Steve Jobs’ resignation: what it means for your law practice


Steve Jobs’ abrupt resignation yesterday had social media buzzing about the news and what it means for Apple (which saw its stock immediately drop, and then rebound) and for the tech world. Every news channel and blog had something to say and the tweets and wall posts abounded.

But what does his resignation mean for attorneys? How will this affect your law practice?

Well, unless you work for Apple or one of their affiliates, it won’t affect your practice at all.

So. . . why the tease? Was my headline a gimmick to get more clicks?

Well, yes and no.

It’s true that I don’t have anything to say about how this news story will actually affect your practice, and while that smacks of gimmickry, there is a lesson in this.

The headline that brought you here illustrates an important marketing technique: tying your message–blog post, tweet, post, email–to something already on the minds of your readers or followers. According to a new Kindle ebook by Dan Zarrella, about the science and metrics behind social media, this is called “priming”. Zarrella says,

“If a subject is exposed to something related to your idea before he actually encounters your idea, he’ll be more sensitive to it, and this makes it easier to catch his attention. . . .

“The easiest way to make priming work for your idea is to create timely content. If there is a topic or news story currently making the rounds in your target audience, relate your idea to that topic, and the zeitgeist will do the priming for you.”

And so, primed as you were by the news of Jobs’ resignation, you were more inclined to click through to read this story. Yes, I cheated a bit with my headline and yes, it would have been better if I had something to say about how the resignation affected the legal profession, but then this would have been a very different blog post.

Zarrella’s book is brief, not at all dry, and has some great insights and data, such as the most and least re-tweetable words and the best times and days to tweet, blog, post to Facebbok, and send email. “In many cases, the most effective times to send are the less popular times. Because your messages have less clutter to compete with, they break through.”

Zarrella also says that people share on social media not for altruistic reasons but because the information they share reinforces their reputation. People prefer to share breaking news, for example, because it is scarce, rather than humor or opinion which is all too common.

Some might say that putting news in your headlines to piggyback on what’s already on the minds of your readers isn’t a new idea, and they would be right. I’m sure this post, with the headline, “Man Accidentally Impregnates Goat,” is getting lots of traffic. Like my post, the lesson is in the headline, not the story. (Be sure to download the free ebook he mentions, “How to Write Headlines That go Viral with Social Media”.)

So, not a new concept. What’s new is that now, social media metrics let us quantify what we always suspected, while leading us to discover ideas that never crossed our minds.

Zarrella’s book is also free, through August 27.


Where good ideas come from by Steven Johnson


Soon, we’ll all be thinking about the New Year. How can we grow our practice? What can we do to enhance our personal life?

For some, the answer is to continue executing plans that are already in place. They know what to do, they just need to get better at doing it or simply give it more time. Others need a new plan. What they’ve been doing isn’t working. New plans call for new ideas, but where do ideas come from?

To answer this question, author Steven Johnson takes us on a visual journey into the creative process in this fascinating video:

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The cure for the overworked and overwhelmed attorney


I don’t know a single attorney who wants to work more. Oh they want more work, they just don’t want to work longer hours.

Unfortunately, we have been trained to believe in an absolute correlation between our income and the amount of work we do, but that correlation simply does not exist.

As a young lawyer starting my career, I had very little work and an income to match. When I finally learned marketing and starting bringing in more clients, naturally, my income and work hours increased. Eventually, I had lots of clients and incredibly long hours, obviously proving there is a correlation, right? Well, that depends.

I realized that I wasn’t happy working so much but I wasn’t willing to cut back my schedule if it meant cutting back my income. I struggled with this for a long time and, thankfully, I figured out how to do it. I was able to significantly reduce my work week without reducing my income. In fact, when I got things fully underway, my income took a dramatic leap.

There were a few things I did to make that happen. One of those was to get comfortable with delegating.

Attorneys are famously bad at delegating. There are a number of reasons, ranging from fear that the person to whom the work is delegated will screw up, to ego, the notion that, “nobody can do it as well as I can.” I had a little bit of both going on in my head; it took some effort to come to terms with these beliefs, but I did.

On the “screw up” issue, I realized that I would still be supervising my employees, I was the failsafe. I also realized that happiness (or a successful law practice) doesn’t require the complete absence of risk. Risk can be managed. That’s why God created “E & O” policies, after all.

As for the idea that I was the best one for the job, I simply had to accept the premise that if I was ever going to have relief from eighty hour weeks, “good enough” would have to be good enough.

Once I crossed the threshold of acceptance,  I began to see that there were many functions in our office I could let go of and, in fact, there were many functions where I really wasn’t the best person for the job. Once I started the process of handing over responsibilities to others and saw that the sky did not fall and, in fact, good things were happening, I embarked on a quest to delegate as much as possible. Eventually, my philosophy was to only do that which only I could do, and this was a major turning point in my career.

If you are overworked because of reluctance to delegate (or delegate as much as possible), I urge you to do as I did. Change your philosophy and learn some techniques. Your kids will be glad you did.


The ABA Journal wants to know what lawyers think about the economy. I don’t.


How’s business? The ABA Journal wants to know. They are surveying lawyers on the job market and the state of the economy. They’ve asked me to mention this on my blog, so here it is:

Surveys are interesting, but guess what? The job market and the state of the economy have no bearing on your life. Unless you believe it will.

If you believe the economy will materially affect your practice or job, it will. If you believe it won’t, it won’t.

Does that sound naive? Some kind of new age hooey? Well, if you believe that, then for you, that’s exactly what it is. But I have different beliefs. I believe we create our reality. I believe we can choose to be successful in the face of adversity or we can choose to capitulate, wring our hands, and suffer along with everyone else.

It’s our choice.

You can choose personal responsibility. You can choose to be optimistic. You can choose to see opportunity when others see Armageddon. In the Depression of the 1930’s, unemployment was twenty-five percent and millions suffered. But many made fortunes. I guess they understood that periods of great change create opportunities for the status quo to change. Of course that’s also why many previously wealthy people jumped out of windows.

Business philosopher, Jim Rohn, said, “It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.” How are you choosing to set your sails?


Update: In case you’re interested, here’s a link to the survey results:


Don’t make this mistake in your communications


The language of the brain is pictures, sounds, and feelings. If I tell you I saw a pink turtle, your mind will process my statement by creating a mental picture of a pink turtle. However, if I tell you that I did NOT see a pink turtle, you will still see a pink turtle. Thats because the brain can only process positive information. You cant make a mental picture of NOT seeing something because the brain cant process negative pictures, sounds, or feelings.

If you tell your child, Dont run across the street, the message their brain sees is run across the street. You have planted the visual image of them doing the very thing you dont want them to do.

Sure, as adults we have the facility to translate the negation of a thought to its positive form, but the additional step involved in doing so means there is a lesser chance that the information you want to communicate will get through.

If you want to communicate more clearly, be conscious not to plant negative suggestions in others minds with the words you choose. Speak in the positive. Say Its a pleasure instead of no problem. Use the words Call me instead of Dont hesitate to call. Tell clients, The trial will go smoothly, and not, Dont worry about the trial.

Tell people what you want rather than what you dont want. Tell people what to do rather than what not to do. When you phrase things in the positive, you will communicate more clearly and you will get more of the results you seek.

There are exceptions, however, and you can use them to your advantage.

The title of this article (intentionally) tells you what NOT to do, and uses a negative, the word “mistake”. In this case, the title is meant to create curiosity or “mental tension” that can only be relieved by reading the article. The title doesn’t tell you what to do, the article does, and you are compelled to read it to find out.

Curiosity is a powerful motivator because our brains want to see what can’t be seen, to find the positive image it cannot see but knows is there.


What to put in a thank you letter


Q: What are the main points to get across in a thank you letter to a client? Is it appropriate to add that I’m working to build my practice and referrals are appreciated?

A: It’s not wrong to mention referrals in a thank you letter, but I think it’s better when a ‘thank you’ is just that and nothing more. Let the client know that you appreciate him or her and just wanted to say so. It will mean more to them that way, don’t you think?

I also recommend that the ‘letter’ be a ‘note’ — hand written on note cards. It’s more personal that way and people appreciate that you took the time to write them a personal note. There’s less room on a thank you card, too, so you can be done with just a few sentences, whereas your letterhead has a lot of space to fill.

The note should say:

1. Thank you; I appreciate you; I am glad to know you
2. Reference something personal about them or their case
3. Call me if you have questions about anything
4. Thanks again

Sign the note, "Sincerely," or "Warmly," followed by your signature.

That’s not the only way to write a thank you, but it works. In just three or four lines, you show the client that he is not just a name on a file to you, you really do appreciate him.

Hand written notes are an extremely potent form of communication for another reason: nobody sends them. So when you do, you will really stand out in the mind of the recipient. You didn’t send a form letter, you didn’t email, you took some of your precious time to pen a personal note and put a stamp on it.

One attorney started doing this and told me his secretary made him stop. Apparently, they were getting so many calls to say "thank you" for his "thank you," she didn’t have time to do her work. But it was a nice problem to have (and they didn’t stop) because they also got a lot of referrals.

Try it, and watch what happens.


Before you set any goals. . .


Goal setting is a critical component to success in anything, and that includes a successful life. Life is a journey and without a destination, all you’re doing is wandering.

Before you set goals–big, lifetime goals, and small, “here’s what I want to accomplish tomorrow” goals–before you get specific about what and how much and when and who, I want to encourage you to spend some time doing something else.

I want you to dream.

I’ll bet it’s been a long time since you did any dreaming. You’re so busy making a living you don’t have time to do anything else. But what if, in your zeal to climb the ladder of success you overlooked the fact that it was leaning against the wrong wall?

It’s not too late. You can dream again–and you should.

Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Dream. Discover.”

Too often, people plan their lives logically. They assess where they are and look forward and the path they see before them is the one they take.

“Well, I have these skills and that degree and these are my assets, and it makes perfect sense for me to. . . blah blah blah.” Before you know it, twenty years have gone by and while they may be successful, too often, they aren’t happy.

And happiness, my friend, is why you were put here on Earth.

Put logic aside for a moment and get in touch with your emotions. What makes your heart sing? What did you once want so much it makes you cry thinking about it? What would you be doing right now if you had all the money you could possibly spend, perfect health, and unlimited time?

When you have answered these questions–truthfully–come back and we’ll talk.

Harold Thurman Whitman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I like the way an unknown writer put it: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, ‘Holy sh**… what a ride!'”

David Ward
“Be a mentor with a servant’s heart!”


How I (finally) got organized


I‘m in love!

Well, okay, when you’re talking about a piece of software, that might be a bit strong. But, I can’t help it…

I really am IN LOVE!

The software I’m talking about is Info Select. It’s been around for twenty years and I can’t believe I just found out about it.

Info Select is an information management system that allows you to organize EVERYTHING: notes, contact info, ideas, emails, phone logs, client data, calendars, presentations, research…


I don’t use Outlook anymore. I use Word only occasionally. I’m getting rid of mounds of loose scraps, notes, reminders, post-its that have adorned my office for years. I can see my desk again!

I can now find anything I’m looking for by using Info Select’s robust search capability.

Here’s what one lawyer says about a previous version:

More info:

Here’s the company web site: They offer a thirty-day free trial. Careful, it’s addicting!

If you use Info Select, please share your experiences. If you haven’t, check it out!

David Ward
“Be a mentor with a servant’s heart!”