Where good ideas come from by Steven Johnson


Soon, we’ll all be thinking about the New Year. How can we grow our practice? What can we do to enhance our personal life?

For some, the answer is to continue executing plans that are already in place. They know what to do, they just need to get better at doing it or simply give it more time. Others need a new plan. What they’ve been doing isn’t working. New plans call for new ideas, but where do ideas come from?

To answer this question, author Steven Johnson takes us on a visual journey into the creative process in this fascinating video:

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Poll: How has the economy affected your law practice?


How has the economy affected your law practiceHow has the economy affected your law practice?

If you practice real estate law, the last couple of years have probably been rough. On the other hand, some real estate lawyers are reinventing their practices and appear to be thriving. The economy has been good to them.

I believe that while some lawyers are doing better in this economy, most lawyers are not. Most are treading water and more than a few are going under.

To me, this is obvious. There are fewer (paying) clients and fewer jobs for lawyers. This morning I read an article about a law student who looked at the job market and asked the dean of his law school for a refund. I previously noted a law school graduate who sued his law school for misrepresenting his prospects for a job.

So, are things better or worse for you? Are you hanging in there or hanging by a thread? Please answer by responding to this (anonymous) poll:


Posting to two twitter accounts: what do you use?


posting to two twitter accountsI have two twitter accounts, one for The Attorney Marketing Center and one for my personal blog (about network marketing and internet marketing). It’s more work to have two twitter accounts, but attorneys who want information about marketing their legal services is a completely different market from internet marketers, and thus, two accounts

Follow me on twitter and I’ll follow you back (if you have something intelligent to say–kidding. . .).

I’ve been using ping.fm to tweet for one account and to simultaneously post facebook status updates. I don’t see a way to use ping.fm to update two twitter accounts, however, and am looking for an alternative solution, both for desktop and my iPhone. I’m looking at tweetdeck and hootsuite, among others.

What do you use and recommend for posting to multiple twitter accounts? Add your comments to this post (and re-tweet it!)


How to get clients by email; the right and wrong approach


I just got an email from a investment company representative that is a classic illustration of the WRONG way to use email to generate new business.

Hi David,

My group wanted to reach out to you to see if you have any interest in our services.

We are an independent, fee-only investment advisor with a proven track record and compelling value proposition. We have a sophisticated investment process that combines individual bonds and equities/ETFs to produce a tax sensitive, highly liquid, totally transparent, risk managed portfolio. Our philosophy is grounded in academically proven methodologies. We don’t do broker talk, just easy to understand investing.

Our CIO was formerly an executive corporate risk manager at BIG COMPANY, and a MAJOR UNIVERSITY grad and CFA. We have a solid understanding of not only equities and bonds but also foreign currency and interest rate risk management. We have retained over 95% of our clients over the last 5 years.

I wanted to see if you were open to exploring opportunities with us? Perhaps I can email you a 1 page breakdown about our firm, bio’s and performance?

Apologize for the email intrusion, however we believe it’s a less intrusive way of an introduction.


Managing Director
Company Name

Okay, what do you think? Is this likely to bring in any business? What would you do differently?

I’m not concerned that it’s unsolicited. It’s okay to approach prospective clients or referral sources to introduce yourself in an unsolicited email. But you’ve got to do it right and the first thing that’s wrong with this email is it seeks to do much more than that and takes too much for granted about my interest in using this company’s services.

Too much, too soon.

Selling investment services is like selling legal services. It’s a process, over time. It’s based on a relationship between the professional and the prospective client or referral source and trust is integral to that relationship. Trust takes time and must be earned. (It can also be borrowed from a mutual contact who refers the parties).

Before marriage there is courtship and before courtship is the first date. You haven’t even asked me out but you want me to meet your family?

Too much, too soon.

So what’s a better offer? How about information that could help me save or make money, like a report or mp3 or newsletter with investing tips, strategies, or predictions? Or, how about an invitation to a free tele-seminar or web-inar? This would not only provide value it would also allow me to identify myself to you as a potential prospect for your services.

Offer something I want and I can have without a big commitment or a sales pitch. Make it easy for me to say yes.

(There’s another benefit (to you) of offering valuable information: it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, which is much better than you simply proclaiming it.)

An offer must contain a benefit. What’s in it for me? What do I get out of it? Had this email offered valuable information I may have been interested in receiving it. The door to our relationship would have opened. You would have gotten my attention and eventually, over time, as trust is built, we might begin courting.

Another problem with this email is that it’s all about you–your firm, your experience, you, you, you. Talk to me about me–my concerns, my desires, my portfolio. I’m interested in my life, not yours.

Show me made an effort to learn something about me and what I do, perhaps a comment about my blog . I know it’s a form letter but if you had made any effort to personalize it, you’d have a much better chance of getting my attention.

Marketing is common sense. If we met in person, what would you say to get my attention? What would you offer that might make me interested in speaking further?

Emails like this make me think that common sense isn’t really that common.


How full is your bucket?


"How Full Is Your Bucket?" by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton is a little book filled with big wisdom. Here’s why you should read this immediately: 

  • It reveals simple but powerful strategies that can dramatically improve your relationships with clients, employees, friends, family, and others. These strategies can increase your income, improve your productivity, and even improve your health and extend your lifespan.
  • It is based on 50 years of research, not guesswork. The authors PROVE their premises.
  • You can read the book in an hour and begin using the principles immediately. In my opinion, you’ll see results in days, if not hours.

The book is based on the relatively new field of "Positive Psychology," which focuses on what is right with people rather than what is wrong.

The book and accompanying web site show you how to replace negativity and criticism with positive strategies to obtain desired results.

Good reading!


Should you buy a “canned” newsletter?


If you write a newsletter or a blog (and you should) you need content. But it takes time to write something worth reading and attorneys have precious little time to spare. There are services now that sell articles you can use, copyright free. You pay your money and you can print them under your name.

It’s a new twist on an old idea.

Canned newsletter for professionals have been around for years. My state bar sells pamphlets lawyers can send to their clients with their name stamped on the back. Of course you can hire a ghost writer, or assign someone in your office to write material for you. There are plenty of ways to get content that you don’t originate. The question is, should you?

In my opinion, you should not. Canned materials are never a good substitute for creating your own newsletter, articles and reports. They are better than nothing, but not much.

One reason is that far fewer people will read it. These articles and newsletters are very general and very bland. And a lot of people will know you didn’t write them. I toss my insurance agents newsletter in the trash, unopened, because I know it comes from a staff writer in New York and has little value to me. There is nothing personal or interesting in it. My dentist writes a personal newsletter, but it is terribly boring. I open and glance at it, in case there might be something that pertains to me in it (e.g., a change in his office personnel or procedure) but I don’t read it.

(Here’s a clue that it’s canned: there are no stories in them. Facts tell, but stories sell, and if what you write doesn’t have stories in them, either, you’re missing the boat.)

Now, there is some value in your clients getting something from you with your name on it, even if they don’t open the envelope or email. They are at least reminded that you still exist. But you’re missing the opportunity to build a relationship with them, and that’s costing you more than you can imagine.

The purpose of newsletters and reports and blogs is to (a) stay in touch, reminding people that you still exist, (b) demonstrate your expertise, your ability to deliver the benefits they seek, and (c) create a dialog with the reader that supports your relationship with them. With canned material, you can only stay in touch, and poorly, at best.

You want people to read your words, and "hear" your voice. You want them to believe you are writing just to them. You want them to read and appreciate your special news or offer. And you want them to see that you care enough about them to take a couple of hours once or twice a month to write something "just for them".

The time you invest in this process will not only be "worth it," it is the single most profitable thing you could do to build your practice.

Seriously. The people who know, like, and trust you will hire you again and again and they will efer people to you, too. There is no cost to acquire these clients, other than printing/mailing costs if you do that (and you should) and your time.

Now, don’t panic. Once you get the hand of it, it doesn’t take as long as you think.

Start by producing some "evergreen" materials, reports, for example, that once written, you can use over and over again for years to come. You have expertise in your field and you can write a report in two hours. Here’s your assignment for your first one: Take the five or ten questions you are asked the most by prospective or new clients, and answer them. There, you have a report.

A newsletter or blog require continual replenishment of material, but this is worth it, too. You don’t need as much as you think. A monthly newsletter could be two pages. A postcard, if that’s all you can do. Far more important than quantity is that they hear from a real person, sharing a story, a thought, a piece of your mind.

For a blog, three to five paragraphs, one to three times a week can be enough. What’s important is that it be your voice, your opinion, a glimpse into your world. Your clients and prospects (and referral sources) need to feel they are a part of your life and you a part of theirs. You want them to "know, like, and trust" you, and to do that, your material needs to be your own.

I’ve told attorneys in the past to order the canned newsletter or articles if they feel they must, but to make them their own. "Rewrite them, add your commentary, offer examples and advice that are specific to your practice. What do you agree with? Disagree with? What else does the reader need to know?"

Today you can pretty much do that without paying a service. Just go online, find something someone else has written, and use it as an outline or idea starter for your own material.


Is your legal career deeply fulfilling?


One of the hallmarks of a successful career, according to Steve Pavlina, is "making a meaningful positive contribution to others." Indeed, many lawyers say they went to law school in order to "make a difference" or "to help others." I know that was important to me when I started my career. Unfortunately, looking back on twenty years of practice, I can’t say I made the kind of difference I thought I would when I was starting out.

Pavlina is writing a series of articles on how to create a fulfilling career. He begins with the premise that no one should settle for anything less than complete satisfaction. We deserve to "have it all" and have it now, and we can, he says. "Almost" isn’t good enough, and neither is "working towards". Either our careers are fulfilling or they aren’t–there is no in between.

Someone once said that life follows three distinct phases: learning, earning, and returning. A deeply fulfilling career, the way Pavlina defines it, is one that combines all three elements right now. Contribution ("returning") is something we do every day, not just when we retire.

It took me a long time to admit that I wasn’t fulfilled in my career as a lawyer, and even longer before I was finally able to extricate myself. Oh, I know I played an important role in the legal lives of many people, and there were other aspects of my career that were satisfying (e.g., intellectually, financially), but, on balance, my career wasn’t anywhere near what I would call deeply fulfilling.

I like to tell myself I had to go through what I went through in order to get where I am today (and to appreciate where I am today), and I’m sure there is some truth to that. But only some. Today, I know you don’t have to settle. Now I understand that you can have it all, and you don’t have to wait. If you’re not completely fulfilled in your career, I hope you don’t take as long as I did to find that out for yourself.

If you are interested in making some changes, if you would like to be able to learn, earn, and return today, not someday, please contact me. I’m working on a project with several attorneys who feel the same way and it might be a good fit for you, too.


Free advice that can make you millions


One of the best ways to get from where you are to where you want to go is getting help from someone who has done what you want to do. Make a list of areas you would like help with or areas where you would like to grow. Three key areas for lawyers in private practice would be

  • Substantive practice areas
  • Marketing
  • Administration/management

Specific areas you might want to key on might be

  • Technology/internet
  • Employee relations
  • Taxes/record keeping
  • Risk management/insurance
  • Retirement planning/investments

And so on.

Of course you can always hire experts to consult and advise you in these areas, and you might. But why not find lawyers (or other professionals) who have had success in these areas and ask them to be your mentor?

Mentors help you see what’s possible by serving as a role model. They can keep you from going off course by providing feedback about your ideas. And they can open doors for you to opportunities, introductions to vendors, prospective clients and referral sources. The right mentors can spare you years of hardship and, literally, make you rich.

Once you have identified a list of areas you would like to be mentored in, start asking everyone you know for recommendations and referrals to experts in those areas. “Who do you know who is a great networker?” “Do you know any lawyers who know a lot about web sites?” “Who is the best construction litigation attorney you know?”

Next, make a list of specific points you’d like to cover in your first conversation, such as why you’d like them to mentor you and what kind of help you might be looking for.

Successful people like to share what they have learned. Properly approached, you’ll find any number of individuals willing to share a few minutes of their time with you each month.

Here’s an approach you can take:

“Hello, Mr. Jones, my name is Robert Lawyer. We haven’t met and I know you’re a busy man, so I’ll be brief. I’m a sole practictioner in the area of estate planning. I know you’ve built a very successful estate practice over the last twenty-five years. I’ve been practicing for four years now and I’m ready to take things to a higher level and I would appreciate it if you would consider being my mentor. All that would mean is spending ten minutes with me on the phone once a month, so I could ask you a few questions. I’d really appreciate it. Would you be open to that?”

Be prepared to give your mentors something in return. At the very least, give them feedback on how their advice has worked out for you. Look for information and resources that can benefit them and share it with them.

Eventually, find others whom you can mentor. There’s no better way to pay tribute to your mentors than to follow in their footsteps.