When you don’t know, find a lawyer who does

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When you don’t know how to do something, when you’re looking for new ideas or ways to improve what you do, the simplest place to find some answers is to look at what other lawyers do.

Read their blogs. Listen to their podcasts. Subscribe to their newsletters. Analyze what they’re doing and find some ideas you can use.

Because some lawyers know things you don’t know and are better at certain things than you.

When they talk about a strategy they use to win cases, take notes. When they mention a book or blog that inspired them, read it. When they describe the tools and techniques they use to improve their productivity or results, go take a look.

Study successful lawyers and learn from them, so you can emulate them.

But don’t copy them.

Take what you learn and adapt it to your practice, your market, your style. Because you’re different and so are your clients, friends, and followers.

But. . . a word of caution.

When it comes to marketing and practice building, many successful lawyers can’t teach you anything.

They were successful because they had connections you don’t have, or spent a lot of money you don’t have (or don’t want to spend), or they were in the right place at the right time.

They had an uncle who opened a lot of doors for them, a few key clients who sent them a lot of referrals, or a case that got them featured in the right publications.

Study them. See what you can learn. But don’t assume you can do what they did.

You also need to be careful when you read lawyers’ blogs or newsletters looking for ideas you can write about in yours.

This can be a great source of ideas, but don’t automatically assume you should write about the same topics.

Why?

Because many lawyers write what they want to write, not what their readers want to read.

Just because you’re in the same practice area doesn’t mean you should write about the same subjects, or do it the way they do it.

Make sure you know your readers, so you can write what they want to read.

One more thing.

Don’t limit yourself to studying other lawyers. Read and follow and learn from other professionals and business owners who sell to or advise the same markets you target.

You may not be able to (or want to) do what they do to market or manage their practice or business, but you can learn about your target market–what they want, how they think, and how to connect with them.

Your local real estate broker can teach you things you’ll never learn from other lawyers.

How to choose your target market

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Maybe you should go on a diet

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If you’re like many people, your work and personal life may have gained a lot of weight lately. And by that I mean you have too much to do that’s not getting done–because you have too much to do.

Too many tasks on your daily task list. Too many projects you’re working on or plan to work on soon. Too many commitments, responsibilities, and priorities.

You work hard but often end the day feeling like you got nothing done.

If this sounds familiar, you might want to put your life on a diet.

Once a year, or more often if you think it would help, schedule a quiet day to review your life and see what you can eliminate from that big plate of yours.

What are you doing that doesn’t need to be done? What can you do less of, or do less often? What can you delegate, automate, or do faster?

Look at the people in your life, the tools you use, and the processes you follow. There’s “fat” in there and you’ll do yourself a big favor by cutting it out.

Start by taking inventory. Make a list of everything you do in a typical day and week and note the amount of time you take to do it.

When your list is done, look at everything and make some decisions.

Nothing on your list should be sacred. Make every task and tool earn the right to continue in your life.

If you’re not sure, if you find yourself arguing to keep things the way they are, you might enlist the eyes and ears of someone who can be objective. Someone who might see things you can’t see, or don’t want to.

Make several passes through your list. On the first pass, add a label to indicate things that you can safely eliminate. Tools you don’t use, projects you are unlikely to do in this lifetime, people you really don’t want to speak to again.

On subsequent passes, identify projects you could move from “active” to “someday” or schedule to review them at a later date.

Think big. Cut your current projects or goals down to one or two in each area of your life and put the others out of sight.

But don’t ignore the small things. Collectively, they can take up a lot of time and energy.

Go for “lean” and “simple”. A small list of easy tasks and important projects, things you’re excited about and look forward to doing.

Favor projects with big potential. One big project that could transform your life instead of ten projects that probably won’t.

To get there, ruthlessly cut things you’re not certain you want to keep. For now, you’re just thinking and writing. You haven’t actually cut anything in the real world and you can always add something back if you change your mind.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Listen to your heart as much as your head. Favor things that make you happy as much as your most sacred obligations.

When you’re done, you should feel good about what remains. And feel good about all the time you reclaimed that you can now use to do important things and achieve your biggest goals.

If you “diet” day is successful, there’s just one more thing to do. Schedule your next diet day because if you’re like most of us, you’re going to gain back some of that weight.

Click here if you want to double your income in the next 90 days

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What if you could only have 10 clients?

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What would happen if you allowed yourself to have no more than 10 clients or 10 active cases at a time? Everyone else gets referred out or turned away. Or told they have to wait until you have an opening.

Because you only take 10 clients at a time.

I’ll tell you what would happen.

You would have more time to serve your clients, which would help you attract better clients and bigger cases. You would be able to charge more, have lower overhead, spend less time on admin and marketing, have more focus, less stress, and enjoy what you do.

In short, you’d earn more and work less.

That’s the theory, anyway. Is this practical? For most attorneys, no. Not without making a lot of changes they aren’t willing to make. So I’m not recommending this way of doing business to all attorneys.

I am recommending that all attorneys think about it, however, because this is the kind of thinking that can lead to some great ideas.

Ideas that can help you earn more and work less.

So. . .

What would you change about your practice if you adopted this rule? Which clients would you eliminate to make room for your 10?

What types of cases would you turn down? What would you change about your fees and retainers and billing? What expenses would you be able to eliminate or reduce?

What would you change about your work process? How would you make things easier, quicker, or more effective?

Let your mind run with this idea. Imagine what your practice (and personal life) would be like if you fully embraced the “no more than 10” rule.

You might get some ideas you can use immediately, or start working towards. Or gain valuable insights about what you’re doing well and what you need to improve.

After this exercise, you probably won’t go “all in” on the “no more than 10” rule. But you might.

Would you like to build a “100% referral” practice? Here’s how

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More is better, unless it isn’t

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The more books you read, the more likely you are to find the information you seek. The more people you know, the more likely you are to develop valuable relationships. The more marketing strategies you try, the more likely you are to find the one that works best for you.

All true. Unless they aren’t.

Because there’s a lot that can get in the way.

Reading a lot of books is a waste of time if they’re not the right books. The more people you engage with, the more opportunities there are for arguments and bad decisions. The more marketing strategies you use, the more opportunities there are to become distracted or spend time or money best spent on something else.

So, it depends.

Successful people get a lot done because they don’t try to do everything.

They reject most projects. Avoid most tasks. Take on fewer commitments.

Fewer projects started means less time spent on research, less money spent on failed ventures, and fewer projects abandoned. Fewer unfinished projects leads to more clarity and better results.

Fewer books read means fewer hours wasted reading things you already know or don’t need, and fewer opportunities to follow bad advice.

Fewer marketing strategies means less time spent learning and doing and supervising, and less time wasted trying to improve things that provide too little return.

The lesson?

Be selective, not exhaustive. Focus on high-value activities and high-potential projects. Take on fewer relationships, read fewer books, do fewer activities that don’t align with your most important values and goals.

Do less so you can accomplish more.

If you find yourself trying to do too much, working too hard and making too little progress, don’t increase your workload, reduce it.

Take a page from the most successful people in the world and regularly ask yourself, “What can I stop doing?” and “What or who can I avoid?”

Develop the habit of saying no to most things.

Because when you use the right strategies, cultivate the right relationships, and do the right things with your time and money, the results you achieve can be so much more.

Leverage is the key to bigger and better results.

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Want to increase your income? Take more showers

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73 percent of people surveyed say they get their best ideas in the shower. If you want more ideas for marketing your practice, ideas for your blog or newsletter, or ideas for ways to provide more value to your clients, you might want to strip off and get your bum wet more often.

Why do we get more ideas in the shower? Is it the same if we take a bath? Or go swimming?

I do think water is part of the answer. Something about the feeling of being back in the womb that relaxes us, perhaps, and allows our subconscious mind to bring us ideas.

I get a lot of ideas when I’m out walking, especially when I’m near a park or other greenery, or the ocean. Something about nature seems to turn on the creativity machine.

I also get ideas while driving, when I’m on autopilot and can let my subconscious mind do it’s thing.

Reading fiction and playing games are also conducive to ideation, no doubt because they stimulate our imagination, but also because they distract us from the burdens of the day.

That’s a key to creativity, isn’t it? Distracting yourself from whatever you’ve been doing or you are supposed to be doing? When you turn off your logical left brain, you turn on your creative right brain.

Which means that goofing off when you should be working isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But I also get ideas when I’m working.

I got the idea for this post during my morning browse of articles. When I saw the survey, my creative (and dirty) mind told me to write a post with the words “taking showers” in the headline.

Because I know you have a dirty mind, too.

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What could you improve?

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The other day I stopped at a light. On the corner, a building was under construction and I saw a tradesman poised on a beam, doing something with a piece of lumbar. I couldn’t tell what he was doing but I could tell he was doing it purposefully and carefully.

Like he wanted to do it right.

No doubt he’s proud of his work, I thought, and wants to do a good job so he’ll be hired again.

And because he knows his work will be scrutinized by a building inspector.

That’s when I thought about you.

You do your best work because you are a professional and you’re proud of what you do. Like the contractor, you have a client who expects and deserves your best work.

Your client is interested in the results you obtain for him, and wants to know he got his money’s worth, but he won’t “inspect” your work like a building inspector.

So it comes down to you.

From time to time, you might ask yourself a question: “If my work was inspected by the bar, by my insurance carrier, or by another attorney my client hired to get a second opinion, what would they conclude?”

Did I cut any corners? Omit steps? Make mistakes?

A little introspection is good for the soul, and the pocketbook.

But don’t stop there. Don’t focus solely on avoiding mistakes, consider ways to improve what you do well.

At the end of each case or engagement, examine the steps you took and the order in which you took them. Do you see a way to improve your process? To do a better job or get the work done more quickly? To make it easier for you to do that work for the next client?

While you’re at it, examine how you treated the client. Did you make them feel appreciated? Did you make them feel like you gave them their money’s worth?

Ask yourself questions like these and take notes. Write down what you did well and what you could improve.

Because you are your own building inspector. And you don’t want to merely be up to code, you want to be the best you can be.

Ready to take a Quantum Leap in the growth of your practice? This will show you how

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Daily notes: a journal by a different name

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I’ve tried keeping a journal and find it useful (and fun) to record my thoughts but the habit hasn’t stuck.

I’d like to try again and may have found a way to do that.

There’s a new breed of note taking apps (Roam, Obsidian, and others) and I’m trying out one of them.

One feature is a “daily notes” page that automatically appears (unless you turn off that feature), with the date and plenty of room to write. You can also set up templates to prompt you to record whatever is important to you.

Yes, it’s really a journal with a different name. But it might work because the daily notes feature is built into the app. I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to go write in my journal, I can simply add some thoughts or notes on my daily notes page when they occur to me throughout the day.

In that sense, the daily notes page work like an inbox—a place to deposit ideas and notes to be sorted, filed and worked on later.

A daily notes page also works like an “outbox”.

At the end of the day, you can record notes on what you did, what you thought, and what you plan to do later. Because it’s built into the app, it’s easy to drag or copy/paste notes written elsewhere onto the page.

What can you record in your daily notes? Anything you want:

  • What you did today, what you learned today, what you want to remember
  • Goals, plans, ideas
  • Quotes from books you read, a list of books you want to read
  • Websites and apps you want to check out
  • Questions you have about something you’re working on
  • Habits you want to track
  • New clients, new prospects, new marketing campaigns
  • Earnings, expenses, debts you need to pay, money you need to collect
  • Ideas for new projects, notes about improving your workflow, your attitude, your skills, or your well-being

Anything you did or want to do, anything you want to remember, in as little or as much detail as you want.

Some days, you’ll write hundred of words. Other days, you might write a single sentence, or nothing at all.

This morning, I wrote a few questions about the notes app I’m trying, and a few thoughts about the concept of daily notes.

At the end of the day, you can add comments and additional thoughts, and tags or labels or links to related notes. You will no doubt want to move some of those notes to other folders or pages or other apps.

Daily notes allow you to memorialize your journey and build a repository of information you can go back to help you manage your work or personal life.

Daily notes also help you hold yourself accountable to doing what you said you would do, and what you need to do to achieve your goals.

When I look at what I did and didn’t do last week, I see what I’m doing right and what I need to improve.

Yeah, I’m not sure I like that part.

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I’m a professional quitter

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In eighth grade, I joined the wrestling team. I gave it a semester and quit when I realized I wasn’t good enough and didn’t like it.

But isn’t quitting for losers?

Everyone says

  • Work harder
  • Give it time
  • You’ll get better with practice
  • You’ll learn to like it
  • If you quit, you’ll never know how good you could be
  • Do it anyway, it’s good for you

Well-intentioned advice, I’m sure, but is it right?

Ozan Varol says that sometimes quitting might be the best thing we can do:

I’m a professional quitter. After serving on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, I quit rocket science and went to law school. After practicing law for a few years, I left to join academia. Most recently, I decided to quit that as well and give up the security of tenure to double down on popular writing and speaking.

I quit things I don’t enjoy. I give up on ideas that fail to live up to expectations. I jettison projects that no longer serve me or my mission in the world.

He acknowledges that many people quit too soon and never find out what they might have accomplished. “Yet many people persist when they should quit,” he says.

If you continually fail at something, or resist doing it, it might be a sign that you should stop doing it.

Varol notes that when we continue doing things that aren’t working for us, aside from being unhappy, we pass up the opportunity to do something else, something we might be great at and love.

Those of us who have changed careers and found success doing something else know this is true.

And what’s true for careers can also be true for work projects, marketing methods, and marriages. Quitting may not only be a viable option, it might be the best one.

So, what would you like to quit today?

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Two clarifying questions from David Allen

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I spoke to a lawyer yesterday who told me he wants to continue building his practice (which is doing well) and find something he can do on the side that might one day lead to bigger and better things.

He has an itch and wanted me to help him scratch it.

Most of our time was spent talking about ways to find ideas. For now, that’s what he’s going to focus on.

At some point, after he does a lot of exploring and researching and thinking, if and when he finds an idea he wants to pursue, he’ll need to decide what to do about it.

When that time comes, I’d tell him to do what David Allen suggests in Getting Things Done:

“Ask yourself two questions: What’s the successful outcome? And, What’s the next action (logical next step) to make it happen?” Allen says, “These provide fundamental clarity for Getting Things Done, and they lie at the core of most everything I teach.”

These questions are equally valuable for parsing a task or project list as they are for choosing your future.

Whether you’re starting a new chapter in your legal career, a new work project, or a new business, ask yourself what “done” looks like for you.

As Stephen Covey said, “start with the end in mind”.

In my work, especially when I’m struggling to start a project, or complete it, asking myself, “What’s the next action?” has been a game changer.

I ask that question and it helps me figure out the best (or easiest) place to start. I come back and ask that question again and again, and it helps me figure out what to do “next”.

Go ahead, think about something you need to do that you’ve been avoiding. Look at the list of all of the tasks you need to do and ask yourself, “What’s the next action?”

Start there.

How I use GTD in Evernote

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Easy is as easy does

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You’re a professional. You done this many times before. You know what to look for, what to ask, and what to do.

Let’s face it, most of the work you do is easy for you.

And you want it to be that way.

When your work is easy, you don’t have to think about it, you just do it.

You do it quickly, without second guessing yourself, making errors, or eating yourself up with stress. You get better results and happier clients, and you make a good living.

And that’s a good thing.

But you don’t want all of your work to be easy.

If things are too easy for you, you’ll get bored. You want at least some of your work to be moderately challenging, because that’s what keeps things interesting and allows you to grow.

Cases of first impression, opening new markets, new marketing initiatives, writing a book, hiring new staff, starting a new business or investment, things that take you out of your comfort zone–this is how you take your practice to a higher level.

And some of your time should be dedicated to that.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you”.

If you’re fresh out of ideas, write and publish something. Put yourself out there for the world to see.

It will get your juices flowing and could be your ticket to the next level.

How to grow your practice with a simple email newsletter

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