch. I don’t feel right unless I do that at least once or twice a month. But today, I’m simply going to encourage you to dig out your list and organize it.

The first thing to do is segment your list into different categories. Use a code or tag or label so you can contact the people on your list with different messages or offers, and on a different schedule.

You won’t talk to current clients, for example, in the same way you would talk to professionals you met once at a networking event.

Anyway, divvy up your list as appropriate to your practice. You might do something like this:

  1. Current clients
  2. Former clients
  3. Prospective clients you’ve met (e.g., free consultations, meetings at networking events, attendees at your presentations, etc.)
  4. Professionals, business executives, centers of influence, you’ve worked with.
  5. Newsletter subscribers
  6. Social media friends and followers
  7. Etc.

You can further segment your list into sub-categories. Your client and former clients, for example, could be classified in terms of annual billing (you to them), types of cases or engagements, frequency, recency, background, industry, and so on.

Your list of professionals might be broken down by specialty, their target markets, number of referrals they’ve made to you (and you to them), mutual clients or contacts, boards or organizations they are connected to, and so on.

Your prospect and email lists can be coded to identify the nature of their inquiry, if and when they’ve attended your events, and other information.

Once you’ve done that, you can create a plan for staying in touch with everyone.

Is all this worth really necessary? Only if you want to get more clients, bigger cases, more referrals, more traffic, more introductions, and build a more profitable practice more quickly and at much lower cost.

Okay, you hate me. I understand. You want that but this sounds like too much work.

Fine. Start with your former clients, going back five years. Email them something. I don’t care what it is. Say hello. Say you’re updating your records. It doesn’t matter.

Two paragraphs. What have you got to lose?

The better question is, what do you have to gain?

Keeping in touch with your list 


C’mon, you know you want to


Can you approach someone you don’t know but want to speak to via email? Yes, you can. Just make sure you send a personal email, not a “form letter”.

Your first order of business is to get the email opened. A great way to do that is to write something that makes the recipient curious.

Like (I hope) the subject line of this email did you.

But then you and I “know” each other. I can be a little playful. If this was the first time I communicated with you I would (probably) not use that as the subject. Instead, I might use something like this:

“Quick question”.

I got an email with that subject not long ago and yes, I did open it.

Because I was curious.

This may not suit you, however, or your market. What then?

Well, you don’t want to appear too familiar. So “Hey there. . .” won’t make the cut.

You can’t bore someone into opening an email. So forget about using “I hope you’re doing well”.

And you don’t want to come off like you’re selling something, so, “May I send you some information about our xyz services?” is a dog that won’t hunt.

So what can you say to make ’em curious?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Okay, cheap trick. Having more fun. I’m not going to tell you what to say. That’s something you have to figure out.

If you were writing to me, what might you say to get my attention and make me curious to read your email (other than “Quick question”)? What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Do you have an accountant? If he didn’t know you from Adam, what might you say to make him curious?

(“This is about your wife” would get your email opened, but. . .)

Start paying attention to (unsolicited) emails you get that make you curious enough to open. Write down the subject they used. Spend time brainstorming other ideas.

Put your list away for a week or two. When you come back to it, you’ll see a lot of subject lines that make you cringe and say, “Oy vey, what was I thinking” but you may also see a few gems.

Go ahead and try one.

C’mon, you know you want to.

Build your practice online


How do you transition from lawyer to successful lawyer?


Comes a question from a new-ish attorney who works for a firm in Kenya and wants to know how to transition from learning the law to applying what she’s learned and “thinking like a fee earner”?

It starts with acknowledging that practicing law is both a profession and a business and that you must wear both hats. Of course, that’s literally true when you go out on your own but its also true when you work for a firm because if you don’t bring in clients, you might find yourself replaced by someone who does.

It sounds like my Kenyan friend understands this. So, what’s the next step?

The next step is to educate yourself. Take classes, read books and blogs and newsletters on marketing and management. Learn something about sales. And work on your communication skills. Meet other lawyers who are one or two steps ahead of you and find out what they did to get there.

If you’re thinking about going out on your own, build a war chest. Save every penny so that if and when you make the leap you’ll have more staying power and more options.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for making the leap before you’re ready.

When I opened my own office I was hungry. Literally. I needed to bring in clients or I couldn’t pay for groceries. I had burned my boats behind me and to survive, I was forced to do anything and everything to bring in business.

Necessity is the mother (and father) of invention.

In retrospect, a lack of money wasn’t the biggest issue, nor was it a lack of experience. The number one challenge was a lack of contacts. So, if you do nothing else, focus on building a list of people who know, like, and trust you.

Do that and you’ll be golden.

Start your education with this


Only you can prevent legal problems


Remember Smokey the Bear PSAs promoting campfire safety? Among other things, he told us to make sure the fire was out (instead of letting it go out on its own), because, he said, “Only you can prevent forest fires”.

Preventing forest fires isn’t a difficult sell. Simple tips and reminders to be careful, presented by a cute cartoon animal, and (as far as I know), the campaign worked.

Preventing legal problems, on the other hand, is a much harder sell.

“Do this to prevent that,” you say. Yeah, but it’s expensive, say your clients. And I have time. And I don’t want to think about this right now.

It is much easier to sell a cure.

“You’re in trouble? I can save you,” you say. Where do I sign?

When someone has a legal problem, they are in pain. They want to alleviate that pain. Getting their attention and convincing them to hire you is a much easier task than trying to sell them a way to prevent the problem in the first place.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. Just that you need to understand that its more difficult to sell and adjust your marketing accordingly.

If you sell prevention, give prospective clients more evidence of what can go wrong. Agitate the problems. Tell them more horror stories. Play on their fears.

And give them more time.

Prospective clients need time to digest your message, yet another reason why you need a list. They also need time to see their peers and colleagues experience the problems you are warning them about and the consequences of ignoring those warnings.

I saw a book being advertised this morning: “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great”. If I was advising the author, I would tell her she would sell a lot more copies if the title was, “5 Simple Steps to SAVE Your Marriage”.

Fix your marketing problems with this


How to warm up a cold approach


By far, the best way to approach a new business contact or prospective client is to have a mutual contact introduce you. When you identify someone you’d like to meet, go through your list of contacts to see if you know someone who knows them, or might know someone who does. Ask for an introduction or permission to use their name.

If you don’t know anyone who can introduce you, you can still approach them. But it will take more effort.

Whether you contact them by email or by phone, your initial objective is the same: to get their attention and stay out of the slush pile.

A few do’s and don’ts.


  • DON’T pitch anything. Save that for later; probably much later.
  • DON’T ask for anything, e.g., a guest post, a link, etc.
  • DON’T brag about yourself; in fact, say almost nothing about yourself, focus on them
  • DON’T lie or exaggerate
  • DON’T ask them to read something or do something; they’re busy, just like you


  • DO mention your mutual friend or contact. How did you get their name?
  • DO reference something you have in common (a mutual interest, cause, target market or industry, practice area, background, etc.)
  • DO mention something you like about something you heard about them or read, (their article, post, video, interview, etc.
  • DO tell them why you’re contacting them and what’s in it for them; give them a reason to listen
  • DO keep your message brief; get to the point
  • DO make the next step easy (ask them to reply, tell them you’ll call, tell them to watch their email)

So, what is in it for them? Why are you contacting them?

Here are some good options:

  • To offer information that will help them or their clients, or information about something that interests them
  • To discuss a mutual interest (an industry or local issue, similarly aligned clients, proposed laws or regs, etc.)
  • To invite them to speak at your meeting, to interview them for your newsletter, to participate in a panel discussion, etc.
  • To introduce yourself, learn more about what they do and how you might work together to your mutual benefit

To learn more about how to find and approach people you don’t know, and what to offer them, get this


I challenge you to double your income


Are you satisfied with where you are in your career? I hope not. I hope you’re doing well, of course, but you’re hungry for more.

If you’re complacent, that has to change. It’s time to find another itch to scratch.

I have a challenge for you. You can set the time frame but I’ll give you the goal: to DOUBLE your income while cutting your work hours in HALF.

How does that sound? Scary? Crazy? Or exciting as hell?

I can’t imagine you wouldn’t want this to happen but I can see how you might question if it is possible. So start there. A new project. To find out if this goal is possible for you and what you need to do to make it happen.

Do you know (or know of) any lawyers who earn twice as much as you do? Sure you do. But do any of them work half the hours you work? That might be a little harder to deduce because “busy” is how professionals define success. So, make that a part of the project. To find the “Tim Ferriss” of the legal world.

Contact some higher-earning lawyers and ask about their schedule. You can start with me. When I was practicing, in a short period of time I quadrupled my income and simultaneously cut my work week down to three days.

I know, I know, your practice is different, the competition is greater, the world is a different place. To which I say, “Hell yes, it’s different. For one thing, you have the Internet. It’s easier to scale up your income today than when I did it.”

Doubt me if you wish. Then, go prove me wrong.

If you’re nervous, don’t attempt everything at the same time. Start by working on the income side of the equation. Once it starts going up, work on cutting the hours.

On the other hand, you might be better off doing them together.

I think I was able to increase my income so quickly because I simultaneously cut my hours. Working less forced me to think outside the box I had been living in, to work smarter and do bigger things.

I did it because I was miserable. I had to change my life. If you’re not in the same place I was, it might be harder for you because you might be unwilling to take chances and endure the discomfort of change.

It comes down to this: To double your income and cut your work in half, you have to either be fed up or fired up. If you’re content right now, you need to find something outside of yourself—a cause, someone you want to help—and do it for them.

Fed up or fired up.

That’s my word for the day. Let me know if you accept my challenge.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula


Marketing simplified


Marketing has a lot of facts. Different things you can do to bring in business and earn more on the business you bring in. You can grow your practice by leveraging your existing clients and contacts or you can reach out to prospective new clients and the people who can refer them.

Another way to look at it is, you can either

a) build a list, through various reaching out methods (advertising, networking, blogging, speaking, etc.), or

b) work with people you know, seeking their repeat business and referrals.

Your clients have a list–their friends, colleagues, neighbors, and so on. Your professional contacts have newsletters, email lists, client lists, and personal and professional contacts.

Leveraging your existing relationships is more immediate because your clients and contacts know, like and trust you. They’re willing to hire you (if they need you), and send you referrals and make introductions. But their ability to do these things is finite and may not be enough to sustain you.

On the other hand, building a list by reaching out to people you don’t know is more difficult and takes longer. You have to attract prospects who need you now, or build a list and stay in touch with them until they do. You have to build trust and show them what you can do. You need to do the same thing with prospective referral sources.

But the list of people you don’t know is virtually unlimited.

So, what do you do?

In the beginning of your practice, you’ll obviously do more reaching out and list building. Later, when you have an established client base and relationships with other professionals, you’ll probably find it more fruitful to leverage those relationships.

If you’re somewhere between the two–not quite new but not yet ready to rely completely on repeat business and referrals–you should probably do both. And if you’re not sure where you are, keep doing both, until you’re so rich and famous you can do whatever you want.

Here’s the plan


What to do if you hate marketing


In my humble (but accurate) opinion, marketing is foundational to the growth of every professional practice. You have to do it. You may not like it. You may even hate it. But if you don’t do it, you’re not going to be around very long.

You could get a job. One that doesn’t require you to bring in business. If that works for you, great. Problem solved. You’re welcome.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to work for someone else, you’re going to have to do something to bring in new clients.

You could find a partner who likes marketing and let them do it. Or hire people (employees, consultants, advertising agencies, etc.) and pay them to do most of the marketing for you. You write checks, they make your phone ring.

But that’s not the entire answer. Clients may call but if you have zero people skills, they’re not going to sign up or stick around.

Where does that leave us? Here’s what I suggest.

Find something—one strategy, one idea, one way to identify and communicate with prospective clients and the people who can refer them, something that doesn’t make you want to slit your wrists, and do that. Just that one thing.

Start small. Get some results. Build from there.

You can do this. Actually, you might find, as many lawyers do, that you actually enjoy doing it. You’ll certainly enjoy the results it brings.

To get started, you might have to trick yourself. Pretend that what you’re doing isn’t “marketing,” it’s just doing some writing or speaking or meeting some people and being nice to them.

Yes, that’s marketing. Marketing is everything we do to get and keep good clients. But if you hate marketing that much and don’t want to admit to yourself that you’re doing it, I won’t tell anyone what you’re doing.

How to make marketing less painful. See this


Don’t let your ego deter you from your dream


Writer and entrepreneur, Ben Arment, said this:

“Rainmakers generate revenue by making asks. They ask for donations. They ask for contracts. They ask for deals. They ask for opportunities. They ask to meet with leaders or speak to them over the phone. They ask for publicity. They come up with ideas and ask for a few minutes of your time to pitch it. They ask for help.”

So that’s it? That’s why you don’t like marketing? Because of all the asking? Because asking makes you look weak or needy? Because it takes you out of your comfort zone? Because you’re a professional, not a business person or a sales person?

That’s your ego talking, sister. And it’s holding you back.

Arment continued:

“Don’t let rainmaking deter you from your dream. It’s one of the barriers to entry, and you can overcome it. Once you taste the sweet victory of a positive response, you’ll not only become comfortable with it, you might even enjoy it. But making asks is the only way to bring your dream to life.”

And hey, asking isn’t as difficult as you think. Start with something simple. Like this: “Here’s my card. Here’s a couple of extras, in case you run into someone who might need my help.”

Could you do that? Congratulations, you’re a rainmaker.

How to talk to clients about referrals