This is the most productive week of the year and that’s a shame

productivitySome people say that this week, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, is the most productive week of the year:

  • Fewer people are working, which means fewer emails, fewer phone calls, and fewer disruptions (and lower expectations that you will reply immediately).
  • Most people who are working are coasting, so they aren’t bothering you either.
  • This time of the year is conducive to introspection and planning, both of which are underutilized tools for greater productivity.

I agree. It’s like the week before you go on vacation–you go into hyper-activity mode in order to clear your plate of unfinished projects, tie up loose ends, and plan the work you’ll do as soon as you return.

You know what I’m talking about. You get so much more done that week than you ever do, and you leave town with a clean desk, perhaps for the first time all year. You tell yourself how great how it would be great if you could get that much done every week.

So, why can’t you get as much done every week?

You could. You just don’t. And that’s a shame.

Increased productivity results not from more work but from productive habits. The good news is that just as you learned to be less productive most of the year (compared to what you can do this week or the week before vacation) you can learn to be more productive all year.

The even better news is that you can dramatically increase your productivity by adopting a few new habits. I’ll give you one to get started. In fact, one of my productivity mentors says this is the most valuable productivity habit he teaches.

The habit: “Plan tomorrow before tomorrow begins”.

Every evening, plan out the following day. Don’t wait until the day begins and you’re caught up in it, use the quiet of this afternoon or evening to made decisions about what you will do tomorrow.

The corollary, of course, is to “plan your week before your week begins”. If you’re doing that this week, great. Just remember to do it every week.

The smartest way to grow your law practice

the smartest way to grow your law practiceSo, what’s your plan for growing your practice next year?

Before you take on anything new, there’s something you should do first.

The first thing you should do is make a list of everything you have tried in the past. Go through your calendar, your notes, ask your staff, and write down everything you did that could be called “marketing”.

What meetings did you go to? Whom did you meet for the first time? What did you write? Where did you speak? What did you mail?

Put everything that worked on your list, and everything that didn’t.

It’s easy to identify what worked. If you track where new clients come from (referrals, ads, seminars, web site, social media, etc.), all you have to do is look at your stats. If you don’t track this, go through your new client list and see if you can reconstruct what you were doing just prior to being hired. (And make a note to start tracking every new client from now on.)

It’s not as easy to identify what has not worked, but it’s just as important. Do the best you can with this and in the future, keep a marketing diary and make an entry every day about anything you did that day that could be construed as marketing.

Don’t forget repeat clients. Keeping your clients happy, keeping them informed about the progress of their case, communicating and building a relationship with them, all have marketing implications.

And don’t forget referral sources. Those coffees and lunches, thank you letters and Christmas gifts are also part of your marketing mix.

Also, check your web site stats. Where is your traffic coming from? Which key words are bringing not just clicks but clients.

Making these two lists–what’s worked and what hasn’t–is one of the smartest things you can do in marketing (or anything else you want to improve) and you should do this before you even think about doing anything new.

The reason? The 80/20 principle, which tells us that the best way to achieve more is to, “do more of what worked in the past and less of what didn’t”.

Now that you have your two lists, you can identify the things that have worked for you and do more of them. You’ll find the time for this by cutting down on or eliminating those things that have not worked or haven’t worked as well.

You may find that eliminating things that aren’t working is difficult, especially if you’ve been doing them for awhile. This is common for all of us. Our fears prevent us from letting go or we tell ourselves we just need to get better or do it longer and the results will kick in. If we spent money on something, it’s even harder to let go because we get attached to earning back our investment.

Trust the numbers. Let go of what’s not working, no matter how much time or money you’ve invested.

Yes, sometimes you will let go of something too soon that could have been a big winner for you had you kept going. But what makes more sense, hanging on to things that might work or cutting them out in favor of doing more of what you know works?

If social media hasn’t brought in new business, for example, it could be because you’re doing it wrong and with some training and experience, you’ll get better and you will get lots of news clients, just as many attorneys now do. But our time is limited and if it’s not working for you right now, I’d rather see you put social media aside and do more of what your numbers tell you, unequivocally, has brought in most of your new business last year.

You can go back later and try social media marketing (or whatever) again. I’ve let go of things that weren’t working for me and been successful when I tried them again. But right now, when you’re looking at your plans for the new year, start by doing more of what you know works.

It’s the smartest way to grow your practice.

Farming for law firms: getting a higher yield from your client relationships

To be productive, a farm needs acres and acres of land. Rich top soil,  seeds planted a few inches under the surface, within reach of the sun’s rays, regular water, and the loving care of the farmer. The farmer knows that each seed can yield only so much, so he plants lots of them. More seeds, bigger harvest.

A farm is “an inch deep and a mile wide.” Unfortunately, so are many law firms. They plant a lot of seeds, going wide instead of deep, collecting fees and moving from new client to new client. But while a seed planted in the Earth can only yield so much, clients can yield far more than the fees they initially pay.

Each client can also:

  • Hire you again
  • Hire you for other services
  • Provide referrals
  • Introduce you to prospects, referral sources
  • Promote you via social media
  • Send traffic to your web site
  • Recommend your newsletter, ezine, blog
  • Distribute information by and about you
  • Invite their colleagues to your seminars
  • Provide information to you about their industry and/or key people
  • Give you testimonials and endorsements
  • Provide feedback about your marketing

The big money in a law practice is not the initial harvest, the fees earned on front end. The big money is earned on the back end. You may earn $10,000 from a client today, but $100,000 over their lifetime.

To bring in his big crop, the farmer must nurture his seedlings. So must you nurture your clients. Communicate with them. Appreciate them. Acknowledge them. Give to them. Build strong relationships with your clients and they will bear much fruit and continue to blossom for many seasons.

A farm is an inch deep and a mile wide; a law firm should be an inch wide and a mile deep.

What is Google+ (Google Plus) and do I need it?

This is another extremely well done video that instructs while it entertains. I am not an early adopter for most new ideas, especially in the social media world, but I think I need to spend some time getting my “Plus” on.

[mc src=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hC_M6PzXS9g” type=”youtube”]What is Google Plus and do I need it?[/mc]

This is WHY the ABA wants new rules to regulate online lawyer marketing

world's tackiest lawyer ad everLast week, I joined the chorus of attorneys who strongly object to the ABA’s proposal to promulgate new rules regulating what attorneys can do on the Internet to market their services.

This weekend, I saw a video of a TV commercial by Florida divorce attorney, Steven D. Miller and thought I might have been hasty. The video, which someone put on YouTube with the caption, “Tackiest Lawyer Ad. . .Ever,” is a prime example of why the ABA is considering new rules. Watch and you’ll see why.

[mc src=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1Qk6QPzuIc” type=”youtube”]Tackiest Lawyer Ad Ever[/mc]

Wait. It gets better.

The web site for Mr. Miller’s practice is. . . (are you sitting down?). . . “DivorceDeli.com“. Yep, you can look at their menu, call or click, and order your divorce. “Would you like pickles with your restraining order?”

I’m pretty open minded but let’s face it, this commercial and the entire “deli” concept is in very bad taste. It reflects poorly on all lawyers. One subscriber to this blog wrote to say he was against lawyer advertising of any kind because of the negative impression lawyers’ TV commercials have on juries and this has to be “Exhibit A”. But as ugly as this is, I still don’t want (or think we need) more rules.

I don’t want to legislate taste. I don’t want to outlaw embarrassing behavior. I don’t want to be told what I can and cannot do. And, unless it is the only way to prevent serious, irreparable harm, I don’t want to tell anyone else what to do.

Mr. Miller obviously does what he does because it’s working for him. God bless him. He’s serving a segment of society that might otherwise be denied access to the legal system because of their lack of funds (or good taste). I disagree with his approach but I must defend his right to do what he does without interference from the ABA or anyone else.

So, whether you laughed at this video and web site or recoiled in disgust, I hope you’re with me. If you agree that despite examples like these, we don’t need or want additional regulations, please tell the ABA.

Comments should be sent to: Natalia Vera, Senior Research Paralegal, Commission on Ethics 20/20 ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, 321 North Clark Street, 15th Floor, Chicago, IL 60654-7598. Phone: 312/988-5328, fax: 312/988-5280 and email: veran@staff.abanet.org. The comment period ends on December 15.

The ABA Journal wants to know what lawyers think about the economy. I don’t.

How’s business? The ABA Journal wants to know. They are surveying lawyers on the job market and the state of the economy. They’ve asked me to mention this on my blog, so here it is:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=9Dhw2g7bX_2bxfq4mW8eB1Cg_3d_3d

Surveys are interesting, but guess what? The job market and the state of the economy have no bearing on your life. Unless you believe it will.

If you believe the economy will materially affect your practice or job, it will. If you believe it won’t, it won’t.

Does that sound naive? Some kind of new age hooey? Well, if you believe that, then for you, that’s exactly what it is. But I have different beliefs. I believe we create our reality. I believe we can choose to be successful in the face of adversity or we can choose to capitulate, wring our hands, and suffer along with everyone else.

It’s our choice.

You can choose personal responsibility. You can choose to be optimistic. You can choose to see opportunity when others see Armageddon. In the Depression of the 1930’s, unemployment was twenty-five percent and millions suffered. But many made fortunes. I guess they understood that periods of great change create opportunities for the status quo to change. Of course that’s also why many previously wealthy people jumped out of windows.

Business philosopher, Jim Rohn, said, “It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.” How are you choosing to set your sails?

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Update: In case you’re interested, here’s a link to the survey results: http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/14307_lawyers_predict_the_future