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.

“It’s the cases I don’t take that make me money”

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” -Lin Yutang, writer and translator (1895-1976)

Last night, I spoke at an event. One of the topics I talked about was “The 80/20 principle,” aka, “The Pareto Principle,” the idea that a large percentage of our results come from a small percentage of our activities.

Afterwards, I was chatting with a man who works for a bankruptcy attorney. He liked my talk and was telling me about their practice and how busy they were. He quoted something his employer said, but I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly so I asked him to repeat it:

“It’s the cases I don’t take that make me money”.

He explained that the attorney was very selective about the cases he accepts. A lot of business comes knocking on his door, but he turns down a large percentage. He turns down the lower-end of the spectrum of clients, the ones who don’t have enough for a retainer, who need installments, price shoppers, etc., in favor of those who can pay his higher than average fees.

A lot of attorneys will take the lower-end clients, figuring that whatever they pay will contribute to overhead. But this attorney understands that those clients would actually cost him money, and not just in the literal sense of “not paying,” but because they would take up a disproportionate amount of time and energy.

And, he doesn’t have the extra overhead he would have if he accepted the lower end clients.

By eliminating as much as eighty percent of the possible client pool, he is able to run a lean and profitable practice. I’m sure he also makes it home for dinner.