I know you’re busy, but are you happy?

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Some people’s lives are incredibly busy. They have a job and a business. Or two businesses.

They have a husband or wife, kids, and large extended families. They take great vacations and love planning them. They have several hobbies they love, love, love. They exercise every day.

They are handy around the house and like decorating, cooking, or gardening. Or all three. They create their own Christmas cards and include a personal note in every one. They are active in their church, home owner’s association, and PTA. They are a Cub Scout leader. They post every day on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and their personal blog. And oh yeah, they’re also writing a book.

If this is you, I have to ask, “How do you do it?” How do you cram so much into your life?

You must know that most people aren’t like you. Most people can’t do everything you do. I’m one of them. Just thinking about your day makes me sleepy.

Oh, I do admire you. You’re amazing. I just don’t want to be like you. But then, you probably don’t want to be like me.

My life is much simpler. Even when I was putting in long hours in my practice and our daughter was young and there was dance and piano and sports, my life was a cake walk compared to yours. My wife and I were busy (by our standards), but more importantly, we were happy.

And today, we’re even less busy, but just as happy.

Being busy means different things to different people but being busy isn’t what’s important. If you’re surrounded by people you care about and do work that makes a difference, that’s what counts.

Tonight, when your head hits the pillow and you think about your day, don’t ask yourself if you did enough, ask yourself if you’re happy. If you are, great! Have a nice sleep. If not, ask yourself what you need to change. It could be something big, like a new career or a new spouse. More likely, you’re simply trying to do too much.

Want to be busier with more work? Get The Attorney Marketing Formula.

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Is marketing legal services hard work?

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It’s just work. Marketing, that is. And it’s not hard, really. Compared to the rest of what you do, how hard is it to make a few calls or write a few emails?

It’s not hard to write an article or outline a talk. It’s not hard to invite someone for coffee. It’s not hard to hand write a thank you note to your new clients.

It’s not hard to do these things. It’s just work. But you have to do it.

I heard from an attorney yesterday who has a friend who always seems to have plenty of new clients, yet he doesn’t “do” any marketing. Trust me, he does. If he has a big enough base of clients, which he does after twenty years of practice, marketing for him means little more than saying please and thank you and staying in touch with his former clients. He did the “hard work” years ago when he had no clients. Now, marketing is so easy for him it appears like he isn’t doing any.

The hard part for many attorneys isn’t the work, it’s the ego. If you believe you “shouldn’t have to do this,” you’re going to resent doing it and it will be unpleasant for you. If instead, you believe that marketing is part of the job, not beneath you and really not that difficult, you might actually enjoy it.

You’ve got to get your ego out of the way and just do the work. Schedule time on your calendar every day for marketing and keep the appointment with yourself. Even 15 minutes a day will help you make progress, if you do it every day.

It’s just work.

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How to write an article in ten minutes or a book in two hours

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One way to write more articles, reports, blog posts, or anything else, is by writing faster. One way to write faster is to dictate and record your thoughts and then have them transcribed.

When I first started practicing law we dictated everything and somebody else did the typing. Today, I write everything on a computer and find that I can turn out a finished document almost as quickly. But sometimes, I get caught up in the process of writing and something that should have taken ten minutes winds up taking an hour.

I also find that speaking my thoughts lends a freshness and clarity that is sometimes missing when I write. And so for my next big writing project, I’m going to go back to writing the way I used to do it, by speaking my first draft into a recorder and having it transcribed.

Here are the steps I will be following:

  1. Create an outline. No matter how well you know your material, having the points you want to cover in the order in which you want to cover them will help you stay on point and get the job done more quickly.
  2. Speak and record. The best way to do this is to keep in your mind’s eye a real person you know (or an amalgam of your target audience) and speak to that person. Pretend they are sitting across the desk from you.
  3. Transcribe. You can have someone do this or do it yourself. Doing it yourself allows you to edit as you type.
  4. Edit. Cut out unnecessary ideas and words, flesh out thoughts that need it, and re-order material to enhance clarity. Take any “leftovers” and store them for future articles.
  5. Add an intro and conclusion.
  6. Final edit.

The average human being speaks at a rate of 125 to 150 words per minute. This means that you could dictate the first draft of a 500 word article in just a few minutes or an 18,000 word ebook in a couple of hours. Now, if we could just get paid by the word.

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The problem with most consumer law practices

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Most consumer oriented law practices have a big problem. Lawyers who practice family law, bankruptcy, criminal defense, estate planning, personal injury, real estate, and other areas, have a preponderance of “one time” clients. Once the initial case or engagement is completed, the attorney gets no additional revenue, or at best, very little.

The problem is worsening. It costs more to bring in a new client today, and overhead and manpower expenses to service those clients are also higher. But clients aren’t willing to pay more, and they don’t have to. With more lawyers competing for the same clients, clients have more options.

I just spoke to an attorney who is spending $13,000 a month on yellow pages. The good news is that her ads bring in a lot of new clients. The bad news is that she loses money on every one.

The solution to this problem is for attorneys to develop their “back end”–services and other profitable initiatives they can offer their clients after the initial engagement.

In any business, most of the profits are made on the back end. There is a cost to acquire a new customer, and while it is hoped that this can be done at a profit, it’s not required. So long as the business can make enough profit after the initial sale, if the back end is big enough, most businesses are willing to lose money on the front end.

How can an attorney develop a back end?

Some attorneys are branching out into new practice areas. So the bankruptcy lawyer who sees a downturn in new clients starts offering family law or estate planning services. The problem with this is that it makes it much harder to get referrals from family law and estate planning attorneys with whom you are now competing. It’s also more difficult to market a general practice than a specialized one.

Instead of taking on new practice areas, here are two things an attorney can do to develop a back end:

  1. Expand and systematize referrals. Focus on getting more referrals, better referrals, and more frequent referrals from your clients. In this way, each client you bring in on the front end represents more profits on the back end. If you spend $1000 to bring in a new client who pays you $1000 on the front end, but you earn an average of $3000 from their back-end referrals, you can afford to bring in as many “break even” clients as possible. You can even lose money on the front end.
  2. Market the services of other lawyers to your clients. Instead of you taking on a new practice area, associate with other attorneys who are specialists in those areas and offer their services to your clients in return for a share of the fees (if ethically permissible) or in exchange for marketing your services to their clients. (You aren’t limited to working with other attorneys; you can also market the services of other professionals and businesses.)

A key number every attorney must know is the “lifetime value” of a new client. This includes the value of their repeat business, their referrals, and other revenue derived as a result of having them on your list. Take some time to determine this number and then work on increasing it.

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How to promote your legal services without feeling sleazy

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sleazy lawyer attorneyAre you uncomfortable with self-promotion? I think most people are, even those of us with “healthy” egos.

According to this inc.com article, “How to Self-Promote–Without Being Sleezy,” we feel this way in large part because of what we believe our friends will think.

Of course “being sleazy,” as the author (or her editor) words it, and “feeling sleazy” aren’t necessarily the same thing. It’s not per se sleazy to promote yourself, yet we may still feel that it is.

Why? It comes down to our sense that when we promote ourselves, our friends will be jealous and stop being our friends. Or something like that.

I say, stop worrying about what your friends think. If they are truly your friends, they will support you even if they are a bit jealous. And if they’re not your friends, it’s okay to let them go.

Okay, that’s easier said than done. Let’s turn to the article for some suggestions on how to lesson the impact:

  1. Tell the story of the struggle behind the success.
  2. Be excited, but be humbled.
  3. Give credit where credit is due.
  4. Enlist the help of your friends to get the word out.

Okay, good ideas. But nobody wants to listen to your broken record about how great you are, not even your mother. So if you really want to do a good job of promoting your services, and not turn anybody off or feel sleazy about it, here’s what you should do:

Don’t talk about yourself.

Talk about your clients and prospects. Talk about their problems and the available solutions. Talk about the law and the procedure. And talk about your other clients and what they have been able to achieve.

Do this with intelligence and grace and you won’t have to promote yourself.

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Why people hate lawyers and why you shouldn’t care

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why people hate lawyersIn my recent post, “Why don’t people trust lawyers and does it really matter?” I concluded that not only doesn’t it matter that people don’t trust lawyers, it’s actually a good thing.

It’s good for clients because it makes them more careful when hiring an attorney. They ask more questions. They don’t blindly follow. Caveat emptor.

It’s good for attorneys because it allows us to stand out from the crowd by showing how we are different, how we can be trusted, and with a little effort, this is not difficult to do.

But not only do people not trust lawyers, they also hate lawyers. Attorney Suzanne Meehle presents ten “bad lawyer” stereotypes that make people hate lawyers.

Ambulance chasers, unethical lawyers, a**holes, incompetents, and so on.

Some of these stereotypes are worse than others. The “24/7 Lawyer,” the workaholic on a path to burnout, doesn’t belong in the same category as the dishonest lawyer. I don’t think people hate lawyers merely because they work too hard. But we all get the point: there are plenty of examples of bad lawyers who give the rest of us a bad name.

I say this is a good thing. Why? Because stereotypes are almost always exaggerated depictions of real life, making it even easier to show people that you’re “not like that”.

If a lot of people don’t like lawyers because they perceive them to be bullies, for example, don’t be a bully. If they hate lawyers because they think we are unethical, go out of your way to display words and deeds consistent with the highest ethical standards.

I don’t particularly enjoy meeting people who, within the first minutes, feel compelled to tell me they, “don’t like lawyers”. But that’s the way it is and I do enjoy the challenge of winning them over.

In sales, it is said that the best prospects are often the ones who offer the most resistance. These prospects know they are naturally an “easy sale” and so to protect themselves from getting taken advantage of, they put up an outer wall. They may be surly and unpleasant, overly suspicious and overly demanding. The best sales people understand this and when they encounter a prospect who “protests too much,” shower them with kindness and patiently wait for them to “drop their shields”. The result is often a sale and a lifelong customer and advocate.

Don’t try to argue away the stereotypes. Acknowledge them. There are a lot of bad eggs out there and people do have to be careful. With a little common sense, you can easily distance yourself from this crowd and show you are one of the good guys. When you do, you’ll find people hiring you, in some cases simply because you’re not what they expected.

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Write or Die: A Simple Solution to Writers’ Block

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cure for writers blockI’m not sure I believe in writers’ block. I believe in “no talent” and “no ideas” but writers block? You don’t have trouble speaking, do you? I don’t mean public speaking, I mean vocalizing your thoughts out loud to another human being or into a microphone.

No such thing as “talkers’ block” so why “writers’ block”?

And yet, people who can write, don’t.

It might be perfectionism. I lean in that direction. You don’t want to show anyone your writing until it’s perfect and it never is. But, if writing is important to you, you get over this.

It’s often a lack of time. Attorneys are busy people. All day you’re on the run, and at the end of the day, you’re tired. Weekends, you have chores and you need some family time. You want to write, you know you can write, but days and weeks go by and it doesn’t get done.

You need a deadline.

When you have a deadline, it is amazing how much you can get done. You need to get a pleading filed by a certain date, you do it. You promised an editor you’d finish an article, you do. A deadline holds you accountable. Just ask the IRS.

An example of what can be done when there is a deadline is National Novel Writing Month, aka, “NaNoWriMo”. Every November, participants from around the world commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. In case you don’t know, writing 1,667 words a day every day for a month is a tall order; writing 1,667 novel-worthy words is simply astounding.

And yet each year, thousands finish a 50,000 word novel within the 30 days.

The 30 day deadline imposes a daily word quota. Participants use their word processor or text writing app to make sure they write enough words each day so they don’t fall behind. You could do the same thing. Pick a number of words you will write each day and don’t stop writing until you do.

Another technique writers use is to set a timer for ten or twenty minutes and write without stopping until the timer sounds. Then, they are done for the day or if they haven’t met their word quota, they go for another ten or twenty minutes.

This is the Pomodoro technique, which can be used for any kind of task. The idea is that you can do anything for ten minutes, no matter how much you might not want to or how busy you might be. Many books have been written in blocks of ten or twenty minutes a day.

I’ve written about the Pomodoro technique before, and recommended Focus Booster, an app I sometimes use when I need to concentrate.

In reading about NaNoWriMo, I learned about Write or Die, a timer app for writers. It allows you to set a word quota and a time quota. It also allows you to impose a penalty. If you don’t meet your quota or you stop writing before the time limit, the app will play a loud and annoying sound. Weird, but it works.

You can configure the app for different word counts, times, and penalties. In one setting, if you don’t make your quota, whatever you have written up to that point gets deleted. How’s that for accountability!

The app is free and there are paid desktop versions. If you need some help sticking to a writing schedule, Write or Die could be for you. Or, you could have your mother in law call you once a day to ask if you got your quota done.

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How to stay focused when you need to get things done

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You’ve got work to do, deadlines to meet, things that must get done, and you know you need to focus but it’s difficult because there are so many interruptions.

How do you cope?

“6 Ways to Minimize Interruptions When You Need to Focus,” offers some ideas:

  1. Close the door while you’re working
  2. Wear headphones to prevent colleagues chatting
  3. Say, “Could you come back in ten minutes?”
  4. Let your phone go to voice-mail
  5. Turn off Skype, Email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. . .
  6. Get into the office early

In short, these tips remind us to, “avoid outside stimuli”. That’s why we went to the library to study for exams, isn’t it?

Interruptions by others are easy to fix, if you want to. But do you really want to? I think we enjoy interruptions–we like the respite they provide from the tedium of our work.

I’ve found that when I really do need to shut off outside stimuli, because of a deadline, for example, I do it. The fear of loss of the looming deadline motivates me to do what we need to do–and I do it.

The greater challenge is not with outside stimuli or interruptions by others, it is with interruptions we impose on ourselves.

When we’re working, we’re also thinking about other things we have to do. Our neurons are firing, reminding us of promises unkept, other tasks that must get done, thinking about the game tonight, and imagining what will happen if we don’t meet our deadline. It is this internal chatter that is so hard to turn off.

So, how do you focus when your brain keeps interrupting you?

One way to do that is by removing all of those tasks and reminders from your brain and putting them into a “trusted system” to be processed and done at a later time. The term “trusted system” comes from the Getting Things Done™ (GTD) system which I’ve written about before.

Another technique for increasing focus is to give yourself short segments of time during which you are committed to working on the task at hand. Twenty-five minutes, fifteen, ten, or two, whatever you can handle. No matter how busy your brain may be, it can focus for two minutes. Once those two minutes are up, you are allowed to do something else or think about something else for, say, another two minutes. And then, you return to the work you were doing in the first segment, or onto something else.

It’s called, “The Pomodoro Technique.”

The most common implementation is a twenty-five minute block of time, followed by a five minute break. A timer is set, and when the bell sounds, you take your break. Kinda like prize-fighting. After the break, you return for the next round.

The technique was originally promoted via the use of a kitchen timer resembling a tomato (“pomodoro is Italian for tomato”) , like the one depicted above. I use something a bit more high tech.

On my PC’s desktop is an icon to launch an app that takes the place of a kitchen timer. There are many apps that do the same thing. The one I use is called, “Focus Booster,” and it’s available for free for Mac and PC.

Give it a try. Start with a twenty-five minute pomodoro. When you’re done and you’ve taken a break, go for another. If you can’t stay focused for twenty-five minutes, start with ten. Or one.

Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique? How has it worked for you? Do you have a favorite app or do you use a kitchen timer?

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Never, Never, Never, Never give up!

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Where would our world be if these people gave up? Think about these people the next time you’re thinking about quitting.

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterward, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success. He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. He later became the 16th President of the United States of America.

Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He was subsequently defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister at the age of 62. He later wrote, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up.”

Sigmund Freud was booed from the podium when he first presented his ideas to the scientific community of Europe. He returned to his office and kept on writing.

Robert Sternberg received a C in his first college introductory-psychology class. His teacher commented that “there was a famous Sternberg in psychology and it was obvious there would not be another.” Three years later Sternberg graduated with honors from Stanford University with exceptional distinction in psychology, summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa. In 2002, he became President of the American Psychological Association.

Charles Darwin gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching.” In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rathe below the common standard of intellect.” Clearly, he evolved.

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was “sub-normal,” and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math.

Louis Pasteur was only a mediocre pupil in undergraduate studies and ranked 15th out of 22 students in chemistry.

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.

R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York City caught on.

F. W. Woolworth was not allowed to wait on customers when he worked in a dry goods store because, his boss said, “he didn’t have enough sense.”

When Bell Telephone was struggling to get started, its owners offered all their rights to Western Union for $100,000. The offer was disdainfully rejected with the pronouncement, “What use could this company make of an electrical toy.” How many of you have a telephone today?

Rocket scientist Robert Goddard found his ideas bitterly rejected by his scientific peers on the grounds that rocket propulsion would not work in the rarefied atmosphere of outer space.

An expert said of Vince Lombardi: “He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.” Lombardi would later write, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.”

Babe Ruth is famous for his past home run record, but for decades he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career (about which he said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”).

Hank Aaron went 0 for 5 his first time at bat with the Milwaukee Braves.

Stan Smith was rejected as a ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because he was “too awkward and clumsy.” He went on to clumsily win Wimbledon and the US Open…and eight Davis Cups.

Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, and Jimmy Johnson accounted for 11 of the 19 Super Bowl victories from 1974 to 1993. They also share the distinction of having the worst records of first-season head coaches in NFL history – they didn’t win a single game.

Johnny Unitas’s first pass in the NFL was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Joe Montana’s first pass was also intercepted. And while we’re on quarterbacks, during his first season Troy Aikman threw twice as many interceptions (18) as touchdowns (9) . . . oh, and he didn’t win a single game. You think there’s a lesson here?

After Carl Lewis won the gold medal for the long jump in the 1996 Olympic games, he was asked to what he attributed his longevity, having competed for almost 20 years. He said, “Remembering that you have both wins and losses along the way. I don’t take either one too seriously.”

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.

Charles Schultz had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Oh, and Walt Disney wouldn’t hire him.

After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” He kept that memo over the fire place in his Beverly Hills home.  Astaire once observed that “when you’re experimenting, you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion.” And here is the reward for perseverance: “The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style.”

After his first audition, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” It was at that moment, recalls Poitier, that he decided to devote his life to acting.

When Lucille Ball began studying to be actress in 1927, she was told by the head instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, “Try any other profession.”

The first time Jerry Seinfeld walked on-stage at a comedy club as a professional comic, he looked out at the audience, froze, and forgot the English language. He stumbled through “a minute-and a half” of material and was jeered offstage. He returned the following night and closed his set to wild applause.

After Harrison Ford’s first performance as a hotel bellhop in the film Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, the studio vice-president called him in to his office. “Sit down kid,” the studio head said, “I want to tell you a story. The first time Tony Curtis was ever in a movie he delivered a bag of groceries. We took one look at him and knew he was a movie star.” Ford replied, “I thought you were supposed to think that he was a grocery delivery boy.” The vice president dismissed Ford with “You ain’t got it kid, you ain’t got it… now get out of here.”

Michael Caine’s headmaster told him, “You will be a laborer all your life.”

Charlie Chaplin was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because his pantomime was considered “nonsense.”

Decca Records turned down a recording contract with The Beatles with the  evaluation, “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out.” After Decca rejected the Beatles, Columbia records followed suit.

In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after one performance. He told Presley, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him “hopeless as a composer.” And, of course, you know that he wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf.

Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life. And this, to the sister of one of his friends, for 400 francs (approximately $50). This didn’t stop him from completing over 800 paintings.

Leo Tolstoy flunked out of college. He was described as both “unable and unwilling to learn.” No doubt a slow developer.

Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, was encouraged to find work as a servant by her family.

Emily Dickinson had only seven poems published in her lifetime.

18 publishers turned down Richard Bach’s story about a “soaring eagle.” Macmillan finally published Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1970. By 1975 it had sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone.

21 publishers rejected Richard Hooker’s humorous war novel, M*A*S*H. He had worked on it for seven years.

27 publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’s first book, “To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.”

Jack London received six hundred rejection slips before he sold his first story.

Let’s end with Woody Allen: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying. Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

The message? Don’t ever give up. Don’t let anyone stop you from achieving success. Keep going, don’t lose faith, and don’t ever quit.

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