If your mom managed your law firm

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When we were kids our moms made sure we followed the rules. We ate our peas, did our homework, studied for tests, and told them if we were going to be late for dinner. Our parents wanted to protect us and get a good start in life so they made us follow the rules. Or else.

If your mom managed your law firm, she would do the same thing.

She’d make sure you did your work, calendared every date, filed every document, and billed every client. If a client didn’t pay, she’d be on the phone, reminding them and threatening to call their mom.

No doubt, she’d also make you tidy up your office at the end of the day.

You would be more productive and profitable but nobody wants their mom telling them what to do, or telling everyone embarrassing stories about something we did when we were six.

Besides, we have administrators to do most of the things our mom would do.

The problem is, an administrator does what you tell them to do, not the other way around.

So you need self-discipline. Which is loosely defined as doing things you need to do whether you feel like doing them or not.

Self-discipline means conquering procrastination and developing consistency. Not because your mom made you but because you made yourself.

One way to develop self-discipline is to start small. If you find it difficult to do marketing 15 minutes a day, start with 5 minutes. Or one minute. Or start doing it once a week.

Develop the habit of doing it consistently, first, and go from there.

Another way to develop self-discipline is to first develop it in other areas of your life. If you are undisciplined about following your task management system, start by getting self-disciplined about reading every day or going to bed 30 minutes earlier.

Someone said, “How you do anything is how you do everything,” and if that’s true, when you develop discipline in one area of your life, it helps you become disciplined in others.

A good place to start is with physical activity. Taking a twenty-minute walk three days a week, for example, is easy to do and easy to measure. You’re either doing it or you’re not.

Walking will not only improve your health and give you more energy, it will help you to become more disciplined about doing more cerebral activities like writing, personal development, or marketing.

Walking is also good for getting ideas. Where do you think I got the idea for this post?

Does your website need more content? This will help

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Are you a finicky lawyer?

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I told you about a program I saw profiling a 20-year-old woman with a strange and dangerous addiction to sugar. She drinks 30 cans of cola a day and is on the fast track to a major illness.

The program is called “Finicky Eaters”. My wife found replays on YouTube. We’ve since seen episodes about a guy who has eaten nothing but cheeseburgers for the last 25 years (yep, three meals a day), the gal who eats nothing but french fries, and another about a man who likes to eat raw meat and little else.

As far as I’m concerned, this is more than finicky eating, it’s a sickness. Had these folks not received professional help, they would no doubt be looking at debilitating illness or death.

I was thinking about these poor souls on my walk this morning. It made me think about how many lawyers also have unhealthy habits with respect to their practices. Although usually not fatal, these habits prevent them from reaching their potential.

Many lawyers steadfastly refuse to delegate, for example. Doing all the work themselves can add stress and lead to burnout. It also limits their income. (I know, there’s a trade-off. If you’re not careful, delegating can lead to other problems. Note to self: delegate, but be careful.)

When it comes to marketing, many lawyers also have bad habits. They get set in their ways, refusing to try new strategies, or update old ones, and find themselves falling behind the competition.

How about you? Do you have any bad habits about how you manage your practice? Things you do that you shouldn’t, or things you should do but don’t?

Do you continue doing something a certain way because that’s how you’ve always done it, or because that’s how everyone else does it?

Do you stay in a bad partnership out of habit or fear that the alternative might be worse?

Do you continue paying for products or services you no longer need or could replace with lower-cost or better alternatives?

Start a new habit today of regularly examining what you do and how you do it. Pay attention to your habits, routines, and go-to strategies and consider what you might change or improve.

If you decide that you’re doing fine and no changes are necessary, I have one last suggestion for you: get someone else to take a look. Ask a friend, or hire a professional, to examine your ways and tell you what they see.

Because most of those finicky eaters didn’t realize they had a problem until someone else pointed it out to them.

Are you getting all of the referrals you want? 

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Baby steps, baby cakes

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Imagine drinking 30 cans of cola a day, every day. I saw a program profiling a 20-year old girl who’s been doing that for years and can’t seem to stop. To make matters worse, the rest of her diet consists of Twinkies and Ding Dongs and an assortment of other blocks of sugar.

Yikes.

She’s pre-diabetic and has the lab report to prove it, but she isn’t doing anything about it. She’s in the medical field and should know better, but like a lot of addicts, she’s in complete denial.

Call in the professionals: a nutritionist and a mental health doctor, tasked to help her.

They couldn’t have her quit cold turkey because she would suffer withdrawal symptoms that could put her in the hospital. They asked her to reduce her consumption in stages. Within a couple of weeks, she was supposed to be off the sauce.

She didn’t last a day.

Why? Two reasons, as I see it. The first reason is that they had her cutting down too quickly. Not only was she physically addicted to sugar (and caffeine), she had long-term emotional attachments to her habit.

It was too much, too soon.

I’m a doctor of laws, not medicine, but I would have asked her to cut her intake by a single can per day, or even every two or three days. Wean her off the stuff slowly. In a month or two might be down to a few cans a day, and from there, quitting would be relatively easy.

Breaking a bad habit, especially one that has physical and emotional addiction components, should be done slowly, shouldn’t it? A little bit each day.

That’s equally true for adopting good habits. Don’t run a half marathon this weekend if you currently do no exercise.

I talk about doing marketing 15 minutes a day because (a) anyone can do 15 minutes, and (b) if you do 15 minutes every day, eventually you might build up to 30. (NB: if you can’t do 15 minutes, start with 10. Or five.)

Do a little, but do it every day until it becomes a habit.

Besides being asked to taper off too quickly, the second reason cola girl couldn’t quit is that she didn’t want to. She admitted as much at the end of the program.

Even when a habit poses serious health risks, if you don’t want to quit, you won’t. Or you’ll quit but go right back to your old ways.

That’s also true for starting a good habit.

A lack of marketing might pose a serious risk to the financial health of your practice, but if you don’t want to change, you won’t.

Start with a simple marketing plan

 

 

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The benefits of a daily writing routine

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Most attorneys write every day. It’s a big part of the job. But let’s face it, most of that writing is formulaic and dull. Here’s our demand, this is what that case held, the facts are as follows.

You can dictate this stuff in your sleep.

Set aside 15 minutes every day to do a different kind of writing. Write something that expresses what you THINK and how you FEEL. Share your professional and personal experiences and observations. Inspire people to think, act, and buy.

Writing every day will make you a better writer. Faster, too. You’ll also produce more content (articles, blog posts, ebooks, reports, presentations, newsletters) that can bring you new business.

You don’t have to show your writing to anyone just yet. Just keep writing. The day will come, sooner than you think, when you know it’s time to put your writing to work.

If you love to write, writing every day can be a guilty pleasure you don’t usually get to experience. If you hate to write, talk. Record yourself “thinking out loud”.

Write every day, even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. If 15 minutes is too much, start with ten. Or five. Do three-minute writing sprints, squirting out words as quickly as possible, without thinking or stopping.

Have fun with it. Be funny, or bitch and moan. Write whatever you want to write. But don’t break the chain. Writing daily is as much about discipline as it is communication. Once you’ve established this new habit, who knows what you might be empowered to do next.

Make a habit of getting referrals

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Developing the marketing habit

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When an activity become a habit, it becomes automatic; you do it without thinking about it. Eventually, through repetition, you get better at it and you get better results.

That’s true of the exercise habit, the reading habit, and the marketing habit.

In James Clear’s recent article, The Scientific Argument for Mastering One Thing at a Time, he offers some observations about developing new habits, based on research:

1. You are 2x to 3x more likely to follow through with a habit if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you are going to implement it. This is known as an implementation intention.

2. You should focus entirely on one habit. Research has found that implementation intentions do not work if you try to improve multiple habits at the same time.

3. Research has shown that any given habit becomes more automatic with more practice. On average, it takes at least two months for new habits to become automatic behaviors.

Conclusion: it’s best to focus on one specific habit, work on it until you master it, and make it an automatic part of your daily life. Then, repeat the process for the next habit.

I have long preached the value of working on marketing every day for 15 minutes. I’ve said that you should schedule those minutes in your calendar as an appointment and keep that appointment. I’ve said, “you can use that time to do anything related to marketing, even if you’re only reading about it or thinking and making notes”.

But Clear suggests that you have a specific plan for working on your new habit. Is doing “anything related to marketing” specific enough?

When you are first establishing the habit, I think it is. Blocking out the time and doing something every day is the new habit. Being able to do anything gives you the flexibility to be bad before you get good.

Once the 15-minute habit is firmly a part of your routine, however, your plan should become more specific.

If you want to develop the habit of finding and reaching out to professionals with whom you can network, for example, work on that during your 15 minutes.

And only that.

Clear’s other points tell us to work on one new habit only, for at least two months. Once you have established your new habit, you can move onto others.

When I committed to writing daily emails, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Now it is automatic. It’s a part of me. I don’t have to think about it, I just do it.

My new habit has paid me many dividends, so, once you have developed your 15-minute marketing habit, if you’re looking for another habit to work on, you might want to work on writing.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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You get a lot done by consistently doing a little

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I just passed the 1000 blog post milestone. 1009 to be exact. That’s 1009 ways someone could find my blog through search engines. 1009 snippets of my wisdom that could convince a visitor to follow me. 1009 pages someone might share with their connections or link to from their blog.

It’s a body of work that brings prospective clients to my virtual door and convinces them to do business with me.

Sound good? Sure. And daunting. If you had told me a few years ago that I would write 1009 posts, I would have thought you were crazy. And yet here I am.

How do you write 1009 posts? You don’t. You write one post, and then you write another.

You get a lot done by consistently doing a little.

That’s why I say you can successfully market your practice in as little as 15 minutes a day. It’s not how much you do today necessarily, it’s what you do in the aggregate over time.

If you have some big projects you’re thinking about tackling, don’t let their immensity put you off. Any project, no matter how big, can be broken down into bite size pieces. Isn’t that how we eat an elephant?

Also, the more you do something, the better you get at it. I’d like to think I write better today than I did a few years ago. I’m also faster. I can knock out a blog post or email in just a few minutes.

What do you want to accomplish this year? Okay, hit the deck and give me 15 (minutes).

Do you know the formula for marketing your law practice? Here it is

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A simple daily habit that could change everything

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I read an article that offered suggested daily habits that could help us 5 years from now. One habit stood out, not just because it has marketing implications, but because I think it could bring immediate benefits.

The habit:

Talk to one stranger every day.

Think about the possibilities. The stranger you speak to could be your next client, a marketing joint venture partner, or a source of referrals. Or they might introduce you to someone who fulfills one or more of those roles.

Talking to someone new can give you ideas for articles and posts, for marketing or managing your practice, or for doing something new and exciting.

Practicing the habit of approaching strangers also helps you develop your networking and interpersonal skills.

And it could be a lot of fun.

You could approach people by design–professionals and centers of influence in your target market or local community, for example. Or, you could make it a serendipitous adventure and approach people at random. How about the person immediately behind you in the line at Starbucks?

Strangers represent opportunities, the article notes. True, most opportunities don’t pan out. With many strangers, you won’t get to first base.

But you never know when the next person you meet might be the one who opens doors to great new adventures. Or, turn out to be a new friend.

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The first step in effecting change is admitting that you need to change

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Yesterday’s post was about being chronically late. I said that you’re late because you want to be. Being late serves you in some way. You have free will and you can change by choosing to change.

A reader wrote, said he agreed, and asked how he could tell his wife that she’s late because she chooses to be, “without inspiring the death stare”.

Ah, the stare.

The answer: you can’t. I’m guessing that not only does being chronically late serve her in some way, so does being in denial about it.

But maybe not. Maybe she will admit that she’s chronically late. Good. That’s step one. You can’t fix a problem unless you admit you have a problem. You can’t effect change if you don’t admit you need to change.

Perhaps being chronically late is a running joke in your house and she will cop to it. Good. Onto step two.

Step two is admitting you want to do something about it. Does she? Would she like to not always be late?

If she doesn’t want to change things, you aren’t going to get anywhere. Not without a formal intervention, anyway.

If she admits that she would prefer not being late, you have an opening. A place to start.

Now what?

Bring on the expert witnesses.

Don’t offer any advice. The people we are closest to never listen to us. You need “third party” information. Get some articles and books about the subject.

Start with tips (like setting two alarms in the morning, for example). Maybe one of the books or articles will say what I said, that being chronically late is a choice. She won’t listen to you. She might listen to a third party expert.

The other thing you can do is suggest an exercise you heard about (from me; I’m telling you about it now). Sit with her with paper and pen and write a “can do” list. Draw a line down the center of the page. On the left side, she writes down all of the situations where she is commonly late. On the right side, she writes down everything she can think of that she can do about those situations, e.g., setting two alarms in the morning.

Again, this isn’t you offering suggestions. She has to come up with the solutions herself.

Every solution she comes up with reinforces the idea that she is not powerless, there are things she “can do”.

And. . . you haven’t “told” her anything. Because you can’t. That stare is lethal.

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Are you chronically late? Here’s why and what to do about it.

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Are you chronically late? Late to court. Late for appointments. Late getting home for dinner. If you are, there’s a reason.

You’re late because you want to be.

Being late serves you in some way. You may not be consciously aware of this, but it’s there nevertheless. How do I know? Because showing up on time is completely under your control.

I’m not talking about the things that happen to everyone from time to time. A traffic accident, a judge who keeps you late, an emergency at home. Stuff happens and everyone is occasionally late. But if you are frequently late, it’s because you want to be.

You choose to be late. You can choose to be on time.

You can schedule appointments far enough apart to give you enough time to get from one to the other. You can set alarms and reminders on your devices to let you know when it’s time to leave. You can get apps that provide traffic alerts. You can ask your staff to help you get out the door.

So why don’t you? I don’t know. All I know is that you don’t have to be.

I read an article that offered several “reasons” why people are chronically late. To my eye, they aren’t reasons in the sense that you don’t have control over them, they are excuses. They are HOW you CAUSE yourself to be late.

Sleeping late is the first on the list. You sleep late because you’re not getting to bed early enough. That’s how you cause yourself to be late. The question is why. You have free will. You can decide when to turn off the lights. You don’t because sleeping late serves you in some way. Perhaps it allows you to excuse less than excellent performance at work. Perhaps being late is merely a part of the process, or a byproduct.

In Eighth grade, I had to deliver a report in front of the room. I wasn’t ready and asked the teacher if I could have another day. When I was told I could not, I told him I didn’t feel well. That was true. I felt like crap because I was going to have to deliver a report I wasn’t prepared to give.

The teacher sent me to the nurse. Called my bluff, he did. The nurse did what nurses do, she took my temperature. Surprise–I had a fever. The nurse called my mother and sent me home and I had another day to prepare my presentation.

Our minds are powerful instruments. They can make us sick when we want to be, and they can make us late when we want to be.

You don’t have to be chronically late. Just like you don’t have to smoke, overeat, or watch too much TV. You can change your habits any time you decide to change them. So the next time you’re late, don’t make excuses, and don’t feel bad about it. You’re late because you wanted to be.

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The best way to start something new

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They say the best way to start anything new, a new habit or way of doing something, is slowly. You try it, learn from the experience, and do it again. You get better, over time.

Starting slowly helps you avoid embarrassing yourself or getting hurt. If you haven’t exercised in years, for example, you start by walking, you don’t sign up for a marathon.

Starting slowly means the pain often associated with new habits or initiatives will be tolerable. You’ll be able to stick with it until you are stronger and better.

If you put a frog in a pan of water and turn on a low heat, the water will eventually come to a boil. The frog won’t feel the gradual increase in temperature and will stay in the pan and literally boil to death. If you toss the frog into the pan after the water is already boiling, however, he will immediately jump out.

The other camp says there are some things where it’s best to just jump in. If you start too small or too slowly, you’ll never gain any momentum. You’ll give up before you see any results.

Who is right? Should you start slowly or dive right in?

The answer is, there is no answer. It depends.

What are the risks and what are the rewards? If you jump in and mess up, would anyone know? Could anyone else get hurt? If you start slowly and run out of steam, what might you be giving up?

What are the costs? Could you save a lot of time or money by starting big? Or would it cost less if you do it slowly?

How good are you? If you have a skill set that bodes well for your success, you might be able to take the leap. If you’ve never done anything like this before, starting slowly is probably the way to go.

How are you wired? Are you the cautious, one step at a time kinda guy or gal, or a thrill seeker?

My take? Unless you have good cause to do otherwise, most new things should probably be started slowly. If you get the urge to jump into the deep end of the pool, sleep on it for a day or two, and then do what I do: ask your wife what she thinks you should do.

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