New eBook Shows Lawyers How to Use Evernote to Organize Everything

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love Evernote. I use it for everything: notes, documents, writing, task management, you name it. Today, I’m proud to announce the release of a new eBook, “Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity“.

Lawyers manage an incredible amount of information and finding that information quickly is imperative. More and more attorneys use Evernote for capturing notes and web clips, and initially, that’s all I used it for. I’ve since discovered many other ways Evernote can be used to organize the information in my life, and that’s what this book reveals.

Topics include using Evernote for research and writing, time and billing support, marketing and career development, and managing client files and documents. Other chapters include, “going paperless,” “data security,” “working with email,” and “working with your calendar”.

Attorneys who use David Allen’s Getting Things Done® methodology (or want to), will want to read Chapter 4, which covers this subject at length. I’ve written before about my Evernote/GTD system. Evernote for Lawyers presents my latest thinking on this subject, as well as the latest updates to my gtd system and work flow.

Evernote currently has 20 million users world wide and was recently honored as Inc. Magazine’s 2011 Company of the Year.

Evernote is free and is available for Windows, Mac, on the web, and all major mobile platforms. A premium version with enhanced features is also available.

Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity is available for immediate download in pdf format at OrganizedLawyer.com

Dear Attorney: Why should I hire you?

why should i choose you instead of any other attorneyAs you think about the end of this year and the start of a new one, there’s something you should spend some time contemplating: Why should a prospective client choose you instead of any other attorney?

After all, they could choose from a long list of other attorneys. In some cases, if their needs are simple enough (or they think they are) they can also choose a paralegal or other non-attorney. In any case, not you.

So why choose you?

It’s an important question, don’t you think? Spend some time thinking about this and crafting your answer so that if someone asks, you can confidently answer in a way that inspires them to take the next step in your direction.

A good place to start is by using your imagination. Pretend a prospect is sitting in your office, across the desk from you, pen and paper in hand. You’ve discussed their issue with them, answered their questions, and shown them their options. Then, they pop the question: Why should I hire you instead of any other lawyer?

What would you say?

Write down everything you can think of. No doubt you’ll mention your track record, results you’ve obtained for other clients, and your accolades and awards. You’ll talk about your firm’s resources and capabilities. You’ll say things like “dedication” and “hard word” and “caring”. And all of this is good. But it’s not enough.

For one thing, nobody really cares that you are the biggest, oldest, or most successful. It’s not meaningless, but it’s not that important because it’s all about you. Your prospects want to know what’s in it for them.

In addition, those other lawyers are saying something very similar.

So dig deeper. What makes you different? Why are you the better choice? What co your clients get they don’t get from any other lawyer?

These aren’t easy questions to answer. You may not have a good answer, or any answer, and that’s okay right now. At least you’re thinking about this and if you continue to think about it, eventually you will start doing things that will provide you with a great answer.

Your prospects may never ask you this question. They may never even think it. And, in truth, most will make their decision based on how you make them feel when they speak to you, not on any quantifiable measure of your superiority. But don’t get complacent.

In the end, the attorney who delivers the highest standards of service and benefits to his or her clients is the attorney who will attract more of them. Even if nobody asks.

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.

Slowing down to speed up

Stop running. Yes, I know you have to get to court, crank out a new agreement, and meet with your new client. I know you’re busy and this is how you earn your living. I know that if you don’t do the work you won’t get paid.

Slow down anyway. Better yet, come to a complete stop.

At least for a few hours.

Slowing down allows you to refine what you’re doing so you can do it better, and faster. Just as a race car needs pit stops, so do humans. By taking a break periodically, we can ensure that everything is working properly and that we are on course and on pace. Taking a break allows us to recharge our energy and clarify our focus. It allows us to go faster, assured that we are going in the right direction.

Take some time to evaluate what you are doing and the results you are getting. Are things moving in the direction you want? Is there anything you could do better? What’s working well that could be expanded?

Take some time to look at your calendar. How are you spending your time? What else might you do? Is there something you are doing that you don’t really need to do? Is there something that takes you two hours that could be done in one?

Take some time to rest and reflect on the bigger picture. What big ideas could you start working on that might help you take a quantum leap? Where do you want to be five years from today and what could you start doing today to help you get there?

Take some time to get rid of clutter and distractions. If it doesn’t serve you in some way, eliminate it. Simplify your life so you can focus on what is important and valuable.

Take some time to read things you don’t usually read. Look for ideas and inspiration. Have some fun. Goof off. Go to the movies in the middle of the day. Take your best friend for a long lunch.

And take some time to give thanks for all that you have. When you appreciate the goodness in your life, you attract more of it.

Marketing legal services: doing things you don’t want to do

Conventional wisdom says that success lies outside of your comfort zone. If you want something you don’t have, you have to change what you are doing and this will probably be uncomfortable, as is anything new. Over time, you will become comfortable with your new activities and you may actually enjoy them.

But then, you will have a new comfort zone. To get to the next level in your growth, you will once again need to go beyond your comfort zone into new territory.

Success, therefore, requires continually being uncomfortable.

This is what we are told, but is it true?

Let’s take marketing for example. Let’s say you really don’t like networking. You’re shy, you don’t like being away from your family, you’re not a “people person”. Whatever. You just don’t like it.

But networking is a proven way for attorneys to build their practices. So what if you don’t like it, there are lots of things we have to do in life that we would rather not do. Shouldn’t you just get out of your comfort zone and do it anyway?

No.

If you tried it and truly don’t like it. . . you don’t like it. Don’t do it.

There are other ways to bring in clients. You don’t have to continue to do things that make you uncomfortable, you can do something else.

Ultimately, success lies inside your comfort zone.

When you like something, you’ll continue doing it. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The better you get, the more successful you will be and the more you will enjoy doing it. And the cycle will continue.

In contrast, when you force yourself to do something you despise, you are miserable. You’ll find ways to avoid going to your networking event, even to the extent of getting sick. You won’t get better at it and your lack of results will only frustrate you and make you hate it even more.

Doing what you enjoy doing is the recipe for success.

Don’t fight how you feel, don’t try to talk yourself into it, and don’t do it because you think you must.

There, did I just hear a big sigh of relief from you?

Good. I’m glad I could help. Just don’t be too quick in deciding what is and what isn’t inside your comfort zone.

Often, we decide we don’t like something based on too little information. Sometimes, we never try at all, basing our opinion on what we’ve heard from others or what we imagine. Sometimes, we try it once, have a bad experience, and never try again.

Don’t give up too soon and don’t assume that when you try something and it is uncomfortable, it will always be so.

Give it a fair try. Study and learn how to do it better. Find mentors who can counsel you. Give the new experience enough time for the newness to rub off.

If it really isn’t your cup of tea, relax, you don’t have to do it. On the other hand, you might discover some things you thought you hated that you’re actually quite good at and now enjoy.

My wife and I grew up with dogs in the house. Cats? Not for us. We don’t like them. All that changed when our daughter was young and wanted a pet but nobody wanted to walk a dog. So we got a cat. Then another.

We gave them a chance and today, Seamus and Andre are like members of the family. That’s Andre in the photo with me, sharing some love with his daddy.

The Seven Reasons Prospective Clients Don’t Hire an Attorney

why clients don't hire attorneys lawyersIf prospective clients don’t hire you, there are only seven reasons:

  1. No need: They don’t need (or see the need for) what you offer.
  2. No want: They know they need it but they don’t want it.
  3. No trust: They don’t believe you can and will deliver (at all, when promised, or sufficient quality).
  4. No like: They just don’t like you: your attitude, how you answered their questions, “bad chemistry”.
  5. No urgency: They need and want it but “not now”. It’s not yet painful enough.
  6. No authority: They want to hire you but they need someone else’s permission (and can’t get it).
  7. No money: They want to hire you but they can’t afford it.

Any one of these reasons can knock you out of contention. But one of these reasons presents a bigger challenge for many attorneys than the other reasons, not because it is insurmountable (it isn’t) but because it creates so much frustration and wasted time.

Can you guess which one? Go ahead and read the list again. Give it some thought. I’ll be here when you get back. . .

Okay, what do you think?

It’s number two, “no want”.

If they don’t want it, they don’t want it. Fighting this will only frustrate you and alienate the client. He may have wanted it next year but because you pushed him, he will probably hire someone else.

This issue has confounded more sales people than any other issue in the history of sales. A customer doesn’t want the product but the salesman has been taught that it’s not a “no” until he’s heard it seven times and he should use the 37 scripted techniques he’s been taught for overcoming objections to convince the prospect to say yes.

Uck.

Oh they may get the sale. But the time and energy they spend in doing so is usually better spent finding someone else, someone who may have some questions or issues to resolve but otherwise WANTS what is being offered.

It’s no different with legal services.

Notwithstanding studies that prove that most sales take place after the fifth or seventh or twenty-seventh “no,” smart sales people and attorneys believe the prospect when he says he doesn’t want it.

You can overcome the objection. You can convince someone who doesn’t want what you offer to hire you anyway. It happens every day. Crafty sales techniques, fear and intimidation, and outright lies are used to get prospects to sign. The sales person or attorney rationalizes this by saying to themselves, “the prospect didn’t want the service, but they really did need it; all I did was help him to do what is in their best interests.”

But you don’t want these kinds of clients. You want clients who are thrilled they found you, relieved that you can help them achieve something they desperately desire.

You want the low hanging fruit.

I’m not saying you roll over and play dead. When a prospect hesitates, you must make sure he understands enough about his situation, the risks he faces, and the benefits he can get by hiring you. You must inform him. But if it’s a no, it’s a no. Move on.

What if nobody wants what you’re offering? What if you’re offering your services the right way, to the right people, and nobody’s buying? If the demand isn’t there for your services, you must also move on.

Just because you’re really good at (put your skill here) doesn’t mean the market wants it. If the demand isn’t there, you need to find out what the market does want and offer that.

Times change, people change, wants change. Yesterday, people wanted to protect what they owned. Today, they’re trying to replace what they owned and lost. Tomorrow, they may be looking for a place to live.

If business has been off for you, it might be because you haven’t been listening to your prospects and to the market. It’s time to do that.

Think of it this way, you can either create demand or you can satisfy demand that already exist. Guess which one is easier and more profitable?

Steve Jobs’ greatest marketing lesson for lawyers

No doubt Steve Jobs’ career will long be studied in business schools. His vision and iconoclastic style changed everything in the world of technology and business. Jobs urged the world to “Think Different” and his accomplishments proved this to be good advice.

His career also provided several lessons in marketing for lawyers, as Larry Bodine ably points out. I believe Jobs’ greatest lesson, however, was in the way he lived his life.

Well before illness reminded him of his mortality, Jobs’ philosophy for living drove him to take risks. In his address to the 2005 Stanford graduating class, he described it this way:

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Of course this is not, per se, a marketing lesson, nor is it confined to lawyers. But I believe that more than anyone, lawyers need to hear this message.

Lawyers are among the most risk adverse creatures on Earth. Protecting our clients from risk is one of our strengths. Paradoxically, it is also one of our weaknesses.

In the world of business, lawyers are known as “deal breakers”. To protect our clients, (and ourselves), we often overstate the likelihood and potential consequences of perceived risks, often to the detriment of our clients’ business interests. A deal not struck cannot result in loss but neither can it result in gain.

In marketing their services, many lawyers are also deal breakers. They don’t want to appear weak or unprofessional or make a mistake that embarrasses them or gets flagged as an ethics violation, and so too often, they do nothing. Or they do something that is so watered down, so colorless, the results aren’t even worth mentioning.

Steve Jobs was successful because he took chances. He defied convention. He stuck his neck out and challenged the world to a duel. He had many defeats and many detractors but he accomplished great things because he didn’t worry about what others thought.

Most lawyers don’t like marketing, not because they feel it is beneath them, although that sentiment also exists, but because they are afraid to fail. They can sell their ideas to a jury, risking everything on behalf of their client, and when they lose, shrug it off and bounce right back. But when it comes to selling themselves, many lawyers freeze in their tracks.

Learning how to market ones services helps to reduce the fear, but in the end, lawyers need to just go for it. As Los Angeles Dodgers great Maury Wills, who stole 104 bases in one season once said, “You can’t steal second base while keeping one foot on first base.”

While many baseball fans know about Wills’ record setting base stealing, they may not know that he also set a record for being thrown out while attempting to steal a base–31 times during the 1965 season.

Nobody ever achieved great success by playing it safe. All great achievements have come from taking great risks. Steve Jobs took risks every day and lived every day like it was his last. He had many losses and many wins but, I am sure, few regrets.

“What can I do in the next two minutes to grow my law practice?”

I know, you’re busy. I also know you have lots of ideas for getting more clients and increasing your income that you aren’t doing. You’re so busy with work, there’s no time for anything else. But actually, there is.

It’s called, ‘marketing in the moment”.

It doesn’t require you to set aside a half day, a weekend, or even an hour to work on marketing projects. Marketing in the moment means taking advantage of the little snippets of time we all have throughout the day to do the “little things” that, in the aggregate, help your practice grow.

The idea is simple (as all great ideas are). Throughout the day, as often as you can, ask yourself, “What can I do in the next two minutes to grow my practice?”

There are lots of things you can do in two minutes. You can

  • Call a client to ask if he knows about your new Facebook fan page
  • Send an email to a prospective referral source
  • Review your notes for your upcoming speech
  • Jot down some thoughts for an article
  • Brainstorm ideas for a new report or seminar
  • Write a list of new key words for your web site
  • Check in with someone who’s working on a project for you
  • Check out a competitors web site
  • Read the comments on a book you’ve been thinking about ordering
  • Read another article on this blog

Periodically throughout your day, between phone calls, while you’re driving, while you’re eating lunch, or whenever you think about it, pause and ask yourself, “What can I do in the next two minutes to grow my practice?” (You may want to write the question on a sticky note or index card and put it where you can see it.)

You’re asking your subconscious mind, of course, and it won’t disappoint you. While you’ve been working and sleeping and doing all the things you do, your subconscious mind has been working on your ideas and coming up with new ones, and, because you asked, it will deliver those ideas to you in bite-sized, two minute chunks.

You’ll remember people you may not have thought about and you’ll call them or email them. You’ll open your bookmarks and see a web site you’ve been meaning to look at. You’ll jot down ideas for your newsletter or blog. You’ll do a lot of things you may never have done had you not asked that question.

Try it. Ask yourself that question right now. Then go do it.

A marketing plan for lawyers–part two

In a previous post, we examined the four steps to creating a marketing plan. You learned that a marketing plan should be simple, and that it is an ongoing process, with most of the planning taking place on a monthly and weekly basis.

You also learned the importance of having a long-term vision statement and annual goals.

Before we move on to discuss monthly planning and daily activities, let’s delve a little deeper into the goal setting process.

There are six major areas of life–Career/Financial, Physical/Health, Family/Home, Mental/Educational, Spiritual, and Social/Cultural. For most people, happiness comes from having a well-balanced life, with success in all six areas.

This doesn’t mean you need to set annual goals in all six ares. Some areas may be going well for you right now, or there may be one or two areas that are more important to you this year. Throughout your life, your priorities will change and so will your goals. So, right now, if you want to focus on just one or two areas of your life, that’s fine.

For each area of focus, you should have no more than three annual goals. One is even better.

Sometimes, people confuse “benefits” with “goals”. For example, in the area of Career/Financial, you may have a goal to earn a certain amount of money, another goal to buy a new house, and a third goal to pay off your credit card balances. But the second two are really benefits to be obtained from the first goal, so, in reality, you have just one goal.

Right now, I have just one area of my life I’m focused on and I have one goal in that area. There are many benefits to be derived from achieving that goal and there also many sub-goals I need to hit before I will achieve it. This works for me and you should do what works for you. (You can always change your goals.)

For each annual goal, follow these five steps and you will be well on your way to achieving them:

STEP ONE

Make sure your goal is S.M.A.R.T.–Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible. Write your goal in the present tense, as though already obtained, make it specific, and attach a date. Since we’re focused on marketing, here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T. financial goal: “I’m excited that I am now earning a net income of $15,000 per month, or more, in my law practice, by or before December 31, 2010.”

STEP TWO

List (a) the benefits to be obtained and (b) the losses to be avoided by achieving this goal. It’s important that you understand the value and importance of your goals and have some emotional investment in them.

Benefits to be achieved

  • Pride, feeling of accomplishment
  • Pay off debts
  • Increase savings, build for the future
  • Hire another paralegal, gain more free time
  • Reduce stress

Losses to be avoided

  • Cancelling next year’s vacation
  • Moving to a smaller office

STEP THREE

List (a) “Possible obstacles” to obtaining the goal and, for each obstacle, (b) “Possible Solutions”.

One of your obstacles is “you”. No doubt there are things you need to learn, things you need to do more of or get better at, or things you need to stop doing. What are they? What obstacles have prevented you from achieving your goal in the past? And what are some possible solutions? (Your goal is not S.M.A.R.T. unless you list possible solutions because without solutions, you can’t move forward.)

Possible obstacles/Solutions [Examples]

  • Obstacle: Me–my lack of patience. Solutions: Read Dale Carnegie, other books, find a mentor who has overcome that obstacle
  • Obstacle: Not enough clients. Solutions: Study marketing, set up a blog, join networking group.
  • Obstacle: Not enough time: Solutions: Find a “time management” system; hire another paralegal.

This will help you identity actions you need to take on the way to achieving your goals and help you identity sub-goals and projects you need to tackle.

STEP FOUR

List specific action steps you need to do to move you forward towards achieving the goal. Schedule target dates for each of these steps and put these dates on your monthly calendar.

These four steps will help ensure that you have meaningful goals, specific action steps and target dates for their achievement.

STEP FIVE

This goal setting process should be reviewed and re-written each month, at your monthly planning session. Ideally, this will take place a day or two before the end of the previous month. “Always plan next month before next month begins.”

Each month, as you make progress towards your goals, circumstances will change and your plan will change. As you move forward, you will conduct a weekly review of your monthly plans and make adjustments to your daily activities. We’ll talk about that in our next post on this subject.