Why are some lawyers more successful than you? 

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You’re good at what you do. You work hard. Your clients love you. So, why do some of your less capable competitors do better than you? 

Does it come down to better marketing? 

That’s a good bet. 

They might have embraced marketing sooner than you did and have more experience. They might use strategies you don’t use or execute them better. They might have better professional contacts or a bigger email list. 

Your clients love you, but maybe their clients love them more and they get a lot more repeat business and referrals. 

Maybe they advertise, and you don’t. Have deeper pockets or a better team of advisors. 

Maybe it is a combination of factors—little things they do or do better than you. 

Or maybe it’s none of the above. Maybe they just got lucky. 

You know what? It doesn’t matter. What matters is what you can do to become more successful. 

I have two suggestions: 

  1. Keep trying. Try new ideas, strategies, and methods. And improve things you already do. Get more help, give it more time, invest more money, study, practice, and learn from others. 
  2. Relax. Don’t be upset that you’re not as successful as the competition, or that it’s taking you longer. Don’t strain or struggle. Don’t force yourself to do things you aren’t good at or hate. You’ll get there. You’ll find the right combination. Things that make use of your talents and interests and style. 

Success leave clues, not a blueprint.  

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Who’s your daddy?

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We all need one. Someone who tells us what to do, guides us, and keeps us in line. Because we work better and behave better when we do. 

Our teachers and parents did that. Our employers and clients do that now. We might have paid advisors or be guided by colleagues, family or friends. 

There’s always a higher authority. It might be our maker, the rule of law, or our own values or experience. 

Our clients tell us what they want from us. So do our subscribers and followers. We have deadlines; we make promises we are compelled to keep; we have an image to uphold. And it’s all good because without that structure, guidance, or feedback, we might have too many options or too much leeway and find it difficult to stay on our path and achieve our goals.

Don’t begrudge the rules. Precedent, tradition, and common sense make our life more orderly. We might not like being told what to do, but these constraints give us a path to follow and make it more likely that we’ll get what we want. 

When we start a case or new project, we decide what needs to be done and create a plan. We might question that plan, or stray from it, but the case, the client, and the rules give us a foundation to come back to when we do. 

Everyone needs a boss. Especially when we are our own boss. 

Aren’t there exceptions to every rule? Don’t we have free will? Aren’t we better off when we’re different and stand out from the crowd?  

Yes, yes, and yes. 

Which is why we do what Daddy tells us, but not without asking a lot of questions. 

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You stink (but you can still be successful)

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At one of the first network marketing trainings I attended, we were told that the business is a “level playing field,” meaning that anyone can build a big business and be a top earner.

“You can make up in numbers what you lack in skill.”

You might not be the best presenter or have the biggest list, but if you work harder than most, you can accomplish more than most. 

And this is true. In any business or professional practice. 

Someone else might talk to ten prospects and sign up 2. You might not be as good, but you can talk to 50 and sign up 5. 

You might not have their talent or charm, but you can outwork them. 

Is it really as simple as that? Well, look around you at the lawyers who aren’t as good as you, but have bigger offices and bank accounts. 

Wait a minute, maybe they had more money or better connections. They had an advantage you don’t have. 

Also true. Money and connections often do make a big difference. But so does a burning desire and the willingness to work. 

Which is what you bring to the table. 

And why the law business is a level playing field. 

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What, me practice?

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I heard this on the Internet so it must be true. It’s called, “The Rule of 100” and states, “…if you spend 100 hours in a year, which is 18 minutes a day, in any discipline—you’ll be better than 95% of the world in that discipline.” 

So, writing, speaking, sales, poker, options trading… anything? 

18 minutes per day isn’t much. A year isn’t much. Since it is a big world, with a lot of people in it, I can see how this might be true, at least for many things. 

For everything? Who knows? 

But the point is well taken. If you practice anything every day for a year, you’re going to get a lot better at it.

As professionals, we depend on our communication skills, our ability to persuade others to a point of view. We sell our ideas and our services and writing (and speaking) are essential tools for doing that. 

If you want to get better at writing and speaking, are you practicing? Every day?

If not, you’re not going to get the results you want for yourself and your clients. 

I recommend writing a newsletter or blog, yes, to attract more prospects, build your list and fill your waiting room, but also because it is a great way to practice your core skills.  

Same with our old friend, marketing. 15 minutes per day. Every day. 

If you do, you’ll be more successful than 95% of the lawyers in the world. I heard it on the Internet so it must be true.

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Maybe you need some new friends

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It’s called The Law of Association and tells us we become like the 5 people we associate with most. Think about your best friends and closest business contacts right now. You’re probably close in terms of income, lifestyle, and beliefs. 

If you’re not where you want to be right now, maybe some new friends would help. 

They could:

  • Introduce you to their clients, customers, vendors, and resources
  • Give you ideas and advice about what you’re doing in business or practice or your new business idea
  • Set an example for you to emulate, e.g., how they lead their life or conduct their business
  • Expand your income horizons by seeing what they do, what they read, and what they talk about
  • Help others see you in a different light—judging you by the (new) company you keep
  • Help you solve problems and achieve goals with their skills, knowledge, and experience
  • Introduce you to new experiences, e.g., hobbies, travel destinations, restaurants, books, etc.
  • Invite you to sit in on their poker game
  • Give you someone new to talk to or laugh at your (stale) jokes

And maybe become one of your 5.

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How to make the right decision

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Yes or no? This or that? Now or later? How do you figure out what to do? 

Yeah, it depends. 

What’s at stake? What’s important to you? Are you trying to solve a problem or achieve a goal? 

And, what else is on your plate right now? 

Here are some options to help you decide:

  1. Trust your gut. Your first impulse is often the right one. 
  2. Research. Read, talk to people, see what others have done and how it worked out, and see what they advise for you 
  3. Think on paper. Brainstorm ideas, write down what you know, what you want, what you could do, the risks and the rewards. Writing fosters clarity and focus. 
  4. Do a little. Start, see what happens, and how you feel about it. Do you like what you see? Did you learn something? Get other ideas?
  5. Give it time. Get away from the idea and let your subconscious mind work on it. And then, trust your gut. 

Any one of these could help you decide. Try one or try them all. And, if you don’t know which one to try first, I suggest the last one: give it time. 

Because you may already know the right answer and just need time to give yourself permission to do it.

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Do more of what works?

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Yesterday, I quoted Peter Drucker’s comment about the “aim of marketing” and shared my thoughts. Today, I want to chew on another quote from the man which you will surely recognize. It begins: 

“Do more of what works. . .” 

That sounds like good advice, but how do we know when something works? 

If we get desirable results, we have to say it’s working, but what if we could get better results doing something else?

Or doing the same thing, but differently? 

We might dramatically improve our results by changing our words, our process, our timing, or by involving different people. In which case, continuing to do what’s working might not be best. 

We should always look for ways to make what’s working work better. 

Hold on. What does “better” mean? 

In the context of marketing, better might mean bringing in more clients, but it might instead mean bringing in clients who have more work for us, bigger cases, or work that is more profitable.

“Better” could also mean “easier”. Or more enjoyable. Or more consistent with our values and long-term goals. 

Okay, we get the idea. Don’t stop doing something that produces desirable results unless you find something better and always look for something better

But we can’t ignore the second half of Drucker’s quote, “…and quickly abandon what doesn’t (work)”. 

What does this mean? 

No results? Poor results, compared to what? Results that require too much time and effort, i.e., aren’t worth it? 

And, if we determine that something doesn’t work, should we completely (and quickly) abandon it? Doesn’t it make sense to see if we can fix it?

So many questions. 

The full quote, “Do more of what works and quickly abandon what doesn’t” is easy to understand and remember. It isn’t bad advice, just incomplete. 

But it’s a great place to start. 

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How do you know if it’s working?

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Everyone says, “Do more of what’s working and let go of (or change) what isn’t”. I said it myself yesterday. But how do you know if something is working? 

Sure, the numbers. Your return on investment. How many new cases or clients, how much revenue, how many leads, what percentage you close.

Are you hitting your KPIs, getting lots of butts in seats, increasing your list of subscribers and followers? 

Yes, the numbers tell the story. But not the entire story.

Because there are things you can’t measure. Testimonials, reviews, and new referral sources which haven’t (yet) paid off but could soon rock your world.

Invitations to speak in front of a prestigious group, being endorsed by an influential professional in your target market, or meeting the right person at the right time.

You can’t measure these things. Or predict their effect. The small case that doesn’t pay much (or anything) but leads to a big referral. Writing 20 articles that nobody reads and then someone does read one, likes it, forwards it a friend, and it goes viral and brings in a steady stream of new business. 

You don’t always know something is working. Or where it might lead.  

The numbers aren’t irrelevant and in some situations (advertising) they are critical. But you can’t always count on the numbers. So, I propose another way to tell if something is working. 

Are you having fun? 

Fun? Yes, fun. 

If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’ll want to continue. You’ll do it regularly and enthusiastically, without forcing yourself or reminding yourself. You’ll be more creative and consistent. And your excitement in the doing, not just the results, will attract clients and referral sources and opportunities galore. 

Do more of what’s fun. Because if it’s fun, it’s working. 

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Start with the end in mind

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What does it mean to ‘start with the end in mind’? It means instead of starting from where you are and moving forward, you start with your goal and work backwards. 

We usually start with where we are right now, and that’s okay, but it’s not always clear what to do next. You’re shooting into the dark and make it more likely to get distracted or waste time figuring out what to do.

When you start with the end, the last step before reaching the goal is the first step in your plan.

Sounds crazy, but try it with your next project or goal. 

Let’s say your goal is to sign up 10 new estate planning clients in the next 60 days, who pay you an average of $10,000, and you want to accomplish this via referrals from your current and former clients. 

That’s the goal. What do you do?

You ask yourself if you could accomplish that goal tomorrow and when you say you can’t, you ask, “What would I need to do (or what would have to happen) first?”

You might say that you would need appointments with 20 prospective clients (assuming you typically close one out of two). “Could I see 20 prospective clients tomorrow?” No. “What would I have to do first?”

You might answer that question several ways, but let’s say you decide you would need to have 75 clients contact 3 people they know and tell them about you and what you can do for them. 

They would explain to their friend why they hired you and why their friend should do that, too. Your clients would send them information you provide about estate planning, your services, and a special offer or incentive. 

Could you send all that to your clients tomorrow? 

No. First, you would have to write the email you want your clients to send to 3 people they know, your report or other information, and the terms of your special offer. 

You’d also have to compose the email you will send to your clients asking them to email this information, or the outline of a short script you can use if you call them instead. 

Could you write and send all that tomorrow? Let’s say you can’t. You first have to outline what to write and make a list of clients to send it to. 

Could you do that tomorrow? If you could, that’s your plan for tomorrow. That’s your first step. 

There might be more steps, different variables, or a completely different plan, but this is the process for laying out everything you need to do, in the order in which to do it.  

When you have a goal or a project and you’re not sure how to get started, start with the end in mind and work backwards.

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To dream (and achieve) the impossible dream

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Think bigger. Follow your dreams. Don’t play small. We’ve heard all this before (and probably said it a time or two) but do we do it? 

No. We’re lawyers. Logical, careful, traditional. We don’t like risk. At least when it comes to our business. 

So we take ten years to reach our goals, if we reach them at all, when we might reach those goals in one. That’s what authors like Tim Ferriss, Benjamin Hardy, Grant Cardone, and others tell us. 

“Impossible goals are easier to accomplish than “possible goals” they say. And they actually have a point. 

When you set reasonable goals and seek incremental growth, to increase your income by 10%, for example, you have too many options and strategies to choose from. These are the “trivial many” in 80/20 parlance. Small ideas, common strategies, that are likely to only reach small results. 

To grow by more than 10%, we should be looking at the “precious few”. 

To increase your income by 10%, you might look for a new marketing technique or improve an existing one. You’ll do what you’re already doing or something like it. With hard work and a little luck, you might achieve the goal. But because the goal is small and unexciting, you also might lose enthusiasm, get busy with other things, or bump heads with every other lawyer who is trying to do what you’re trying to do. 

Instead of walking, you need to run. Instead of playing it safe, you need to do things you’ve never done before. 

Not only are these likely to be more exciting and motivating, they are the only things that offer you a chance of achieving massive growth. 

The reason they do that is simple. Impossible goals force you to innovate and find things nobody else has thought of, let alone is doing. Find and focus on those precious few ideas, connections, or strategies, and you can grow much bigger and much faster.  

Impossibly big goals help us to “shape the process,” in part by making us ask better questions. If you ask, “What would I have to do to increase my income by 10% this year?” you get a long list of options. If you ask, “What would I have to do, or what would have to happen, to grow my income by 1000%?” you get a very small list of options to choose from, and you only need one.

The idea comes from “constraint theory” which is explained in the book, “The Goal”. Every goal, but especially a big goal, has a core restraint or bottleneck that is keeping the business from achieving it. Most people don’t focus on the bottleneck or constraint. They focus on the 80% that doesn’t matter. 

Growing by 10% is about doing more. Possibly a lot more and for a long time. Growing by 1000% and achieving your impossible dream is about doing something different. 

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