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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Big shots focus on the big picture

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You are a leader. Even if you are a one-person band, you are the guiding force in your practice or career.

You should do what leaders do.

You should spend most of your time and energy focused on big picture strategies that help you achieve your goals.

Most lawyers don’t. Most lawyers spend their days doing client work and mundane tasks, not building for the future.

Leaders lead. They choose the destination, the tactics and tools, and create an atmosphere that attracts and supports others who accompany them.

Leaders focus on

  • Strategic planning
  • Casting vision
  • Creating culture
  • Building relationships
  • Improving reputation
  • Professional development
  • Personal growth

The leader understands that the firm delivers professional services, but is also a business and must be profitable. The leader continually seeks ways to increase revenue and decrease expenses, to ensure the firm’s viability and future growth.

The leader prefers to grow the business by hiring new people, creating new marketing alliances, and expanding into new markets rather than putting in more hours.

Yes, someone has to see the clients, draft the documents, and win the cases. Sometimes the leader does that. Sometimes the leader delegates much of that to their team. Sometimes the leader delegates all of that to their team while they focus on the big picture.

As you look at this list, think about how you spend your time and ask yourself how much of it you spend doing what leaders do.

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You don’t own me

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Everybody wants something from you. Your clients, subscribers, colleagues, and friends want you to give them something or do something.

Do it if you want to. But only if you want to.

Do what fits your agenda and schedule. Design your practice to fit your life, not the other way around.

Serve your clients, give them what they want, but only if that’s what you want.

Service doesn’t require subservience.

If someone doesn’t want to do business with you because they don’t like what you’re doing, or they don’t like you, they don’t have to do business with you. There are plenty of others who will. Plenty of others who will love what you do and how you do it, and will love the authentic you.

Or they won’t, but they’ll hire you anyway.

And that’s the point. You can be yourself and not only survive, but thrive.

That goes for your marketing, too.

If you don’t want to network, don’t. If you don’t want to be on camera, don’t. If you don’t want to write a newsletter or blog or hang out on social media, don’t.

Don’t change what you do or how you do it unless you want to.

But. . . try things before you make up your mind.

Do things you don’t think you’ll like and make sure. Make a video, show up at an event and introduce yourself to someone, write something and publish it. You might find, as many do, that something you thought you would hate turns out to be your favorite thing.

That includes people.

Work with a client who isn’t your favorite. They might change. Or you might.

Or you might decide you like their money more than you dislike their personality.

The road to success has many twists and turns.

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The journey is what you make of it

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When I was in school, I made the mistake of telling my parents my goal to become rich by the time I was 30. They told me that was crazy.

“You have to put in your dues,“ they said. “Things don’t work that fast,” they said. “Turn off the TV and finish your homework, “they said.

“Don’t rain on my parade,” I said, or would have if I had been as sharp as I thought I was.

They wanted me to stop dreaming and do what everyone else does. Work hard, endure the pain, and in twenty or thirty years, if I was lucky, I might get there.

That’s the message they grew up with and the message they wanted me to learn.

But I didn’t want to hear that. Twenty or thirty years of pain? That didn’t work for me.

My law school torts professor told us it would take five years after we pass the bar before we could expect to see success.

I didn’t want to hear that either, although I liked his number better.

But the issue isn’t how long it takes. It’s the idea that success requires suffering.

I reject that idea. I did then and I do now.

Yes, growth can be uncomfortable. We’re doing difficult things, making mistakes, and regularly getting out of our comfort zone. But that doesn’t mean we have to suffer and hate what we’re doing.

It comes down to your attitude, which is driven by your beliefs.

If you believe success requires years of pain and suffering and sacrifice, that’s probably what you’ll find.

But you can choose a different belief.

You can believe that while there will be a certain amount of problems and discomfort, you can enjoy the journey on your way to success.

When you hit a snag, when you are uncomfortable, you can choose to endure it and suffer your way through it, or, as they teach new recruits in the military, you can “embrace the suck”.

See the difficulties for what they make of you. Because they are not only inevitable on your journey, they are how you reach your destination.

No matter how long it takes.

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Mono-maniac on a mission

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Several years ago, I was in a business and worked with a guy who put in long hours and worked harder than just about everyone else in that business.

No “work-life” balance for him.

He was asked why he worked so hard. He answered, “Because building this business requires a lot of pain and sacrifice and I want to get it over with.”

And he did. In a few years, he accomplished what most people never come close to accomplishing.

Another friend did the same thing. He described himself as “a mono-maniac on a mission.”

Both of my friends started their business by taking massive action. And kept at it until their business was big enough and had enough momentum that they didn’t have to work as hard.

They had the knowledge, the people, the systems, the skills, and the reputation. They had ironed out the kinks and found ways to get the most out of what they had.

True, their first few years required sacrifices. You can’t have it all when you’re a mono-maniac on a mission. When you’re building quickly, as they did, everything else besides the business is a distraction.

A few years later, they had enough money coming in they could take their foot off the gas a bit and build out other areas of their life.

We’re taught that having work-life balance is important. Don’t work too many hours, take time to smell the roses, and if you don’t, your health and relationships might suffer.

Because we’ve been taught that most people don’t take all-out massive action. They build their business or practice pedantically, over decades, not a few years.

They go for a stroll instead of a sprint.

Am I advocating one way or the other? Not necessarily. Just pointing out that you have options.

All-out massive action might not be a good fit for you. It might lead to burnout, loss of friends, health challenges, and ignoring things that are important to you.

But if you’re the right person, and you’re willing to live an unbalanced life for a few years, you might achieve the kind of success most people only dream of.

And do it early enough that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for the rest of your life.

How to build your practice quickly


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Strategic alliances, masterminds, and workout partners

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Strategic alliance is a ten-dollar word for a simple idea: teaming up with one or more individuals for your mutual benefit. These other folks might be lawyers, business owners, or others who are influential in your niche or local market, or folks who are successful in completely different fields.

The purpose: to help each other achieve your individual goals.

You might team up with another lawyer who targets the same market you do and become workout partners, or form a mastermind group of four or five other folks with complementary skills and resources. Each of you might contribute your specific skills, e.g., editing, graphics, copywriting, videography, etc., or contribute ideas, feedback, and encouragement to other members of the group.

Strategic alliances are often marketing-focused, with each member of the group agreeing to promote the content and services of the other members.

But there are no rules besides the ones you agree to. You might use an alliance or group to

  • share ideas and resources
  • critique content
  • make introductions and referrals
  • promote each other’s services
  • share each other’s content, links, pages
  • celebrate each other’s wins
  • help each other through difficult situations
  • hold each other accountable

What do you need and want? What do they need and want? How can you help each other?

Set up a regular meeting schedule and some rules for attendance and contribution.

Some members will drop out. Replace them with others. You may go through quite a few before you find a core group that sticks.

Whatever happens, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and how others see you, about your target market, and what others are doing to build their practice or business that you can adapt to building yours.

Other people know people you don’t know and how to do things you don’t know how to do. You do, too.

Combine forces, leverage each other’s talents and resources, and help each other grow.

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Making friends isn’t required

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You can be massively successful in your practice without “getting to know” more people or “building stronger relationships” with the people you already know.

I’m not saying relationships aren’t valuable. They are incredibly valuable and if you are so inclined, you should regularly meet more people and strengthen your existing relationships.

But you don’t have to. You can bring in all the business you can handle, and then some, without it.

You don’t need to “do” social media. You don’t need to network or blog or podcast. You don’t need to create content or do any of the other things the cool kids are doing. You can get new clients and increase your income by simply doing a good job for your clients and treating them well.

The old fashioned ways still work.

However, if you go that route, I suggest you also employ two additional strategies. They are easy to do, don’t take a lot of time, and could multiply your results dramatically.

First on the list: stay in touch with the people you know.

You don’t have to see them in person or do anything other than contact them regularly. Email is the easiest way to do that but you could also use regular mail.

Each time they hear from you, they’ll think about you and what you do and be prompted to talk to you about new legal issues, and/or refer people to you who might need your help.

Of all the marketing strategies in existence, staying touch with people who already know, like, and trust you is about as simple (and effective) as it gets.

The second strategy is also simple, and also likely to pay huge dividends.

No matter how much you avoid seeking out new relationships, they will occur naturally. A client or contact will give you a lot of work or send you a lot of referrals, tell people about you, send traffic to your website, and otherwise do you a solid.

Give these folks more attention.

Contract them more often. Send them an article or link you think might interest them. If you have good chemistry with them, invite them to coffee or to do something with you off the clock.

They could help your practice not just grow but multiply.

Yes, I know I said you don’t have to do anything like this. You don’t need to make new friends. You don’t, but with friends like that, you might want to make an exception.

How to use email to stay in touch with people who can hire or refer you

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