It’s not a problem if you can write a check


I’ve mentioned before that a lawyer friend of mine who did a lot of speaking and training used to tell his audience, “It’s not a problem if you can write a check”. He meant that most problems aren’t fatal, they usually have a solution, and that if you have enough money, the solution is simple.  

What if you don’t have enough money?

That’s a different problem, isn’t it? But it also has a solution. 

If you’re a self-employed lawyer, for example, and are struggling financially or want to up your game, go get 5 new cases or clients. Problem solved.

Sure, you need to know how to do that, you need to do it, but first, you need a plan. 

Not a complex plan with lots of contingencies and moving parts, a simple plan. For me, that means easy to start and get some results, however small, relatively quickly. A plan that allows you to leverage your resources—your time, your staff, your contacts, your skills and knowledge, and your email list.

You might start by asking yourself the “Focusing Question” at the heart of the book, The One Thing by Gary Keller: 

“What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”


If you want to bring in 5 new cases or clients, ask yourself that question. And answer it. 

There is an answer. There’s always an answer. Even if the answer is to read or re-read something written by yours truly.

How to use email to build a successful law practice


Monomaniac on a mission


I have a friend, a successful businessperson, who describes himself as a ‘monomaniac on a mission’. He’s focused and passionate and lets nothing distract him from his goals.

Many people say something similar, but he actually does it.

He does it by eliminating most things that aren’t ‘it’.

Other businesses, people who drain his energy or distract him, things that require too much time.

As I say, he’s focused.

But he isn’t a workaholic.

He doesn’t get up early, put in impossibly long hours, and have no free time. He does his work, makes lots of time for his family, takes vacations, watches sports, exercises, and reads.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think he was well-rounded. But he’s not. He’s a monomaniac on a mission.

He’s focused on growing his business.

And yet he works fewer hours than most people. He’s more successful than most people because he gets more out of the hours he works.

How? He knows what he wants and how to get it and he just does the work.

Over and over.

He doesn’t get creative. He keeps turning the wheel. Many people would find what he does boring, but he’s long past that. He knows what works and he keeps his eye on the prize.

He doesn’t get bogged down with decisions or trying out new ideas. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and have to spend time fixing them.

He has a huge sense of urgency and doesn’t let anything (or anyone) get in his way.

Which means he works faster than others, and make more progress in an hour than some people make in a week.

Is this what it takes to make it big in business? In the beginning, when you’re trying to learn your business, meet people, and generate momentum, I’d say it is for many people. That’s what I did when I started practicing.

But when I got to a certain level of success, I took my foot off the accelerator a bit and did some other things.

Because I was not a monomaniac on a mission.

My friend has made many millions of dollars and reached the pinnacle of success in his industry. And while he’s branched out, too, he’s still very much focused on growing his business.

Just something to think about as you plan your week. And career.


Pen and paper


I’m trying an experiment today. I’m taking my task list and calendar entries, which ordinarily reside in digital form, and rewriting them on a single piece of paper.

I’m going to keep that page in front of me throughout the day and when I complete something, important task or routine, that’s where I’ll check it off.

I’m not doing this to achieve an esthetic look. Nothing fancy. Just scratch paper and the first pen I grab.

I’m doing this to see how it affects my planning and execution.

By rewriting my list, my theory goes, I’ll be more likely to think about each task and ask myself questions such as, “Do I really want to do this today? Is it necessary that I do this at all? Is it aligned with my current goals? Is there anything I need to do first? Do I have all the resources I need to do a good job with this?“

The idea here is to be more thoughtful and intentional about what I do, and to consider things I should do but aren’t. It’s too easy to do things out of habit, which may not be the highest and best use of our time.

I’m also thinking that having everyone on one page that I look at throughout the day will help me focus and get everything done. That’s how we did things in the pre-digital age. We didn’t have to open an app to see what was next, just look at our calendar or the legal pad on our desk.

At the top of the page, I wrote “Today” and the date. Then I wrote “P1“ and listed my “must do’s” for today. There are two—this post and working on my latest book.

Under that, I wrote “P2”. These are other things I’d like to do but don’t have to do today. I listed some things I want to research and a phone call.

Finally, I wrote 4 routine tasks, the kinds of things I do pretty much every day.

No appointments or errands today, so that’s it.

As soon as I post this on my blog and send it out via email, I’ll check off the first “Must do” task on my list for today.

Tomorrow, I’ll write a new list and we’ll see how this goes.


What’s the one thing you can do to build your practice?


One of my favorite questions to ask myself comes from Gary Keller, founder of Keller-Williams real estate and author of The One Thing. Keller asks, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?“

You can ask that about anything. Including the subject of marketing and practice development.

Let’s say your one thing is “referrals”. You’re thinking that if you could increase them significantly, everything else you might do for marketing would be easier or unnecessary. You’d have more income, which would allow you to hire more help and turn down marginal clients and open up new locations if you chose to.

More referrals would lead to better clients, meaning bigger retainers, less hand holding, more repeat business, and even more referrals.

It wouldn’t matter so much if your SEO wasn’t that great, you did fewer presentations (or none), and you pulled a lot (or all) of your advertising. Referrals would be your one thing. Focus on it and you’ll be on track to building your dream practice.

Make sense?

But once you choose your one thing, in this case, getting more referrals, you have another question to ask yourself: “What is the ONE thing you can do to get more referrals such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

You would examine your options and come up with an answer. The “one thing” that would help you achieve your “one thing”.

You might answer “networking with financial professionals who represent (the types of clients you want to represent)”.

Or, “teach my clients how to recognize a good referral for me and the best way to refer them”.

Or, “offer (generous) referral fees to (a type of lawyer)”.

Or, “write a book and ask my clients and professional contacts to tell their clients and contacts about it,” e.g. , get them to refer people to the book and let the book sell those folks on hiring you.

Which of these or other options would be best for you and your practice?

What’s your ONE thing? And what’s the ONE thing you could do to accomplish it?

If referrals are your ONE thing, you need to study this


Focusing is easier when you do this


Focus is the operative word. Stick with what you know and are good at, and keep doing it. That’s the key to success, isn’t it?

P.T. Barnum thought so:

“Do not scatter your powers. Engage in one kind of business only, and stick to it faithfully until you succeed, or until your experience shows that you should abandon it. A constant hammering on one nail will generally drive it home at last, so that it can be clinched. When a man’s undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.”

And yet, I encourage you to try lots of marketing ideas. I often talk about other things I’ve done, when I was practicing, and today.

You can do other things, just make sure you don’t do them all at once.

Do one thing at a time and do it as completely as possible before you start something else. Do it until you know it’s a go or a no, then move onto the next idea.

That doesn’t mean you can’t start doing something new while you’re also doing other things.

You can expand your network while you’re creating more content. You can build an email list while you’re working on a new presentation. You can build a side business, write books, or start other business projects while you’re growing your practice.

But don’t start something new until what you’re doing is on solid ground.

How do you’re there? When what you’re doing doesn’t depend completely on you.

You’ve got people working for you. You’ve got systems in place that allow you to get things done quickly and efficiently. You’ve got free time in your day to explore other ideas.

I’ve heard the word focus defined as, “Follow One Course Until Successful”. When what you’re doing is successful, then you can move on to something else.

How to build your practice with email


Getting nine women pregnant


How long does it take to build a successful law practice?

It takes as long as it takes and you can’t rush it.

As Warren Buffett said, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”

It also takes focus.

You may have heard this Buffett story:

One day, Buffett’s long-time pilot asked him for career advice. Buffett suggested he make two lists.

First, make a list of your top 25 career goals, Buffett told him. Once he’d done that, Buffett told him to circle his top 5 goals.

His pilot then had two lists and told Buffett that he would begin working on his top 5 goals. Buffett asked him about the other list, the 20 items he didn’t circle.

The pilot said those goals were also important to him and he would work on them intermittently, as and when he could.

Buffett told him that was a mistake. “Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

Buffett knows a thing or two about focus. In his long career, he has achieved extraordinary investment returns investing in a handful of companies at a time.

“Diversification is a protection against ignorance,” Buffett said.
“It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.”

So, if you know what you’re doing as an attorney, if what you’re doing is working, even though it may not be working as quickly as you’d like, stay the course.

Be patient. Stay focused. Your baby will be here when he gets here.


A simple way to enhance focus


My wife and I just closed out the storage unit we’ve had for decades. We brought a handful of boxes home and got rid of the rest.

I recently donated several hundred books to the library bookstore. I’m down to one bookcase.

I’ve lost weight in the last year and recently got rid of about half of the clothes in my closet.

I thought I was just getting rid of junk but I find I’m actually practicing minimalism. I just figured out why that appeals to me.

Minimalism makes it easier to focus. Focus creates clarity. And clarity helps you become more efficient and effective.

You’re more efficient because fewer options (e.g., using just a few apps or a few marketing strategies) reduces distractions and the loss of momentum occasioned by switching from one option to another.

You are more effective because you’re able to spend more time getting the right things done which helps you accomplish your most important goals.

There’s also an esthetic quality to minimalism. A cleaner desk (and desktop), for example, helps me feel relaxed and in control.

If you like the idea but resist doing it, start slowly. Put most of your apps into one or two folders and leave only a few on your desktop. Clean out one closet or one drawer. Give yourself just one hour this weekend to gather up stuff to give away or throw away.

And if that’s too much, don’t get rid of anything yet, just make piles or lists of giveaway “candidates”. When you’re ready, you can take the next step.

I guess you could call that a minimalistic approach to minimalism.


A simple way to get more done in less time


You’ve heard that multitasking is less efficient than doing one thing at a time. But do you know why?

The answer is that we’re not really multitasking. That’s a misnomer. The term implies that we’re doing two (or more) tasks at the same time. In truth, our brains won’t allow this. What we’re really doing is “task switching”.

We may switch rapidly from one task to the next but according to research, the simple act of constantly switching tasks can cost us up to 40 percent more time.

Apparently, when we stop one task and start another, in order to help us focus, our brains go through a process of shutting down the rules it is following for the first task and opening up a different set of rules for the task we are about to switch to.

Minimize task switching, and you might be able to get the same amount of work done in five hours that would otherwise take eight.

To minimize task switching, we should do whatever we can to finish one task before starting another. That means giving ourselves a big enough block of time to complete a project, or take it as far as we can, in one sitting.

Researching and writing a brief for a solid two hours is better than doing it 30 minutes at a time.

If you have smaller tasks, do them in batches. For example, do all of your research or make all of your calls during the same block of time.

And, minimize distractions and interruptions. Turn off your phone when you’re working on a writing project. Make sure your staff knows not to disturb you. Because according to other research, every time we get interrupted or distracted, it takes an average of twenty minutes to get back to where we left off.

Step-by-step: How to get more referrals


Are you focusing on referrals?


What you focus on, grows. If you want more referrals, you should focus on referrals.

Most lawyers don’t. Do you?

It’s not difficult. Dedicate a few minutes each week specifically for referral development.

Here’s how that might go:

The first week of the month could be dedicated to communicating with your referral network. Send an email and update them about what’s new in your practice–new content on your website, guest posts you have written, where you will be speaking, success stories, changes in the law that might necessitate a consultation, interesting cases or clients you have acquired–and offer ideas they can use to spread the word.

You could have two email lists: one for clients and former clients, another for professional contacts. Or just one list for everyone who has provided referrals or indicated a willingness to do so.

The second week of each month might be dedicated to brainstorming and executing ideas for improving client relations. What can you do to help your clients have a better experience with your firm?

The third week could be used for reaching out to prospective referral sources. Introduce yourself, find out about what they do and how you can help them, and tell them how you can help their clients or customers.

The fourth week might be used for improving systems and marketing collateral. Update your website, edit your social media profiles, develop new handouts and other marketing documents, and so on.

Focus on referrals thirty minutes a week, every week. Over time, you should see a dramatic increase in referrals and client retention.

Make sense? Good. Now go make some dollars.

A system for getting more referrals from your clients 


Focus, yes, but on what?


Everyone tells you to focus. Be a master of one thing, not a jack-of-all-trades. I’m in that choir, singing that same hymn. You know we’re right and you want to focus. But on what?

Which practice area? Which target market? Which strategy?

Which project should you work on? Which task should you get done today?

Nobody has the answer for you. You have to decide for yourself. But how?

Should you use logic? Trust your gut?

Should you do what nobody else is doing?

Should you do what others do but do it better?

There’s really only one definitive way to figure out where you should focus and that is to try lots of things.

Look at 100 ideas. Get rid of 90 that don’t make sense or that don’t inspire you. Out of the ten that are left, run with the top three. That’s what Steve Jobs did and those three ideas became the company’s focus over the next year.

Experiment constantly. Test lots of variables. Don’t try one or two headlines or email subjects, try fifty. Don’t try five keywords, try 105.

Talk to more people, write more articles, give more talks.

When you find something that works well and feels right to you, make that your focus. At least for now. What works this year may not work next year. Something new may work even better.

Keep learning, keep trying new ideas and different ways of implementing them. And always, keep your eyes on the market. It will tell you what it wants and how much it will pay.

The formula for building a successful practice