Steve Jobs’ greatest marketing lesson for lawyers

No doubt Steve Jobs’ career will long be studied in business schools. His vision and iconoclastic style changed everything in the world of technology and business. Jobs urged the world to “Think Different” and his accomplishments proved this to be good advice.

His career also provided several lessons in marketing for lawyers, as Larry Bodine ably points out. I believe Jobs’ greatest lesson, however, was in the way he lived his life.

Well before illness reminded him of his mortality, Jobs’ philosophy for living drove him to take risks. In his address to the 2005 Stanford graduating class, he described it this way:

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Of course this is not, per se, a marketing lesson, nor is it confined to lawyers. But I believe that more than anyone, lawyers need to hear this message.

Lawyers are among the most risk adverse creatures on Earth. Protecting our clients from risk is one of our strengths. Paradoxically, it is also one of our weaknesses.

In the world of business, lawyers are known as “deal breakers”. To protect our clients, (and ourselves), we often overstate the likelihood and potential consequences of perceived risks, often to the detriment of our clients’ business interests. A deal not struck cannot result in loss but neither can it result in gain.

In marketing their services, many lawyers are also deal breakers. They don’t want to appear weak or unprofessional or make a mistake that embarrasses them or gets flagged as an ethics violation, and so too often, they do nothing. Or they do something that is so watered down, so colorless, the results aren’t even worth mentioning.

Steve Jobs was successful because he took chances. He defied convention. He stuck his neck out and challenged the world to a duel. He had many defeats and many detractors but he accomplished great things because he didn’t worry about what others thought.

Most lawyers don’t like marketing, not because they feel it is beneath them, although that sentiment also exists, but because they are afraid to fail. They can sell their ideas to a jury, risking everything on behalf of their client, and when they lose, shrug it off and bounce right back. But when it comes to selling themselves, many lawyers freeze in their tracks.

Learning how to market ones services helps to reduce the fear, but in the end, lawyers need to just go for it. As Los Angeles Dodgers great Maury Wills, who stole 104 bases in one season once said, “You can’t steal second base while keeping one foot on first base.”

While many baseball fans know about Wills’ record setting base stealing, they may not know that he also set a record for being thrown out while attempting to steal a base–31 times during the 1965 season.

Nobody ever achieved great success by playing it safe. All great achievements have come from taking great risks. Steve Jobs took risks every day and lived every day like it was his last. He had many losses and many wins but, I am sure, few regrets.

Are you branding your law firm? Here’s why you shouldn’t.

When one of your clients has a friend or business contact who needs a lawyer, they’ll hand their friend your business card (we hope) and say, “Here, call my lawyer”.

Notice they don’t say, “Here, call my law firm.”

Your clients have a relationship with you, not your firm. Even if you are a partner, your brand is “you” and “you” is what you should be promoting.

If permitted, you should have your own web site or blog, your own social media accounts, your own domain name, and your own email account (you@yourdomain.com).

If all you do is promote and brand your firm, what happens if you leave the firm or the firm disbands?

Your brand is valuable. It should be protected, nurtured, and grown.

(Note, the above photo is a business card from lawyer James Rains, circa 1857. It says, “Will practice in any of the Courts, and attend promptly to the collection of claims.” It looks like he was a partner in the firm of “Kernan & Rains,” yet the card promotes Mr. Rains.)

The single most valuable skill for attorney marketing

copy writing for attorneysLearning how to write effective copy not only helped me to build a successful law practice, it helped me to sell millions of dollars of my signature marketing course and other products. Copy writing, which as been called “salesmanship in print” is an important skill for every attorney, even those with no intention of writing their own sales materials.

Effective marketing documents can make the different between unbridled success and abject failure. A change of headline or offer can increase the pulling power of a letter or ad or web site twenty-fold–and even more.

The best way to learn copy writing is to study effective marketing documents. When you see something good, something that’s working, perhaps something that made you buy a product or service, copy the sales letter or ad or web page so you can study it. Create a “swipe” file of letters, brochures, ads, web pages, newsletters, and other compelling copy, to study, for ideas and to use as models for creating your own documents.

(Shameless plug alert. . .) The Lawyers’ Marketing Toolkit is a swipe file of marketing documents for lawyers. It is a collection of referral letters, reports, ads, newsletters, brochures, and other marketing documents submitted to me for critique by lawyers in my marketing program–along with my (detailed) critiques.

Start your copy writing education by studying the sales letter for The Toolkit. Print the page, copy it, read and re-read it. It works and it could be the first document for your new swipe file.

After many years of collecting marketing documents in file boxes, today, I use Evernote to collect them electronically. It’s free and a great place to start your swipe file.

[mc src=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObHOvFoRLxk&feature=mfu_in_order&playnext=1&videos=QOSWMn-miTw” type=”youtube”]The single most valuable skill for attorney marketing[/mc]

Are you pursuing your dreams like Paul Potts did?

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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.

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…

EVERYTHING!

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:
http://www.stepup.com.au/product/isw6/lawyer.htm

More info:
http://www.innovationtools.com/Tools/SoftwareDetails.asp?a=68

Here’s the company web site: http://miclog.com. 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!”