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.

Continue Reading Legal Business Development: Find A Niche

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.

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!

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)

Continue Reading Is Your Body Trying To Tell You Something?

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!

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.

Are you running a “feast or famine” practice? If you are overwhelmed with work and have no time to develop business… then when you’re finished with the work at hand there is nothing on the horizon… THAT my friend is a feast or famine practice. And to tell you the truth, I see this with lawyers more often than not. Whether or not you are a solo or work for a huge global firm, not making time for business development has serious consequences.

Forbes Magazine contributor, Kern Lewis documented one small step you can take to create some stability for your practice. His case study is about how he convinced his “old friend and new convert to social media marketing, a lawyer in Northern California named Mark D. Poniatowski who runs a small practice with just a handful of partners.”

Poniatowski was in the midst of a famine…

With the advent of his latest “break” from a heavy work load, he agreed to dedicate the time to test a plan he felt he could manage within the demands of his day:

He chose one online networking tool to test, which was LinkedIn. He spent one hour cleaning up his profile. He spent about three hours reaching out to all the people he knew professionally, and connecting to those whom he found on LinkedIn. He set a thirty-minute appointment for a late weekday evening each week to work on building up his network of contacts, and engaging that network via pings and content sharing.

Results came within a couple of weeks: Many connection invitations came right back with social conversations, and were happy to reconnect. A handful had business that they could place with him right away and were “glad he reached out.”

Within those few weeks he had referrals worth $12,000 in billable hours that he would not have had without his 3-5 hour LinkedIn campaign. That represents a 8-10x ROI on the time he dedicated to it.

The pace has calmed since he harvested that low-hanging fruit, but he reaped one other big benefit:

Connecting with distant clients – An international manufacturer and a national food distributor both use Mark for their commercial lease work in California. He can only justify one trip a year to each of their Midwestern headquarters. But, using LinkedIn to follow the people who manage his part of their legal affairs has made the trips much more powerful.

He keeps track of position changes that impact him. He can research key people ahead of each trip. He set up introductions using his current network, and reaches out to the new connections prior to the trip to kick-start the new relationship and make the in-person meetings much more useful.

Here is how Mark sums up his experience: ‘I immediately recognized that I was able to connect with attorneys and clients that I worked with over the years and had lost touch with, so it was actually a fun exercise. Some of them were good friends as well and we’ve since gone to lunch. I think that the business generation aspect has been a natural fallout of reconnecting and will increase. I did find that the best LinkedIn for me is during the commercials while watching sports!’

It takes commitment and focus to create results. I think this was a brilliant move for this small firm. Now imagine if all 5 of his colleagues did the same. Would he multiply his results by 5? Maybe or maybe not, but certainly they could expect 3-4 times the result.

I believe every professional should have a well thought through LinkedIn profile. What condition is yours in? Could you implement a strategy  like Poniatowski’s? Certainly you could… and if you are sick and tired of running a feast or famine practice, this could help you break the cycle.

If you would like to discuss this a little more in-depth shoot me an email!

 

Do you want a sure-fire way to predict when something is going to go terribly wrong? I do. There is a way but it’s not a crystal ball or Ouija board. The answer is in Forbes contributor Paul B. Brown’s article… The One Sign Something Is About To Go Wrong… And What You Can Do Before It Does. The legal profession is changing rapidly, and the ability to spot and adapt to these changes is invaluable.

Brown was asked for a formula to predict success…

While I haven’t found a foolproof formula to predict success, I know I have come up with a way to tell when something is going to go horribly wrong.

That is going to occur immediately after you become complacent.  I have never seen it fail.

The moment you think you have nailed it—you believe your product or service is perfect; you have mastered everything there is to know about leading their organization—something or someone is going to upset your proverbial apple cart.

For example, a new competitor will enter the market with a new way of doing things.

I am sure that Blockbuster thought everything was fine even when Netflix NFLX +1.21% first came along. The large box consumer electronic stores were doing quite nicely and remained unconcerned when an increasing number of people starting shopping their stores, asking lots of questions about the merchandise and then leaving empty handed (so that they could buy the product cheaper online.)

Or there will be a management challenge that you didn’t see coming. (“Wait a second! It looks like these Millennials want to be managed differently than all the baby boomers we have in our ranks.”)

You have two choices when you face these kinds of situations.

You can assume the new information/problem/challenge is an aberration and there is nothing to worry about. (People will always want to rent movies from a freestanding store; or in the case of the big box stores “this Internet shopping thing is just a fad.)

As for management challenges you can simply say: “These new workers will just have to get used to the way we have always done things. Our systems are perfect the way they are.”

Or you can take every potential change to the marketplace seriously.

No, not every new entrant or new idea could put you out of business, but it only takes one significant threat as Blockbuster and the consumer electronic stores learned the hard way.

The problem with worrying about every threat and every change in the marketplace is that you can never become complacent. You can never truly relax and enjoy what you have accomplished.

Accept that. The alternative is becoming obsolete or irrelevant.

While it is tiring—because you can never rest on your well-earned laurels—it is far better to be vigilant.

Complacency comes in many forms. The most harmful to a lawyer’s business is… “I’m too busy!” Yes, I acknowledge that you may have a heavy workload, but I ask you… Are you working as efficiently as you could? Are you leveraging the skills of a team? Are you making every minute you spend on business development count? If not maybe you have become complacent and begun to settle for business as usual! Now that you know complacency is a sure sign of impending disaster… what are you going to do about it?

If you would like to explore how this insight applies to your situation… give me a call.

 

Are you in a rut? Are you just going through the motions of your business development? Are you not seeing results? Are you overwhelmed and going in too many directions? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look!

At the end of EVERY week reflect on your performance and results of the week. Here is a list of eight questions to ask yourself…

1. Was your client service so solid that your clients will give you more work?

2. How many referral sources did you reach out to this week?

3. Did you do something to develop a relationship this week?

4. What did you do to increase your credibility with clients, colleagues or potential clients? (Examples could include writing an article, giving a speech or even spending ten minutes on the phone answering questions for a client or a colleague.)

5.  Did you feel “in control” this week… or did you feel that external events dictated how you spent your time and energy?

6. What did you enjoy doing this week?

7. What will you do differently next week?

8. What are you most proud of this week?

Write your answers down and look back on the progress you’ve made from week to week. Are there obstacles and issues that keep occurring? Find solutions. Are you feeling out of control more often then not? Look for the root cause of it and and see if you can find ways to alter the situation. It’s important to write down what you will do differently and to acknowledge what you are proud of… that is how change occurs!

If you’d like to discuss this process further, give me a call or shoot me an email today!

What do you want? If you “want to have your cake and eat it too” as the saying goes this (true) story just might help you see that it’s possible.

When a client of mine left her prestigious firm she told me… “I want to spend time with my kids… but I still want to build my practice. Do you think I can do that?”

My answer: Absolutely… you can do it your way. We just have to figure out your priorities.

So my client and I figured out what her priorities were…

1. Flexibility. Flexibility was important to her, so she managed her client’s expectations where possible. She worked when the kids were at school and after they went to bed. But she was there to take them to school most mornings and to various activities in the afternoon.

2. Maintain her reputation for exceptional client service and legal work. This one was tough because she had to be real with herself. It required acknowledging what clients really wanted… not what she thought they should have. Some clients were not a good fit and she had to fire them.

3. Maintain at least 50% of what she was making at her firm. So we got to work. We set hourly targets. Billable: 20 hours a week. Business development: 10 hours. And personal hours… as much as she could get! In her previous position she was working 45-60 hours and personal time was scarce.

She tracked her hours everyday and we reviewed them monthly. We made her business development hours count! We looked for quality clients that could pay good rates and have repetitive matters. And an astonishing thing happened… she is working probably a 3rd of the time she was working before and her income has nearly doubled that of which she was making at the firm! And best of all her family is happy to have her around… what could get any better than that?

Let me tell you that YOU CAN have it your way! You have to FOCUS and you can’t have it ALL at the same time. What are your priorities? How can we make them mesh and build a life that is in harmony?

If you would like to chat about how you can have it YOUR way, give me a call or send me an email.