Monthly Archives: December 2004

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 30

I’ve written about this before:

Is you work area comfortable?  Is your assistant’s?  Read this study, then take a look here for some tips to make it better. 

 

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 29

Find a way to Googlize Your Firm.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 28

Keep track of the nice things people say about you, and of the people who are exceptionally happy with your work.  When you are having a hard time at the office (or want to use some testimonials in your marketing materials) you have a list handy for a quick pick-me-up. 

And in case you think it is a bit conceited to keep track of the people who love you, remember that you will build a far more successful business by marketing to your happiest customers than your unhappy ones.

Thanks to my friend, Steve Nipper, for the tip.

And the Envelope Please

My friend Dennis Kennedy has given out his 2004 Legal Blogging Awards (nicknamed “Blawggies”) and I am pleased to accept the award for Best New Legal Blogger.  I’m a bit under the weather today, or you’d be getting a really long speech here (lucky for you).  Suffice it to say that I am thankful to everyone who has made 2004 my best year ever.  Thank you!

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 27

I read a lot of non-legal books — mostly business books — to help me generate ideas on improving my legal practice and to get ideas for posts in this blog.  I usually buy the books I read, and fold down the corner of each page that has something I want to come back to.  However, what tends to happen is that I end up with a bunch of books on my bookshelf with beat-up pages that I’ve not looked at since I read them in the first place. 

This brings me to my resolution for the day (and a simple Knowledge Management tip):

Whenever you finish a book, copy each page you “marked” while reading it.  Put the copies in an idea file that you review regularly — or at least when you are stuck and need to think creatively.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 26

Now that the holiday season is over, think about the one present you saw (on television, while shopping, under the tree) that made you say to yourself, “Boy, if I were a kid again …,” and go buy it for yourself.  Whenever you are having a tough day at the office, or really need to do some creative thinking, pull it out and play with it.  Here is the “present” I bought myself while shopping for my daughter’s Christmas presents — a Lego Ferrari F1 Racer.  I can’t wait to put it together.

Ferrari Lego

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 25

Take a few days off and spend time with your family.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 24

Here is one on my personal “to do” list next year: 

Identify the most successful businesses in your community and find out who is second and third in charge there.  Ask those people to lunch.  Learn everything you can about their business.  Don’t “sell” your practice or your services, but offer to help them in any way you can.  Follow up with a personal thank-you note after the lunch.

You will start to see business from these people and their businesses before next year is out! 

Fun Stuff 2004

I didn’t know what to get everyone for the holidays, but Mark Hurst did.  He is the author of the Good Experience Blog, and for a special Christmas treat, has compiled all of his “Fun Stuff” entries from his newsletter here

Each entry is guaranteed to generate a smile. 

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 23

Find employees who want to work second and third shifts and experiment with one or two days a month where the firm never closes.  Advertise these days, and find out how many people who’ve never had time to meet with a lawyer come calling!

My Christmas List

Just a few of the things on my Christmas list.  I know it is late, but I won’t hold it against you if the gift arrives after the holidays.

A website designed by 37 Signals.  These guys (and gals) are masters at making really functional websites look simple and elegant.  Take a look at their 37Better Project, with redesigns of popular sites Google,  FedEx, and PayPal.  These guys are also behind the Basecamp project management tool (that I love).

A blog designed by Kevin at LexBlog

A subscription to Worthwhile Magazine.  I love the blog, and can’t find the magazine at my local bookstore.

A Tour Edge Exotics fairway wood.  I’m on my fourth driver by this company and love their products, warranty, and customer service.  Great prices on unbelievable clubs.  Oh, and thanks for asking:  the three wood with the stiff Fujikura shaft, please.

A smaller Advertising Block from Law.com. Visit my site.  Enough said.

A Mirra Personal Server for home and office.

A clean desk.

A new laptop bag and backpack.

Time to respond to my comments.

Registration for a few cool trainings and conferences.

Your vote.

Oh, and one more thing:  The ability to meet and thank every single reader of this blog.

I have dedicated (a growing) part of my professional and personal life to improving law practice and making this gig the one we all thought we were signing up for when we decided to go to law school.  I am gratified beyond words at the response I’ve gotten from all of you.  Blogging isn’t about conversations, it is not about ROI, it is about opportunity.  I’ve learned more, met more fascinating people, and gained more from the fellowship of bloggers and blog readers than I ever thought possible.  Thank you so much.

Happy Holidays! 

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 22

Every week, pick one of your "standard" forms (like retainer agreement) and give it to a sixth grader.  Ask them if they understand it.  Then rewrite it from scratch.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 21

Find the biggest problem in your community and have a competition to solve it.  Involve the schools and retirement homes.  Give a prize for the best solution.  Make sure everyone knows your firm sponsored the competition.  Set aside another part of the prize money to go towards funding the solution.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 20

Create a Firm Master To-Do List — This list isn’t for client matters, but for firm matters.  Make marketing and firm development high priorities.  Make sure everyone has access to the list and place at least one item on the calendar each week to make sure it gets done.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 19

Look for space in your office where you can have a comfortable conversation with a client, partner, or staff member.  Having a white board or other brainstorming tool would be a big plus.  Make it a fun place to think.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 18

Prepare a list of client commitments and stick to them.  Include returning phone calls within a specified period of time.  Send the commitments to clients with every bill.  Offer discounts if you don’t live up to any of your commitments.  Give clients a small discount if they send back a “Report Card” with their payment.  Make it look like the ones kids got in the fifties.  Follow up with them on any grade they give below an “A.”

Pricing Dilemmas

I’ve run across some really interesting conversations about pricing design services here, and a new software product here.   Don’t just read the posts, read the comments.  Some great insights into pricing and value.  It seems lawyers aren’t the only folks who have a hard time with pricing.

Savvy Bloggers Panel

My friend Bruce MacEwen (Adam Smith, Esq.) asked me to join some amazing bloggers on his Savvy Bloggers Panel.  He asked us, “Looking out five to ten years, what will the single most significant change be in terms of how sophisticated law firms (think AmLaw 200) are managed, on the ‘business side’?”  All of the responses are here.  This is what I wrote:

A: I have spent all but two years of my legal career as a solo practitioner or as a member of a two-lawyer firm. Because I’ve never worked for a “sophisticated” AmLaw 200 (or even AmLaw 20,000) firm, I’m afraid I can’t give a meaningful answer to Bruce’s question. Instead, I’ll answer a different question: What is the single most significant change small firm lawyers hope AmLaw 200 firms don’t implement in the next ten years?

The single greatest competitive advantage small firm lawyers have over their big firm counterparts is the ability to quickly adopt and implement innovative practice methods. Though many small firm lawyers have fallen into the billing-by-the-hour business model practiced by most large firms, I would suggest that a significant amount of the alternative pricing of — and value billing for — legal services comes from the small firm lawyers in this country. In my firm, for example, we have completely abandoned the billable hour and have moved to a service-pricing model that gives our business and transactional clients a range of services (including “free” telephone calls) for a monthly fee or a flat per-project cost. In doing so, we’ve managed to make our clients happier, increased our margins, and decreased the time we spend in the office. My greatest fear is that AmLaw 200 firms will adopt and embrace a similar business model.

In contrast to small firms, large firms have an unbelievable amount of institutional knowledge. For any given legal project, large firms have likely completed a similar (or the exact same) task hundreds of times. Their “inventory” of documents, memos, briefs, complaints, and opinion letters dwarfs the resources available to small firm lawyers. My fear is that if a large firm decides to couple that “huge selection” with “everyday low prices,” the WalMartization of the legal business will begin.

In short, if large firms were to apply the “Big Box” retail concept to the delivery of professional services, small firm lawyers would disappear like Main Street retailers when Wal Mart comes to town. Just think, the complex, expensive legal work most big firms seek is only a very small tip of a very large iceberg. Most business and transactional work is of the garden variety. There is no reason a large firm couldn’t set aside a team of associates and partners to do that kind of work for hundreds or thousands of small businesses for a low monthly or annual fee.

Doing quality work is just a small part of the equation. The big firms would have to deliver an improved customer-service experience as well. Instead of locking young associates away in the library for years, have them be the first point of contact for small business customers (even better, hire retired lawyers as “greeters” for new clients). Train these lawyers to answer the basic legal questions on the fly, perhaps by consulting a firm-developed knowledge base, and promise an answer to more complicated questions within a day or so. Guarantee telephone calls returned within 60 minutes – or that month’s service is free. Designate a chief client-service officer, and make that executive’s compensation dependent upon customer satisfaction levels. In short, take a look at what non-legal companies that excel at customer service are doing, and improve upon it.

Finally, to make this model a sustainable one, firms must hire the best and brightest students. Instead of focusing on the top five percent, recruit and hire law students based upon their capacity for creative and innovative thinking, people skills and business acumen. If law firms concentrated on hiring the best lawyers (instead of the best law students) schools may be forced to actually prepare students to practice law, instead of giving them the esoteric theory-based education most law students get now.

Do I think that most big firms will take these suggestions to heart? Not really. And for that I am thankful.

Huge Anouncement: LexThink! Chicago

LexThink! Chicago: Building the Perfect Firm.

What do you get when you bring together a select group of innovative, big-thinking people from the worlds of law, business, technology, marketing, and consulting for a full day and ask them to design the perfect professional service firm?

We call it LexThink! Chicago.

Innovate.  On April 3, 2005, we will turn the Catalyst Ranch space in downtown Chicago into laboratory space for a group of innovators and thought leaders.  We’ll create and test ideas  for transforming the delivery of professional services, to better match the needs of professionals and their clients alike.  With a  full day of targeted presentations, small group discussions, collaborative brainstorming and other exercises, we will will mix innovative business practices  with proven client service strategies and promising technology applications to create the formula for the perfect professional services firm.  The focus of every conversation will be on turning talk into action, and bold ideas into realities

Motivate.  Attendees will take away dozens of practice-changing ideas while making many new friends. LexThink! Chicago will be a chance to meet in person bloggers, authors and speakers that have motivated and challenged us over the years. Spending a day with this group will generate renewed energy and enthusiasm and give you a new action list for making the changes you want in your practice, your business and your life.

Activate.  In too many cases, the surge of enthusiasm from an inspirational conference drains away steadily as you return to the real world.  LexThink! Chicago is designed to create extended relationships, with opportunities for structured feedback and continuing discussions, social support, and ongoing motivation to transform your practice.  The collaborative experience will continue with ongoing discussion groups, monthly conference calls and other ways to connect with LexThink! alumni.

LexThink! Chicago is the brainchild of well-known lawyer bloggers Matthew Homann, Dennis Kennedy and Scheherazade Fowler, who have been thinking (and blogging) about ways to make meaningful changes in their professional practices. LexThink! Chicago grew out of one of their brainstorming sessions and their own “what if” questions.

To permit meaningful participation, to generate the best conversations, and to work within the limitations of the creative space we’ve reserved, participation in the first LexThink! Chicago will be by invitation-only.  We’re limiting it to a select group of  professional service providers—lawyers, accountants, consultants, strategists, coaches, technologists, marketers and entrepreneurs. If you are interested — or know someone who might be — get in touch with us soon by e-mailing Matt Homann at homann@gmail.com. We will send out the invitations before the end of December, so make sure you let us know about your interest as soon as you can. We are seeking sponsors for LexThink! Chicago and expect to set the registration fee at less than $200 per attendee.

 Many people always ask “Why?” There are also some who ask “Why not?” We’re the second kind. How about you?

 

 

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 17

I spent all day yesterday shooting a commercial for HP and Intel.   I was interviewed about my mobile computing habits, the benefits of WiFi for mobile lawyers,  and my use of the Tablet PC.  I got to use one of  HP’s Tablets during the shoot instead of my Toshiba M200 (not better, not worse, just different). 

During the shoot I showed my Tablet (as well as the HP) to the sound guy.  He had just bought an Apple iBook, but said he would have rethought that purchase had he gotten to use a Tablet first.  I can think of no other Microsoft-based product that elicits a similar envious reaction from Apple users.  Can you?

That leads into my resolution for the day:

Before you buy your next computer, try a Tablet PC.  Use it for fifteen minutes or so.  Once you experience the “magic” of using ink on your computer, you will have a difficult time with that boring old Dell or Thinkpad. 

Trust me on this one. 

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 16

Think about the amount of time and resources you’ve spent preparing for the holidays.  Now, devote that same amount of time to devising your firm’s business strategy for 2005.

Thanks to Sean D’Souza for the tip.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 15

I know, I’m getting behind on my resolutions.  Once you see the big announcement later today, I hope you’ll understand.  Anyway, here is the first in a flurry of resolutions between now and Christmas:

Pick the three computer programs you use the most (or should use the most), and learn how to use them better.  Set aside an hour per week to spend reading the manuals and playing around with the software.  Better yet, get a “Dummies” book and read it through.  You will be amazed at the amount of time you can save just learning the in’s and out’s of most computer programs.  You would also be wise to make the rest of your office (especially staff) do the same thing.

For me, the three programs I vow to spend more time with this year are Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft OneNote, and MindManager.  Oh, and I will learn to use ActiveWords to get better at each.

Holiday Haiku

 Though David Giacalone and I disagree on many things, I do want to thank him for sending me this holiday bit of haiku:

for Matt Homann at the [non]billable hour
New Year’s Day
a lucky, lucky
light blue sky
                      Kobayashi Issa,
                               translated by David G. Lanoue 

Big Announcement Number One

I have a bunch of big announcements to make over the next few days, and here’s the first.

Zane Safrit, blogger and CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited, has been a participant in my Think Tank Tuesday Group since its inception.  I’ve been totally smitten with Zane’s service since he set up our group with free toll-free conference call and webinar services.  Zane is one of the businesspeople I know who “get’s it.”  For example, his business has pulled most of its web advertising, and instead, put the money towards improving its customer’s experience with stunning results.  Take a look here and here for examples. 

I asked Zane how I could help his business grow, and he has made this generous offer — free to [non]billable hour readers.  You get your choice of any one of the following:

One free web conference, with the included conference call; or

The first month free of their monthly flat-rate services; or

Ten Percent off a toll-free reservationless conference call.

Here is the rub:  You have to call Chaz Czinder at 877–227–0611, extension 18.  Chaz will be your personal conference calling expert.  I’ve been using Chaz since we started the Think Tank Tuesday calls, and he’s great.  He’ll explain the service and set up everything you need.  He’ll even call you after your conference to make sure everything went well.  Just tell Chaz that I sent you.

Oh, and one more disclaimer:  I am getting nothing from Conference Calls Unlimited for this testimonial.  If you think I’m alone in extollling their service, go here and watch video testimonials from other customers.

If you are unhappy in any way, and I’m sure you won’t be, drop Zane a line and he’ll personally make sure you are satisfied.

The Magic of Recurring Payments

Here is a great post from another of my favorite new blogs, PsychoTactics.

This year for the first time ever, the yoga teacher has been able to take a break.

Not for a week, or two weeks, but for a whole month. And all the while there is a steady flow of income coming through the door, despite the class being shut.   That’s changed from last year?

The answer is: Recurring Payments.

You may not think it’s a big deal but there’s some part of your business, if not a major part of your business that could be continuously fed by a recurring system.

Lawn mowing services do the recurring thingy.
Fancy membership clubs do the recurring thingy.
And so do a lot of businesses.

Of course the yoga teacher is going to replace the one month away by giving goodies away to his class. But in essence, for the first time ever, that yoga teacher is getting a break. Some time to breathe.  And all because he’s put a recurring system in place.

You should too. Right away.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 14

This is another favorite

Think of your best client.  Now, go print out the MacKay 66.  How many of these questions can you answer?

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 13

As I get caught up on my resolution series, here is a great post from one of my favorite new blogs, Marketing eYe.  Read the entire post about how Alexander became “the Great.”  The resolution I took away is this:

The best and the quickest way to become more successful is to focus on your one main problem. Focus on your “Darius.” When your main problem is solved, you will find that the other minor problems you had took care of themselves or are not a problem anymore!

My main problem is procrastination.  What is yours?  What are we going to do about it?

Quote of the Week

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.  – Sir Winston Churchill.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 12

Look around your work and your life: Is there a promise you made that you can “over-deliver” on? Go for it, and let’s hear it for the “little bit of extra” that goes a long, long way. (From Jason Womack).

Law Professor Evaluations

I teach a law school class (Pre-Trial Practice and Procedure) at Washington University Law School.  I generally enjoy the experience and have almost always had great students.  This year was no exception. 

Near the end of every semester, the teacher is asked to leave the room and the students fill out course evaluations.  I don’t know how many other professors read them, but I do.  In fact, I’ve learned quite a bit from reading the students’ comments and have changed my teaching style based upon some of the criticisms I’ve received.  As helpful as the current evaluations are, I’d really like to read the responses to these questions from Jeremy’s Revised Course Evaluation Form:

Section I. Please rate the following on a scale from one (virtually none) to five (really quite high).

1. Odds you’re getting called on in any given class.
2. Odds you’ve done the reading
3. Chance the professor actually thinks he/she’s lecturing to a bunch of colleagues, who already know as much as he/she does about the subject.
4. Chance the professor actually wrote his/her most recent book.
5. Ease of online shopping while still catching enough of what the professor is saying so as to not feel completely lost.
6. Probability you’d be seeking emancipation if you found out the professor was your parent / grandparent
7. Amount of audiovisual equipment used.
8. Amount of food provided throughout the course of the semester.
9. Unpleasant professor odor.
10. Chance you’d take the class again, knowing everything you know now, except the material itself, because if you knew that, then taking the class again would be pretty silly, wouldn’t it?

Section II. Please answer with a percentage estimate between 0 and 100.

1. Percent of classes you have attended.
2. Percent of classes you wish you’d attended
3. Percent of students, on average, who return after the 5-minute break in the middle, if applicable.
4. Percent of students, on average, who fall asleep during any given session, with 10 extra percentage points added if there is regularly snoring heard throughout the room.
5. Percent of time you believe the professor has prepared for class.
6. Percent of time you believe that if the professor has in fact prepared for class, the professor needs some help in the “preparing for class” department.
7. Percent of time spent basically reading from the assigned materials.
8. Percent of time spent basically reading from unassigned materials.
9. Percent of time spent reading from the Bible.
10. Percent of your total net worth you would pay to have all memory of this class erased from your mind.

Section III. Open-ended questions. Please print neatly.

1. Is the professor funny? Give examples.
2. Do gunners seem to gravitate toward this class? Name them. We’ll get them.
3. Draw your best imitation of the professor’s blackboard penmanship, with an emphasis on illustrating the degree of legibility.
4. Would you recommend this class to your friends?
5. Would you recommend this class to your enemies?
6. Would you recommend this class be exported to Yale?

Section IV. Bizarre and Unrelated Logic Game.

John has Con Law on Monday and Tuesday. Katie has Corps on Wednesday and Thursday. Bill has Tax, but he can’t remember what days, since he never even bought the book. Susan signed up for a seminar, but wishes she didn’t since there’s so much reading. Classes that meet on Wednesday never conflict with The West Wing. Which class has the hardest exam?

Now, if any of my students are reading this and thinking about answering these questions for my class, remember, I haven’t turned in your grades yet!

It really isn’t about price.

David Young, on his Branding Blog has this interesting post pointing to an MIT Sloan School of Management Study that shows slightly more than half of consumers are willing to pay more for a product (while shopping online) if it comes from a well-known vendor.

The study, which ran from early 2003 to early 2004, monitored 10,000 searches by shoppers looking for books that were among the 100 most popular titles. The searches took place on DealTime.com, an Internet comparison-shopping service that lists several dozen retailer offers at a time. The listings include pricing and shipping information, product ratings and more.

Researchers chose to monitor book shoppers because the products they buy are exactly the same.

"We went in thinking a book is a book," Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the center for e-business at Sloan, said Wednesday. "But we found out that people care a lot about who they buy from, even if what they’re buying is a commodity."

Fifty-one percent of the shoppers scrolled down from the lowest priced books at the top of the list to the better-known retailers, paying several dollars more to buy their tomes from a vendor they knew. The hardcover books monitored in the study cost an average of $42.

Of course price made a difference to many, given that 49 percent of the shoppers bought the lowest-priced book. But Brynjolfsson and his fellow researchers expected closer to 100 percent of the shoppers to choose to pay the least possible for the same product.

"The vicious price competition predicted (on the Internet) by retailers and economists is not what we found," Brynjolfsson said.

The lesson from the study, according to Brynjolfsson, “Don’t think that price is all the consumer will care about.”

What should we take away from this study?  Remember, it is not always about price.  It is about trust, competence, and convenience.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 11

If you are interested at all in learning about how other businesses have mastered the art of client service, read Secret Service by John R. DiJulius.  DiJulius runs a string of spas in Ohio and details many practical yet ingenious ways he uses to deliver an unforgettable (and profitable) customer experience.  I came away with literally hundreds of great ideas from reading this book.  One of the three best books I’ve read this year. 

Vote for Me as one of America’s Top 20 Legal Thinkers

Legal Affairs Magazine is looking for the country’s twenty most influential and important legal thinkers.  I would have nominated Dennis Kennedy, but he doesn’t think much of the list, so instead, I’m nominating myself. 

Today, I proudly announce my candidacy for the position of Influential and Important Legal Thinker.  Though the nominations have closed, there is a place on the ballot for a write-in candidate (remember, my name is spelled “HOMANN”).

 So vote early, vote often, and vote Homann!

One more thing, I’m going to need a campaign manager.  Rick, are you free?

Oh, and if you want to support me, I’ve got this great button you can put on your site.

On a semi-serious note, bloggers have accomplished some pretty amazing things.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have one of our own (even if it is me) named as a more influential legal thinker than Clarance Thomas?

P.S.  I can’t afford a nanny, so I think I’m pretty safe there. 

Resolutions for Lawyers

Three closings (in three different counties), two emergency hearings, and one article due have kept me from posting the last few days.  I’ll be back Friday morning with six more resolutions (to get back on track), and some really big news. 

Until then, take a look later today at the first Savvy Blogger Panel postings at Adam Smith Esq. 

Happy Birthday Grace Homann!

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Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 10

Keep Sunday, April 3, 2005 open on your calendar.  More details to follow…

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 9

This one is easy, and should be on all of our “to do” lists everyday.  Think about that one person who helps you the most to do what you do (for me, it is my secretary Janelle).  Go to that person today and thank them. 

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 8

One of my favorite ideas I’ve found since I’ve been blogging is the one I blogged about here called “Stop, Start, Continue.”  Divide your staff into three groups and identify a single problem or question you need to address in your practice (or your life). 

Ask the first group to brainstorm and answer the question, “In order to _______, we need to stop doing _______.”  The second group does the same with the  question, “In order to _______, we need to start doing _______.”  Finally the third group answers, “In order to _______, we need to continue doing _______.”

After all three groups have come up with a number of answers to their question, have everyone rotate and repeat the process two more times.  Get everyone together, review the answers, and then devise a plan to put the ideas into action.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 7

Review the look of your normal invoice.  Then ask a seven year old to do the same.  Are they readable and easy to understand?  Do they have all of the information your client wants or needs?  It also wouldn’t hurt to call a few of your best clients (or the people in charge of paying those clients’ bills) and ask them if there is anything you can do to make your bills easier to read and understand.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 6

I got this one from The Nub

1) Take any issue you want to consider. E.g: your relationship with your kids or partner; your relationships at work; your project; your time; your stress — ANYTHING.

2) Now create a sentence stem that focuses on your issue. E.g. If I want to improve my time effectiveness by 5% I must…

3) Then complete the sentence between 6-10 times. Don’t get fixed too long trying to say the right thing, if in doubt, invent – just make sure the ending is grammatically correct.

Example endings could be: If I want to improve my time effectiveness by 5% I must…
…get up 30 minutes earlier
…set deadlines
…get to bed earlier
…organise my desk
…stick to my decisions
…accept that I can’t do everything
…keep in mind why I am doing something

Why only 5%? Because that’s not overwhelming. Try it out…There are tons of possibilities with this technique – I’ve just scratched the surface.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 5

Who is your perfect client?  Old or young?  Rich or poor?  Male or female?  Once you’ve decided, go shopping.  Go to the kind of stores your perfect client frequents, and look around.  What draws your perfect client to the store(s) he or she shops in?  Is it price?  Is it selection?  Is it quality?  Is it atmosphere?  Go back to your office and compare your office’s “look” with the look of your ideal customer’s favorite store.  Could you make your office more inviting or accommodating?

Then think about what you sell (and how you price it).  Are you Wal-Mart, Target, or Nieman-Marcus?  Which one do you want to be?

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 4

Develop your “elevator speech.”

Blogging Insurance

There is quite a bit of back and forth between Denise and Evan on Jeff Jarvis’ idea of a Bloggers’ Legal Defense Society.  Evan suggests the AmLaw 250 step up to the plate and contribute some cash to begin a sort of legal defense fund.

While it would be nice for the companies who provide most of the blogging software and services out there (Six Apart, Google, and now Microsoft) to contribute to a blogger defense fund, I think a better idea is to have the blogging companies provide some sort of blogging insurance as part of their service. 

The insurance could provide bloggers in limited circumstances (such as Jason Kottke’s) with a defense, even if damages were ultimately to be paid by the blogger.  I can’t imagine the cost of the insurance — spread among thousands (millions?) of bloggers — would be all that expensive.  And the public relations boost to the blogging service that steps up to the plate first would be immeasurable.  Having such insurance coverage available may even move more bloggers to a paid service from a free one. 

Are there any insurance types out there who would like to work out the details with me on developing blogging insurance?  If the big services won’t do it themselves, there may be thousands of bloggers out there who may pony up some of their own cash for a modicum of protection.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 3

Pick your five best clients and ask to meet with each of them before the year is over.  Make sure they know they won’t be charged for the meeting.  At the meeting ask them, “What do you want to accomplish in the next twelve months, and how can I help you to do it?”

Resolutions for Lawyers – Day 2

Every time I see an advertisement for a time and billing “solution” for lawyers, it almost always has some variation on the theme, “If you could recapture just ___ more minutes per day, you would make $____ more per year.”  When lawyers are tied to billing clients by the hour, so much of what we do (and how we are paid) depends only upon the time we spend that is directly attributable to a client’s file.  And as the advertisement suggests, every extra minute we can recapture makes us more money.  Or does it?

Regular readers of this blog know that I am no fan of the billable hour, and apart from its destructive impact on the relationship we wish to have with our clients, billing by the hour has a more insidious effect on our business’ bottom lines:  We fail to take the time to think about the business itself.  Every time I meet with other lawyers and share some of the ideas about how my partner and I are changing our law practices, they invariably ask, “How do you find time to think about all of this stuff.”  Though I hold my tongue, I am thinking to myself, “How can they afford not to?”

That brings me to my resolution for the day:

Take 30 minutes per day to seriously think about your business.  Are you doing the work you like to do?  Are you working with clients that respect your efforts?  If you answer “No” to either of those questions, are there ways you can change your practice to get to where you want to be?

For those 30 minutes, get away from the phone and the computer, and commit to writing down 25 ideas.  File the ideas away, and look at them again at the end of each week.  Out of the hundreds of ideas you’ll generate each month, there will certainly be a gem or two that will help you become the lawyer you want to be. 

Trust me, if you work on your business for a change instead of just for your business, you will reap amazing dividends for your practice and your life.

Thank You, Fred Faulkner

While I still want to tweak my web design a bit and add some more things (my blogroll, for instance) I wanted to thank Fred Faulkner for helping me get the new layout up and running.   I posted about some design changes I wanted to make and Fred graciously offered to help me move from the basic Typepad layout I was using to an advanced template design.  Fred has his own blog, is an all-around good guy.  Thanks Fred!

Resolutions for Lawyers, Day 1

Identify your least favorite client — you know, the one that you hope doesn’t call, the one that pays their bill late, berates your staff, and/or makes outrageous demands on your time — and fire them.  They don’t deserve your hard work (and probably aren’t getting your best work anyway if you hate doing it for them).

As an added holiday bonus, let your secretary pick a client to fire too!  It is a great moral boost to everyone in the office when that one (and you don’t have to limit yourself to one) client is gone. 

Resolutions for Lawyers, Introduction

Because we all want to become better lawyers, make more money, work less, spend more time with our families, and generally retire rich, happy, and healthy, the dawn of every new year is the time we finally decide, “Well, now I’m going to do X,Y, and Z to improve my _______, stop doing ________, and be a better ________.”  And even though we never have any problem filling in those blanks, I’m going to complicate matters by starting a new, limited-run series titled, “Resolutions for Lawyers.”

Until January 1, I’ll be posting a number of Resolutions.  Basically, it will be a collection of quick ideas and simple suggestions for things we all can do in the next year to become better lawyers and run our businesses better.  

I would love to hear your resolutions for the next year.  Leave them in the comments to each post, and I’ll compile all of them at the end of the year in one giant post.  Until then, look for one of my resolutions each day until December 31.

Keep Sick Workers Home

Have employees who are feeling a little under the weather?  Are they still at their desks hacking and wheezing away trying to get through the work day?  Next time, make them stay home — or so says this article from HBS Working Knowledge:

Employers worry a lot about absenteeism, but new research suggests a bigger threat to productivity is “presenteeism”: sick workers who show up at work but are not fully functioning. U.S. companies may lose $150 billion (yes, that’s billion) annually because of presenteeism, according to some estimates.

Now, tell them to go get that bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Quote of the Week

My friend Todd at A Penny For… posted this great quote today by E.B. White:

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes, this makes planning the day difficult.

Amen.

Getting More Money from Clients

I just ran across Andy Havens’ Legal Marketing weblog and this post about announcing price increases to clients.  Andy has a great blog, and I’ve added it to my list of daily reads.  Here are my favorite passages from his post:

One thing I will caution against, and that is the “spread the pain” message. I’ve heard of several firms that basically say, “We’re gonna jack rates by 10%, but as a favor to you, we’re going to do it slowly; 5% this year, and 5% next year.” That’s the most dumb-ass customer communications gaffe I’ve ever heard of. If you’re going to screw somebody, do it and get it over with. Or do half now, and half again next year… but don’t telegraph it ahead of time. It’s like telling somebody, “I’m going to punch you in the mouth now… and then, in a second or two, I’m gonna punch you in the gut.” No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Just don’t do it.

PS: Better yet, switch to project-based billing. You’ll make more money, you’ll keep 10-15% more because of the time-value of money that ain’t in the WIP for 6 months and your clients won’t be worried that every time they call to ask a 10 second question that they’ll be getting a bill for 1/10 of an hour.