Don’t just do something, sit there


Do the work, bill the client. That’s what brings in the bacon. Or the kale if that’s your thing. Billable work is your bread and butter. (Okay, now I’m getting hungry.)

But your work involves more than dictating, drafting, and negotiating. At least it should.

You need time when you’re not outputting but inputting.

Digesting information you can use to create content (to bring in more business), to better understand and relate to your clients’ industry or niche, and to have something to talk about when you’re not talking about the law.

You also need time to learn about marketing, productivity, technology, and other subjects that help you improve your skills and drive the growth of your practice. And CLE, to make sure you’re at the top of your game.

Building a successful practice requires more than cranking out billable work.

You should embrace the idea of spending time doing no “work” and instead, doing nothing but soaking up information.

Put time for this on your calendar. Blocks of time every day for reading and listening and taking notes, and to ponder what you’ve learned and how you can use it.

It may feel like this you’re goofing off. You may feel guilty watching videos or reading something from me and tell yourself to get back to work. But learning is just as important as doing, because it helps you do what you do better.

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Success inside your comfort zone


It is often said that success lies outside our comfort zone. When we try new things, we’re often scared, we risk failure and embarrassment, but that’s how we grow.

Inside our comfort zone, it is safe but little changes.

We’ve all heard this, and said it to others, but it it true?

In high school, a friend suggested we go ice skating. He was a good skater but I’d never done it and was afraid I’d get hurt or look like a fool, but I agreed to go. I fell a lot but eventually did okay, and I had a lot of fun.

Score one for trying new things.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. We often try new things, hate them, and never do them again.

That’s also part of the process.

You date a lot of people until you find “the one”. You change your major, your employer, even your career, until you find something that feels right.

That’s your comfort zone. And that’s where you build long-term success.

Inside your comfort zone, things are familiar. You do them over and over again and get good at them. Over time, you build a successful career, a successful marriage, a successful life.

Success lies inside your comfort zone, but you need to get outside it from time to time to explore.

Try things that make you uncomfortable. Seek new adventures and challenges. You’ll learn a lot about a lot of things, but most of all about yourself.

When you do, come back to your comfort zone with the knowledge and experience you’ve gained, use it if you want to, or forget about it and try something else.

You say you don’t like a certain marketing strategy you have never tried? I’m your friend inviting you to try it and see.

You might fall a lot and look foolish. But you’ll learn something about yourself.

You might also have a lot of fun.

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If you want to be prolific, you have to do this


If you want to be prolific, build more relationships, deliver more presentations, write more books or blog posts or articles, more than anything, there’s one thing you have to do. You have to let go of the need to make things perfect.

Perfectionism has been my “issue” for as long as I can remember. When you’re wrapped up in it, you’re wrapped in a straightjacket of your own making and artificially limit your accomplishments.

More content, more relationships, more good habits, usually lead to more good things happening in your life. Even if the things you create aren’t perfect, but merely good.

Remind yourself that you don’t have time for perfect. You have deadlines and goals and people who depend on you.

Set a different standard for yourself. Instead of going for 90% allow yourself to do 70%. Because unless you’re performing surgery, 70% is usually good enough.

In fact, remind yourself that “good enough is good enough” — because it has to be if you want to get more done.

If you want to be prolific, develop the habit of launching things before you think they’re ready.

That’s what I do. I want quality, but I’m willing to exchange some of it for quantity.

But here’s the thing. When I re-read something I wrote and thought wasn’t up to snuff, I usually find that it’s a lot better than I thought.

Here’s the other thing. Most people aren’t as critical of your stuff as you are. They either don’t notice or don’t care. (They’re worried about their own stuff.)

Another strategy I use is to push things out the door (before I think they’re ready) telling myself I can fix it later. What I often find is that by the time I’m ready to fix it, it’s not as important to me because I’m busy with something else.

Look, at our funeral, nobody is going to say we led a good life and helped many people but could have done a few more rounds of editing. They’ll look at the big picture, and we should too.


Break the mold before it gets moldy


There’s a lot to be said for adopting positive habits, but if you never stop to review and refine them, you might get so used to doing things the same way you never look for something better.

When was the last time you changed your daily routine, tried a new research tool, or did something completely out of your comfort zone?

Growth requires change. Consider developing the habit of regularly exploring ways to change what you do and how you do it.

Start small. Take a different route to work. Shop at a different store. Try cuisine you’ve never tried before.

Do what you always do, but add an extra element. Do it more quickly or more slowly, do it on a different day of the week or at a different time of day.

Write without an outline. Downsize your project list. Re-write your checklist, create a new form, or call someone you haven’t talked to in years.

When you’re ready, skip a day or assign the task to someone else.

The more you embrace change, however small, the more you tell your subconscious mind that change is good and stimulate it to find other things to change.

Being open to change can lead you to new insights, new ideas, and new solutions to old problems.

Change might be uncomfortable, but it can also be liberating. It can open doors you never realized were closed. Taking on a different type of case or client, for example, might lead you to discover a lucrative new practice area or additional source of income.

You might want to journal on the subject and explore some ideas, or you might dive in and do something completely different, as I did early in my career when I went “all in” on marketing and that one decision changed everything.

At the very least, add a prompt to your weekly or monthly review checklist to ask yourself, “What can I change this week/month?”


Big shots focus on the big picture


You are a leader. Even if you are a one-person band, you are the guiding force in your practice or career.

You should do what leaders do.

You should spend most of your time and energy focused on big picture strategies that help you achieve your goals.

Most lawyers don’t. Most lawyers spend their days doing client work and mundane tasks, not building for the future.

Leaders lead. They choose the destination, the tactics and tools, and create an atmosphere that attracts and supports others who accompany them.

Leaders focus on

  • Strategic planning
  • Casting vision
  • Creating culture
  • Building relationships
  • Improving reputation
  • Professional development
  • Personal growth

The leader understands that the firm delivers professional services, but is also a business and must be profitable. The leader continually seeks ways to increase revenue and decrease expenses, to ensure the firm’s viability and future growth.

The leader prefers to grow the business by hiring new people, creating new marketing alliances, and expanding into new markets rather than putting in more hours.

Yes, someone has to see the clients, draft the documents, and win the cases. Sometimes the leader does that. Sometimes the leader delegates much of that to their team. Sometimes the leader delegates all of that to their team while they focus on the big picture.

As you look at this list, think about how you spend your time and ask yourself how much of it you spend doing what leaders do.


The practice of practicing law


You want to get better at what you do, so you take CLE courses, watch videos, read books, and otherwise consume information that can help you improve your skills.

But reading and listening aren’t enough. You need to practice.

Let’s say you want to get better at networking. The best way to do that is by practicing your skills “in the field,” but you can also practice on your own.

You can rehearse starting a conversation, introducing one attendee to others, questions to ask to find out more about a new contact, and what you’ll say when they ask what you do.

You can improve your presentation skills by recording and listening to yourself, or by asking a friend to listen and provide feedback.

You can get better at being interviewed by podcasters, bloggers, and reporters, by working on questions to give them to ask you, and a bio they can use to introduce you.

Make a list of the skills and habits and processes you want to improve regarding your core work, your marketing, and the management of your practice.


  • Writing more persuasive demand letters
  • Writing blog posts and articles in less time
  • Asking for help from your list, contacts
  • Getting booked for podcast interviews
  • Improving your Linkedin profile
  • Improving your public speaking skills
  • Becoming a better listener
  • Talking about referrals
  • Giving feedback to staff
  • Improving the new client interview process
  • Interpreting medical reports/records
  • Writing thank-you notes
  • Explaining fees, costs, and retainers
  • Learning a new app
  • Delegating more effectively and more often
  • Deposing medical experts
  • Being more patient with difficult clients
  • Taking effective notes
  • Streamlining oral arguments
  • Creating better daily and weekly task lists
  • Overcoming objections and closing prospective clients
  • Body language: mirroring and matching, smiling, eye contact
  • What to say or do when you follow-up with a new contact
  • Creating form letters and templates
  • Answering “What do you do?”

Keep a running list of things you want to improve (or start doing) and schedule time to work on them.

Because building a successful practice requires practice.

What to say when someone asks, “What do you do?”


You can change your name, but not your stripes


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.

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Do, then learn


We went to law school to learn how to practice law. Learning came first, then doing.

Generations ago, it was the other way around. You began by “doing”–working as an apprentice for a practicing lawyer, and getting experience working with real clients and real cases.

Most book learning was done in the context of those cases.

By and large, it was “do, then learn.” Or at least “learn while you do.”

I’m not saying we should go back to that way today. Although more “clinical” work early on might be a good idea.

But with learning other skills, marketing, for example, “Do, then learn” is something every practicing lawyer should consider.

Because the best way to learn almost anything is to do it.

You don’t really need more information. You need to take action.

Run an ad and see what happens. Call someone and introduce yourself. Post something on a blog or on social media, write something, record something, outline something, and as soon as possible, get it out into the world.

Even if it’s not ready.

You’ll learn faster that way. You’ll learn from your mistakes. You’ll get feedback and ask yourself questions and figure out how to answer them, guided by your real-world experiences.

Book learning has its place, of course. It can give you ideas and tips on how to do things properly, how to improve and get better results, but until you go out and do them, it’s all theory.

Many of use learning as an excuse to avoid doing. We tell ourselves we need to read more, take another course, get a coach, or do other preparation, because we’re afraid to get started.

We procrastinate because we’re afraid we might fail. Or because we believe we need “motivation” to get started.

But action precedes motivation, not the other way around.

So do something. Take the first step, or the next step. Start small, see what happens, fix it, make it better, or do something else.

Do, then learn. And let what you learn provide the motivation to continue.


Why we don’t do things we know we need to do


We talk about how our clients don’t always listen to us, but there’s someone else who doesn’t listen to us.


We don’t always do things we know we should do. Things that are good for us, that serve our purpose and help us achieve our goals. Things we’ve told ourselves we need to do.

Marketing is a perfect example.

We know we should allocate time each week to doing things to bring in new business. Too often, we don’t.

We know the benefits of staying in touch with our clients and prospects and professional contacts. We tell ourselves we will, but we don’t do it, or do it enough.

We know we should network, keep our name in front of people in our niche, update our website, create new content, improve our skills. . . but. . . well, you know.

We’re rational. We know we have to bring in new business and that it’s not going to happen on its own. We also know we have the wherewithal to do the things we need to do.

So why don’t we do them?

Because we don’t really believe the story we’ve told ourselves.

In truth, we think we’ll be wasting our time or money doing things that won’t work, or won’t work well enough to justify that time or money.

Or we think we’re not good enough at the things we need to do and it won’t be worth the investment to get good.

It comes down to our beliefs. Because if we believed in the necessity and value of marketing (or whatever the subject) and our ability to do it well enough to get the results we seek. . .

We’d do it.

But we don’t believe it, so we don’t.

And therein lies the solution.

We need to change our beliefs.

How do you do that?

For some, more information is the answer. Learning the specifics of what to do and how to do it might be all they need to see the light.

For others, seeing what others have achieved might inspire them to take the plunge.

But many people won’t change their beliefs until they see their own positive results, which means they have to find a way to get started even though they don’t believe, and stick with it long enough until something positive happens.

What’s best for you?

That’s what you have to figure out.


Information vs. Implementation


When I was studying for the bar exam, someone told me (or I figured out on my own) that I needed to not just read and re-read the material, the “input” side of studying and preparing for the exam, I also needed to work on the output.

So I spent a lot of time re-writing my notes and taking practice exams.

Most of my classmates read and re-read the material, seeking to memorize it. I did that too, of course, but I’m convinced that it was working on output that made the biggest difference.

One thing I did that really tested me was to re-write my notes from memory.

I’d take a topic, say “negligence,” and write down everything I knew. As though I was going to teach the subject to a classroom—or the bar examiners.

There’s no better way to see how much you know (or don’t). Try it with a case or contract you’re working on right now, or something you have to write. No notes, just write down everything you know.

Anyway, I thought about my experience this morning when I read that most successful people tend to invest as much time, if not more time, on implementation.

For every hour they spend reading or listening to information, they spend two hours applying what they learned.

If they take a course on marketing, for example, they don’t just sit on what they’ve learned; they use it. They write something, they practice doing something, they improve what they’ve been doing or they do something new.

Or so the theory goes.

But how does a lawyer measure something like this in terms of their practice? How do we know how much time we spend on output?

We write and speak a lot, and we get paid for our advice, but we do more thinking than anything else.

Is “thinking” considered output? Implementation?

If it is, we’re covered. We output all day long.

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