Learn, do, teach


Want to get better at marketing your legal services? Find a lawyer and teach them what you’ve learned. Mentor them and guide them from where they are to where they want to go.

We learn the most when we teach what we know because we have to make sure we understand the information and can explain it to someone who doesn’t.

We also have to have done what we’re teaching.

Learn, do, teach.

You’ve already learned a lot. Probably more than you realize. You’re reading my newsletter and, presumably, other newsletters and blogs. You’re taking notes, thinking about how you can use the information, writing down questions and ideas to explore.

But what have you done?

Have you started a newsletter? Are you talking to other professionals about a marketing alliance? Have you sent your information to your clients they can use to identify people who might need your help?

Whatever you’ve done or are in the process of doing, you can start teaching it. When you come across something new, something you’d like to learn, ask yourself, “How could I teach someone what I’m learning?”

What would you tell them? Show them? Ask them to do?

Teaching can mean writing about it. Or speaking about it. Or talking to someone one-to-one and explaining the idea.

You’ll be able to inspire them by telling them what it was like for you when you got started, and what you did to get good at it. And, as watch them and answer their questions, you’ll also inspire yourself. You’ll realize how much you know and can do and then push yourself to do more.

Okay, it’s time. Think about a lawyer you know who might like to know what you know. It’s time to rattle their chain.

How do you bring up the subject? Ask them a question about what they’re doing. Or forward them one of my emails and ask them what they think.

If you’d prefer to talk to a stranger, visit a forum where lawyers talk about marketing and join in the conversation.

What’s that? You don’t feel qualified to teach or mentor anyone about marketing?

Listen up:

You don’t need to know everything about a subject to teach it. You just need to know (and have done) more than the guy or gal you’re teaching.

See ‘ya in the teacher’s lounge.


When good advice is bad advice


You get a lot of advice from people you know—friends, colleagues, family. And advice from people you don’t know via books and articles, newsletters and blogs.

You might also get advice from people you hire to provide it—consultants, coaches, and therapists.

But is all this advice good advice? Should you follow it?

It depends.

What might be good advice for one person might not be good for you. What might have been good advice at one time in your life might be irrelevant or harmful today.

As a new lawyer, hungry for clients, I was advised to do appearances and seek overflow work from other attorneys. I was told to network and hustle and do whatever I could do to get some business coming in, and to take “anything,“ so” I could get some experience and pay my bills.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,“ I was told.

And that was the right advice for me at that time. As my experience grew and I had more clients, I could afford to be more selective and I said “no” to a lot of things—cases and clients and marketing strategies that were no longer a good fit.

As business coach Ian Stanley, put it, “Becoming successful is about saying ‘yes’. Staying successful is about saying ‘no’.”

When you hear advice about how to build your practice, from me or anyone, you must put that advice in context.

Where are you in your career? What’s right for you, and what isn’t?

The same goes for opportunities—to invest, open another office, take on a partner, or anything else. Even good opportunities can become a distraction.

Take my advice on this subject. But only if it works for you.


Burned out and loving it


You’ve got way too much to do and you’re overwhelmed. You’re stressed out, perpetually tired, making mistakes, and alienating clients or staff, or you’re bored out of your mind and wondering why you’re still doing this.

It’s called a sign. A signal that something’s not right and you need to do something about it.

The good news is that when you do, there’s a very good chance you will come out the other end much better off. Productive, happy, centered, and far more successful.

So, when you get that signal, what should you do?

I don’t know. But you do. Or rather, your body and mind do and they will guide you. But whatever it is they want you to do, don’t do immediately, reflexively, impulsively.

Don’t be rash.

Write it down and see what you think and how you feel about it. Talk to people who care about you, or a pastor or therapist. Tell them what’s going on with you and let them help you work through it.

And then explore your options.

At various times of my career, most of the following have helped me get unstuck and go on to bigger and better things, and I’ll bet they can help you do the same:

  1. Exercise, get more sleep, eat better, take some time off; you will feel better and be able to think more clearly and that might be all you need to reset.
  2. Delegate more. If you’re like most lawyers, you do too much yourself. Give more work to others so you can focus on what you do best and enjoy.
  3. Get help. Hire a business coach to help you sort things out, focus on what’s important, let go of what isn’t, and hold you accountable. Or team up with another professional to share ideas, progress, encouragement, and accountability.
  4. Get a hobby. Or a girlfriend. Or a side business. Something else you can focus on that makes you happy and gives you something to look forward to.
  5. Follow the plan. After you get some rest, sort out your goals and your process, developed some new habits or jettisoned some bad ones, get back to work. Action is almost always the cure for what ails you.

But if nothing you do seems to work despite your best efforts, start looking for the next chapter in your life. I did that, too, and I’m very glad I did.

If you need someone to talk to, let me know


Don’t be an Askhole


I learned a new word today: Askhole. It means, “A person who continually asks for your advice and then always does the opposite of what you told them.”

You’ve got clients like that, right? So you know how frustrating it is to give them your expert (and expensive) advice only to see them ignore it.

Even lawyers do it. In fact, lawyers probably do it more than regular folks. I’ve done hundreds of consultations with lawyers who seek out my advice, pay for it, and then, I’m pretty sure, do nothing.

Oh well. As long as their check cleared.

Here’s what’s interesting. I can almost always tell that they’re not going to follow my advice at the very moment I’m giving it to them.

They’re only half listening. They’re not asking questions or writing anything down. They’re going through the motions of getting advice but their voice tells me they aren’t going to follow it.

Why? Because they don’t want to.

They don’t want to change what they’re doing. They don’t want to hear that they’ve been doing something wrong. In fact, I suspect that many lawyers hire me not because they want to learn something but because they want me to validate what they’re currently doing.

When I don’t, they stick their fingers in their ears and say, “la la la, I can’t hear you.”

Does it bother me? Hey, I’m not their mother. I can’t make them follow my advice.

Okay, it is frustrating. But when I talk to a lawyer who “gets it,” it makes it all worthwhile.

Last week, I did a consultation with a personal injury attorney who wanted my help with his advertising and his website. The ads he’s been running for a long time aren’t doing as well as before. Within 30 seconds, I knew what the problem was and told him what to do.

Problem diagnosed. Problem solved.

I don’t know if he’ll follow all of my advice, but I’m pretty sure he’ll do what I suggested about his ad and website. I could hear it in his voice. He got it. It made sense to him. I could almost hear his palm slapping his forehead.

While there’s no guarantee that it will work, at least he’s got something to try. Which is better than being an Askhole and doing nothing.

Fix your website and make the phone ring


Are you the smartest person in the room?


When you have a problem, or you have to make an important decision, who do you turn to for advice?

Do you have friends or networking contacts who are subject matter experts in pertinent areas? Do you know successful professionals and business owners who can provide general business advice and help you sort things out? Do you have mentors or a panel of advisers?

Industrialist Henry Kaiser once said, “I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am – and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.”

Michael Dell’s put it this way:

Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.

Getting proper advice can accelerate the growth of your career by helping you to avoid costly mistakes and leverage existing opportunities. You might figure things out yourself but why not talk to people who already know?

You can find advisers through formal networking or by asking your existing contacts for referrals or introductions. .

Start by asking for help with specific areas rather than general business advice. What kinds of information or advice do you need? Who might know someone who is an expert in that area?

You might start your own mastermind group. Ask four or five successful professionals or business owners in different areas to meet with you once or twice a month to share ideas and advice.

If you have more money than time, you might hire several experts on a trial basis.

No doubt you are intelligent and good at what you do. But that can only take you so far. If you want to take your practice to the next level, go find some people who are smarter than you.


Get better results by asking better questions


Yesterday, I spoke with an attorney who wants to increase his income and is transitioning into a new practice area. It turns out that if he had a choice, there’s something else he’d rather be doing career-wise and it’s not practicing law.

I slammed on the brakes and asked him to write a one page, “ideal life” scenario dated five years from today. I said there were no rules, he didn’t have to follow logic to explain how he got there, “just describe your life as you want it to be five years from today.”

Because you can completely re-make your life in five years.

Write your scenario in the present tense. It’s already happened. You’re living the life you want, doing the things you want, being with people you want.

What does your typical “ideal day” look like?

I’ve given this exercise to many people, and done it myself. I’ve found that people often have trouble being honest with themselves about their ideal day. They don’t believe that what they really want is possible so they choose something different, something they think is possible, or something they think other people in their life would approve of.

When you do this exercise, you must forget possible. Ignore “how” (for now) and simply describe “what”.

The idea is that once you have described your ideal life, you’ve got something to work towards. “Start with the end in mind,” and work backwards to make it so.

Anyway, today I was clicking my way through the Interwebs and found a blog post that asked readers a provocative question I thought was on point:

What would you do with your time if you weren’t allowed in your house from 8am – 7pm, didn’t have to work, and your children were being taken care of?

Answering this question can help you describe your ideal life scenario.

Once you have done that, once you know where you want to go, the next thing you have to do is figure out how to get there. You do that by asking yourself another question.

In the post, the author says

The better questions we ask ourselves, the better the answers will be. . . Your subconscious mind. . . will start working out ways to answer your question.

So, if you constantly ask: ‘Why do I never get what I want in life?’ Your subconscious mind will go to work to help you find the answer and it will always be negative. Whereas if you constantly ask yourself ‘How can I make this possible? your subconscious mind will get to work and start looking for ways to get what you want.

To get better results in life, first ask, “What do I want?” Then ask, “How can I get it?” Your subconscious mind knows the answers.


How to get better clients


A lawyer emailed wanting to know how  to get better clients. He said he is in a slump. “People come see me but they don’t have the money to retain our services. It’s been a tough month. What can I do?”

Are there any lawyers in your market who do what you do and have clients who can afford to pay their fees? If not, you need to change practice areas or move. If the business isn’t there, it isn’t there.

On the other hand, if other lawyers in your field are getting paying clients, then it’s not the market. The work is there. You just have to get those better paying clients to come to you instead of those other lawyers.

Start by looking at what those other lawyers are doing. Study them, as I mentioned yesterday. What are they doing that you’re not doing? What are they doing better than you are doing? What are you doing that they don’t?

Do they specialize? Specialists generally earn more than general practitioners. One reason is that clients prefer to hire specialists. They are also willing to pay higher fees to a specialist. If these other lawyers specialize and you don’t, you have to consider doing so, or at least disguising the fact that you don’t. One way to do that is to have separate websites for each practice area.

How much do they charge? More than you, less, about the same? Most attorneys compete for the bottom eighty percent of the marketplace. The most successful attorneys target the upper ten or twenty percent, which obviously includes people with money.

How do they bill? Hourly? Flat fees? Blended? How big of a retainer do they get? What do they do to make it easier for their clients to pay?

Look at their website. What elements do they have that you don’t? Can you do something similar? How can you improve on what they have done? What are you doing on your website that they don’t do that might be hurting instead of helping you?

Valuable information, yes?

Also look at what you are doing. Look at the better clients you have attracted over the last year or two (the ones who have money). Where did they come from? If they came from referrals from your other clients, for example, figure out what you did that precipitated those referrals and do more of it.

In addition, look at what your better clients have in common. Industry, occupation, ethnicity? Where can you find more like them?

Also look at the people who are contacting you who can’t afford you. Where are they coming from? Whatever it is that you are doing to attract them, stop doing that. And screen them out before they come to see you. For example, you might quote your minimum fee package on the phone or on your website. This way, if they can’t afford this, they won’t call or come to see you.

I don’t know what you’re doing now to market your services but whatever it is, there are always other things you can try. It might be helpful to get out a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, and on the left side of the page, write down everything you are doing that could be considered marketing. On the right side, write down things you aren’t doing, including things you used to do but abandoned. Keep adding to the list on the right and try some new things. Create a simple marketing plan.

In addition, look for ways to improve what you are doing. If you are networking, for example, consider finding a different group and/or working on your follow-up.

Finally, seek some perspective on your current situation. You say you’re having a bad month but everyone has bad months. Next month could be great. If it is, don’t rest on your laurels. The best time to ramp up your marketing is when you’re busy, not when you’re in a slump.

If things continue to be bad, don’t panic. It’s nothing five new (paying) clients can’t fix. You can turn things around quickly. Cut overhead to give yourself some breathing room and get busy with marketing. You have the time for it, right? That’s one of the advantages of a slump–less work means more time for marketing.

Think about getting some help. Get a workout partner. Hire someone to point you in the right direction and/or coach you.

Whatever you do, don’t dwell on the bad. Think about where you are going, not where you have been.

If you need help with your marketing, contact me and let’s talk. 


How to get better at anything


Writing, oral argument, marketing, parenting–whatever it is that you want to get better at, you’ve got to DO it.

You can read about it until you’re blue in the face, you can attend seminars, and you can hang out with experts and watch what they do, but at the end of the day, you have to get out there and do the thing yourself.

You’ll make mistakes. That’s how you learn. At one point in your life, you didn’t know how to walk. Now you can. You learned by trying and falling, again and again and again.

There are no shortcuts. The only way to develop a skill is to do what you’re not good at until you get better.

This means getting out of your comfort zone, risking embarrassment, frustration and failure.

But, you can also get some help.

Whatever is it you want to improve, you can find someone who is better than you and ask them to mentor you. One of the best things about having a mentor is that they allow you to fail in a relatively safe environment. Yes, you risk criticism but it’s not public.

You can formerly hire a coach or consultant or you can find someone who is willing to give you a few minutes here and there to critique you and give you advice.

Find someone who is good at what you want to do. Ask them if they would be willing to mentor you. Make it easy for them to say yes by letting them know you’ll respect their time. You can learn a lot from an expert, even if you only talk to them for ten minutes once a month.

And if you’re good at something, be a mentor. Share your skills and experience with others. Pay it forward.


Register for this free goal setting webinar and achieve your goals in 2011


“Most people fail to achieve the goals they set,” my mentor and personal coach David Byrd told a group of 2000 entrepreneurs over the weekend. You probably already knew that. But do you know why?

The first part of the answer is that they don’t know how to set goals in the first place.

Should you choose goals that are so easy you know you will accomplish them? Well, if you do that, you’ll feel good about accomplishing a lot of goals but you won’t see much growth. So how about choosing huge, lofty goals you will probably never accomplish? Is that the answer?

I used to think so. For years, I set goals I never came close to achieving. Year after year I would set the same goals and year after year, fail to accomplish them. It was discouraging and eventually, I lost interest in goal setting.

Now, things are different. I know how to set goals that are both inspiring and achievable and I am achieving them. But not just because I know how to set them properly. You also need a system for goal achievement.

On Wednesday, January 19, I’m hosting a webinar featuring David Byrd who will teach you how to set goals and achieve goals. You’ll learn a system he has used for more than thirty years working with professionals, executives, and business owners, as an executive leadership coach.

The webinar is 100% free and I promise you will learn a lot that you can use to achieve more in 2011.

Click here for details and to register.