Are you struggling financially? Here’s the good news. . .


financial challenges strengthen youBlack Friday. Some great deals out there. But for many, today is simply a reminder that they don’t have money to spend, no matter how good the deals.

The economy has hurt a lot of people. You may be just fine but I’ll bet you have clients or friends who are struggling. You may not know what to say to them (or to yourself) at a time like this, but there is something they need to hear.

They need to know that while financial problems can be painful, they can also help you grow.

Financial setbacks, no matter what the cause, are great teachers. They help us to see what does not work, on the path to discovering what does.

For some, hitting bottom is the only way they will change. It’s a wake up call that finally motives them to take action to improve their situation. The sooner they bottom out, the sooner things will improve.

No one wants to have money problems, but no one is immune to them. The ones who overcome their challenges and go on to thrive are those who learn from their problems and refuse to be defined by them. As actor Mike Todd famously noted, “Being broke is a temporary situation. Being poor is a state of mind.”

You can allow your financial situation to inspire your creativity or you can allow it to smother you. You can learn what does not work and never repeat it or you can make the same mistakes over and over again. You can dwell on your unpaid bills or you can focus on increasing your income.

The tree planted on the corner of our lot, in the path of the wind, is bigger and stronger than the tree tucked into a corner next to our house where the wind is not nearly as strong. The buffeting of the wind has made the tree on the corner grow stronger.

Like the wind, financial challenges push you and challenge you to grow. But unlike trees, you have free will. You can allow financial problems to break you or you can allow them to make you stronger.


How to make your clients appreciate you more than they already do


free and discount services for lawyersLast week my wife went to her dentist for a cleaning. The bill arrived with a charge of $84 for the cleaning and $45 for the exam. Then, the bill showed a $45 credit for the exam. In other words, the exam was free.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe because it was a brief exam or maybe he never charges for an exam that follows a cleaning. Whatever the reason, my wife and I were pleased. We like our dentist even more than we already did.

Now, what if he simply omitted the charge for the exam? Would that have had the same effect? I don’t think so. We wouldn’t know that he was “comping” the exam. If we had thought about it at all, we would have assumed the exam was included in the cleaning and not given it another thought.

When you do something nice for your clients, whether giving them a free service, a discount, or something extra, make sure they know about it. Put the charge on the statement and then show a credit for that charge, so the client can see the value of the service they received.

Do this for free consultations, too. Send a bill for the consultation, show a 100% credit, and a zero balance due.

Do you think your would-be clients will better appreciate the value of what you do if they see that the consultation they got free is worth $400?

You bet they will.

Something else. If you don’t have free or discounted services you occasionally give to clients and prospects, it’s time to start. One way to do that is to take something you regularly include as part of your services and “break it off” as a separate item.

For example, if you charge $1500 to prepare a living trust and this includes a pour over will, power of attorney, and living will at no charge, simply send an invoice that shows the ordinary charges for those additional documents and 100% credit.

If you want clients and prospects to appreciate you more, when you do something nice for them, make sure they know about it.


Attorney Marketing 101: Networking with the Right People


For many lawyers, networking is a great source of new business. Referrals are given, ideas are exchanged, doors are opened.

Most attorneys network by default. The local Chamber of Commerce advertises a mixer, a friend invites them to a Rotary breakfast or their local bar association announces their annual meeting, and that’s where they go. But these groups may not be the best choice.

When they don’t get a lot of business from one networking group many attorneys join a second group. Before you know it, some attorneys attend so many networking events each month they have no time for anything else. And because they aren’t networking with the right people, they still aren’t getting good results.

The right people, the ones you want to meet and network with, are those who are likely to know and influence a significant number of your ideal clients. No matter what your networking skills might be, your odds of success are much better when you network with groups comprised of a high concentration of these individuals.

Where do you find these groups? First, define your “ideal referral source”.

Start by looking at the referrals you received over the last twelve months. Who sent those referrals? What is their profession or background? What industry are they in? What other demographic factors stand out?

Look for patterns. If you see you got twenty-six referrals from real estate brokers last year, it probably makes sense to put real estate brokers on your list.

Then, put on your thinking cap and brainstorm other categories of prospective referral sources. Who sells to or advises your ideal clients? Who might have a big list of your ideal clients or influence in your target market?

Make a list of five to ten categories of promising referral sources. Depending on your practice area and local market, two or three categories may be enough (and all you can handle).

If you’re a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney, your list of categories may include obvious choices like insurance agents and brokers and physicians. It may include some less obvious choices, however, such as high school principals or pastors.

If you’re a consumer bankruptcy attorney, obvious choices might be real estate and mortgage brokers, accountants, and hairdressers.

Consider also including categories of people who influence your ideal referral sources. For example, if you want to network with financial planners, networking with accountants or non-competitive attorneys who represent financial planners would make sense.

Once you have defined your ideal referral sources, the next step is to find out where they congregate.

There are directories and web sites that list countless associations, networking groups, and referral groups (groups that meet specifically for the purpose of exchanging referrals). An hour or two will allow you to make a list of “candidate” groups. Note where they meet and when, and other pertinent information, e.g., how many members, requirements to join, do they allow outside speakers, etc.

A simpler way is to ask your existing referral sources what groups they belong to. Not only can this shortcut your research time, your contact will probably invite you to attend a meeting as his or her guest.

Having a friend on the inside, someone who can introduce you to the right people and provide information about committees, speakers, and group dynamics is invaluable.

If you don’t know people in the right categories, or the people you know don’t do any networking, you can ask people you know for a referral to someone who does. Call and introduce yourself, mention your mutual friend, and tell them you’re looking for a networking group you could attend. I’m sure they will have recommendations.

You’ll still need to attend a few meetings to see if a group is a good fit. The good news is that once you find a group that is, you may not need to find a second.

When it comes to networking, most attorneys are “a mile wide and an inch deep”. The most successful networkers focus their time and effort in a limited number of groups of “the right people”.


The Big Idea: Taking a Quantum Leap in the Growth of Your Law Practice


Donny Deutsch’s cable program, “The Big Idea,” features interviews with entrepreneurs who scored big (or are trying to) in the world of business. The guests discuss their “big idea,” the one that makes their company or product different from all the rest.

In the crowded, competitive world of business, a big idea can propel a company from the depths of obscurity to the heights of financial success. But the big idea isn’t necessarily a new invention or a revolutionary concept. More often, it is a new spin on an old idea that capitalizes on a current trend (e.g., “fast food” restaurants that serve nothing but breakfast cereal).

Allstate Insurance company is running ads that promise to pay cash rebates for every six months of good driving. That’s nothing more than a new way of offering a good driver discount but in my view, it qualifies as a big idea because instead of a discount, the customer gets paid. Getting a check from your insurance company every six months re-sells you on staying with that company because you don’t want to lose “your” check. (It also reminds you to drive safely.)

Amazon’s latest big idea is low priced tablets. They don’t do everything an iPad does but they will probably appeal to a big segment of the market that will pay $200 (or less) but not $500 (or more).

How could you create a big idea in your practice? It might be as simple as taking something every attorney in your market does (e.g., house calls), and re-positioning it (e.g., “We’ll send a limo to pick you up”). It might be something few attorneys do, like the radio spot I just heard by an estate planning firm that prepares living trusts. Their big idea: “free lifetime updates”.

Take some time to brainstorm ideas with your employees or mastermind group. What do you do that everyone else does that you could promote as “your big idea”? Or, what do you do (or could you do) that nobody else does that could be an even bigger big idea?


Five ways lawyers can leverage a win or other successful outcome to get more clients


Most lawyers go from case to case, client to client, never stopping to use the successful outcomes they create as marketing leverage for bringing in more clients. That’s because they’re thinking like a lawyer, not a rainmaker.

Instead of rushing from one case to the next, take a few minutes to think about how you can use the successful outcome (verdict, settlement, closing the deal, estate plan, etc.) to get the story told to the people who can bring you more business.

Here are five ways you could do that.

  1. Your client. The best time to talk to clients about referrals is right after a successful outcome. When you hand them a check, sign papers, or otherwise bring things to a climax, it’s prime time to ask for referrals, for a testimonial, or for other help.

    Ask consumer clients to refer you to their friends and family or to other professionals they know. Ask your business clients to introduce you to their vendors or distributors, to write about the case in their newsletter or blog, or submit an article to their local paper. (You can write the article for them).

    The favor you ask your client doesn’t have to be related to their case. They’re happy and willing to help, so ask them to distribute your new report, “like” your new blog post, or invite their friends to your upcoming seminar. And ask them to ask their friends to do the same.

  2. Your other clients and prospects. Write about your successful outcome in your blog and newsletter. Post it on your web site. Do a little bragging on social media channels. Take advantage of the win to let others see you doing what you do, helping others “just like them” achieve the same benefits they seek.
  3. Other parties/witnesses. Send a quick note to the other parties and/or their counsel, thanking them for their professionalism. Send a thank you note to experts and other witnesses, for a job well done. It’s not uncommon to see the losing side hiring the winning attorney or sending referrals or opposing counsel referring clients when they have a conflict. By the way, do the same thing when you lose a case or settle for less than hoped.
  4. Your colleagues. Tell other lawyers you know about your case. Send a letter, speak about it at Bar functions, write an article, point them to your blog post. Tell the story and share the legal nuances, give them tips about the judge or arbitrator or experts. Help them do better on their next case and they will appreciate you, reciprocate with good information on their next case, and send business your way when they have a conflict.
  5. The media. Find something newsworthy or otherwise interesting about the case, your clients or their company and issue a press release or write an article for publication in their trade journal or home town paper. The media are starved for good stories; don’t assume there’s no news value to preparing a living trust for your blue collar client. In the hands of a good writer, there’s always a story to be told.

Leverage means getting more results from the same effort. From now on, leverage your successful outcomes to get more publicity, more speaking engagements, more traffic to your web site, and more new clients.


Working smart doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or personal attention


I got an email from an attorney who read my story about the changes I made in my practice that increased my cash flow. (If you’re on my newsletter list, you have or will get the email, promoting my Cash Flow for Attorneys program). One of the things I did was delegate as much of my work as possible, eventually getting to the point where I did “only those things that only I could do.”

In reply, this attorney said,

“The lesson may be that sacrificing quality and personal attention to the clients can raise your bottom line. The moral should be: what client would pick that savvy business owner over the harder working practitioner?”

I understand how one might think that delegating as much as possible and running your practice like a business would lead to a lower level of quality or personal attention. In reality, it is just the opposite.

My clients got a higher level of service and more personal attention because I wasn’t trying to do everything myself. Think about it: attorneys works long hours and are stretched so thin they often don’t have time for lunch. They have less time for clients because they’ve got too many other things to do.

When you delegate work, it frees you up to do the things that really matter. You have time to greet new clients and introduce them to the staff who will take care of the mundane work. You have time and energy to oversee the important legal work, and to perform the work that “only you can do”. And you have time for marketing, so you can bring in more good clients, allowing you to hire more staff to better serve your growing practice.

If you’re trying to do too much yourself, you must find a way to delegate as much as possible. Continue to supervise your employees, to make sure the work is getting done and the clients are getting served, but let go of the notion that just because nobody can do it better than you means nobody but you should do it.

Do the math: you’re worth at least $300 an hour and, arguably, much more. If you continue to do $25 an hour clerical work, you’re working for your practice, not the other way around.

A law practice is first, a business. That business hires you, the professional. As the owner of that practice, you earn for what you do as a professional and you earn a profit on what your business takes in from paying clients. If your business doesn’t bring in clients, you won’t have anyone for whom to practice your profession.

I was a sole practitioner for my entire legal career, and I worked hard. Damn hard. Early on, I worked long hours and was always on the brink of exhaustion. I did my best to serve my clients but my best was limited to what I was able to give them with the limited time and energy at my disposal. It wasn’t until I starting working smart and delegated as much as possible that I was able to achieve the levels of financial success and time freedom I ultimately enjoyed. And because I was “selfish” enough to make that leap, my clients got better service than they ever got when I was doing almost everything myself.


What to give new clients when they sign up


I hired an attorney recently. After I signed the retainer agreement, he gave me a copy of the agreement and my check. Nothing else. Nor has he sent me anything in the mail or email in the several weeks since.

No letters, no phone calls, no information.

It’s true, nothing has happened yet that would require an update. Nevertheless, not sending me anything or communicating with me in any way is a big mistake.

Attorneys need to give new clients as much information as possible, and stay in touch with them as often as possible:

  • To thank them for choosing you instead of any other lawyer
  • To educate them on what you will be doing and how the client can help you do a better job for them
  • To inoculate the client from doing or saying anything that could harm them
  • To clarify and commemorate what you told the client and what the client told you
  • To give them something to show their spouse or partner that explains what you are doing and why it is necessary
  • To show clients you are organized and experienced and that they can trust you to stay on top of their matter
  • To ensure the client knows what will be happening, and when, so they don’t expect too much, too soon
  • To let the client know that even though they haven’t heard from you, you are working on their case
  • To reduce the client’s anxiety–about their case and about working with a lawyer
  • To add value to the transaction and exceed the client’s expectations; to give them a “wow” experience
  • To clarify billing and payment requirements so there are no misunderstandings or unpleasant surprises
  • To set the stage for cross-sales and referrals by educating the client about other services your firm offers

Every law firm should send new clients home with as much information as possible. Create a simple “new client kit” and supplement this with regularly scheduled letters and phone calls. Let them know what you are doing for them, even if what you are doing is waiting for something from them or from another party.

Many attorneys do this but too many don’t. How about you? What do you send your new clients and how has this helped your practice?


Are you ignoring prospects who don’t have a computer or smart phone?


There are billions of people in the world who aren’t able to read this.

No, not attorneys, although I’m sure there are still a few who haven’t evolved into the 21st century. But they aren’t my target market.

Would I like to communicate with them? Sure. But I’m willing to lose, say, the 5% who aren’t connected, in favor of the economics of reaching the 95% who are.

How about you? Is your target market connected? Do you know how many are not?

If a significant percentage of your target market isn’t online and you do most of your marketing online, you obviously need other ways to communicate.

But what if the bulk of your target market is online? Can you safely ignore the few who aren’t?

If you’re just looking at the numbers, sure. But there are some situations where it makes sense to have other options.

Take business cards, for example. There is a trend today towards the digital business card whereby you collect the other person’s information digitally in your smart phone, via a a “bump” or other method, and they collect yours as well. You don’t need to carry paper business cards, all you need is your phone.

There’s nothing wrong with a digital card, of course; it does save the effort of manually transferring information from paper to your electronic database and it’s kind of cool. But what about the prospect who doesn’t have a smart phone or the right app to collect your information? If all you have is a digital card, you may have squandered an opportunity to make a potentially lucrative new connection.

Whether or not you’ve gone digital, you still need to carry (paper) business cards. And, if you do carry paper cards, you shouldn’t assume the people you give them to can read your QR code. Have your practice areas and other information printed on the card as well.

I love technology and use it extensively; you may, too. But we shouldn’t assume that everyone knows what we know. I’m not saying you have to translate all your marketing documents to print or do a print newsletter in addition to your ezine, unless most of your target market is offline. But with something as inexpensive and effective as a business card, there’s no excuse for not having them.

High tech marketing may be the future but low tech will always work–and you never have to worry about a dead battery.


Steve Jobs’ prescription for success and happiness–in his own words


In 2005, Steve Jobs addressed the graduating class at Stanford University. I’d never heard his remarks before today, but I’m glad I took 15 minutes this morning to watch this video. Jobs tells three stories, taken from his life experience, to communicate a simple but powerful message. It is one of the most insightful and motivating speeches I’ve ever heard. In light of his recent resignation, ostensibly for health reasons, it is also one of the most moving.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Here is a transcript of his remarks.


The one thing you need to know about success


When I’m asked to recommend good books on business or personal development I usually include Marcus Buckingham’s “The One Thing You Need to Know. . . About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success.” Based on his empirical studies, Buckingham reveals the “secret” to success: “Discover what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.”

In doing so, you make room for doing what you do like doing:

“The most successful people sculpt their jobs so that they spend a disproportionate amount of time doing what they love. . . . The secret to sustained success lies in knowing which [activities] engage your strengths and which do not and in having the self-discipline to reject the latter.”

Another book, based on a groundbreaking study by famous psychologist, Walter Mischel, presents a different perspective and an actual way to predict success. “Don’t Eat The Marshmallow Yet,” describes a study of a group of four year olds who were presented with a marshmallow. They were told if they could wait 20 minutes before eating it, they would get a second marshmallow, but if they eat it now, it would be the only marshmallow they get.

Some kids were able to wait, others couldn’t resist.

The researchers studied the kids for many years after the initial experiment and found that the kids who were able to delay their gratification and wait 20 minutes to get a second marshmallow were much more successful in all areas of their life.

The differences in results as the kids grew older were startling. The ones who could delay gratification had better social lives, were more intellectual, better off financially, and happier.

The co-author, Joachim De Posada, describes the experiment (and shows us some adorable “test subjects”) in this video:

So if success comes from doing what you want (and avoiding what you don’t) and what you want is to eat the marshmallow now (and not wait 20 minutes), don’t these two conclusions contradict each other?

I don’t think so.

I define success in terms of happiness; the happier you are, the more successful you are. When you know you are on the right path, doing what you enjoy, going where you want to go, you are happy, even though you are not yet experiencing all of the fruits of your labor. In fact, I would argue that delaying gratification actually enhances your joy because success isn’t in the destination, it’s in the journey.

When you imagine what your life will be like a few years from now and the picture in your mind is pleasurable, you can be just as happy now imagining your future as you will be when that future arrives.

So they are both right. In doing what you want to do you enjoy the present and you are also excited about the future. You don’t mind waiting for that future to come because you know it’s coming (and you enjoy thinking about that) and, more importantly, you’re having fun right now.