In Black & White

In Black & White

Common Sense Strategies for Growing Your Legal Practice

Legal Business Development: Find A Niche

Find a niche… easier said than done, right?

Usually when I mention finding a niche, most lawyers’ push back. They generally explain how they don’t want to miss this kind of case or that kind of case. Their practice areas list looks like that of a firm of 10 lawyers. How can you possibly market such a list? How can potential clients and referring attorneys remember what you do? Will they think of you when any of those practice areas are mentioned? Probably not!  If your list is a practice group with a long list of sub practice areas… that works. However if your list is: criminal defense, real estate closings and business transactions… that’s another story.

Here are some questions to help you identify your niche.

1. Look back on your last few cases, which ones were the most enjoyable. Why?

2. What aspects of the case really lit your fire?

3. Is there a particular industry or category you are interested in?

4. Are there characteristics of the clients that you like to work with more than others?

5. Is there a sub practice area that you like?

6. What are you really passionate about?

Once you have answered these questions you can start to create a profile of your ideal client. Keep in mind that you don’t have to have a lot of experience in this area. You market to what you want, not to what you have. You may need to develop more skills or do more research in the area you choose as your niche. When you focus on this niche you will find that it will come easily. Why? Because it is something you are passionate about.

Now that you have identified a niche it is much easier to tell people what you do and more importantly… easier for them to remember what you do. Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and you will find that the rewards are many… including satisfaction in your work.

NOW ONE LAST NOTE… When you get an opportunity to do other work… take it!!! You can choose to do any work that comes your way. You don’t have to say no to a good paying matter or an interesting case or something you can accomplish easily. You can say yes… it’s just not an area that you market.

Posted in Business Development, Increasing Credibility

Legal Business Development: The Possibility of Optimism

The possibility of optimism, Seth Godin explains…

“Is the glass half full or half empty?

The pessimist sees what’s present today and can only imagine eventual decline. The glass is already half empty and its only going to get worse.

The optimist understands that there’s a difference between today and tomorrow. The glass is half full, with room for more. The vision is based on possibility, the future tense, not the present one.

Pessimists have trouble making room for possibility, and thus possibility has trouble finding room for pessimists.

As soon as we realize that there is a difference between right now and what might happen next, we can move ourselves to the posture of possibility, to the self-fulfilling engine of optimism.”

Legal business development demands optimism and the posture of possibility, for there is no guarantee or promise of results. However, I have 3 tips that can fuel your optimism and add to the glass that is half full.

1. Build relationships that matter.
2. Follow-up is essential and adds fuel to your networking.
3. Do something every single day.

Hold on to optimism and don’t let pessimism be the reason you have trouble growing your practice.

Posted in Inspired Thought

Your Next Bold Move: 7 Tips To Reach Success

Are you pre-programed with what you SHOULD do? With no room for what you WANT to do? Has complacency set in and you’re just going through the motions? Is complacency sucking the oxygen out of your dreams, your courage and your passion?

I have the great privilege of working with lawyers. And I know too well, the answer to those questions isn’t good. It doesn’t have to be that way. The legal profession is a traditional one and consequently, it tends to create traditional environments, procedures and expectations. Yet there are lawyers who have broken the shackles of tradition.

It takes guts to swim up stream. It takes courage to believe in yourself. And it takes wisdom to apply the skills you honed practicing law in a different way.

Are You Content?

Are you content with your life? It’s not contentmentthat makes most of ustype-A personalities happy. It’s actually the opposite. It’s the momentswhen we are striving, driving and reaching, that are when we feel the most energized and alive. May I ask you… are you unhappy?

Carve Out Time To Think.

Think back… what were your goals? Get into law school? Pass the bar? Get a job? Be a solo? Be a litigator?  Be a partner? If those were the goals, what did you think was next? People spend more time planning vacations than planning their lives. Does that ring true for you? So… Carve out time to THINK. Think about what gives you joy and lights your fire.

Are You Running TO or FROM?

I caution you, it should be something you are running TO. Creating a future because you are running FROM something and you will be creating small, safe and with limits! Instead create a BIG audacious dream… to run TO!

Trust Your Gut.

Trust yourself, you’re smart; you have expertise and experience that will serve you well. Trust that it will all work out.

You have courage and passion. I know you do!  How do I know? Because you graduated from law school, you passed the bar and you are a practicing attorney. But, over the years…you may have just misplaced your courage and passion. The road to success will be arduous, and if you have reconnected with your courage and passion you will thrive on the challenges and you’ll have the stamina to reach your goal. Trust your gut and reconnect with your passion and courage!


‘But, no…. I can’t do that! I don’t know enough! I’m not good enough!’ Oh, that familiar feeling of inadequacy. I was listening to a podcast on Lawyerist, of an interview with Alan Dershowitz. He was talking about his feeling of imposter. He confessed, ‘I don’t fit in. I’m not as smart as people think I am. I still get nervous.’Well, If Alan Dershowitz, the world-renowned professor, lawyer and scholar, has fears, why wouldn’t us mere mortals? It’s not about the fear, that’s a given! It’s what we do in the face of it!

Don’t Listen To The Naysayers!

Not the one in your head or anyone else. As a lawyer you are trained to find the pitfalls and assess risk. That makes you a good lawyer. But it doesn’t serve you well when creating your next BOLD MOVE.  First, Figure out five ways you can make something work before you look at the pitfalls. Next, Choose your circle of friends and colleagues wisely.

Surround yourself with like-minded people. You will feed off of them. They will encourage you and remind you that YOU can do it!

Take ownership of your FUTURE.

Create the life you imagine. Remember, a great idea is worthless without execution. Execution is everything!

What is your destiny? What will your tomorrow look like? Do you have what it takes to break the shackles of tradition? 

Posted in Inspired Thought

Legal Business Development: What Is Your Big Goal?

What do you want? Yes, that’s a pretty big question for lawyers since most would start by explaining… “That depends…” I think Forbes contributorBruce Kasanoff who ghostwrites articles for entrepreneurs, and speaks about bringing out talent in others has a great bit of advice. Kasanoff explains…

To paraphrase a bit, a professional recently wrote me to say that he was capable of being a VP, but that he was happy in his job, but he didn’t do such a good job of representing himself, but he was proud of his accomplishments, but he thought he should probably improve his skills, and what did I think?

I think he should have written: can you help me become a VP this year?

To get what you want, you have to be coherent, both inside and out.

This means you have to be clear, simple and focused in how you communicate with others. It also means you have to be clear, simple and focused in how you think. If one day you want to be VP, and the next you aren’t sure that you want to work harder or travel more, then you will never be a VP.

Perhaps you don’t want to be a VP. That’s ok— but to get what you want, you need to know what you want.

Once you decide, stick with it.

Wake up every day with your goal in mind. Simplify your language so that you can hold your goal in your mind and be prepared to share it with others. Be ready to deliver your elevator pitch whenever appropriate.

Your elevator pitch is what you will say to whomever has the potential to help you get what you want: a colleague, friend, neighbor or potential employer.

You need to make it easy for other people to help you. 60% of the people I meet do not do this. Instead, they share a sort of “stream of consciousness” slice of their feelings, emotions, experiences and ideas. I’m often left wondering whether the other person wants to be a magician or a doctor. In a perfect world, I would have days and days to get to know what’s in that person’s heart. But in the real world, I may only have a few minutes.

Just the other day, a young man wrote to say he actually wanted to be a doctor, but that he had been sidelined by financial and personal issues. He seemed more focused on those problems than on his goal of being a doctor. That’s understandable, but if your goal is to be a doctor, focus all your energies on that goal, so that any problems or obstacles pale in comparison.

I know this may sound trite, but that is how successful people operate. They know what they want, and they focus on that goal. The goal grows and grows until it block out most other things. They see the result in their mind, so clearly that they can describe it in powerful terms to others. At that point, it becomes exceptionally easy for other people to help. Why? Partially because they understand the goal, but also because it is human nature to want to join a winning team. When we sense that a person has fire in her belly and is destined to succeed, we want to help her out.

Lawyers… take note that focusing on why you can’t do something, and focusing on the obstacles, doesn’t really get you where you want to go. Be clear and focus on your goal with blinders on and don’t let the naysayers rain on your parade. It’s your career and your life, stay in the driver’s seat! 

If you would like help figuring out what you truly want, drop me an email.

Posted in Branding and Positioning, Inspired Thought

Legal Business Development: Teamwork Accelerates Results

When it comes to business development, the legal profession isn’t known for teamwork. It could be described more as track and field, rather than football. Each lawyer in the firm does what he or she does and at the end of the year they add up the score. Seldom is there strategy to leverage the skills of all the players. BUT… when there is, it’s a beautiful thing! The velocity of success is remarkable.

How can legal business development teams work better for the greater good? There are interesting examples in the digital world. Walter Isaacson, author and CEO of Aspen Institute writes an article on Linkedin… Why Steve Jobs Obsessed About Office Design(And, Yes, Bathroom Locations) that has a few insights for legal business development teams.

Isaacson writes…

Creativity is a collaborative process. As brilliant as the many inventors of the Internet and computer were, they achieved most of their advances through teamwork. Like Robert Noyce, the founder of Intel, some of the best tended to resemble Congregational ministers rather than lonely prophets, madrigal singers rather than soloists.

Twitter, for example, was invented by a team of people who were collaborative but also quite contentious. When one of the cofounders, Jack Dorsey, started taking a lot of the credit in media interviews, another cofounder, Evan Williams, a serial entrepreneur who had previously created Blogger, told him to chill out, according to Nick Bilton of the New York Times. “But I invented Twitter,” Dorsey said.

‘No, you didn’t invent Twitter,” Williams replied. “I didn’t invent Twitter either. Neither did Biz [Stone, another cofounder]. People don’t invent things on the Internet. They simply expand on an idea that already exists.’

He goes on to explain…

There is something special, as evidenced at Bell Labs, about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally. The founders of Intel created a sprawling, team-oriented open workspace where employees all rubbed against one another. It was a model that became common in Silicon Valley. Predictions that digital tools would allow workers to telecommute were never fully realized. One of Marissa Mayer’s first acts as CEO of Yahoo! was to discourage the practice of working from home, rightly pointing out that “people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” When Steve Jobs designed a new headquarters for Pixar, he obsessed over ways to structure the atrium, and even where to locate the bathrooms, so that serendipitous personal encounters would occur. Among his last creations was the plan for Apple’s new signature headquarters, a circle with rings of open workspaces surrounding a central courtyard.

Another key to fielding a great team is pairing visionaries, who can generate ideas, with operating managers, who can execute them. Visions without execution are hallucinations. One of the great visionaries of the digital age was William von Meister, a flamboyant entrepreneur who launched a dozen companies and watched all but one flame out. The one that succeeded became AOL. It survived because von Meister’s investors insisted he bring in two people to execute on his vision: a former special forces commando named Jim Kimsey and a young marketing whiz, Steve Case.

“Visions without execution are hallucinations!” So true. A business development team has a much better chance to succeed than a single lawyer trying to get people to do what he or she needs done to land a new client. That’s a painful process.

Teamwork… contributions by all team members. Big and small. Results celebrated by all. This mentality will lead to a whole new level of success.

Give me a call today if you’d like to discuss how you can build a business development team that gets results.

Posted in Business Development, Developing A Strategic Plan, Inspired Thought

The Critic: External And The One In Your Head

I worked with a new client today and we embarked on a journey to figure out what she needs to do to leave her job and start her own firm. We created a roadmap. We started by exploring her personal brand… what’s her unique position in the practice of law and what personally sets her apart from the rest. It’s a very vulnerable place to poke around; it’s not for the faint of heart. In my effort to find encouragement to share with her I found a speech by Dr. Brene Brown, Why Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count. It so gets to the core of our fears when we embark on new ventures… we stand at the ledge and look out. What do we see? What can we hold on to to help us move forward, little step after little step? Brown addresses the critic both external and the one in our head. She reminds us that the critics AREN’T the ones that matter and AREN’T the people we should be trying to please. If you are on a ledge looking to create a new future for yourself, listen and I believe you will find courage and comfort in her words. Enjoy!

Posted in Inspired Thought

Business Development: Save Time and Do Less!

Most lawyers I know jam their calendars each day with more than two people could accomplish in a week. Is this you? It’s a vicious cycle because we feel terrible not being able to accomplish what’s on the list… instead of feeling great about what was accomplished. We literally sabotage our success and the feeling of accomplishment! Now, how ridiculous is that! Maybe it’s time to start looking at things differently. I read a blog post by Alex Cavoulacos from an online magazine at WeWork, that makes a lot of sense… One Founders Best Productivity Trick: Save time and do less.

Cavoulacos proposes questions that will help you save time and do less.

1. Do You Say No? Most people have a deep need to be liked. As a result, we say yes to almost everything that’s asked of us, which makes it impossible to do everything well, and zaps our time and productivity.

As a lawyer there are big reasons you feel compelled to say yes… you are asked by your partners or clients that require a yes. But there is still a way to control the load and stress. You can say… “Yes, will next Tuesday work for you?” When you do that you are able to gauge the urgency of the matter, since most people are not asking you to drop everything you’re doing to address their matter. But when urgency is needed you have let the person know that you can’t get to it until next Tuesday, so they can choose to move on to ask someone else. And you have the opportunity to drop what you’re doing to help with this matter.

2. Are You Delegating Enough? Whether or not you’re a manager, there are opportunities to delegate to colleagues. If you’re doing everything yourself, and think “it’s just faster for me to do it,” you may be a delegatophobe. Take a good look at your tasks over the last week—are all of those really your job description?

This is a never-ending cycle for lawyers. Yes, it may be faster for you to do it yourself now… but if that happens several times, not so! Often times it would be much more efficient if you spent the time it requires to teach someone how you like the task done… consequently it’s permanently off your desk, saving a a much bigger chunk of time.

3. Is Everything on Your To-Do List Necessary? Don’t consider an endless to-do list a challenge to get it all done, when it’s in fact a challenge to prioritize. If you haven’t done a task in weeks, or it’s always what’s pushed to a later date that might be a sign that it’s not actually necessary.

Consider NECESSARY vs. DISLIKE. Often times we put the things we don’t like doing to the end of the priority list. AND it’s usually business development activities that you don’t like doing. Figure out a different way to accomplish the same outcome… something you like doing.

4. Are All of the Recurring Meetings on Your Calendar Necessary? Cancel any that aren’t impactful or that could be replaced by an email update. For meetings you keep, reassess if the format, length, and attendees are contributing to their effectiveness. As entrepreneur Jim Belosic explains, this saves both time and money—a one-hour meeting with 17 employees who make an average of $40,000 per year costs $232.88. Yikes.

I would like to point out that in a law firm those dollar figures are outrageous! Six people: 2 partners, 3 associates and one paralegal, could cost you $1500 – $2000 in non-billable time. That’s a very costly meeting!

5. Are You a Slave to Your Inbox? Speaking of things you don’t need to do: You do not need to answer every email that comes in. Give yourself permission to archive irrelevant cold emails and FYI emails you’re cc:ed or bcc:ed on. And while you’re at it, unsubscribe from anything you don’t read (no, you don’t need to read every ecommerce newsletter you get signed up for). Saying no to email is key to making time for real work.

A key strategy for managing email is NOT to look at it every time you hear an email come in. Consider this… if you were with a client you would concentrate on that meeting and get to your emails when you finish. Why not adopt the same strategy through out your day and only review emails every 60 minutes. Imagine how much better you could concentrate on your pressing priorities.

Productivity is about setting priorities and not letting outside forces hijack your time. Give me a call today if you’d like to discuss this further!

Posted in Business Development, Inspired Thought, Marketing Time Commitment

Is Your Body Trying To Tell You Something?

Is your body trying to tell you something? Maybe we should stop and listen! If you are like me and like most over-achievers, you don’t sleep much. You push yourself to finish the brief, to write the article or to read the report… not to mention the hundreds of things around the house and for the family. I’m tired just thinking about it! I’m one of those people that thought that I didn’t need 8 hours of sleep… I’m perfectly fine on 5 or 4 and the occasional all-nighter. Well… not so much. The more I read the more I understand that I could be functioning on a much better level if I would be a little more open minded about sleep. Have you ever said, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead?” We’ll it looks like that may be sooner than later if we continue on this path. Let’s change our ways… together!

Here’s what Corrie Pikul writes for OWN online in her article… Signs Your Body Is Too Tired to Go On (Even if You’re Not)

You can function just fine on 6 hours of sleep a night…or so you think. Here’s how to tell if you’re secretly sleep-deprived.

1. You’re clicking your pen and tapping your feet.

What’s happening: When you move your muscles, you cue your brain to stay alert, says Hans P.A. Van Dongen, PhD, assistant director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University. So if you’re fidgety and restless and feel as if you you can’t sit still or would rather (always) stand, Van Dongen says that “it could be your brain’s way of trying to keep you awake.”

What else you should know: Fidgeting could also be a sign that you’ve had too much caffeine. The recommended daily limit is 500 to 600 mg, or about 4 cups— drinking more than that is another less-than-subtle sign that you need more rest.

2. You’re lapsing, you don’t know you’re lapsing and you don’t even know what the heck lapsing is.

What’s happening: Lapsing, in technical terms, is when parts of your brain take a stealth catnap. When you’re exhausted, the sections that control attention and response time start taking breaks from processing new information, explains Van Dongen. These “mini-sleeps” could be as short as half a second, and you may not even notice that you’ve fallen into them.

What else you should know: Van Dongen suggests a lapsing test: Sit in a dark, quiet area while holding a pencil in one hand. Set a timer for 5 minutes, and just relax and breathe. If the pencil drops, that’s a clear sign you and your brain need more sleep.

3. You’re having trouble swiping your office ID, balancing your coffee and making it through the door before it closes again.

What’s happening: This combination of simple tasks, done in sequence and under a time limit, is a fine test of your psychomotor skills and coordination, which are some of the first things to go when you skimp on shut-eye. In one 1997 study, researchers found that a person who has gone for even one night without sleep is about as impaired on early morning hand-eye coordination as someone who has a blood alcohol level of .10 percent, also known as legally drunk.

What else you should know: Sleep deprivation doesn’t have the same effect on the parts of your brain that handle critical reasoning, so even if you’re having trouble with appliances, you still may have no noticeable problem with writing a strategy memo or analyzing reports.

4. You act like Mrs. Silly Pants at breakfast.

What’s happening: Your brain is having trouble telling you how to behave, so you’re more reactive to stimuli from your surroundings. The sun seems so bright and cheerful, the coffee tastes soooooo good and that cat going nuts with the empty cereal box is just hilarious.

What else you should know: Staying on an even keel will be your big challenge today, says Van Dongen. Your mood will probably go from goofy to grouchy as soon as something doesn’t go your way.

5. …and you’re a hot, emotional mess for the rest of the day.

What’s happening: Watch out, coworkers, spouses and innocent bystanders: Weakened emotion-regulating systems in the prefrontal area of the brain may make it hard for you to control and express your feelings. For example, if someone criticizes you, it will upset you more than usual, says Van Dongen, and you’ll be more likely to say or do something you’ll regret. Research from William D.S. Killgore at Harvard Medical School also showed that two nights without adequate sleep was associated with a reduced tendency to think positively and a lack of willingness to take action to solve problems. “Thus, sleep-deprived individuals appear to be more easily frustrated, intolerant, unforgiving, less caring and more self-focused than when fully rested,” he wrote. In other words, you’re acting kind of jerky.

What else you should know: While caffeine may give you a shot of adrenaline, studies show it’s often ineffective at fixing the other emotional glitches brought on by sleeplessness.

6. You’re craving carbs—big time.

What’s happening: Research has shown that just one night of meager sleep lowers levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin and boosts levels of hunger-increasing ghrelin. The body wakes up craving quick, easy energy: That choco-chunk muffin will do, thank you. Volunteers in one study at the University of Colorado at Boulder who got 4.5 hours (or less) of sleep also reported feeling more ravenous than those who got the magic 7 hours.

What else you should know: Eating breakfast within an hour or so of waking has been shown to increase alertness and improve cognitive performance. So embrace the carbs, but make sure they’re the slow-dose kind that won’t cause you to fizzle (steel-cut oatmeal is a great choice).

7. You get a second wind at 9:30 p.m.

What’s happening: Your body is keeping you up for that last stretch of the evening so it can get you back into a rhythm, says Rafael Pelayo, MD, a sleep specialist at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science. He says that what often happens is the patient who’s been running on empty will promise herself she’ll go to bed early. “Early” rolls around and she feels fine, so she keeps getting things done…but then ends up with only 6 hours of sleep (again). When she snoozes through her alarm, she tells herself everyone has trouble getting out of bed.

What else you should know: We fall into our deepest sleep during the two hours before our natural wakeup time, Pelayo says. So put down the to-do list and pick up the toothbrush: It’s still easier to force yourself to go to bed than to force yourself to wake up (starting with 15 minute increments can help).

Did you see yourself in a few of these?  I have to admit, I did! We often equate long hours with our drive and success. But we seldom think about the sacrifice of efficiency and accuracy that we are making. I can see that when we are rested we can get the tasks done faster and more accurately with a clear head. I will focus on efficiency and accuracy. How about you?

Posted in Building Relationships, Business Development, Inspired Thought

Legal Business Development: When is it Time to Get Excited?

How many times have you heard…“Don’t get too excited… You don’t want to be disappointed.” I bet, a lot!

When is it time to get excited about a new case or new project? When the client says they’re moving forward or when they sign the engagement letter or when you receive the check? In my book… all of the above!

The other day I was coaching a client and he shared with me that his client said they would be moving forward on the project. My client said cautiously that he always waits to see the check before he believes it. I said, why not choose to believe your client is telling the truth and will be moving forward? Be happy about it and let your enthusiasm feed more business development efforts. Enjoy each step of the process because it will fuel the next step, and the next step! Success shouldn’t only be measured by receiving a check. It’s about playing the game and enjoying it along the way. Don’t we cheer for the baseball player that gets to first base and then again when he reaches second?

Let’s face it, no one ever died of disappointment. Yes, the deal may hit a bump in the road, there may be delays or the check may not be issued, but chances are it will.

The benefit of celebrating the fact that the client said they are moving forward is renewed enthusiasm for the business development progress. Just imagine what your practice could be if you really enjoyed business development?

I see it sort of like this…

If you can’t enjoy a date until you know if you’re going to get married… there would be a lot of miserable people on this planet! Enjoy the date, and look forward to what may happen next.

Send me an email today if you’d like to discuss the business development process further!

Posted in Business Development, Inspired Thought

Legal Business Development: Are You the Turtle or the Hare?

Let’s be honest most lawyers want the business development process to be more like a sprint to the winners circle. But the reality is that the winners circle is reserved for the slow and steady. THAT is not what you wanted to hear I’m sure!

The fact of the matter is that CONSISTENCY is a silver bullet. Yes, a slow silver bullet! You see, many are looking for the right tool… SEO, Google Ads, social media, blogs, You Tube channel, article, networking, etc, etc, etc! But these are simply tools, just like your phone is a tool. But your phone, itself, isn’t going to get you clients. It is what you do to leverage all these tools. How regularly do you focus on the strategy you have put into place? (Oh, you don’t have a strategy? We’ll get to that later.)

Here are three things to keep in mind to achieve consistency…

First… Focus – make your activity a habit. Do something every single day!

Second… Be Present – if you are truly present, whether it’s a meeting with a client or a conversation with a stranger, you will see possibilities. Possibilities that you can only see when you are truly listening and present to the person across the table or on the phone.

Third… Learn to say NO – Not to others but to yourself. Today we are bombarded by people telling is the newest and greatest ideas to win new clients and you would like to try them all… but you don’t have the time or the money to invest in them all. Pick one to three, then say no to the rest. Put them on a list to think about for next year’s strategic plan.

So you say you don’t have a strategic plan… create one! It’s July 8th, what do you want to accomplish by the end of the year? What things would need to happen for you to feel great about how your personal life is in harmony with your work when 2015 rolls around? It need not be more than a few sentences to help you focus your efforts and be consistent. We are halfway through the year… don’t let 2014 get by you!

If you’d like to discuss this subject further, I’m here! Shoot me an email today.

Posted in Business Development, Developing A Strategic Plan, Inspired Thought