Plan, do, review redux

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Success means different things to different people. And the definition changes. Your goals from three years ago might be very different today.

So today, review your goals and plans, to make sure you’re going where you want to go and you’re on track to getting there.

Here are some questions to ask:

  1. RESULTS: What does success look like for me? Imagine things five or ten years from now. What are you doing? Who are you doing it with? Big firm or small? How many clients? What type of cases? How much money? How much time?
  2. SKILLS: In order to achieve the results I want, what skills do I need to acquire or improve? Which tools do I need to acquire, upgrade or master? What books should I read? How should I continue my education?
  3. NICHES: Which niche markets should I target? What does my ideal client look like? What kinds of referral sources would be a good fit? What can I do to dominate my niche(s)?
  4. PEOPLE: What kinds of people should I associate with? Who do I want to meet, model, and work with? Who should I spend less time with?
  5. HABITS: What should I do more often? What should I stop doing or curtail? Which new habits should I acquire? How can I do them more consistently?
  6. SYSTEMS: What processes should I implement into my workflow? What checklists, forms, templates, and methods should I develop or adopt? How should I manage and track my tasks, projects, and goals?

Answering these questions will help you create a plan. Answering these questions again, at least annually, will help you evaluate your progress, correct course, and get where you want to go.

This will help you choose your niche market and ideal client

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How do you transition from lawyer to successful lawyer?

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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

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A few questions to help you get what you want

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Think of something you want to be, do, or have. Something that puts a smile on your face and makes you all tingly when you think about it.

Got it? Good. Let’s see if we can help you get it.

Start by answering a few questions:

  1. Is it possible? If anyone has ever done it, the answer is yes.
  2. Is it possible for you? Be honest. If you’re 50 years old and 5’2″, you’re not going to play in the NBA.
  3. Is it possible for you right now? Do you have the money to buy it or do it? Do you have the skills, contacts, and experience to make it happen?
  4. If you have what you need, why don’t you have what you want? What else do you need? More time? More practice? More help?
  5. If it’s not possible for you right now, what has to happen first?

Look at the list of things that have to happen first. Everything you need to learn and do. Still want it or have you bitten off more than you can chew?

If you still want it and you’re willing to do what you need to do to get it, congratulations. You have a goal and a plan.

All you need now is get to work.

Get this if your goal is to get more referrals

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Stop getting ready and start getting busy

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You have an idea. A project, a side business, a new career. At some point, you have to stop thinking, researching, and planning, and start doing.

Often, the more time you spend preparing, the harder it can be to start. Paralysis of analysis is a thing. You get caught up in trying to get your ducks in a row and thinking about everything that can go wrong and self-doubt sets in.

If you find the courage to do it anyway, you often find yourself easily spooked. Something goes wrong or is harder than you imagined and your brain starts cruising down “worst case scenario” lane.

Ignorance is bliss? Often so.

When I started my practice, I wasn’t ready. I had enough money to buy some furniture and pay a months rent but I was ill-equipped to manage a practice, let alone practice law.

I didn’t know anything about getting clients, hiring employees, billing, bookkeeping, insurance, CLE, and 101 other things that are part of the deal. I couldn’t think about those things; I thought I’d figure them out as I went along.

I also couldn’t think about possible problems. What if I run out of money? What if I mess up and get sued or the state bar comes calling? What if I hire someone and they mess up or rip me off? What if I can’t handle the work?

You can “what if” yourself until you don’t want to get out of bed.

So I didn’t know much or have much before I opened my own office, but I did have one thing that made the difference. Its something entrepreneur Shaun Rawls says all successful entrepreneurs have in common: “a high tolerance for ambiguity.”

I had that because I had to. I wanted the freedom of doing my own thing and I was willing to do what I thought I had to do to get it.

Whatever you’re contemplating, don’t overdo the thinking and planning. Stop getting ready and start.

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Some attorneys are their own worst enemy

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You’ve heard me say it before: to build a successful practice, with lots of repeat business and referrals, you should focus on clients, not cases.

Don’t look at what a single matter is worth to you. Look at what the client can bring you over their lifetime or the lifetime of their business.

The initial case might be small. You might earn a negligible fee. Sometimes, you might not earn anything. But if you focus on treating every client like they are worth a fortune to you, eventually, some of them will be.

The guy who has a fender bender today could have a catastrophic injury next year. The small startup that can barely afford to talk to you today could become your biggest client in a couple of years.

And every one of them can send you referrals, send traffic to your website, say nice things about you on social media, and tell their friends or contacts about your upcoming event.

Clearly, this doesn’t mean you can give every client the same amount of attention. Your best clients should get more of your personal time. See them, talk to them on the phone, build a relationship with them that goes beyond the work.

The rest of your clients should be nurtured with email, letters, and calls from your staff.

Whatever you do, don’t be like some attorneys who believe that doing a good job for their clients is all they have to do. They don’t understand that clients come back not just because you did a good job but because of how you made them feel.

How to get clients to send referrals

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Massive action for the win

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I’m very analytical. I like to think about things before I do them. A lot.

Weigh my options, research, ferret out the risks. This is a strength; it has prevented me from making some costly mistakes.

But it is also a weakness.

It is a weakness because being analytical has stopped from doing things that might have been a brilliant success if I had allowed myself to do them.

In fact, some of my biggest successes occurred when I ignored my fears and “what ifs?” and forged ahead.

I wasn’t reckless. I considered what I would have to invest in the project and what I might lose if things didn’t work out. But I didn’t let that stop me.

Once I committed to starting, the key was taking massive action. By doing that, I was able to make enough progress so that when my fear kicked in or logic told me I was making a mistake I had enough evidence to prove otherwise.

I had people interested in hearing more. I had some sales or some clients. I had some work product in hand. I could see that things were happening and it didn’t make sense to quit.

The hard part, of course, is getting started. You do that blindly, not knowing anything about what is about to happen.

So, how do you do it?

You look at other things you’ve done that have worked out and have faith in yourself that you can do this, too. And you look at what others have done with a similar idea, knowing that if they can do it, you can, too.

Mostly, you don’t think a lot about what you are about to do, you just lace up your track shoes and run. You do that because you have a burning desire to do something or achieve something or prove something and you’re just crazy enough to believe that you can.

Take massive action. Do as much as you can as fast as you can and don’t think too much about what you’re doing. Later, when you know your idea works, you can sit down and analyze what you’ve done.

The simplest way to get more referrals

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I challenge you to double your income

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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

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It all comes down to fundamentals

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I know what you want. You want bigger cases, better clients, more money, more fulfilling work, a better life. The good news is that you can have all of these things, but only if you focus on the fundamentals.

First, you need to work on yourself every day. Work on your legal skills, your presentation and writing skills, and your marketing. More than anything else, work on your interpersonal skills because if you don’t, you might get the bigger cases and better clients but chase them away.

Second, you need quantity. You learn how to handle bigger cases by taking lots of small ones. You learn how to serve high-end clients by handling lots of regular folks. Quantity will lead to quality when you’re ready to handle it. (See number one above).

Third, you need to give it time. No matter how good you are or how hard you work, you can’t expect things to happen in a matter of months. Assume it will take years. You’re not cranking out widgets, here, you’re building a professional practice and that takes time.

Become the kind of lawyer (and person) who deserves and can handle the type of practice (and life) you desire. And let it happen when it happens.

Build your practice on a foundation of referrals

 

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Do you (still) work nights and weekends?

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When I started practicing, even though I had few clients, I showed up at the office every day, including Saturdays. I spent most of that time setting up form files and writing form letters I could use once I got some new clients, and doing whatever I could think of to try to make that happen.

When I finally got some new clients, I started staying late at the office and bringing work home with me. I thought that’s what I had to do to make it and I was too scared to do anything else.

Maybe you are where I was. Maybe you’re working longer hours than you need to, or should. Even if you are getting things done and making money, at some point, you have to ask if this is the right way to go.

What if you set up some boundaries for yourself? What if you worked a full day but reserved your nights and weekends for yourself and your family? What if you actually scheduled took a vacation?

In the short term, as you work fewer hours, you’ll probably earn less income. In the long term, probably sooner than you think, you might see your practice explode, as mine did when I made the switch.

All work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy.

Start living a little. At night, on weekends, read novels, play games, take the kids to the park and toss a ball. If you don’t have kids, start making some. You’ll have the energy now, so get busy.

Leave your work at the office. Turn off your phone. Use your free time to get in shape. Start a hobby. Take a class or join a club. Not only will you have some fun, you’ll meet some new people (who share your interest) and have something to talk about besides work.

You’ll be more relaxed. More interesting. And have more energy. You’ll attract new friends, business contacts, and clients. You’ll have time to work on taking your practice to the next level.

You’ll earn more without working more. And finally realize that work isn’t the goal, it’s how you reach the goal.

How to earn more without working more: go here

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Are you doing the best you can?

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If you’re not achieving the results you want in your life, but you’re doing the best you can, there’s a question you need to ask yourself:

“Am I doing the best I can or am I doing the best that can be done?”

You want to live an extraordinary life. To do that, you need to achieve at an extraordinary level. If you’re not, if you’re doing the best you can but not the best that can be done, something has to change.

You have to improve your skills, your habits, or your commitment. You have figure out how to do (whatever it is) better than you’ve ever done it before.

You have to reinvent yourself and become the person who can do it the best that it can be done.

And, if you can’t do that, if you don’t have time to do that, or you don’t want to do that, you have to turn the job over to someone else.

Refer the case. Delegate the task. Ask your partner to handle that client. Find someone who can do the job better than you.

That may be difficult to hear but we all need to hear it from time to time. We have to admit to ourselves that our best may not be good enough.

If you want to achieve at an extraordinary level, you need to focus on your strengths, the things you do best, and eliminate or repair the things you don’t.

The good news is that if you are only good at one thing, and it’s the right thing, you don’t have to worry about anything else.

Want to get good at making money? Get good at getting referrals

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