Are you managing your law practice or is it managing you?


See the client. Review the document. Write the letter. See the next client. Document the file. Mail the letter. Read. Read some more. Email. Email some more. Prepare the complaint. Prepare the motion. Make the calls. Go to the meeting. Check your email. Check your calendar. Oops, late for court. Out the door. Fight traffic. Wait to be called. Back to the office. Record notes. Send the email. Look at the time. Oops, late for dinner. Fight traffic. Kiss the wife. Eat, read, news, sleep, get up, eat, dress, fight traffic, see the client. . .

Another day. Another week. Another month. Another year.

Who has time for marketing? Thinking about the future? Planning?

You want to, there’s just no time. Too much to do and it never gets done. At the end of the day you’re tired and want to go home.

You aren’t managing your law practice. It’s managing you.

Believe me, I understand.

It’s time for you to take control. Tell your practice who is in charge. Decide what kinds of clients and cases you want instead of taking what shows up. Decide how much you want to earn this year and do what you need to do to earn it.

But to do that, you have stand down from the daily grind, clear your mind, and make some decisions.

What do you have to decide? Start with the end in mind. What do you want your future to be like? What is your long term vision?

What do you want your life to be like five or ten years from today? Imagine things the way you would like them to be. What are you doing? Where are you living? How much are you earning? What is a typical day like?

Write a “vision statement” describing your life, in the present tense, five years in the future. One page is all you need. The only rule is there are no rules. Describe the life you want, not the life you think you might have.

Your vision statement is where you want to go. From this point forward, you can make choices that are consistent with your vision. You’ll do things that move you towards your vision. You’ll reject activities that don’t.

Instead of being pushed through life by circumstance, you’ll be pulled forward by your vision.

Once you have a vision statement, the next step is yearly goals. What do you want to happen in the next 12 months that is consistent with your long term vision?

You can set one big goal or a handful of goals in different areas of your life. Goals should be specific and measurable. At the end of the year you should be able to say that yes, you did reach the goal, or no you did not.

Goals should be bold and exciting. They should require you to stretch and grow, but not be so far out of reach that you don’t have a chance of achieving them.

Once you have yearly goals, the next step is to write monthly plans. What will you focus on this month? What projects will you work on? When will you start? When will you be done? What will you do after that?

Schedule your monthly plans in your calendar. Set up files to collect information and track your progress.

While you’ve got your calendar handy, also schedule a recurring weekly review. Once a week, take an hour or two to review what you have done during the week and what you will do the following week. This keeps you focused and accountable. This is you managing your practice instead of it managing you.

Finally, from you yearly goals, monthly plans, and weekly review, you choose your daily activities. What will you do today to move you forward? Choose a few things but make sure they are important.

It’s best to write down your daily activities the night before. “Plan your day before your day begins,” one of my mentors taught me.

A well-lived life is a well-planned life. If your law practice is managing you, it’s time to show it who’s boss.

The Attorney Marketing Formula will help you plan your future. Click here for details.


If your five year old was managing your law practice


It’s been a long time since I had a five year old in house but not so long that I can’t remember what kids are like. Hey, I can even remember what I was like.

So, what if kids ran the world? More to the point, what if your five year old was managing your law practice? What changes might they make? What would they tell you to do?

1. Have fun. Find ways to put some fun into what you do. Because if you don’t, you’ll burn out. Or get sick. Or ruin your marriage.

That might mean you need to delegate more tasks. Eliminate others. And loosen up. Find some light in the darkness. Find something to smile about and laugh about every day. Put some play into your day. Because if your practice isn’t fun, at least some of the time, you probably need to do something else.

2. Learn stuff. Kids love to learn. It’s keeps them young. If you’ve stopped learning, you need to rekindle your innate thirst for knowledge and learn something. Legal stuff doesn’t count.

Read and listen to things outside your normal areas of interest. You can use those nuggets in your blog posts, articles, speeches, and conversations.

Schedule weekly learning time and study marketing, writing, speaking, leadership, management, and productivity. Read history. Read profiles about business leaders and creative people. Go to museums and art galleries.

3. Tell me a story. Kids love to read stories and have you read them stories. You do, too. You just forgot. So, read some fiction now and then. All facts make Jack a dull boy.

And tell stories to your clients and prospects. Stories are the best way to show people what you do and how you can help them. They are interesting because they have people in them and because something happens to them. Put stories about clients and cases in your marketing materials.

Visuals can tell stories, too. Put photos on your website. Use charts and diagrams to deliver information (but only if they are simple and interesting).

Oh yeah, make sure you have some coloring books and crayons in the office so your client’s kids have something to do.

4. Could I have a dollar? Kids like to have their own money to spend so we pay them for chores or give them an allowance. If they ran your practice, they wouldn’t understand it if you did work but didn’t get paid. Get rid of clients who don’t pay. Ask people who owe you money to pay you (but don’t cry or throw your toys if they don’t).

5. Nap time. Stop running all day. Take breaks. Get some rest. Have a snack. And make sure you get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow is going to be a busy day.

If your five year old were managing your law practice, your law practice would be pretty cool place.


3 simple questions for managing your law practice


Managing your law practice is anything but simple. There are a lot of moving parts. People, problems, deadlines. It’s easy to get lost.

If you find yourself busy but not achieving your goals, if you find yourself doing but not getting things done, I want to offer you a way to gain clarity and get back on track.

All you have to do is ask yourself 3 simple questions.

The first question is. . .

1. What do I want?

More clients? Better clients? Bigger cases?

Lower overhead? Less stress? Shorter hours?

Do you want to build a big practice or do you want to work towards retirement? Do you want to eliminate a problem or achieve a milestone?

Whatever it is, write it down, and be specific. You need to know what you want before you can work on getting it.

Let’s say the answer is “I want to get an average of two referrals every week.”

Nice. Now you know what you want. Now, answer the next question.

2. Why don’t I have it?

Why aren’t you getting an average of two referrals every week right now?

Are there any obstacles? Problems? Defects? Something you should do but aren’t? Something you are doing but aren’t doing enough? Something you are doing but aren’t doing well enough?

Be honest. There could be many reasons for not getting the referrals:

  • You don’t have enough referral sources
  • You don’t have enough former clients to provide enough referrals
  • Your existing and former clients don’t know enough people who need your services
  • Your clients don’t know you want their referrals; (you’re not asking for referrals or asking often enough)
  • Your fees are higher than other attorneys and you haven’t made it clear why you are worth more
  • Your fees are lower than other attorneys and people think there is a reason (i.e., you don’t have the experience, don’t get the results) and get scared off
  • You’re intimidating or have a reputation for being unapproachable
  • You haven’t made it easy for people to refer (i.e., told them what to do, what to say, etc.)
  • There aren’t enough cases or clients in your market
  • You don’t have a website (so referrals can’t “check you out”)
  • Your website isn’t good enough so when referrals check you out, they get scared off
  • Your competition gets the lion’s share of referrals because they [know someone, spend big money on advertising, etc. . .]

There are lots of reasons why you might not be getting the referrals you want. Write down everything you can think of. Ask your staff. Ask your colleagues.

You may not like some of the reasons, especially the ones that reveal your personal shortcomings. Those are probably the ones you need to pay the most attention to.

Okay, one more question to answer.

3. What can I do about it?

Once you know why you don’t have what you want, it’s time to focus on solutions.

What can you do to remove obstacles? Fix problems? Make improvements?

Write a “can do” list–a list of what you can do.

If you’re not getting enough referrals because you don’t have enough referral sources, that’s something you can work on. Write it down. You can get more referral sources.

On the other hand, if you’re not getting enough referrals because you don’t have enough former clients to make those referrals, you can’t do anything about that right now. That’s not something you “can do”.

There may be items on your “can do” list that you choose not to do. That’s okay. Write them down anyway because you may decide to do them later or they might give you ideas for other solutions.

For example, if your market isn’t big enough to supply you with the referrals you want, you can move, open a second office in another town, or take on another practice area. All things you can do, but you might choose not to do any.

However, although you might not want to open a second office right now, or ever, writing it down as a “can do” might prompt you to find an attorney in another town and establish mutual “of counsel” arrangements. Now you can promote your “other office” to your clients and contacts and start getting referrals in that other town.

A “can do” list shows you what’s possible. Instead of dwelling on problems, you will focus on solutions and be on your way to getting what you want.

Does your website need work? I can help. Let me show you how to Make the Phone Ring.


Free advice that can make you millions


One of the best ways to get from where you are to where you want to go is getting help from someone who has done what you want to do. Make a list of areas you would like help with or areas where you would like to grow. Three key areas for lawyers in private practice would be

  • Substantive practice areas
  • Marketing
  • Administration/management

Specific areas you might want to key on might be

  • Technology/internet
  • Employee relations
  • Taxes/record keeping
  • Risk management/insurance
  • Retirement planning/investments

And so on.

Of course you can always hire experts to consult and advise you in these areas, and you might. But why not find lawyers (or other professionals) who have had success in these areas and ask them to be your mentor?

Mentors help you see what’s possible by serving as a role model. They can keep you from going off course by providing feedback about your ideas. And they can open doors for you to opportunities, introductions to vendors, prospective clients and referral sources. The right mentors can spare you years of hardship and, literally, make you rich.

Once you have identified a list of areas you would like to be mentored in, start asking everyone you know for recommendations and referrals to experts in those areas. “Who do you know who is a great networker?” “Do you know any lawyers who know a lot about web sites?” “Who is the best construction litigation attorney you know?”

Next, make a list of specific points you’d like to cover in your first conversation, such as why you’d like them to mentor you and what kind of help you might be looking for.

Successful people like to share what they have learned. Properly approached, you’ll find any number of individuals willing to share a few minutes of their time with you each month.

Here’s an approach you can take:

“Hello, Mr. Jones, my name is Robert Lawyer. We haven’t met and I know you’re a busy man, so I’ll be brief. I’m a sole practictioner in the area of estate planning. I know you’ve built a very successful estate practice over the last twenty-five years. I’ve been practicing for four years now and I’m ready to take things to a higher level and I would appreciate it if you would consider being my mentor. All that would mean is spending ten minutes with me on the phone once a month, so I could ask you a few questions. I’d really appreciate it. Would you be open to that?”

Be prepared to give your mentors something in return. At the very least, give them feedback on how their advice has worked out for you. Look for information and resources that can benefit them and share it with them.

Eventually, find others whom you can mentor. There’s no better way to pay tribute to your mentors than to follow in their footsteps.