No time for marketing

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Lawyers often ask, “How do I find time to build my practice?“

Sorry, there’s no such thing as ‘finding time’. Time isn’t found or made, it just is. The question is, how will you use the time you have?

And the answer to that depends on what’s important to you.

If building your practice is important, you’ll do it. If it’s not, you won’t.

It comes down to self-respect. Believing you deserve to be successful and that you have what it takes to do that.

But I’m not telling you to do anything you don’t want to do. That’s no way to live. You can’t do things you hate and expect to succeed (or be happy). Not long term, anyway.

If you don’t like marketing and aren’t allocating time to do it (but still want to build your practice), you have two choices:

You can find one marketing strategy you enjoy and do that. Do it enough, and that may be all you need.

Or you can find a marketing strategy you don’t hate and look for ways to make it more enjoyable.

Example? Suppose you are a decent speaker or presenter. You don’t love it or hate it, but you know you don’t want to set up a YouTube channel and record videos because you don’t want to appear on camera.

You can record “voice only” videos and post those. Or do a podcast. Or have your presentations transcribed and post the text on a blog. Or do webinars. Or do in-person seminars. Or speak at business luncheons. Or do CLE.

And. . .

Since time is money, money is also time. Which means there’s another question you might ask: “Where do I find the money for marketing?”

Of course you don’t “find” money any more than you find time. You have money. Decide to invest some of it to build your practice.

If that’s important to you.

Finally, if you can’t find anything you enjoy and don’t want to write checks, you have two more options:

You can get a partner who’s good at marketing. You do what you’re good at; they bring in the clients. (I have a friend who did this and their practice is thriving).

Or you can get a job that doesn’t require any marketing. But then you’d need to market yourself to get it.

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When good advice is bad advice

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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.

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You need all 3

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You’ve got a new case, project, business, or idea and you want it to be successful.

You create a plan—what you want to accomplish, the resources you’ll need, research to do, the first step and the steps after that. Your plan might be a simple list of tasks or ideas, but but the process of thinking it through and writing it down helps you clarify what you want and what you need to do to get it.

“Doing” is obviously the most important part. The actions you take and how well you do them are the mechanism that delivers your results.

Most of us do the first two well enough. We plan and we do. Where most people drop the ball, myself included, is with what we do after that.

Once we have some results, we need to review what happened.

Reviewing means:

  • Noting the size and scope of the outcome. How many leads or subscribers, how many new clients, how much revenue? Did you hit the goal? Make a profit? Get what you expected?
  • Thinking about the process. What did you do well, what could you have done better, what will you change?
  • (Optional): Getting feedback from others. Talk to your client, staff, partners, and other stakeholders. What do they think about the process and the results? What suggestions do they have for the future?
  • Using what you’ve learned to create a better plan or decide to kill the idea and try something else.

The review process might only take a few minutes, but it’s key to achieving sustained growth.

Plan, do, review. You need all 3.

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Success inside your comfort zone

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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.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Just make sure you copy the right cat

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“Don’t be a copycat,” our parents told us. But we didn’t listen, did we? We copied our friends, our siblings, our parents and teachers, and people we saw on TV.

If someone did something we thought was cool, we wanted to do it. If they didn’t die riding their bike down that steep hill that scared the beans out of us, we knew we wouldn’t die either.

I’m still here, aren’t I?

We wanted to be like others. Do what they do. So we copied them.

And we still do that today.

There’s nothing wrong with that. We learn by copying. Seeing what others do, how they do it, and how it turns out.

I did it again the other day.

I watched a video about GTD and the narrator said he does his daily planning every afternoon at 4 pm. He has a ten-minute appointment with himself posted on his calendar. I’ve always done my planning at the end of my workday, whenever that might occur, but hearing how this guy does it, I had to try it.

So now, don’t try to contact me at 4 pm. I’m busy.

He mentioned something else I liked. He schedules his weekly review on Fridays at 3 pm.

Why not, I thought?

I’ve been experimenting with different days for my weekly review. For a long time, it was every Sunday morning. I recently tried Saturday, but something about doing it Friday to close out the week (and keep my weekends open) appealed to me, so I’m doing that now.

It’s okay to be a copycat. But don’t copy blindly. Do what makes sense to you and for you.

If you hear about a lawyer who built his practice by sending unsolicited email and cold calling 12 hours a day, that’s one cat I wouldn’t copy.

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Why attorneys fail at marketing

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Compared to everything else attorneys do, marketing is easy.

So why do so many attorneys mess it up?

It’s not because they lack smarts, charisma, or resources. It’s because they don’t do enough of it.

They write an article or two and then nothing for months. They meet a few people but never follow up. They get invited to do a presentation or interview, but don’t seek feedback (or listen to it) and don’t get invited back.

So they get disappointing results and conclude that “it” doesn’t work.

End of story.

The secret to success in marketing legal services is that there is no secret. As with any skill, you have to keep at it. Do it over and over again until you get good enough to see some meaningful results.

Your first effort might be crap. Do it again and you’ll get better. Keep doing it and eventually, you’ll get pretty good.

Simple. So why don’t they do it?

They might tell you it’s because they don’t have the time, but we all know that’s not true. I ask them, “If you knew for certain that you could triple your income in the next 12 months, would you find the time?“

They might tell you “it” won’t work for their practice area or market, or it might have worked in the past, but it doesn’t work anymore—but that’s not true, either.

If they’re honest, they’ll admit that they don’t keep at it because they don’t want to. They don’t like it, shouldn’t have to do it, feel it is beneath them.

But that’s their ego talking. They should tell their ego to shut up.

The attorneys who get good results from marketing don’t let their ego get in their way. They aren’t smarter, more skillful, or harder working than other attorneys.

They just kept at it.

End of story.

Marketing legal services made simple

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How to get bigger, faster

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We’re told that it takes time (years) to build a successful law practice. It takes time to learn what to do and time to do it.

It takes time to develop your writing and speaking skills, negotiating skills, and people skills. It takes time to bring in good clients, keep them happy, returning, and referring. It takes time to find good business contacts and build relationships with them. It takes time to build your reputation, make your mistakes, recover, and grow.

And while you can’t shortcut the entire process, there are things you can do to speed things up.

The first thing you can do is to try everything. Until you do, you really don’t know what will or won’t work for you, what you will be good at, or where what you do today might lead you tomorrow.

Try lots of things, including (or maybe especially) things that take you out of your comfort zone, things you swore you’d never do, or do again.

You might find that, with practice, some things you’re bad at or hate you come to love. Or prove to yourself that you shouldn’t waste time on some things, giving you more time to double down on others.

The second thing you can do is meet a lot of people. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, find people who already do it and learn from them or hire them or read their books and do what they did.

Buy a lot of lunches. Not forever. Just enough to meet a few people who inspire you or introduce you to other people you need to know.

We’re in a people business. Go meet more people.

The third thing you can do to speed up your success is perhaps the most important.

Move faster.

When you move slowly, you often waste time, over-analyze, procrastinate, and lose confidence, because things are taking too long. When you move quickly, you don’t have time to dwell on what’s not working, you’re busy doing other things that are.

When you move quickly, you compress time and develop momentum. Small wins lead to bigger wins and they happen more often. Your growth accelerates and compounds and you accomplish in months what might otherwise have taken years.

It’s easier to build your practice quickly than to do it slowly. Especially when you try lots of things and meet lots of people.

If you want to take a quantum leap in the growth of your practice, here’s how

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Pick two?

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I don’t know who first said it, but people are still saying it today. “You can get the work done quickly, you can get it done well, or you can get it done cheaply.” “Pick two,“ they say. “Because you can’t have all three”.

We’ve heard that said about all manner of products and services and undertakings. We may even say it ourselves.

But is it true?

Who says we can’t have all three?

In our world, the practice of law has three areas:

  1. Core legal skills: research, writing, presenting, strategizing, negotiation, etc.,
  2. Managing: hiring, budgeting, supervising, productivity, etc., and
  3. Marketing: bringing in the business, client relations, etc.

Who says they can’t be good at all three?

Clearly, they can. Many lawyers are excellent at all three.

But there are also many successful lawyers who are good at only one of the above.

They may be good at lawyering, all thumbs when it comes to running a practice, and clueless about marketing.

They may be good at running their practice (and making the most of what they have), but only “okay” in the other two areas.

They may be good at marketing but only adequate or reasonably competent at doing the work and running the practice.

So, I’m calling BS on the adage that you can only pick two. I say you can be good at all three. I also say you can be successful when you’re good at only one.

Now, something else they say. They say that we should focus on our strengths and not worry about getting good at everything. They say we can hire our weaknesses. They say we can be good enough at what we’re good at that we can succeed despite our weaknesses.

And to that, I’m going to agree.

Don’t ignore your weaknesses. But don’t spend a lot of time improving them (unless you want to). Get better at what you already do well, and everything else will take care of itself.

The Attorney Marketing Formula

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You only need a few

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Clients come and go. They pay us for our services and we may never hear from them again, even if they’re thrilled with our work.

They may return, they may refer, but as a whole, they are an unreliable asset. Treat them well, be there when they need you, stay in touch with them, but don’t count on them to do anything more than pay your bill.

Unless they show themselves to be among the precious few clients (and professional contacts) who can truly be described as a fan.

A fan is someone who promotes you, your services, your content, and your events. Someone who is not only willing to send you business but goes out of their way to do that, because they like you and appreciate you and want to help you.

They join your list and read everything you write. They share your content and send traffic to your blog. They praise you publicly, through reviews and testimonials, and privately, by telling people all about you.

When you recognize a fan, pay attention. Remember their name, take their calls, find out all about them and their business, and go out of your way to help them, and not just with legal services. Find out what they want or need in their business or personal life and help them get it.

Give your fans more attention than regular clients and contacts. Invite them into your inner circle and stay close to them.

Because they are your future. They can help your practice not just grow but multiply.

Fans will attract more fans, lead you to opportunities and opportunities to you. They are also a reminder that what you do is important.

Clients come and go. Fans are rare. But you only need a few.

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Break the mold before it gets moldy

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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?”

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