A practice loaf


My wife is learning how to bake her own bread. Watching videos, trying different things, learning the ropes.

I asked her how it’s going. She’s not sure so we’re calling this first effort “a practice loaf”.

It’s okay if it doesn’t turn out okay. The next one will be better.

Remember your first client? Your first trial? Your first appeal? Knowing what you know now, you’re probably cringing (or laughing) when you think about it.

Not your best work. Your next one was better. 

Me too.

Same thing when I created my first web page, my first course, and my first book.

If you’re writing your first book or thinking about it and you’re nervous about how it’s going to turn out, think of it as your practice loaf.

Give yourself permission to mess up. Let it be bad if it wants to. You can fix it or make the next one better.

That’s why I recommend taking some of your old content and converting it into a book. Or recording and transcribing your thoughts about some aspect of your work.

It may not be your “best” book but you will have written a book. You’ll know you can do it and will have learned something about writing and publishing. If you want to, you can then write your second book.

Gotta run. A slice of bread and butter is calling my name.

The Attorney Marketing Formula


Practice makes pregnant


I took drum lessons for several years. I loved playing but I didn’t love practicing. Maybe you can relate.

Our parents and teachers meant well when they told us that it was important to practice. Funny thing, they were right.

It’s called “spaced repetition”. It’s how we learn and how we improve our skills. You can’t expect to get good at anything without it.

“Practice makes perfect,” we were told. But when you’re a kid, especially a teenager, practice is the last thing you want to do. (Unless it’s the kind of thing that makes babies.)

And that’s why many of us no longer play the drums.

As adults, practice is also required. If you want to improve your writing, your oratory skills or anything else, you need to practice. As a kid, we could say, “I don’t want to” and often (eventually) get out of doing it. We can’t do that as professionals.

And yet many do. Nowhere is this more evident than with marketing.

Lawyers start networking, for example, and give up because they don’t like it or because they’re not getting results fast enough. They start a newsletter or a blog or a video channel and give up because it takes too much time.

If they stuck with it, they might find themselves getting good at it. With practice, it gets easier, takes less time, and brings enough results to make it all worthwhile.

They might even learn to like it.

The work is usually not that difficult. Boring, perhaps, outside our comfort zone, but not difficult. Practice a few minutes a day, keep doing it, and eventually, you can master just about anything.

What’s tough is getting our heads right and making the choice to not give up. Whatever it is you want to improve, tell yourself, “I will until” and keep at it until you do.

Want more clients? Practice the art of getting referrals


Putting practice into the practice of law


I saw a video recently by a woman who decided to take up the violin and wanted to record her progress. As you might expect, her first efforts sounded like a cat being tortured.

She chronicled her journey with additional videos and it was amazing to see her improvement. Within a few months, she was playing decently. Within six months, she was a good amateur. At the two-year mark, when the video ended, she had made remarkable progress and was able to play reasonably sophisticated pieces.

Even though she started as an adult, which is said to be more difficult, with regular practice, she was able to acquire a new skill. She’s taking lessons now and who knows how far she might go.

Earl Nightingale said, “One extra hour of study per day and you’ll be a national expert in five years or less.” Bill Gates said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

What new skills do you want to acquire? What do you want to get better at? With enough practice, you might be amazed at what you can do.


Visualizing success


There’s an oft cited experiment by Australian psychologist Alan Richardson. The objective was to see if and to what extent visualization could improve sports performance.

Richardson tested three groups of twenty student basketball players shooting free throws and recorded their results. For the next 20 days, he had the first group practice free throws for twenty minutes each day. The second group spent 20 minutes each day visualizing themselves making free throws, without actually practicing. The third group was the control. They did no practicing or visualizing during the twenty day period.

On the twentieth day the three groups were tested again. The group that practiced every day improved their shooting percentage by 24 percent. The control group’s results were unchanged. The group that did no physical practice but merely visualized shooting free throws improved by 23 percent–nearly as much as the group that actually practiced.

In his paper about the experiment, Richardson wrote that best results occurred when the subject used their imagination to “feel” the ball in their hands, “hear” it bounce, and “see” it go through the hoop. The more vivid the experience, the more likely they were to improve.

When I was studying for the bar exam, I routinely visualized myself writing the exam. I pictured myself writing freely and easily, fully in command of the material. I even took a self-hypnosis class to help the process. I don’t know how much (or even if) this helped me pass the bar (the first time, thank you), but I remember going into the exam relaxed and confident.

Lawyers can use visualization to prepare for a speech, an interview, a trial, or a meeting with an important prospective client. If all it does is give you confidence, it’s worth it.

In the basketball experiment, we are asked to believe that visualizing alone provided improvement nearly equivalent to that achieved through actual practice. I understand that this was a test of a relatively simple activity and not on a par with studying for an exam or practicing a closing argument, but it is intriguing, isn’t it? It makes you wonder what else we could improve with the power of our imagination.

Most of  what we do in our work probably can’t be improved by thoughts alone. I wasn’t about to go into the bar exam without studying and doing practice exams. But I’d sure like to know if my visualization contributed to my results in any material way beyond helping me relax.

Unfortunately, the basketball experiment wasn’t complete. In my view, there should have been a fourth group tested. This group would have been asked to both practice and visualize. What might those results have told us?

Today, my wife is reporting for jury duty. I’ve told her to visualize being excused early in the day. Of course I’ve also reminded her to emphasize her husband’s background. Hey, it couldn’t hurt.


A high school class that has earned me a fortune


I took a typing class in high school. I think we learned on Remingtons, ancient mechanical monsters that made typing a labor-intensive chore. The keys would get stuck, corrections were slow and frustrating, and typing line after line of “f-f-f-space, j-j-j-space” barked out by our instructor made the experience anything but enjoyable. But I learned to type.

Still, in my practice, I used a dictation machine and had a secretary do the typing. Even on a fast and forgiving IBM Selectric, typing was frustrating and it was better to let someone else do it.

Not anymore.

Today, with the computer I am able to type quickly and errors are no bother at all. I can get the words down “on paper” as soon as I think them. There’s no need to have someone else do the typing. In the time it would take to dictate, I can have it done myself.

I think that’s true of many attorneys today. But not all. Many attorneys never learned how to type, or if they did, they don’t do it well. If that’s you, I encourage you to do something about it. Take a typing class. There are many available online. Increase your speed and accuracy.

For the record, we’re talking about “touch typing” here–typing without looking at the keyboard. The two-finger jab, no matter how fast you are, doesn’t cut it.

The other day, I wrote about the value of practice for improving our skills. Typing is a skill with a huge return on time invested. The thought of spending 40 hours practicing typing may seem ridiculous when you bill $400 an hour, but it’s not ridiculous at all if it allows you to save 30 minutes a day for the rest of your career. You’ll be in the black in less than 90 days.

And, what if improving your typing skills allows you to lower your secretarial costs?

The idea is to “slow down so you can speed up.” Invest time to learn, practice, and improve. There is a cost, but there is a greater return.

I bought a new laptop last week and it arrived a few minutes ago. It’s my first experience with Windows 8 which I hear is not very intuitive. If I can’t figure it out, I’ll go online and learn what I need to know. I’ll take a class if I have to. Or. . . I might just trade that sucker in on a Mac.

Want more referrals? Quickly? Here’s what to do.


Putting some practice into your law practice


A Facebook friend mentioned a recent conversation with a photographer who told him, “You need to practice your craft! Ask any serious musician, actor, actress, vocalist, writer, painter, etc., how often they practice and they will tell you. So often I talk to photographers and ask them the same question and they get a blank look on their face and say, “Practice”?

What about lawyers? Are we not serious professionals? Are we not creative?

We practice law but how many of us practice the practice of law?

Most trial lawyers practice their closing arguments. But how many practice interviewing a hostile witness? How many practice writing a more persuasive brief or settlement package?

Lawyers want more clients but how many practice meeting new people at a networking event? How many practice what they will say to a prospective client who comes in for a consultation?

I’ll admit, in my law practice, I did very little practicing. Over time, I got better at writing and speaking not because I made a conscious effort to do so, not by practicing but by speaking and writing for real clients in real cases. How much better might I have been had I worked on this between clients?

An actor rehearses before he goes on stage. He works on his craft when nobody is watching or in a workshop among his peers. He practices and practices so that he can deliver the best performance. Musicians do the same.

Writers churns out millions of words that are never seen, honing their craft, improving their work product. Painters do studies, dancers rehearse steps, singers do scales.

In law school and in bar review courses we took practice exams, getting ready for the real exam, the one that counts. Why do we stop practicing once we get licensed to practice?

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