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!

Fear!

‘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? 

No matter how good you are… you can’t do it alone. You need a team. The team could include staff members, colleagues, a contract attorney, freelancers and the list goes on. There is no question that you need a team to be successful.

My question is how committed are you to your team… and how committed are they to you? Lawyerist contributor Josh Camson writes about his lessons learned from Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing and the character Toby Ziegler, the White House Communication Director. Yes, Toby was just a television character… but the wisdom is profound!

Camson writes…

Toby: …’We’re a group. We’re a team…We win together, we lose together, we celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories sweetened because we did them together…I’m simply gonna say this: you’re my guys. And I’m yours. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.’

When someone on his staff leaks an embarrassing quote to the press, Toby is furious. But instead of chastising his staff, he gives the above speech. Toby understands that without everyone that works for him, he wouldn’t be able to do his job. We are no different. Without our partners, associates, paralegals, and support staff, we wouldn’t be as good at our jobs. It’s important that we remember that the next time we think a member of our team did something wrong.

It is our job to inspire and motivate on behalf of our clients, firms and communities. Money seldom inspires. And often times money isn’t even being exchanged. I have a criminal defense client that everyone in the courthouse is happy to see and happy to help. So I ask you… Who is truly happy to help you? If the list is short… What are you going to do about it?

Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Next to doing something every single day… follow-up is the next most important thing you can do to succeed at business development. Be honest… on a scale of 1-10 how good are you when it comes to follow-up? 

Do you need some follow-up ideas? I ran across a blog post by my friend Larry Bodine on Lawyerist that will get your imagination going… Follow-Up: The Marketing Step Lawyers Miss.

Larry writes… ‘Rainmakers know better than to make empty follow-up calls saying, ‘Anything new?’ or ‘Is there something we can do for you?’ or ‘How would you like to  meet one of my partners?’ These calls will fail because they offer nothing of value. It is essential for each follow-up message to offer the recipient a reason to continue the relationship with the caller. Following are 10 ideas to choose from.

  1. Offer free training or CLE at the client’s premises. If they liked the general conference, they’ll love the intimate tailored workshop.
  2. Invite prospects to attend your Web seminars, speaking engagements and public seminars. Not only will they learn something, they’ll more likely perceive you as an expert.
  3. Send congratulations — personal and business. This is why it’s useful to learn another person’s birthday and to notice their career promotions.
  4. Invite potential clients to social events, mixers and firm outings. If you plan to have a good time, you can win new business by sharing the fun with clients.
  5. Send a link to a relevant blog or online news story. The other person may already know the news, but will appreciate that you thought of them.
  6. Distribute a case study that analyzes an actual situation that the person you are pursuing can relate to.
  7. Send a checklist that the other person can keep on hand, such as ’10 things to do after a traffic accident” or ‘Estate planning steps to take when an elderly parent goes into assisted living.
  8. Publish a ‘Biggest Mistakes’ newsletter recounting cases and transactions where a legal disaster happened to someone like your target. Good topics might include ‘How a local construction company went bankrupt’ or ‘Lessons learned after a costly divorce.’
  9. Ask people to ‘Rate Yourself’ against best practices. People love quizzes. Any prospective client will appreciate a one-page list of policies and procedures that your most successful current clients are using.
  10. Give a GOT. I credit this idea to David Ackert, a business development consultant in Los Angeles. A ‘GOT’ is a Gesture Of Thoughtfulness. An example is a Chicago lawyer I knew who would personally deliver finished documents to a bank client, and bring along several coffee cakes that he had baked for all the staff and clerical personnel."

Try some of Larry’s ideas… remember that anything you do that will help people remember you and stay top-of-mind is moving in the right direction for business development. New ideas will breathe life into your follow-up strategy. Good luck!

 

What SHOULD you be doing? What COULD you be doing? Two very different questions, that is for sure. 

Last week I ran across two blog posts that addressed the subject of focus. To be honest… I ran across them while my mind was wondering to some far off place. The reality? I was sitting in front of my laptop appearing to be concentrating on my email. 

The universe was trying to tell me something. Could it be… focus… focus… focus? Okay, I got the message. You don’t have to hit ME over the head!

One of the blog posts was from my friend Cordell Parvin titled "Contacts: Are You Focused or is it Random Lunches?" The other was from the blog Lawyerist by Tyler White titled "Drop the Distractions and Get to Work." They both have great bits of insight that can serve as a reminder. Pay attention!

Focus On Your Work – Tyler White helps us minimize distractions…

1. Make yourself unavailable. Close your door, put up a sign, put a pissy look on your face at the coffee shop. Do whatever you have to do to let everyone around you know that it’s game time. 

2. Throw on some music. When I need to get down to business, I like to put on some classical music at a low volume and just leave it be. This isn’t because I’m a pretentious audiophile or anything; I can just focus better with some nice ambient music playing.

3. Unplug from the Matrix. It isn’t news that we surround ourselves with focus-draining devices all day long. Smartphones, laptops and iPads are very useful tools, but they are also huge sources of distraction. A British study shows that people who check their emails while working exhibit a lower ability to concentrate than someone under the influence of marijuana. 

4. Block yourself out. If it’s possible for you to do, block out two hours of your day for straight-up distraction-free work. It might seem ridiculous to you to schedule a time for NOT answering the phone or responding to email, but you probably do it all the time. If you schedule a time for you to be in court or in a client meeting, it’s the same thing, and I would argue it’s of equal importance. It’s amazing what we can accomplish and how crisp we can be when we allocate time to concentrate.

I have used all of these for some time… believe me they work! (Email junkies heed the British study.)

Focus on Your Contacts – Cordell has a great system to follow…

1. Make a list of all of your contacts.

2. Give them a score 1-10 on how often you are in contact with them (every business day-likely someone with whom you work-gets a 10, less than once a month gets a 1.)

3. Give them a score 1-10 on the nature of your contact (in person gets a 10, email instant message a 1, phone a 5 and combinations fall between)

4. Give them a score 1-10 on how important they are (client contact or business referral source a 10, you don’t have a chance of ever getting any business a 1 and everyone else in between).

5. With Excel press the button and your highest rated ones will come to the top.

6. Consider spending 80% of your networking time with the top 20% of your contacts. Try to upgrade how you are in contact. In a day where email and contact on Facebook is so common, calling your contact and meeting in person is more powerful.

I love Cordell’s last statement… personal contact is what truly cultivates a relationship. Take your online contacts offline.

You get what you focus on. Remember when your mother said… "Don’t drop the milk!" What happened? Your focus was on dropping the milk… and you dropped the milk. So, focus on your BIG GOAL for 2012 and you will reach it… at the very least you will get pretty close!
 

When you look back on the year, do you find that you OVER PROGRAMED yourself? OR did others over program your time by asking you to do things you felt compelled to do? Have you ever thought about saying NO? Well maybe it would be more like, NO THANK YOU, in a very diplomatic way that still makes YOU look like the hero or people pleaser that you are.

A colleague says, "The clients file is on your desk." When this happens you feel you have to drop everything and work the file OR do you?  You could say, "I won’t be able to get to it until Tuesday, will that work for you?"

A client gives you a document to review. You must be responsive, (after all your marketing materials say that you are.) But it is about the perception and managing their expectations. You could say, "I can get that for you in 48 hours, will that work for you?" When you say 2 days… that sounds like a long time. But if you say 48 hours… that has a sense of urgency.

An important contact calls and asks you to lunch. You know you need to spend time with this person but lunch is going to cut at least 2 hours out of your already jammed schedule. You could say, "I don’t have time for lunch but how about if we both grab our coffee in the morning and have a conference call say, about 8:30, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to get caught up. Would that work for you?"

When management asks for volunteers… you know that it is an opportunity to stand out, but you have so much on your plate as it is. You could say, "I can’t take on the entire project; however if someone wants to share the project, I could do that, and besides collaboration always makes for a better quality result.

In each scenario you said "No Thank You!"  However, it is in the most gentle of ways. Meanwhile you keep control of YOUR time and negotiate it on YOUR terms.

Black Pearl: Kendra Brodin at Lawyerist.com offers insight… The Art of Saying NO. Lots of great ideas, enjoy! 

 I ran across a great blog post at LawyeristChecklist for Creating a Great Law Firm Website. They remind us that planning in advance is essential to a successful website. Lawyerist zeros in on some great points for small firms and solos… here are a few:

Determine your market and define your unique selling proposition. I would like to add… what are your points of differentiation and will they resonate with your target audience?

Set goals and align the goals of your business with the website and make sure your client’s needs are met. I think this is vital. Your website is an extension of your business and it needs to speak like you and look like you.

Design your website with compelling images that correspond with your branding. Your website is the place to bring your brand to life… with photos. So choose wisely. Generic skyline photos do nothing to separate you from the competition in your market.

Include sticky content. Break text into small easily read chunks separated with headings and images for easier scanning. I want to remind you that people don’t read… they scan. Make sure they are picking up something of value about your firm as they scan the page.

Measure and update. Set up Google Analytics to measure traffic. Create an ongoing method of marketing and encouraging visitors to your website. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of blogs and they are the answer here. Google Analytics can help you see what is getting read and you can fine-tune your content.

The big take-away here is… first, create a plan! 

Black Pearl: Here is Lawyerist’s list of the Best Law Firm Website in 2011 take a look.