Lawyers are big babies

Lawyers are cautious creatures, as they should be, but their cautious nature often prevents them from reaching their potential.

We see it all the time.

We see lawyers emulate their competition because it seems like the smart and safe approach, but you can’t stand out from the crowd when you are a part of it.

We see lawyers majoring in minor things, making incremental improvements in what they already do instead of trying big ideas that might help them achieve next-level growth.

We see lawyers settle for low hanging fruit, targeting average clients and charging average fees, instead of reaching for the sweetest fruit that’s a little bit out of reach.

We see lawyers stifling their productivity by riding the wave of perfectionism, not realizing that done is better than perfect.

We see lawyers working hard and staying busy, because that’s what’s expected of them, instead of looking for ways to achieve exceptional results with less effort.

It’s fear. Fear of failure, fear of being different, even fear of success.

Are you guilty of any of this?

You can’t change overnight but you can change. You can adopt a new mindset, one that values being different and the lessons taught by failure.

A mindset that says success doesn’t depend on the elimination of all risk but on the intelligent management of it.

A mindset that focuses on what you want instead of what you think you’re supposed to do.

Fear can be tamed. Optimism can be learned. Success is available to all.

Even lawyers.

If you’re ready to get to the next level, this is how you get there

Calculation fatigue

That’s the title of an article in this month’s Chess Life magazine. The sub-title is, “The dangers of delving too deeply into one particular variation”.

The article is an examination of a botched game by a strong player, a game that might have been awarded a brilliancy prize but for the player’s errors occasioned by following one idea too far and losing the central theme of the game.

What does this have to do with practicing law? Everything.

Because lawyers (and other very smart people) often do what this Grandmaster did. They focus too much on the details, the minutia of a case or an issue, and sometimes lose a won game.

I’ve done it. I’m sure you can think of times when you’ve done it, getting lost in researching an issue to the nth degree, perhaps, making a big deal about a small point.

You see it during oral argument when the judge or jurors eyes glaze over and you know they’re didn’t follow your last point, or no longer care.

You see it in marketing. You get bogged down in choosing better keywords or creating better funnels, months go by and thousands of dollars have been spent and you find you could have gotten better results with something simpler.

You see it in a lot of websites. A would-be client visits, hoping to learn something about his problem and what you can do to help him and is confronted by a library of information. There’s too much to read, he doesn’t know where to start, so he leaves.

(NB: keep the library but hide it and link to it for those who want more information.)

We see it in presentations where we try to make too many points and leave no stone unturned and we simply confuse the audience (and a confused mind says no).

What should we do? We should periodically stand down from business as usual, put aside all the small stuff and focus on the big picture.

The strategy, not the technique. The main argument, not the “Hail Mary” we throw in just in case.

You started practicing with a few simple ideas and you did okay. If you’ve found yourself getting off track lately, a return to fundamentals might be just what you need to reset and revitalize your practice.

It might even earn you the brilliancy prize.

The Attorney Marketing Formula can help you get back on track

Lead, follow or hold my beer

Most attorneys copy what their competitors are doing to get more clients or otherwise build their practice. The problem is, most of those attorneys are also doing this.

Most play “follow the follower” instead of “follow the leader”. But following the leader isn’t necessarily the way to go, either.

When you copy anyone, you risk copying something that doesn’t work. You don’t know if what you’re copying is generating results or the results (you think) they’re getting are from other factors.

They might have skills or resources that allow them to get results you won’t get.

Their “successful” ad, for example, might be successful because they have a better system for closing leads. Or, they might break even or lose money on every ad but profit on up-sells, back-end business, repeat business, and referrals.

The other problem with copying others, even if you copy things that work, is that you are merely a copycat. You fade into the background, just another lawyer with nothing special to offer.

So, what’s the answer?

Don’t ignore your competition. You might get ideas from them. But don’t copy them. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to look at what the majority do and do the opposite.

Then, decide that you will be the leader others want to copy. Go your own way, even though it means doing things that might frighten you.

In fact, if it doesn’t frighten you, if it doesn’t take you out of your comfort zone, you’re probably playing safe, which is not what leaders do.

You don’t have to throw yourself into an abyss or run naked in the streets. You don’t have to risk everything.

Follow the path of least resistance. Find something small and easy to do and start there. From that perspective, you’ll be a different person, ready to take the next step.

Ready to take a quantum leap in your practice? Here’s the first step

Two ways to grow your business practice

You want to grow your firm–bring on some major clients who provide status and billings and open doors to other clients of a similar ilk.

You don’t have family or business connections that can deliver those types of clients (or you would already have them). What can you do?

The usual strategy is to find ways to network with people who own, manage, or advise the kinds of clients you want to acquire. Promote their business or cause, introduce them to people who can help them, or otherwise add value to the relationship.

One of their existing attorneys may retire, screw up, or have a conflict, and you may get the nod.

Or, one of your new friends will introduce you to some of their contacts–smaller companies in their niche who need legal help, or people who know them.

You might offer these smaller clients a sweet deal because one of these companies may take off and you can grow with them. Plus, you’ll have your foot in the industry door.

Just being able to say you represent a certain company or you are on a board with some of the players in the industry may elevate your status enough to allow you to attract bigger clients.

All of this will be easier if you focus on a niche market. You’ll have an edge over other firms because of your specialized knowledge and connections. You’ll know the issues, the people, the trends, and you can provide more value to people in that niche.

So, that’s the usual way to do it. Hard work, provide value, bide your time.

But there is another way.

You can hire (or merge with) attorneys (or firms) that already have the types of clients you want.

Offer them a good deal because they can bring you more clients like their existing book of business.

This can help you choose your niche

I only do what pleases me

I saw this question posted online: “How do you stop procrastinating when you have an upcoming deadline?”

I expected the respondent to say the deadline forced her to get the work done because she had to. Something practical. But no. She said, “I get around that by never accepting projects I don’t want to do. In fact, I pretty much stick to projects that excite me.”

I want what she has.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could only do work we like and not have to do anything else?

It reminds me of an episode of the old Dick Van Dyke program. Rob and Laura called a house painter to take a look at a problem they were having with a wall in the living room. When the painter arrives, Laura greets him and asks, “How do you do?” The painter, played by Vito Scotti, responds, “Always I do well because I only do what pleases me.”

As unusual as that might sound today, it was even more so when the show played, which is probably why I remember it.

Can you structure your life so you “only do what pleases you?” Maybe not. But you can work towards that.

And you should.

Start avoiding projects, cases, clients, employees, commitments, etc., you don’t like or don’t want to do.

The more you do that, the more you’ll get done and the happier you’ll be in your work. If procrastination has been an issue for you, you’ll probably find you don’t do that anymore.

As you eliminate things that don’t excite you, you make room in your life for things that do.

You could start small, by eliminating minor irritations in your life such as people who drain your energy or routine tasks that bore you. Eventually, consider big things: practice areas, niche markets, types of clients, and partners.

Or, start big. I did that, years ago, when I stopped taking cases and clients outside the practice area I decided to specialize in. Best decision I ever made.

Today, I can’t say I only do what pleases me. But I don’t do much that doesn’t.

Ready to get big, fast? Here’s what you need

Better than average

Marketing goo-roo Dan Kennedy once said, “Your success in business is directly proportional to the number of industry norms you defy.”

In other words, if you do what everyone else is doing, you will be unlikely to achieve more than average results.

What can you do if you want to do better than average?

!. You can offer better services than the competition.

If you deliver better results, more benefits or value, or a higher level of “customer service,” you will probably get more clients, higher quality clients, and/or be able to charge higher fees than average.

You should also get more repeat business and referrals.

2. You can use better marketing.

If you do a better job of getting leads, packaging and selling your services, and building relationships with your clients and other professionals, you will get more clients and earn more income than average.

That’s because more prospective clients (and the people who can refer them) will hear your message and/or be persuaded by it.

Both options are good. Either one can help you become more successful.

But why not do both?

If you want to learn a step-by-step system for marketing and building your practice with email. . .

Go here

Busy? You might want to rethink that

The gold standard for success isn’t doing lots of things, it’s doing the right things enough to accomplish your goals.

It’s about focus.

In ‘The Dip’, Seth Godin said,

“A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.”

If you’re networking, instead of going to ten different events trying to meet dozens of new people, it’s better to stick with one event and get to know a few key people.

Instead of “spraying and praying” on social media, hoping someone will notice something you say, it’s better to develop a loyal following on one platform before moving on to others.

Instead of marketing to “anyone with a legal problem” and compete with all the other lawyers in your practice area, it’s better to target specific niche markets where you can stand out.

When you focus on one group, one platform, one niche market, you use the power of leverage to get bigger results with less effort.

The woodpecker understands this. Because he’s focused, not busy.

If you’re ready to use leverage like a pro and take a quantum leap in your practice, the Quantum Leap Marketing System shows you what to do.

Are you an authority? You could be.

Are you better than other attorneys in your practice area or market?

Better than some? Better than most? Does it matter?

Yes, it matters. Better clients prefer to hire better attorneys and they’re generally willing to pay more to get them.

But how do they know you’re better?

If you have 20 years experience, clients usually see you as better than attorneys with only two years experience. If you’ve won some big verdicts or have an office on “attorney row,” clients tend to see you as the better choice.

When you look successful, people see you as an expert, an authority in your field. They tend to trust you and value you more.

Brain scans confirm that people process information coming from authorities differently than from other sources. That’s why success breeds success.

What if you don’t have a long track record or a big office? What can you do to get prospective clients (and the people who refer them) to see you as an authority?

Positive reviews help. So do testimonials and endorsements from influential people in your niche.

Get ’em and feature them on your website and your marketing materials.

Public speaking helps, probably because so many people fear it. Do what you can to get in front of a room a few times and add this to your bio.

Finally, one of the best ways to be perceived as an authority is to publish a book. Authors are author-ites, so get to scribbling.

Give people reasons to see you as an authority and more people will see you as the better choice.

Want help writing and publishing a book? Contact me

If you want to make everyone happy, sell ice cream

John C. Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” By that definition, you are a leader.

People listen to you, not necessarily because of your title, skills, or experience, but because of your character, compassion, and strength.

People look up to leaders. They want to associate with them, learn from them, follow them. As a leader, you set the destination and the pace of the journey.

“This is where I’m going,” you say. “I hope you’ll join me.”

You show the world the path to a better future and some people choose to follow.

As a lawyer, you may be able to persuade them to follow. As a leader, you let them persuade themselves.

That’s influence.

Others will choose not to follow. You have to let them go. You can’t change the destination or compromise your values because of the whims of a few. You can’t slow down for the stragglers, they need to keep up with you.

You’ll disappoint people. You’ll face criticism. Your willingness to accept this is part of your strength, part of what makes others want to follow.

You can’t be an effective leader if you try to please everyone. You have to stay the course and be willing to accept the casualties.

As Steve Jobs said, “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.”

Leaders build their influence through regular communication

Getting nine women pregnant

How long does it take to build a successful law practice?

It takes as long as it takes and you can’t rush it.

As Warren Buffett said, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”

It also takes focus.

You may have heard this Buffett story:

One day, Buffett’s long-time pilot asked him for career advice. Buffett suggested he make two lists.

First, make a list of your top 25 career goals, Buffett told him. Once he’d done that, Buffett told him to circle his top 5 goals.

His pilot then had two lists and told Buffett that he would begin working on his top 5 goals. Buffett asked him about the other list, the 20 items he didn’t circle.

The pilot said those goals were also important to him and he would work on them intermittently, as and when he could.

Buffett told him that was a mistake. “Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

Buffett knows a thing or two about focus. In his long career, he has achieved extraordinary investment returns investing in a handful of companies at a time.

“Diversification is a protection against ignorance,” Buffett said.
“It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.”

So, if you know what you’re doing as an attorney, if what you’re doing is working, even though it may not be working as quickly as you’d like, stay the course.

Be patient. Stay focused. Your baby will be here when he gets here.