Rank #1: Insider Info on Virtual Assistants
Virtual assistants are increasingly available to attorneys. We’ve been using two of them in our firm with great success.
In this Divorce Discourse podcast, we talk with Andrea Cannavina of LegalTypist.com. She provides a variety of virtual services to firms, ranging from transcription of dictation, to client contact, to managing the administrative functions of the firm. Andrea has done it all and seen it all.
Andrea gives us the inside scoop on what’s possible with a virtual assistant. She also offers tips and advice on managing your virtual assistant. In addition, Andrea surprised me with some great ideas for finding a virtual assistant that might be perfect for your firm. Andrea has experience dealing with the technology and security issues involved in making a virtual employment relationship function smoothly. You’ll learn what a virtual assistant will cost and what you might save. Give this podcast a listen, and you’ll be ready to try outsourcing some of your work.
Jul 08 2011
Rank #2: Podcast: The Associate Is Leaving With the Clients
Some lawyers tell me that they won’t hire associates anymore because they feel like they’re just training their competitors. They describe a scenario that goes like this:
- Hire associate.
- Train associate.
- Fill associate up with clients.
- Associate departs with clients.
Yep, that’s depressing. I understand the reluctance to go through that more than once or twice.
But it’s possible to build a model that allows for the comings and goings of employees. People don’t stay forever, and it’s not unusual for turnover to happen sooner rather than later in our current economy. Get used to it. It’s the new normal.
The question then is, how do we deal with the associate’s departure when he or she wants to take the clients?
In this episode, I propose a course of action that might surprise you. Listen in as I make the case for handling the departure in a totally different manner than you might want to if driven by your emotions.
Related & Referenced Content
- 13 Signs a Lawyer Is About to Quit
- How to Respond to a Departing Employee
- 5 Ways Your Associate Will Quit
Feb 12 2016
Rank #3: Podcast: How To Get Referrals Without Referring Back
Countless lawyers have explained to me that they’re not building their referral network because they don’t want to end up in the bind of receiving referrals and then being unable to reciprocate.
I understand the sentiment. I worried that my referral sources would quit referring if I didn’t send referrals back. I worried that resentment was building because I wasn’t fulfilling my end of the implied bargain.
Other lawyers tell me they have the exact same fears. They feel fortunate to be getting referrals. They don’t want to damage these important relationships with their referral sources. They don’t want the resentment to grow.
Jul 25 2019
Rank #4: Podcast: How Many Lunches Until Success?
You want to grow your practice with referrals, but what does it really take to see solid returns? How many lunches should you spend connecting with now-strangers?
I hear a lot of numbers from lawyers trying this exact networking approach, and most of them are low. They’re not investing in themselves or their referral sources, and they give up. They quit not because networking doesn’t work but because they underestimate the commitment it takes to reap success.
I started my practice with nothing but referrals. We’ve trained many lawyers to adopt the same approach, and I’ve gotten it down to a science. The number of lunches it takes to start generating steady income is surprisingly attainable. Press play to learn the numbers that will work for any practice area, anywhere in the world.
You’ve got to eat. Why shouldn’t you be using that time to grow your practice?
Aug 18 2016
Rank #5: 10 Ways to Differentiate Your Firm (If You’re Brave)
Being different is hard. It’s challenging to come up with ideas. It’s difficult to do the extra work on top of the legal work. It’s emotionally stressful to stand out from the pack. Is it worth it to you?
When clients look for lawyers, what they often see is an ocean of homogeneity. In the eyes of the public, lawyers all look the same, one suit after another.
When everything looks the same it’s hard to differentiate based on any kind of objective criteria. That’s why the airlines and hotel chains have loyalty programs. The big airlines all look the same. So do the big hotels. Plop me down in a chain hotel room and I’d have no idea if I was in a Hilton, a Marriott, or a Hyatt.
Law firms all look the same too. The websites look the same. The law offices look the same. Even the lawyers themselves look the same.
Those who stand out get noticed.
Because they stand out from the others.
Being different is scary
Lawyers all market their practices in much the same way. Many of them get mediocre results. Why? Because they’re all doing it the same way.
How about doing it another way?
Difference can be difficult if you want to fit in with the group. Most of us value the acceptance of our peers.
Sure, if you do your marketing differently you’ll stand out in the marketplace. But you’ll also stand out to the other lawyers. You’ll risk peer rejection.
If your self-concept is rooted in gaining the respect of your peers, then conforming to the social norms of the peer group is important to you. Standing out makes you an outsider.
See the conflict? Standing out in the marketplace gets you more attention from prospective clients. But standing out among the lawyers gets you left out. Being different amounts to questioning the wisdom of the group. Even if no one says it out loud, you know that doing something different from the group, standing out, carries the risk of being left out of the group.
How do I differentiate myself?
Only you can decide if business success is worth the price you’ll pay in social success. If you push yourself too far from the pack you’ll be pushed out of the pack. Your call.
If you decide to stand out in the marketplace you’ll find lots of space to be different. There’s plenty of oxygen when you step away from the pack. The legal marketplace is so filled with conformity that your options for being different are abundant.
If you do anything different from the typical lawyer marketing, your marketing will jump out. Marketing in a way that’s different, that sets you apart from the crowd, is likely to get you better results.
Let’s talk through some options, starting with the low-hanging and easy fruit. Then we’ll move up to some more challenging options.
Do them all or just do one. Most of these options will set you apart; they’ll make you different enough that people will start talking about you, and that’s most of the battle. More talk about you nearly always results in more business.
Specific action steps you can take
Here’s a primer on standing out. Of course, you don’t need my input. You can find ways to stand out by looking around. See what they’re doing, and do the opposite. They go right and you go left. They go up and you go down. It’s simple.
Here are some ideas:
1. Tell your story
Being human is attractive to other humans. Why then are lawyers so unlike other humans? Why do we pretend to be professional, dispassionate, and objective?
I can’t begin to explain the typical lawyer personality.
But I can tell you that being open, real, vulnerable, flawed, passionate, afraid–human–gets you business, because it builds connection.
When you look at legal marketing you realize that being real works because there are so few real people practicing law.
Real people trust real people. Fake people are like the generic picture that comes with the frame. We don’t trust those people.
It’s weird, because when you get to know lawyers personally, you realize they’re mostly pretty nice–they’re real and they’re trustworthy. But those same lawyers want to promote themselves as generic, professional automatons with no personality.
Be different, be real, and you’ll be noticed, trusted, and hired.
What’s your story? Who are you? What do you love? What do you hate? What breaks your heart? What brings you joy? How did you become who you are?
Tell your story in your marketing and you’ll stand out, you’ll get more clients, and you’ll be trusted, because you’re human.
2. Build a website about the client
Most lawyers build vanity websites. They’re a tribute to the lawyer as hero. They feature boring extended biographies about the lawyers, wrapped in superlatives about the law firm. They’re mostly generic, unappealing, alienating tomes that remind the reader of paid listings in Who’s Who.
Most law firm websites get minimal traffic, have high bounce rates, and do far more for the website vendor than for the law firm.
What if you built a site about the prospective client–their life, their problem, and their anxieties? What if you disconnected from your need to make yourself feel better and connected with your client’s need to feel better?
Let me be blunt, just to be sure we’re on the same page:
If your website has (a) a big picture of you and/or the other lawyers in your firm, or (b) the name of the firm in big letters in the upper left-hand corner, or (c) your name in big letters, it’s not about the client–it’s about you.
A client-focused website is a full-throated telling of the client’s story. It’s a tale of what it’s like to live the life they’re living, experience the problem they’re experiencing. It provides helpful information, tools, and resources that help them fix their life. A client-focused website is not one with a few sentences on the home page asking if they’re hurting and then promising to help. It’s a website fully focused on them, to the exclusion of you.
Client-focused websites win because they’re different and they resonate with the emotional needs of clients. Client-focused websites turn prospects into clients.
3. Use a non-lawyer agency
Who builds client-focused websites? Not lawyer-focused marketing agencies, that’s for sure. These agencies nearly always build marketing projects that build the lawyer’s ego instead of the lawyer’s bank balance.
I’ve long been an advocate of driving your own marketing projects using freelancers to help with the technical aspects. The agencies serving lawyers are usually so awful that I think do-it-yourself marketing tends to get better results than much of what’s done by the companies focused on helping lawyers.
But most lawyers aren’t going to do it themselves, and they’re going to hire a business specializing in servicing the marketing needs of lawyers.
Most lawyers are pretty likely to buy marketing services from whomever is most persistent at sending free cookies and asking for an appointment. Eventually you’ll put that sweet chocolate chip in your mouth and agree to a meeting.
The cookies lead us down a path and we buy the website, advertising and whatever else they’re selling. Unfortunately, they also sell the same generic, ego-filled marketing to all of the other law firms.
What if you went to an agency selling to businesses unrelated to the law? They’d likely have some different ideas and approaches. Sure, they’d have to be brought up to speed on legal ethics issues and other specific concerns. But it might be worth it, if you could get something different.
If they’ve already got lawyer clients then they’re likely to sell you their generic ideas for lawyers. When you meet a marketing firm at a lawyer convention, stay away. When they show you a portfolio of websites for other lawyers, pass on their services. When they brag about being members of legal services marketing associations, kick them to the curb.
4. Communicate with your client
What if clients got annoyed because the law firm called them so often with status updates? Would that stand out in the marketplace?
Client #1: “I can’t get my lawyer to call me back.”
Client #2: “OMG, my lawyer won’t stop calling, emailing and texting me. She won’t leave me alone. It’s one update after another.”
Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing (it’s like social media, but in person–remember that?). People who trust you tell others they trust you, and boom! The referrals come calling.
Instead, in most law firms, clients call wondering what’s happening. “Can I get an update?” they ask. What if they didn’t have to ask that question because they already knew the answer? How would they feel about your and your service? How likely would they be to refer their friends and family?
What do clients mostly complain about? Lack of communication.
What would happen if you communicated with them weekly? What might happen if they heard from you or your team daily? How would they feel if they got a call to say “nothing happened today, but we know you’re worrying so we wanted to let you know we’re still on it”?
5. Change your fees
We still live in a world where charging differently gets you noticed. I’ve been hearing about alternative billing arrangements since my first day as a lawyer thirty years ago. Still most lawyers are billing hourly.
It’s no secret that everyone hates hourly billing–the lawyers and the clients.
But most of us still do it.
Stop. Alternative fees are a competitive advantage.
Can’t figure out how? Figure it out. Work your way around the rules, get the rules changed, find a way.
And if you can’t find a way, then change your law practice to a different model. Find a practice area which allows you to bill in a way that’s different from the others. Stand out even when it’s hard and even when it means changing the business right down to the core.
6. Build your network
Most lawyers have ridiculously shallow referral networks, built by accident and serendipity.
Most lawyers need to know to whom to refer matters. We’re constantly asked for suggestions.
You’re a lawyer. You get asked for referrals from other lawyers and community contacts. You’d like to know more lawyers so you’ve got someone to whom you can refer.
But most lawyers make minimal efforts to help other lawyers know to whom to refer.
How often do other lawyers invite you to lunch to get to know you so you can refer each other cases? Not often.
Getting out and meeting more lawyers will generate more business. Most of us assume that everyone is doing it. They’re not. If they were you’d be getting more lunch invites. You’re not.
You’ll stand out in the legal marketplace if you get out more. You’ll be the lawyer that all the other lawyers know when it comes time to make a referral.
7. End the negative client chatter
What if you built a law firm around respect for the clients? I promise you’ll stand out.
This is harder than it looks, because our clients are often a disaster. They have messed up their businesses and their lives so badly that it’s hard not to laugh about it. Some of what we witness is hysterical, if you have a dark, twisted, mean sense of humor like me.
What if you radically changed your culture?
She makes a joke about the client. Fire her. Send her packing. Let the team know you stand for the clients.
Law firms are filled with lawyers who talk shit about the clients. That’s true of firms big and small. You’ve probably done it; I certainly have.
Stop saying negative things about the people who enable your dreams.
Yep, some clients are annoying. That’s the nature of people with problems.
Let the other law firms say negative things about the clients. Be different.
And when I say “fire her” I’m not talking about firing a receptionist or administrative assistant. Fire a senior lawyer if they break the rules.
Your team watches you to figure out what you believe, and they follow your lead, based on your actions. Do you stand for your clients?
This may not sound like a marketing move, but it is.
8. Take action on experiments
Marketing only works if you do it. Do more and it’ll work more.
Hit the “send” button on the email campaign. Launch the website. Leave the voicemail.
Stop waiting to get it right. Just do it.
Your need for it to be good enough, perfect, right, or whatever story you’re telling yourself is keeping you from getting it done.
Yes, there’s risk in trying something. It’ll likely fail. But it might succeed beyond your expectations, and I can guarantee that won’t happen if you do nothing.
I’ve been selling Rosen Institute stuff full-time for a year now. Most of what I thought would work with lawyers like you–hasn’t. The revenues are, however, pouring in, from campaigns and experiments I didn’t think would work. If I had trusted my instincts, we’d be tiny in comparison to where we are now. That’s why we keep experimenting.
You are not your market–you don’t always know what’s going to resonate. Try things. Let the market tell you what works.
9. Put marketing first
What if you built the law firm around the marketing instead of treating it as a secondary task to be completed when time allows? Most law firms treat the legal work as the star of the show. The marketing is treated as a supporting actor in most firms.
Law firms, understandably, focus on getting the legal work done and squeeze in the marketing, management, technology, and finance issues when they have time. I get it.
But what if the marketing was the focus? I understand that this is a radically different way to think about the standard business philosophy of a law firm, but we’re talking about being different and standing out, so I’m being radical.
What if, instead of outsourcing the marketing, we outsourced the legal work?
What if you woke up every morning worrying about the marketing metrics instead of the client deadlines?
What if you spent hours talking to prospective clients about their stories so you could refine your marketing message instead of interviewing witnesses for client matters?
Yep, radical idea. But you’ll stand out in your marketplace.
10. Get rid of your partner
When I meet a lawyer who’s wiling to try something different, it usually lasts until the first conversation with his or her law partner. That’s the first line of resistance we encounter, and the idea usually dies right then.
Fire your partner–it’s not going to work. It’s hard enough for one of us to agree to break out of the mold. Getting two lawyers to agree to be different together is nearly impossible.
How much time to you spend managing your partners? Quit doing it. It’s counterproductive. Use that time to market legal services.
Half of my conversations with law firm partnerships involve resolving issues between the partners. Most partnerships don’t add value. They’re redundant, or worse, value destroyers.
If you do family law and have a partner doing criminal law you’re not a “full-service” law firm–you’re an ambiguous mess that the market can’t understand because you lack a clear mission.
Don’t work it out, don’t compromise, don’t work around the challenges–end it, walk away, move on. Being different is hard. Getting agreement among lawyer partners is even harder.
Here’s why you’ll do nothing instead
It’s easier, more comfortable, and less mentally challenging to do it the same way as the others. They’ll accept you, you get some business anyway, and you’ll still get to tell everybody you’re a lawyer.
By conforming, we get to be the treasurer of our bar association, we get certificates for volunteering on pro bono committees, we get selected to speak at a Law Day event.
Sure, we may not have the same level of financial security, a business we can sell when we’re ready, or the benefits that come from optimizing our work: health, happier relationships, better opportunities, and more fulfilling lives. But we’ll be comfortable in our lives of familiarity, convenience, and ease.
Being different requires effort. It’s a push. It’s challenging, stressful, and exhausting. Being the same results in a good, but not great, outcome. That’s fine for many. But is it fine for you?
Being different is hard. Only you can know if it’s worth it to you. Is it?
Sep 14 2018
Rank #6: Podcast: You’re Not Annoying Enough
You’ve “tried” networking, taken the Networking 101 course, and read countless articles on becoming a relationship-building expert. Nothing is working the way those superstar networkers say it will.
You’re following those guides to a T but missing one of the most critical elements: persistence. The problem is that you’re holding back from the brink of becoming annoying.
I’m not suggesting that you jump into restraining order territory, but you have the wrong threshold of annoying set in your mind.
Find out where your perception of reaching out too often is wrong. All the lessons you’ve taken in networking will start to pay off.
May 26 2016
Rank #7: Podcast: Avoiding Avoidance Behavior
Psychologists call it avoidance coping.
We have a clear vision of what our future looks like. We know what it will take to achieve, yet we do everything but the steps required to make our vision a reality.
For most of us, networking is the behavior we avoid. We know the huge return on investment it carries, and we want to make it happen, but we’re held back by fear.
It feels like asking someone out in high school. There’s a chance for rejection and an irrational fear of it. So, instead of making phone calls, we do everything but grow the business. We develop systems and spend hours evaluating client management software all in preparation for no clients.
Avoidance coping is debilitating.
Press play. Learn to recognize when you’re avoiding and how to overcome self-imposed limitations. Put yourself in charge.
Nov 03 2016
Rank #8: Podcast: I’m Not Wrong About Marketing to $1 Million
Recently, I did a program about focusing on marketing until you hit a million-dollar run rate. It requires a full steam ahead, single-minded focus.
Expectedly, I received a lot of mixed opinions. The folks who love and understand the value of marketing agreed. The others who don’t love marketing pushed back. They feared broken systems, upset clients, and damaged reputations. That resistance is completely understandable if you take a long time to reach the million-dollar mark.
I’m working with a practice now that did it in six months. Yes, it ran into some of the problems my naysayers presented, but problems are relative to available resources. At the end of my client’s six months, it had an abundance of money and expertise to overcome the obstacles.
The practices that adopt a slow and steady methodology to growth are just that. They’re slow. They stagnate while their competitors overrun them and scoop up the business they missed in pursuit of well-rounded perfection.
The goal of marketing toward a million is agility, and this is how you achieve it.
Oct 13 2016
Rank #9: Podcast: The Number-One Rule for Setting Fixed Fees
We’ve been using fixed fees for a long time, and the number-one question I’m asked is how I set my rates.
How we set our fees at Rosen Law Firm isn’t universally applicable. Every market has variations that you’ll need to factor in to the fees.
Setting fixed fees requires some trial and error–we’re always refining and experimenting with our system–but there is one guiding principle that applies to every practice regardless of location, demographic, etc. Press play to learn more and begin setting your first fixed fee.
Dec 01 2016
Rank #10: Hunting, Hiring, and Keeping High-Dollar Rainmakers
Finding and Hiring Rainmakers
The Holy Grail is finding and hiring young lawyers who can generate business.
The hunt is painful. We pick the lawyers carefully. We train, we feed and water, and we sprinkle love and attention on those young lawyers and they grow. We get a front-row seat to witness their increasing confidence, developing maturity, and improved skills. It’s exciting.
Then those young lawyers stab you in the heart.
I’ve always wanted to grow my business by hiring young, talented, personable associates who can learn to bring in business. I’ve been attempting it for years. I’ve hired, trained, coached, encouraged, and supported them in their efforts. It has been very hard, and only a few have been successful at bringing in referrals. Most haven’t done particularly well.
We’ve found very few who can actually bring in work. Even fewer have been willing to stick around.
There’s a phrase we use for law firm associates who are good at bringing in business.
They’re called “former associates.”
Seriously. It’s depressing.
The idea that you’re going to rapidly build your business by hiring and retaining associates who can generate a book of business is borderline fantasyland.
Sure, you’ll find a rainmaking associate you can retain—once every 100 years. But that’s not a model that sustains a business that needs to generate a return right now. Maybe 100 years is an overstatement, but you get the idea.
The Facts About Generating Business
These are the facts—as I’ve experienced them—over 30 years of critically observing our industry.
- The most profitable engagements come from referrals.
- The referral sources sending the best of the referrals are other lawyers, with business owners running a close second.
- Most, not all, of the most profitable law firms are generating nearly all of their business from referrals from these two sources, along with referrals from former clients.
- There are very few lawyers who crush it at generating business. I define “crushing it” as putting about 10 associates to work on the business they generate. That kind of ratio is what it takes to maintain a highly profitable firm. You can be profitable with a lower ratio, but higher is better, right?
- Highly profitable firms typically have one lawyer generating enough business to keep 1o lawyers busy. They amount to about 9% of the lawyers in the firm. In a 300-lawyer firm, there are 27 of them. In an 11-lawyer firm, there is one.
- It’s possible to build a business without good referrals, but it’s harder, and it involves business and marketing savvy that doesn’t come naturally to most lawyers. It requires significant investment, lots of hunting for the new “new” thing, and a considerable investment of time and attention.
- Building such a business quickly, without referrals, requires substantial capital investment in marketing. Most small firms are bootstrapped and lack capital so growing quickly, without referrals, isn’t an option. Even with appropriate investment, these firms struggle to achieve the profitability levels of the firms built upon a solid base of referrals.
I can’t count the number of small law firm owners who explain to me that they’re going to hire associates who are going to go out and generate referrals. I express my doubt, and the lawyer responds by explaining the clever compensation system that’s going to make it work. Mostly, it doesn’t work and by “mostly,” I mean that it doesn’t work.
How Law Firms Create Sustainable Growth
Finding associates who can generate business and who will stick with you after they realize they can generate business is tough. Mostly they can’t generate the business. If they can, they tend to leave pretty quickly because they imagine—often incorrectly—that they’ll make more money on their own.
When you study the 300-lawyer firms that have attracted 27 lawyers who make lots of rain, it’s fairly common that the bulk of the rainmakers came in laterally. They lead a firm or practice group that was acquired, or they came alone but brought their clients. Finding 20 rainmakers as young associates and raising them into rainmakers is exceptionally difficult and extraordinarily rare.
When you study the 15-lawyer firms operating in a highly profitable manner, it’s typical that a single rainmaker (founder) created the firm and grew the business over time by building referral relationships. The 15-lawyer firms generating business in other ways (mostly advertising) are nearly always significantly less profitable than those with the single rainmaker generating referral business.
Your 7-Step Plan for Growth
What’s the plan if you’re planning to grow through adding rainmaking team members? It can be done, with the right approach and incredible determination. Here’s my advice.
1. Hire associates with a proven rainmaking track record.
There are lawyers who are good at generating business. These folks are already generating business. They’ve got a portable book of business they take with them when they move. They come with clients or significant referral relationships. They’re profitable from day one. They come in fully loaded.
When you’re hunting for these folks, be careful to study the track record. Some prospective associates look like rainmakers because they’re bringing business with them. Study those clients carefully. Be sure they’re long-term clients who will continue to require services. Don’t mistakenly assume candidates are rainmakers because they’re bringing business generated by others. The presence of clients right now doesn’t necessarily indicate an ability to generate new work going forward.
Trying to identify these folks before they have a track record is the holy grail. I wish I could do it. I’ve tried. I’ve tried special interview techniques, psychological testing, and careful examination of pre-law employment and references. Nothing has worked for me yet. Maybe you’ll find the magically successful approach to hunting for these needles in haystacks, but it has eluded me thus far.
2. Respect the relationship.
The rainmaking lawyers are very, very rare. When you find and convince one to join your firm, you need to keep that person. Because they’re so rare, you’ve got to minimize turnover. If this is your plan for growth, then you need to take it very seriously and build a system that sustains the retention of these key team members.
Rainmakers tend to have high social needs. They want to feel like a member of the family, and you’re going to need to be sure that happens. These are special people, and they need a special role in your life. They need to feel a very strong, personal connection to you, the law firm, and your family. That only happens by building that kind of relationship and by giving of yourself. Time and attention are the keys to creating such a relationship. Thankfully, these relationships are good for them, for you, for your family, and for the business interests of everyone involved. This is the foundation of retaining these folks forever.
3. Be flexible.
You’ll need to adapt to meet the needs of these special lawyers. They’ll have staffing issues, systems issues, and personal requirements that need to be honored and addressed. Listen carefully to the issues encountered by your rainmakers and help them navigate a path to getting their needs met and goals achieved. Sometimes that’ll mean changing the system to keep the rainmaker functioning effectively.
4. Cede some control.
Yes, it’s your law firm, but it won’t grow without these folks. Drawing lines in the sand will alienate these lawyers. Like you, they appreciate some control over their environment, schedule, and work life. Give them what they need, even if that pushes your control-freak buttons. You’ll have to communicate extensively and constantly to find a balance that works for all parties. It’s delicate, but it’s essential.
5. Give up some money.
These folks are often driven by money. That’s a good thing because it’s easy to understand and manage. Don’t expect big rainmakers to come on board and stay for small amounts of money. They want their share, and you’ll need to pay. Firms with big advertising/marketing budgets sometimes spend 15 percent of revenue on these efforts. Referral-based practices spend a small fraction of that amount, and those funds need to be allocated to these rainmakers. These folks expect and deserve significant compensation.
6. Use all the tools you’ve got.
What matters to some rainmakers may not matter to others. There are many tools in your toolbox. Use them all in the right way with the right lawyers. Some value time, so give them time. Some value money, so give them money. Some value titles, so give them titles. Some value ownership, so give them ownership. Some value respect, so give them respect.
7. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
It’s likely that you’re one of these folks who can generate business. You know that you’re a handful. Can you imagine being the person charged with managing you? The rainmakers you find are going to be a lot like you. It’s going to be tough. The secret sauce is detailed above. It’s all about understanding your rainmakers as people, knowing their needs, and then working hard to address those needs over the long haul.
The rainmakers are, like all of us, changing and evolving, and their priorities will shift over time. If you want them to stick around, it’s your job to stay attuned to those changes. You’ll need to be listening hard and shifting your approach as circumstances change. It’s tricky, but it’s what’s required with this approach. When your attention fades, you’ll lose people. You’ve seen it many times, as firms lose entire sections with big numbers of lawyers walking out behind the leadership of a rainmaker. You can’t let your attention drift.
Realistic Expectations Are Essential in the Hunt
Many of us are good at generating business. We get that it’s not something that comes easily to others, but we fail to appreciate how unusual it is to possess this particular skill. We assume that if we can do it, others can do it as well. Sometimes it takes repeated failure for us to appreciate that these skills are rare.
Expecting your associates to generate business is probably expecting too much. The lawyers who can make it rain are few and far between. You’ll lose lots of talent if you allow yourself to get frustrated in the hunt. Take your time and expect it to be challenging, and you’ll eventually find what you’re seeking.
These special lawyers are out there. They’re the foundation of every successful firm. They’re small in number, but they are the key to growing the firm profitably. The hunt will be painful, but the rewards will be significant.
If you’re one of these rainmaking lawyers, then you already know the economic power of your skill set. You know how well it works to have one of you in the center of the business surrounded by others who can capably meet the needs of your clients. Finding someone else like you who can help you scale upward will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge others have overcome. With your special skills, you can do it as well.
Mar 10 2017
Rank #11: Podcast: 5 Ways Out of the New Client Slump
You’ve been busy, focused, working hard on big cases. You don’t cut corners, clients feel your commitment, and your reputation is growing.
Unfortunately, while you’ve been busy, you’ve been turning away new work. Cue the foreboding music.
Eventually, your dedication pays off, and the big cases are settled. Now, you need all of that business that you turned away ASAP. The phone’s not ringing, your referral sources aren’t sending work your way, and you’re dipping into savings to keep the doors open.
You’ve just entered a lull in the feast and famine cycle of business. The best way to avoid getting here in the first place is to never stop marketing your practice. But when you’re already in it (or it’s coming soon), you need to put yourself in overdrive and reignite the relationships you damaged when turning away referrals.
Hit play and hear five ideas that will have you quickly climbing out of your slump. You’re not just going to recover your broken referral relationships; you’re going to be their rock star.
Aug 11 2016
Rank #12: The Paperless Office
I probably get a call once a week from a lawyer or legal administrator asking me to explain our approach to the paperless office. Finally, I’ve recorded a show explaining how and why we went paperless more than ten years ago. Feel free to post your questions if we haven’t explained everything. Maybe we will do a second show if it proves necessary.
Listen to the show with the player below or subscribe in iTunes with the link up at the top of the page.
Dec 06 2008
Rank #13: Anything Left Unmanaged Will Fall Apart
Anything left unmanaged will fall apart. It won’t last. It will unravel, and you’ll end up rebuilding it from scratch.
Case in point: We created an office procedures manual. We spent months on it and involved most everyone in the firm in its creation. We used it to train employees and monitored employees to make sure they understood what was in the manual, followed the enclosed checklists, and kept a copy handy for reference when they had questions.
Time goes by.
Employees know the manual almost by heart. They do their jobs, and things work like clockwork. They don’t need the checklists, so they go by the wayside. They never refer to the manual because they know the procedures. The manuals get shoved behind things on the shelves. No one talks about the manual anymore because it’s unnecessary. It slowly drifts out of date because procedures change and the manual isn’t updated.
A new employee comes on board and she’s trained by an old employee. The manual isn’t referenced in the training because the trainer knows how things are done and passes them along to the newbie. The manual is out of date, so it isn’t helpful anyway.
The next thing you know, it’s like we don’t have an employee manual. Anything left unmanaged will fall apart. The manual fell apart.
Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
What should have been done?
The manual should have been treated as a living, breathing, essential part of the business.
- It should have been discussed at weekly meetings.
- It should have been reviewed monthly for necessary updates.
- The checklists should have been required by supervisors.
- The manual should have been the first document reviewed by the new hire.
- The manual should have stayed front and center and had the attention of everyone involved.
Allowing your procedures manual to fall apart isn’t the end of the world. You can expend some additional energy and get it back on track. But the manual is just an example to illustrate the principle that anything left unmanaged will fall apart.
- It’s true of marketing programs, and when the marketing falls apart, the revenues decline.
- It’s true of the staff, and when the staff falls apart, the work doesn’t get done, and the clients turn ugly.
- It’s true of technology, and when the technology falls apart, the data gets lost, the Internet stops working, and the work doesn’t get done.
- It’s true of the lawyers, and when the lawyers fall apart, they stop billing time, collecting fees, and winning cases.
How to Prevent the Wheels From Coming Off the Bus
Management is kind of boring. There’s little drama. It’s not much fun.
But dull, tedious, diligent management is what’s required to keep things from falling apart. It’s the glue that keeps things together. It’s the only way to preserve and build on your progress.
You expend energy to make things better, you build systems and processes, you hire excellent people, and you develop referral relationships, but if they’re left unmanaged, they will fall apart.
Feb 18 2013
Rank #14: Podcast: 10 Crazy Marketing Tricks to Try Today
Want marketing advice that works? Get a little crazy.
Some of you will think these 10 tips are just another day at the office. For others, they might feel daring.
You’re going to step out from behind your desk, give yourself a bit of exercise, and learn to love marketing.
Why? These tips have an incredible impact and will be some of the cheapest marketing you’ve ever done.
You’re going to start out doing one or two and quickly find yourself doing all 10.
When you’re done listening to the podcast, I dare you to drop what you’re doing, walk out of the office, and tackle tip number one. You’ll thank me later.
May 12 2016
Rank #15: The Fast Track to Your Perfect Law Practice
How do you get from one place to another?
You simply determine your destination, plan the best route, and then go. When you encounter an obstacle, you climb over it, crawl under it, or move around it. You keep going… and going… and going.
That’s how you get anywhere.
Others may choose a different destination. They might pick a better place. They might complete their journey faster. They might look good on the way.
But other people shouldn’t change our plans. We just keep going and going and going. It might take a year. It will probably take several. We’ll have 1,000 days to wonder whether we’re on the right path.
We’ll be filled with doubt and uncertainty. We’ll wonder whether we’re lost.
But we must remember our plan. If we stay the course, we’ll reach our destination.
It will happen.
Stay the Course and You’ll Get Fed
Right now, we’re in the middle of a city. Four great restaurants are nearby. Each is in a different direction.
One is five blocks to the north. One is four blocks to the south. One is three blocks to the east. One is two blocks to the west.
We can walk to whichever restaurant we choose in a matter of minutes.
The dilemma is simple. We pick a restaurant and start walking. In a few minutes, we’ll be eating.
Don’t Let Your Doubt Change Your Path
Finding a place to eat is also like building a law firm. You pick a destination and walk until you arrive.
But if you pick the destination to the north and walk two blocks, then change your mind and head east for a block, then change your mind and walk south for two blocks, and then change your mind again and then go west for a block, you’ll end up exactly where you started.
After all that course changing, you’re still hungry, and now you’re tired. You have no dinner and (more distressingly) no law firm.
To the Persistent Go the Spoils
Building a law firm isn’t exactly like walking to dinner, but the analogy still rings true.
Instead of walking, we develop and execute marketing strategies. Instead of walking, we implement technology, develop and maintain a management approach, and construct and follow a financial plan.
It’s easy to get distracted, upset, and emotional when we’re on the long walk of building a law firm. It’s easy to justify our waywardness, going north and then south, drifting east, and then backtracking west.
When the destination is far away, our vision gets foggy. We can’t smell the food. We can’t easily imagine the delicious taste of waiting soup. We can’t inhale the aroma of warm bread.
Building a law firm is a much bigger endeavor (more time consuming and complex) than walking to dinner.
So, don’t change course. Persist!
Fear, Uncertainty, and Other “Good” Reasons to Change Course
The law firm we’re creating feels far away. We struggle to see it, feel it, understand it, and appreciate it before we arrive. Imagining a law firm is much harder than imagining a restaurant meal.
The day-to-day gets in the way. We have a sense of what we want, but then we see something better. We know our destination, but we run into an immovable obstacle. We know what we should do, but something else comes along that seems better.
We have a choice to make when we pick one of the four restaurants. We have to pick one. Picking one gets us fed. That’s awesome.
It also means missing out on the wonderful meals we might have had at the other three places. But not choosing means we don’t eat.
We make a choice because we know if we walk long enough, we’ll get fed. Changing our course midway decreases our chances of eating.
Changing course is inefficient. Changing course creates more risk. On the other hand, changing course could mean we get something better, right? Yep, it sure might. That’s why this is so hard.
It’s that worry about missing out that causes me to change course. I want the best. I don’t want to miss out. I’ve got only one life to live.
But when I change course, I lose out on the thing I wanted in the first place just for a chance to get something that was never part of the plan. The plan was great when I started. Was I wrong when I created the plan? Or am I wrong now?
There are lots of ways to get something better. You can buy lottery tickets, you can switch careers, you can marry rich, and you can kill your siblings to hog the inheritance. Are those good options? Are those the choices you should make? Maybe so. That’s up to you, but it’s what you need to decide when you create the plan and choose your destination.
You Made the Plan Because You’re Ready for Your Destination
Let’s go back to the beginning…
How do you get from one place to another?
You simply determine your destination, plan the best route, and then go. When you encounter an obstacle, you climb over it, crawl under it, or move around it. You keep going… and going… and going.
The time to determine your destination is when you make the plan. Refinement is fine. Tweaking is fine. Climbing over that obstacle might not have been part of the plan, but it’s a necessary deviation. That’s fine. Every plan requires adjustment.
But the plan was good when you created it. It’s likely still a good plan.
It’s the difference between wandering for dinner and getting fed. Trust yourself. Trust your plan. Keep going.
Jul 14 2017
Rank #16: Podcast: Life as a Digital Nomad Lawyer
My wife and I have been jumping across Asia and Europe for over two years.
Following my posts on Instagram, it’d be easy to get the impression that I’m in 24/7 vacation mode. I’m not. Nomadic life is a chance to work in new places and explore during off hours. It’s still real life; it’s just life somewhere interesting.
While I’ve been traveling, I’ve let the success of my law firm back home serve as a gauge of worthwhileness. Fortunately, it’s been growing better and faster than when I was deeply involved in the day-to-day minutiae. Maybe they needed me out of the way.
It’s not all fun and play, but it’s one of my most fulfilling experiences yet. If you’re even curious about transitioning to remote work, give this episode a listen. I’ll help you head in the right direction.
Feb 23 2017
Rank #17: Podcast: 10 Tips for Crossing the Street and Building a Law Practice
In our home countries, when most of us think “traffic,” we picture highway “parking lots” and excruciating travel time.
The traffic in Saigon is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Here, the drivers don’t stop, and the pace never slows. Thousands of motorbikes, cars, trucks, and people converge on the streets at once. They travel in every direction, drive on the sidewalks, ignore traffic lights, and weave through any opening they can find.
It’s chaotic. Crossing the street is a terrifying experience, but I’ve learned 10 important rules to reaching the other side – alive.
Despite all of the madness, something incredible takes place. Everything moves in a choreographed fashion, the way rivers effortlessly flow around obstacles and never slow down.
In many ways, it’s like building your practice.
Whether you’re crossing the street in Saigon or growing your business, here are 10 tips for successfully navigating the chaos.
Apr 29 2016
Rank #18: 15 Painful Moments of Running a Law Practice (and How to Feel Better)
There are moments of great joy in the practice of law.
There’s joy when we win. There’s joy when we lose, as long as we gave it our best shot.
There’s also joy when we know we made a difference in the life of someone who needed help. Being a lawyer can be pretty awesome sometimes.
Many lawyers experience these moments of joy without running their own law practice. Running a practice can be challenging and painful. It’s not for everyone.
When times are good, they’re often really good. They are high-five-slapping, fist-bumping good. The adrenaline highs are intense, especially if you work for a litigation or transactional firm, or a firm navigating a course through bureaucracy.
Sometimes, practicing law is even better than what they show on TV. The people aren’t usually as attractive, but the taste of victory can be very sweet.
But don’t get me wrong: Running a law practice is not all rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes it’s dark clouds and disappointment. Sometimes it’s depressing and demoralizing.
When you feel down, defeated, and unsure if you should continue, remember that you aren’t alone.
Running a practice is hard for all of us from time to time. We’re good at hiding it, though, aren’t we? We’re good at keeping it all under wraps. We’re good at keeping our emotions private, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the distress, the unhappiness, and the tension percolating under the surface.
Lawyers are good at looking good while feeling bad. We’re good at appearing detached, objective and neutral. We’re trained to deconstruct, disconnect and analyze. We smile pleasantly as the world around us unravels. “Thank you, Your Honor,” we say, with a smile, as our objection is overruled.
We tend to assume it’s just us. We see other lawyers who look good and smile big, and assume they feel great. We worry that we’re the only ones who feel stressed or depressed.
But we aren’t alone.
No matter how charmed the life of the lawyer down the hall may appear, that’s not always reality.
Our unwillingness and inability to show pain to others, to be open and vulnerable, doesn’t mean we don’t feel it. The lawyer down the hall, and the one down the block, and the one sixty stories above all feel that pain sometimes.
Often that pain isn’t fleeting, either. It can linger. Sometimes it just won’t relent. Many of us don’t feel as positive about our work as we would like.
The Most Painful Moments of Running a Practice
As you run your practice and serve your clients, you’ll endure plenty of moments that trigger unhappiness.
Some moments are small. Some are big. All are painful to a greater or lesser degree. Some allow for quick recoveries. Some take a while to banish. Some pain will linger long after its trigger has passed.
I’ve been lucky to skip a few, but I’ve also experienced many of them.
Today I want to run through the list of the most painful moments of running a law practice.
1. You’re not in charge
We start our own practices, in part, to take control over our lives. Owning a business is supposed to create freedom, right? We want to set our own schedules, take time away whenever we please, and make our own decisions with regard to how much we work.
But then the moment comes when we cancel the family trip, skip the special meal, or disappoint the loved one on that special day. Our schedules aren’t in our control. Reality strikes the moment we realize that we aren’t in charge.
It’s painful, but we accept it. We accept that other parties (clients, judges, other attorneys, etc.) have a great deal of control over our time. We want to believe that we’re calling the shots, but that first awareness of our lack of control can be shocking.
2. The client hired another lawyer
The initial consultation went well. You really clicked with that client. She seemed ready to move forward. But suddenly she requests that her paperwork be returned. She has hired someone else. It’s painful, especially because you don’t like the lawyer she selected. This happens time and time again, and it’s always painful.
3. The friend who referred to someone else
You thought you were best buddies. Then she sent her close friend to a different lawyer for a matter you would have handled well. You try to console yourself. “She doesn’t understand my practice area,” you say. Or maybe: “She didn’t realize I could handle the case.” But you know, deep down, that she chose someone else because she didn’t trust you with the matter. It hurts.
4. The client’s check bounced
Don’t you hate getting these notifications from the bank? One step forward, two steps back.
It’s hard enough to get a good client in the first place. Now you have to go back to the client, explain the situation, and convince them to make a new payment. It’s unpleasant when your victory is snatched away like that.
5. Getting fired by the client
I don’t like being fired even if I hate a client. I never liked being dumped by girlfriends either.
Usually, being fired by a client is a fine way to end a bad relationship, but it’s never easy. It causes us to replay the entire representation over and over, wondering if we should have done something differently. There’s no happy, upbeat way to re-frame being fired. It’s just awful.
6. The negative online review
Reviews are everywhere – Facebook, Google, Yelp, Avvo, and more. It’s thrilling to get five stars.
Negative reviews, however, are tough. They punch a hole in that vulnerable spot where we feel embarrassed. They make us worry about what others will think and how that thinking might impact our growing business.
Sometimes a negative review can be removed, repaired, or responded to adequately. Much of the time, however, we’re forced to adjust to the reality of that nasty review sitting out there indefinitely for the entire world to see. Ugh.
7. The client turns on you
It’s usually someone you like. You identify with them. You trust each other. The relationship is humming along, work is getting done, and progress is being made.
Then out of the blue, it’s all your fault. You are blamed for everything that’s gone wrong. You trusted the relationship, but their outburst undermines your trust in yourself. Suddenly you find yourself turned upside down, confused by the unexpected torrent of a client’s displeasure.
Maybe they were emotional, irrational, or triggered by something in another part of their life. It’s hard to know why it happens, but it’s always unexpected. You can tell yourself that emotional swings are the nature of the game, but it still hurts.
8. The staff member quits
The departure of a staff member is tough. We get emotionally attached to people, so it’s hard to watch someone leave. It’s even more painful when that person has become a repository of knowledge. We rely on our employees, which often turns into dependence.
Occasionally I encounter a lawyer who is tracking down a former employee to figure out how to locate or access certain data. The former employee may be the only person who knows the ins-and-outs of the practice. Growing dependent on an employee and then losing him/her creates pain that’s more than emotional. It can impact you financially and cost you a great deal of time.
9. The associate quits
This is a punch in the gut. It’s especially hard the first time.
We often see ourselves in our associates. We give and we give, and they pay us back by giving two weeks’ notice (if we’re lucky). It hurts.
This gets easier if you keep hiring and training associates. You’ll learn to make better selections, you’ll improve your management style, and some will stick around. But it’s never easy when they leave. It feels like rejection, because it is rejection.
It’s hard to accept that you haven’t created that utopian law firm no one would ever want to leave.
It’s even worse if your associate was poached by someone you considered a friend. Friends don’t steal their friends’ associates.
Some will argue they aren’t “stealing.” They’ll say that your associate would have left anyway. They frame it like they’re doing you a favor by clearing out the flammable underbrush that would have ignited into a dangerous fire.
Those rationalizing lawyers are not your friends. In fact, those lawyers don’t actually have friends.
10. Your first grievance
The grievance notification arrives and the dread, fear, and anxiety settle in. This kind of pain isn’t the quick, stabbing pain that comes from rejection or disappointment. This pain is slow, throbbing and unrelenting. It lasts for months and it creates a special form of chronic misery.
Hopefully, your grievances are eventually dismissed and the weight on your shoulders dissolves. The first grievance is more painful than any other. Sadly, you’ll never forget your first.
11. Paying everyone except yourself
You might anticipate this moment all month, but it truly comes into focus when you’re signing checks.
Paying everyone else, but being unable to pay yourself, makes you want to bang your head against the wall. You’ve built a business with clients and a team. How is there nothing left for you?
Unfortunately, not being able to pay yourself is usually the result of a confluence of other painful events. It might coincide with a client’s bounced check or a referral sent to someone else. It’s a painful moment stacked on other painful moments, and it can be excruciating.
12. Watching someone else pass you by
We’re competitive. That’s an asset and a liability. We love winning and we find it motivating. We hate losing. While it sometimes energizes us to try harder, other times it brings us down. We’re not big fans of watching our peers hit the target while we toil away trying to make progress.
Winning all the time isn’t realistic. Every winner loses some of the time. Knowing that, however, doesn’t make it less painful. There will be others who move faster, go farther, and win more than us. There’s not much we can do except keep trying.
It hurts to feel like we’re giving it our best, but still fall short. It rolls around in our brains. We try to explain it to ourselves. Sometimes there aren’t any good answers.
13. Not meeting payroll
I have met payroll more than 600 times. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve never had to ask my team to wait a few days for funds.
But it’s been close sometimes. Very close!
While I’ve never personally experienced the pain of missing payroll, I’ve dreamed about it frequently. In my worst dreams, I’ve felt the embarrassment, heard the rumors around the legal community, and endured a loss of trust with my team. Those dreams wake me up in a cold sweat.
I have been lucky to have pulled it off so far. I hope the streak continues. I’m not prepared for the pain.
14. You know it’s not for you
Some lawyers learn that they’ve landed in the wrong role.
It’s not obvious at first, but they see it around the edges. They don’t like the marketing. They don’t want to make hiring and management decisions. They don’t enjoy the technology or the financial management. Some just want to practice law. Others recognize that they don’t want to have anything to do with the law at all.
The warning signs are important. They serve as signals that this life isn’t for you. When you’re unhappy, constantly stressed, experiencing depression, watching the credit line balance grow, unable to take care of your family, unable to sleep, unable to eat, or engaging in unhealthy behavior, then it’s time to take note and take action.
Treatment is valuable and may solve the problem. But sometimes it’s essential that you move on and find another way to spend your time. This life isn’t for everyone. In fact, it’s probably not for many of the lawyers who are doing it.
The pain of acknowledging that you’ve invested years in a poor choice is rough, but it’s the first step in solving the problem if you feel the law isn’t right for you.
15. The death of the dream
Sometimes we have to give up. We’ve tried everything. It’s not working. It’s over.
And with that realization dies our identity. We’ve given up the thing that defines us. We told everyone we would be successful lawyers with our own firm, but now we’re not. Most importantly, we disappoint ourselves.
Letting go is painful. The pain pushes us to stay with things long after we should let them go. We keep pushing, even though we know it’s pointless and futile. It’s not easy to let go even after we’re absolutely certain that it’s over.
And then, one day, we let it die. It’s done, but instead of feeling worse, we feel better. It needed to die. With that decision, we find a new path and a new destination. Accepting the death of our old dream creates space for a new one.
Pain is Part of Our Game
Pain is part anything worth doing. Painful moments are part of the experience. They happen to us all. We’ve all been there and felt the distress. You aren’t alone.
For some of us, the pain halts our course. It begins to define us. It becomes the reason we didn’t achieve more, and the reason we change course. There’s no shame in letting pain change your course. Maybe a new direction is better.
But pain doesn’t have to stop you or change you. You can manage it, overcome it, and learn from it. It’s possible to accept pain and push past.
If you decide to press forward, pain becomes just one of the many obstacles you’ll encounter. It forces you to act in different ways to achieve new outcomes. It teaches you new methods of responding to future pain and minimizing it.
But you don’t have to just take it. You can proactively respond. You can increase your resilience and your capacity for handling challenges.
These are some approaches I’ve tried or considered. Some have worked for me and all have worked for many.
Meditation is all the rage. I think it’s awesome and I do it (although not as often as I should).
There are apps, teachers, courses, retreats and other resources. The benefits are documented by scientists. If meditation does nothing other than insert a tiny bit of mental space between painful events and your reactions to them, then it has done enough. A fraction of an inch of mental space provides the opportunity to respond differently than your automatic, off-the-cuff response.
Play with meditation. Experiment. Explore your brain and see if you can give yourself some relief.
Like meditation, exercise has been studied extensively. The consensus? It works. It makes you more fit. It relieves depression. It elevates your mood. Why aren’t you exercising? It doesn’t matter. Put on your shoes (or go barefoot if you prefer) and walk, run, swim, bike, or pummel your imaginary client in the boxing ring.
If the pain is really starting to wear on you, see a counselor. It wouldn’t hurt to go prophylactically since we know the pain is coming if it hasn’t already arrived.
Don’t be skeptical of counselors. Counselors (like lawyers) train for years to deliver most of their value by talking in a private room. You might doubt their value for the same reason your clients doubt your value. Just like your work, the value of a counselor is tough to quantify on the surface. The value is in the education, training and process.
A highly trained counselor delivers value just like you do. Seek out the help and accept it. It’ll make a big difference.
4. Change practice areas
Sometimes painful moments are more frequent, or the pain is greater, when you focus on a specific practice topic. Maybe there’s a personal connection that’s nagging at you. Maybe the clients remind you of your mother. Maybe the type of client is needy or difficult.
The solution might be to make a change. If executives piss you off, maybe you’ll be happier serving families. Sometimes changing your arena can change your attitude.
5. Find employment
Practicing law is hard enough without owning the law firm and managing the responsibility. Some lawyers are happier working for governments, businesses, or taking a role in someone else’s firm.
You can still practice law without having to own every client problem and without having all of the management/marketing/finance responsibilities.
6. Change careers
A legal education is applicable to many fields. You don’t have to practice law. Many lucrative occupations require logical, orderly thinking for solving complex problems. Being a lawyer isn’t your only option. In fact, many lawyers have moved to other fields and excelled. Use what you’ve learned, coupled with your experiences, to move in a new direction.
For some, changing careers involves going back to school. Most of us are pretty good at school and enjoy it. Some lawyers find themselves turning a passion or hobby into a new career or business. Some lawyers simply look for employment that generates income, and they find happiness with more free time away from work.
There are former lawyers doing everything imaginable and it’s not uncommon for them to find satisfaction away from the law.
You Are Not Alone
If the pain is wearing on you, there are options and solutions. You don’t have to tough it out. You can, instead, seek information, evaluate options, and take action toward a solution.
We’re good at solving problems for others. Sometimes, we need to solve problems for ourselves.
Most importantly – and especially when you’re mired in a particularly painful moment– remember one thing. You are not alone.
You are not alone. We all feel it. We all know the pain. We all feel it more than we let others see.
Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes it’s not what you’d hoped for.
You really aren’t alone.
Apr 21 2017
Rank #19: Short, Simple, Easy Law Firm Marketing Plan
Marketing is important. Having a plan is essential. Sticking to that plan can make the difference between success and failure.
But plans get complicated. Complexity is the enemy of execution and the cause of much of our procrastination. When things become challenging, we put them on the back burner.
I’ve written an extensive law firm marketing plan. It’s not particularly complicated, but it stretches over 6,000 words. It involves lots of steps for you to take, week by week, over the year.
However, it’s easy to get distracted from a big plan by daily client calls, emails, deadlines and the pressures we face, so today I’m giving you an alternative plan. Many of us are more likely to do something if we keep it simple.
If you execute this plan, you’ll build your practice. It’ll grow steadily. It’ll become more profitable.
You’ll do very, very well. I promise.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Daily call
Call a lawyer about lunch, coffee, or just to chat. Make the call first thing in the morning. You’ll probably reach voicemail. Just leave a message and let them drive the process forward from that point.
Here’s what you say on voicemail:
“I’m Lee Rosen. I’m a lawyer. Please return my call. I can be reached at 919-787-6667. That’s 919-787-6667.”
(Ideally, you’ll use your name and number instead of mine.)
Here’s what you say when you reach them:
“I’m Lee Rosen. I’m a lawyer. I’m working on building my practice and I’d like to take you to lunch or coffee, or just pop by your office to meet you. I’m totally flexible. I know you’re busy, but I’ve heard great things about you and would love to spend a few minutes getting to know you. May I buy you lunch please?”
Once you say all that, stop talking. Listen. Give them a chance to respond. Don’t make it easy on them by filling the silence. Let the pressure build. Most lawyers will accept your invitation.
Of course, some will reject you. Some won’t. Before you know it, you’ll know more folks who are willing to help you. Knowing more people is essential.
The world is made up of land, buildings, and people. Those are the pieces on the game board. Start moving the pieces and make something happen.
2. Daily words
Write 1,000 words per day. What should you write about? Answer the question you got yesterday from your client.
Again, do it first thing in the morning. Daily discipline is the key here. The words need to be good enough – not great. Just do it.
This article is more than 700 words. I wrote it in ten minutes.
Yes, I’ve written lots of other articles and I have some experience. But so do you. You’ve been writing since long before law school.
Fundamentally, we’re writers. It’s a big part of what most of us do. We write contracts, pleadings, briefs, emails – we communicate in writing every day. Luckily, the written word happens to be what prospective clients want to see when they go hunting for information about solving their legal problem.
Put the words you write on your website. Instead of telling everyone how good you are at what you do, show them. Demonstrate your expertise by explaining things, talking about how you solved the problem you faced, and – most importantly – helping the reader see that you know what it feels like to experience their problem.
At this pace, your website will have 200,000 words by the end of 2018 if you write Monday through Friday. It’ll be the most informative, useful, interesting website in your practice area before you finish the first year.
Eventually Google will find you. You’ll rank well because Google knows that real people find your information useful.
The more people read your words, the more calls you’ll get. More calls means more clients. The money will flow. This works.
That’s really it.
Marketing doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t require complex thinking, fancy design, or outside vendors. You can do this if you’re determined, disciplined and persistent.
If you follow this simple plan, you’ll get more clients.
Is that simple enough? Yep.
Will it work? Only if you follow it.
Will you follow the plan? Only you know the answer to that question.
Jan 19 2018
Rank #20: 11 Tips to Get More Clients from Your Website
Small things can make a big difference on your website.
There are changes you can make in minutes to impact your website’s performance, which will make a significant difference in how likely it is that you’ll get hired.
For the prospective client, your website is your law firm. They don’t know you yet. They are looking for reasons to trust you, but all they have is your website to make that judgment. It’s a pass/fail test with revenue on the line.
In the absence of a personal referral, your website becomes a significant part of your firm’s identity. Prospective clients will use it to decide whether to act and how to proceed. In today’s legal services market, your site isn’t just pixels and code. It’s you.
Think of how much time you spend making sure your shoes are polished, your hair is trimmed, and your body odors are suppressed. Sadly, you can’t show off your shiny, neat, pleasant-smelling lawyer body if your website fails to convince visitors to call.
The changes I’m suggesting today are easy, simple, and likely implementable without the need to call your website guru. These are things you may be able to do yourself.
1. Update the copyright date.
The copyright date is a tiny piece of your website, but it makes a powerful subconscious impression. Is this website alive and kicking? Is the website current?
The copyright date is like a pulse. You grab the wrist of the dead prostitute you find under your hotel room bed. Is she alive? There’s no pulse. Nope, she’s gone. That’s exactly what visitors think when the copyright date is 2015.
2. Say something personal.
I understand that you want to appear formal and professional. You want to brag about where you went to law school and how you served as a judicial clerk (maybe with a witty anecdote about how the judge ruined good pastrami with mayonnaise).
But prospective clients – even those big-league, powerful, successful clients – make their hiring decisions based on emotion, not facts. They’ll read your credentials AFTER they decide to hire you. Your experience only becomes pertinent when they need to justify to themselves or others that they’re making a good decision.
You’ve got to hook them with something emotional or your prior experiences won’t matter.
Tell them about your dog, your cat, or the dead hamster you keep in the freezer. Tell them how your kids keep setting the garage on fire. Tell them how your spouse ran off to Mexico with your law partner and your money.
There needs to be an emotional connection before prospects decide that you’re actually qualified to do the work. Once there’s an emotional connection, nearly any qualification will be sufficient.
Once they want you, they’ll find reasons to ignore any shortcomings.
3. Tell them you know them.
You may be interesting, but your clients would rather hear about themselves. Sure, they enjoyed the story about your law partner and your spouse in Mexico, but they really like it when you talk about their problems.
The more they feel understood and heard, the more likely they are to hire you. Empathy matters in your website copy. Show your would-be clients that you understand them and their problems. Demonstrate that you have a complete understanding of what it’s like to be them.
Give the reader that “fly on the wall” experience. Make them wonder how you understand what it’s like to have their problem. Have you been spying on them? Make them feel it.
4. Show me your face.
You may not be the sex symbol people hope to see when they visit your website, but you look normal enough. That’s all prospective clients need.
Show your picture. It builds trust and creates a connection. In fact, more pictures are even better. Give us a small behind-the-scenes tour of your life with a photo album.
Oh, and make sure your pictures were taken this decade. Don’t make the client question your authenticity when they expect 1999 you, but get 2017 you. “You haven’t changed a bit” is something that’s said at high school reunions to get you in bed. It’s not true. You’ve changed and it’s time for a new picture.
5. Don’t SEO your visitors.
Use words on your website that communicate ideas, not words intended to achieve placement of a particular keyword on search engine pages. You don’t need to repeat “Estate attorney in Boston, Massachusetts” over and over. Google knows where you are and where the searchers are looking.
Overuse of keywords makes your copy confusing, pointless and useless. Sadly, this hyper-optimized format is used on many law firm websites.
Attracting search engine traffic to pages filled with overly optimized copy (and little actual meaning) is a futile effort. Use words that deliver a meaningful message. Don’t waste them on search engines. Saying the right thing to a small number of people is better than saying the wrong thing to many people.
6. Tell us your why.
Why do you do this stuff? Find words that say something in the space between “because I care” and “because I love taking your money to my bank.”
There’s a reason you practice your brand of law, even if you’ve forgotten it by shutting down the part of your brain that connects emotion to motivation. You may be a mercenary, but you picked your field of practice for a reason. You’re human and you’re deeper than you remember. Tell your visitors why you help people.
7. Reveal your fear.
Don’t be afraid to be afraid.
We’re all afraid of something and the readers of your website are likely in a panic about their problem. They want a human being on their team. They want someone passionate, smart, capable, and experienced at solving their problem.
But they also need someone who gets it. They need someone who understands how much their problem matters to them. They need someone who sometimes feels fear and knows what it means to be afraid.
When you become more human, you increase – not decrease – your power. The slick, aloof, disconnected professional isn’t trusted. The trusted person is the powerful person.
8. Make your number clickable.
More than two-thirds of the visitors to my law firm website arrive via their phones. The same is likely true for your site.
When the prospective client is ready to act, it should be easy. Smooth their path. Make it easy for them to call you.
Make your phone number clickable on mobile devices. Don’t force your prospects to write your number on archaic paper before dialing.
9. Reveal your fee.
Every prospective client – from the Fortune 500 CEO to the stay-at-home parent – worries about the cost of legal services. Fee information pages will quickly rank among the most visited pages of your site. Give the visitor as much information as possible.
If you bill with fixed fees, provide a calculated estimate like we do at North Carolina Divorce. Detail the fee and provide a range of possibilities. Visitors don’t need specifics, but they need a sense of what they will pay.
You may fear that this will turn people away before you have a chance to convey your value. The opposite is actually true. Transparency makes them more likely to call for more information.
Hourly and other billing methods make transparency more complex, but prospective clients don’t require a specific quote on the website. They simply want a sense of what their case might cost. They understand that facts and circumstances will impact the specifics.
Tell stories of prior cases. Explain what was done, how it played out, and how much it cost. Use case studies to illustrate fees for different scenarios. Give these pages double duty by illustrating your understanding of the client’s situation. Use your knowledge and understanding of the client’s experience to convey your expertise as you explain your fees.
10. Show me your stuff: Articles, forms, samples, etc.
My wife buys an inordinate amount of fancy chocolate. We’ve been to four chocolate shops since we arrived here a week ago.
The money spent on chocolate adds up. Truth be told, I don’t really know what it costs because I deliberately ignore it. I recently noticed that we bought two chocolate bars in Amman, Jordan, each for $23. My heart skipped a few beats, but I reminded myself to stop paying attention. I can’t handle that pain.
However, I enjoy being dragged into the shops. There are always free samples. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to one of these stores where I wasn’t handed something to try. Why? You already know that a sample increases the likelihood of a purchase. These chocolate pimps aren’t stupid. They’re not giving it away because they’re generous. They’re more like drug dealers than humanitarian aid workers.
In a law firm, free samples don’t taste good, but they look good. Publish your work. Instead of telling visitors how good you are, show them. Give them a sweet taste of your legal thinking and writing. Provide informative articles, examples of forms, sample briefs, pleadings, and other writing. Be sure the content is excellent and the presentation is impressive.
11. Less is more.
Hard selling turns people off. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
Websites often suffer from too much of the hard sell. We get sucked in by the bells and whistles offered by the vendors. Everything they offer seems like a shortcut to getting more business. But those vendors have something new every month. They’re selling and we’re buying. Our websites get overloaded with crap.
We end up with websites filled with pop-ups, messenger buttons, counters rolling up totals, chat sliders slipping out, and tiny people walking onto the screen, talking to our visitors. While some of these tools may improve your website conversions, too many create chaos and distraction.
Simplify the experience and help visitors focus on the valuable information on your site. You need to make it easy to contact you when they are ready. You don’t need to accost them repeatedly during their visit. They’re already hunting for help. You don’t need to beat them into submission.
Make these changes and you’ll get more clients.
How is it possible for so many to visit your website, yet so few call?
Prospects make quick judgments. They act on gut reactions. They give you the smell test. It’s pass/fail and any slight misstep on your part damages the trust. By making the changes above, you’ll fashion a website that communicates with your prospective clients and begins the process of building a relationship.
Give your prospects what they need to feel comfortable. Small things make a big difference.
May 05 2017