My kingdom for a system


I have a system for doing the dishes.

First, I survey the kitchen to make sure I’ve got everything either in or next to the sink. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re finished and finding you forgot a glass or two.

Next, I put the silverware in a pile in the sink. I get it out of the way so I can rinse the plates and glasses and load them in the dishwasher, which I do next.

Then, I rinse the silverware and put it in the dishwasher and add soap. Now I have room in the sink to do the big stuff (pots, platters, etc.), which I leave to dry in the washboard or in the sink.

Finally, I clean the countertop and stove.

This may sound obsessive to you but I think it’s logical. It allows me to get everything done as quickly as possible, or at least believe that it does.

Anyway, it works for me.

I have systems for a lot of things. I’m told that productive people do. But I don’t have (or don’t follow) systems for everything.

I check email much more frequently than experts say I should. I don’t always follow the “2-minute rule,” e.g., processing emails that take 2 minutes or less on the spot. Inbox zero: often but not always. Weekly review? Don’t ask.

I’m also inconsistent with writing projects. Sometimes I start with an outline, sometimes I just start. Sometimes I finish quickly, sometimes projects linger for months.

I believe in systems (or “routines” if you prefer). I know they save time, reduce effort, and help you focus on what’s important. And, when I follow a system, I like the hit of dopamine I get each time I (mentally) check off the next box.

So why don’t I have systems for more things? And for the systems I do have, why don’t I follow them consistently?

I don’t know. Because I’m a flawed human being? Or maybe because not everything is as simple as washing dishes.

Here’s my system for getting more referrals


Does your practice run like a well-oiled machine?


If your practice was a machine you would want that machine to operate at peak efficiency. You’d want everything to work properly, needing little more than routine maintenance.

Your machine would make no sound other than the quiet hum of a well-oiled, finely tuned motor. It wouldn’t need a lot of attention, it would just work.

Your practice should be like that–no snags, no sticking points, no wasted time or money. You should know that everything is working efficiently and not be worried about it suddenly seizing up, and if there is an emergency, you should have a plan in place for that.

You create this efficiency through systems.

Your workflow should have a system. All of the steps should be documented, with all of the forms and procedure you need close at hand. You should have the right software and other tools you need, and know how to use them.

You should have an office manual that outlines all of the mundane functions of running an office, including a process for hiring and training employees, bookkeeping, billing, banking, and replenishing supplies. Your staff should know how to handle nearly everything and not have to come to you for every little hiccup and burp.

When you have all of this in place, when your practice runs efficiently and produces optimal work product and profits, you can focus on the one remaining task: marketing. Because without marketing, nothing else matters.

No marketing, no new clients, and your machine will grind to a halt.

You don’t need to have brilliant marketing, but whatever you do must be done regularly, consistently, and efficiently. You do this the same way you run the rest of your practice–with a system.

Your system should tell you what you will do this week to bring in new clients and serve existing ones. What will you write, where will you go, who will you call?

You should have the forms, the letters, the scripts, and the process at your fingertips so that you don’t have to figure out what to do, you can just do it.

Marketing should never be an afterthought, something you do when the files are running low or when you think about it and can find the time. It should be planned in advance and executed on a regular schedule.

Marketing is the fuel that makes your motor run. Keep your tank full and it will take you where you want to go.

Start or update your marketing plan with this


Creating a walk-away law practice


How do you build a law practice you can one day own but no longer run? It starts with wrapping your mind around the concept that you don’t have to do everything yourself, or even closely supervise everything yourself.

You have to (eventually) delegate all of the work in your office.

If you don’t, you’ll never be able to walk away.

This is very difficult concept for many attorneys. We’re used to being in control. We thrive on micro-managing. Our egos fight against the notion that someone else can do what we do.

We also have a very difficult time dealing with the risk.

The truth is, your employees and outsourcers can get you in a lot of trouble. It is a very real risk. But that’s what errors and omissions insurance is for. That risk, and the insurance premiums we pay to minimize the potential damages therefrom, are a cost of doing business.

Building a business (law practice) is not about the elimination of risk. It’s about the intelligent management of risk. You do the best you can and if things go wrong, you deal with it and move on.

You can either live with this risk and the stress it might cause, or you cannot.

If you’re willing to take these risks, or you’re not sure if you can, dip your toes in the water. Delegate something and see what happens. Then delegate something else. Hire someone if you have to, but get someone else doing some of the things you now do.

The second thing you need to do to ready your practice for a walk-away future is create a detailed operations manual for your office. Everything you do should be memorialized, with forms and checklists and documentation of every process.

Pretend you are going to franchise your practice. Someone is going to open an office and do everything you do. They’re going to pay you to learn how to clone your systems, and then pay you a percentage of their revenue.

Make the effort to document your systems in enough detail that someone else could truly step into your shoes.

When you get this right, it will allow you to open a second office if you want to (or third or fourth). You’ll also have a valuable resource for hiring and training new staff or temps. And, if you’re ready, you can start reducing your work hours at the office. Eventually, you can tip-toe away to semi-retirement.

For more on delegating and creating systems, see The Attorney Marketing Formula