Monthly Archives: December 2005

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 31

OK, now that you’ve seen (counting last year’s) almost sixty resolutions, I expect you are a bit overwhelmed.  I’ve got just one more.  For our final resolution, I’m going to share this advice from Steve Harper:

Rather than do a wish list of all the things you want to change or achieve, why not start off with a moderate but attainable list of ONE thing you want bad enough to actually work your tail off to achieve it. Write it down, print it out, put it on the bottom of your mirror so you see it every morning, put a copy in your billfold, put one on your dashboard and on your desk at work. Surround yourself with the very public declaration that this is what you plan to achieve. I believe when you do this, you sort of create a public and private cheering team that will encourage you when things get hard (and they will). It’s easy to let ourselves down but I haven’t met one person that will allow their image to be that of a loser or a quitter when it comes to how others perceive them. It becomes a great motivator and benchmark to stay the course until the goal or resolution is achieved.

If you have more than one thing, write them down and throw it into a folder that you’ll review once each month.  Once you’ve achieved your ONE thing, pick another.

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 30

Take this test, and then pull out your calendar right now and schedule an innovation weekend.  Last year, I did it solo.  This year, my wife will join me as we take a few days  to think about how to innovate in our own personal life.  I’m looking forward to it.

Here is last year’s resolution:

I’ve written about this beforeIs 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 Redux – Day 29

Stop Charging for Copies! 

For a customer’s perspective, check this out.

Here is last year’s resolution:

Find a way to Googlize Your Firm.

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 28

This one is a Steve Nipper two-fer.  Resolve to declutter your computer:

A few weeks ago I blogged over at Rethink(IP) about how I manage my RSS aggregator by putting RSS Feeds on Probation.  Michael Hyatt (Working Smart) takes a similar approch with the applications on his computer, blogging on how he has a Death Row folder where he moves programs/program shortcuts.  If they don’t get used in the next thirty days…they get sent to the electric chair, er recycle bin.

Here is last year’s resolution (also via Nipper):

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.

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 27

Here’s one of my personal resolutions for 2006:

Make a list of the twelve people you know who could really help you improve your life in 2006, and then write down the one thing each could do to help you the most.  Each month, resolve to take one of them to dinner to a nice restaurant and ask them to do that one thing. 

If you want to be ambitious, make a parallel list of the twelve people you don’t know who could help, and do the same thing!

Here is last year’s resolution:

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 Redux – Days 24-26

Take a vacation with your family.  These resolutions are coming to you a bit late (though I’ve backdated them) because I took my own advice.  Here are some pictures from our trip up California’s Highway One, from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Elephant SealCalifornia Coast 1Pebble Beach 3Pebble Beach 1Pebble Beach 2

Oh, and here are the resolutions from last year:

December 24:

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! 

December 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.

links for 2005-12-24

Happy Holidays from the Homann Family!

2005 Christmas Picture

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 23

Start a Think Tank.  Invite five of the coolest and smartest people you know and let them each invite one additional person.  Set up a monthly brainstorming meeting where you each bring an issue or idea you want to discuss.  Charge a new person each month with the task of introducing a different creative thinking process to the group.  Each month, invite a “guest thinker” to join the group for that session.

Here is last year’s resolution:

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!

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 22

Resolve to ask your employees the one thing they’d like to change about your business.  Then commit to trying it for a month, no matter what it is.  Thanks to Zane Safrit for this one.

Here is last year’s resolution:

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.

Technology Problems

Typepad’s outage late last week and a really flakey internet connection has kept me from posting for a few days.  I’ll get caught up on my resolution series by tomorrow.  Thanks.

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 21

Take some time to answer this question:

What would I do differently at work if I knew I couldn’t fail or be criticized?

If you want to find more questions like this one, check out Mitch Meyerson’s 35 Questions That Will Change Your Life (pdf).

Here is last year’s resolution:

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 Redux – Day 20

Resolve to see your office as clients do.  Spend some time in your waiting room.  Listen in as a friend calls your office for an appointment.  Answer this question from Howard Mann:

What if you took some time away from trying to figure out what your clients want next and spend time every month experiencing how they actually see you today?

Here is last year’s resolution:

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 Redux – Day 19

Here is another favorite idea from the past year

Resolve to write down ten of the most fundamental changes you could make to your business without destroying it.  Once you’ve completed the task, try to make an objective and convincing argument why you shouldn’t make the change.  If there are one or two fundamental changes you can’t make a compelling argument against, give them a try.  (Via Report 103)

Here is last year’s resolution:

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 Redux – Day 18

Resolve to focus on what is “wrong” in your business.  Each week, identify two or three small things that are “wrong” with your business (kind of like Jeff Bezos does), and fix them by week’s end.  If you want to think more positively, identify three things that are “right” and take the week to make them incrementally better.

Here is last year’s resolution (one of my favorites):

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."

links for 2005-12-18

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 17

Resolve to say “no” more often in your business.  Read Sam Decker’s entire post to understand why.

Here is last year’s resolution:

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.

links for 2005-12-17

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 16

As you make up your “to change” list for 2006, remember the Chinese proverb:

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

Via 43 Folders.

links for 2005-12-16

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 15

Turn your clients on to blogs.

Not everyone “gets” blogging.  If you’d like to introduce your clients to blogs, why not give them a pre-populated list of blogs that are relevant to them and their business area — heck, include some blogs that reflect their personal interests, favorite hobbies, sports teams, etc.  Make sure it includes yours, of course.  Here, from Steve Dembo, is a quick way to do it:

If you go into Bloglines, click on My Feeds and scroll down to the bottom of the left hand frame, you’ll see a link called “Tell a friend”. Clicking on it allows you to enter in a list of email addresses and to pick among blogs you currently subscribe to. It will send out an email with a link to bloglines that will allow someone to register a new account at bloglines prepopulated with your chosen blogs!

Wow, I wish I’d known about this the last few times I got people started on bloglines. MUCH easier than having them jump from place to place to place subscribing to blogs without really understanding what it’s all about yet.

It’s kind of like a personal gift that keeps on giving.  It is like you are introducing your client to dozens of people that could directly help their businesses.  That’s pretty powerful relationship building.

If you use this tip, though, at least promise me you’ll include the [non]billable hour in the list. ;-)

Here is last year’s resolution:

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.

links for 2005-12-15

E-Mail Newsletter Do’s and Don’ts

If you send out an e-mail newsletter (or even use e-mail for client communications), check out these Seven E-mail Landmines.  One tip that’s made me rethink my e-mails is this one:

The top 145-200 pixels of an email’s height are the most critical. Key information to include above the fold:

  • Company logo and link to the home page
  • The main call to action, plus a link to act on that call
  • A visual that enhances the brand image
  • A headline that encourages readers to read the rest of the message

From a design perspective, the most common mistake is to clutter this section with graphics. If stripped out or blocked, they negatively affect your message.

Benefits are in the Eye of the Beholder.

My friend Jim Logan (who still blogs at JSLogan) is now posting his great business advice to a new blog:  Biz Informer.  Great stuff from Jim, as always, and I highly recommend it.  Here’s a bit of a taste, from his post If Your Market or Customer Doesn’t Care, You Can’t Call it a Benefit:

Assuming you’re not the only company on the planet that provides products and services similar to yours, what is it about your offering that’s unique? As with benefits you offer your customers, your uniqueness needs to be tied to things valued by your customer. Your uniqueness is your ‘orange’…your ‘orange’ as compared to other’s ‘apple.’

Being different only counts to the extent your target customers acknowledge the difference as a benefit. For example, if your difference is that you support 1000+ color choices for your ‘widgets’ however, your target customers only buy or care about 4 basic colors, then your difference in having 1000+ color choices is of no benefit to your customer and has little to no market value.

Your difference shares space with your benefits as the ground you stand on to compete for your prospective customer’s business. The things you highlight as differences are the items you most want to compete on and are in effect ‘traps’ you set for your competition.

Look for difference in your offering that is tied to the use of your product and service. Your difference is your unfair advantage over your competitors. Another way to look at it is your benefits are what your customer gets from your products or services; your difference gives cause as to why your benefits and solution are unique.

Remember…Difference without benefit is of no value to your customer. Be sure to highlight difference that is recognized by your customers as benefits they are willing to pay for.

Take a look at your marketing materials.  What “benefits” do you brag about.  Do your customers really care?

Their Pain, Your Gain

Barry Moltz has a recap of the 10 Lessons his students should have learned in his entrepreneurship class.  The best one:

Every Business is About Solving Pain.  Find the People that will Pay for it.

This should be an easy one for lawyers in particular.  What pain do you solve?

 

And the second correct answer is …

Interesting advice:  Look for the second right answer.

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 14

As we approach the New Year, some reflection is in order, so here’s today’s resolution:  Resolve to write down the most important lesson you learned in 2005.   For some inspiration, check out Dave Pollard’s list.  Here a few of his lessons lawyers should learn:

 23. The customer has all the power in our economy. We just don’t realize it yet.

20. You know much more than you can say and you can say much more than you can write down. So if you want to share what you know, forget about writing it down, converse with me, or better still, show me. 

17. People learn more from stories than from even the most brilliant analytical discourse. 

12. We need to find the things that are at the intersection of what we love doing, what we do well, and what is needed — and then do them. 

9. Complicated ‘solutions’ don’t work if the ‘problem’ is complex. Forget root cause analysis, systems thinking, and easy answers. Engage a lot of people in conversations, observe, listen, pay attention, be open, and allow possible approaches to such situations to emerge. 

4. Frames matter. You’ll never convince anyone of anything until you understand her frame of reference. And you’ll never convince anyone of anything until she’s ready to be convinced. 

2. What most people want, women and men alike, is a little attention and a little appreciation. We need to be much more generous with these things, even more generous than we are with material things, and our knowledge and our love

And here’s last year’s resolution:

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

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 13

Resolve to get your picture taken professionally.   Especially if you haven’t done it in a while.  Make sure you get a high-resolution digital file for yourself that you can use in your electronic and print materials. 

Here’s last year’s resolution:

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?

Grinders and Drones

There is an interesting conversation taking place between Neil Witmer (via Larry Bodine’s blog) and Gerry Riskin about the ability of legal “grinders and drones” to become rainmakers.

A question that seems a bit lost in the discussion is just how do big-firm lawyers become grinders or drones?  With the tremendous number of billable hours big firms require, might the firms be responsible for their own plight — by turning otherwise social, interesting young lawyers into grinders and drones to get those billable hours in?  I do know this, big firms aren’t complaining when a second year associate ignores his/her family, forgoes a social life, and loses touch with former classmates while clocking 2,417 billables.

If the firms spent more time nurturing the skills that help young lawyers become rainmakers, instead of letting those skills atrophy, perhaps there would be a bunch more rainmaking partners.

UPDATE:  Check out the Greatest American Lawyer’s Post on the same topic.  As usual, he says it better than I did.

links for 2005-12-13

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 12

Resolve to buy some coffee.  Here’s my orignal post:

Rosa Say passes on a great way to spend your marketing dollars:

This morning Kerwin and I walked into a Prescott Starbucks and both ordered their strong-brew coffee of the day to then find it was free. The barista at the cash register motioned over to a gentleman sitting in an animated discussion with a group of about six others, and said, “Your coffee is on Mr. Perez this morning.”

As Kerwin stirred cream and sugar into his coffee, we read a poster on the wall right above the condiment station with a picture of Mr. Perez’s smiling face explaining that every Wednesday morning from 8:30am-9:30am he buys coffee at that Starbucks for all his customers and anyone else who wants to talk story with him about investment banking and Prescott’s promising future.

Absolutely, frickin’ brilliant.

And here is last year’s resolution:

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).

 

links for 2005-12-12

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 11

Resolve to improve the way your receptionist (or you) answers your phone.    Read this for some great tips.

Here’s last year’s resolution:

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. 

I still find this is one of the books I recommend most often.

links for 2005-12-11

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 10

Give your office a makeover.  Start by taking these two steps.

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 9

Resolve to buy a digital camera to leave in the office.  You can use it two ways:

First, take a photo of every client you meet with.  Keep the picture in the client’s file so everytime you pick up the file (or access it digitally) you are reminded of who you are working for.  You can also keep a private “face book” to review from time to time in case you have a hard time “putting a name with a face.”  This also helps avoid those embarassing moments you see a client in public in a different context, and can’t remember his/her name.

Second, take a picture of you and your happy client shaking hands after the representation ends (or when a favorable result is reached).  Put the picture in a binder titled “Our Happy Clients” and leave it in your waiting room.  Make sure to get each client’s permission first! (thanks to Michael Cage for this one, originally blogged about here).

Here’s last year’s resolution:

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 Redux – Day 8

Resolve to rethink your advertising and marketing strategy.  Here’s my all-time favorite advertising idea (WARNING, may not be ethics-safe for lawyers).

Here is last year’s resolution:

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 Redux – Day 7

Resolve to give each of your clients at least five minutes every month (off the clock) to check in and see what they are up to.  For more, check out this post talking about Rosa Say’sDaily Five Minutes.” 

Here is last year’s resolution:

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.

links for 2005-12-06

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 6

This is a bit of a plug for a new friend of mine, but if you are serious about changing your new year, check out Jim Canterucci’s book Personal Brilliance (if you order soon, he’s got a lot of goodies for you). 

Holiday Gift Guide

How could I not link to this:  The Billable Hour Timepieces.  Now, if they just had one suitable for young kids to get them in that tenth-of-an-hour habit early.

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 5

Continuing the theme from Day 4, don’t just ask for referrals, ask for testimonials.  I have done this several times after LexThink! events (and even here at this blog) and the results have been fantastic.

Also:  Last Year’s Resolution

 

Holiday Gift Tips

OK, I know it may be a bit late for this year, but before your Aunt Hilda starts crocheting next year’s Christmas gift, discretely pass her a link to this site.

links for 2005-12-05

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 4

Ask everyone for referrals.  From this Michael Cage post:

Ask everyone for referrals. People who buy from you? Ask for referrals. People who don’t buy from you? Ask for referrals. Here’s a simple, no-cost way to increase your referrals: Before you deliver a solution, tell your client that you prefer getting new business by referral. Less money spent on advertising means better deals for clients like him/her, and you’d like to work with more people like him/her. Ask them, “after we’ve delivered this and you are thrilled with how things work, would you refer us to your friends/colleagues?” After you’ve delivered, make sure they are thrilled, and only then ask for a list of friends or colleagues who would want the same service and expertise.

Also:  Last Year’s Resolution

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 3

Learn how to ask you clients for their budget.  It avoids big misunderstandings later.

 

Also:  Last Year’s Resolution

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 2

Have a bunch of favorite business books you’ve read (or not) sitting on your shelf?  Try this:  Each week, set aside 60 minutes for uninterruped reading, and grab five books and read a random chapter in each.  Make sure you have a notebook handy when you’re reading to capture any cool ideas you have.

Also:  Last Year’s Resolution

links for 2005-12-02

Just a quiz

Actually it’s a test of BlogJet’s future posting capabilities.

Resolutions for Lawyers Redux – Day 1

I’ll start the 2005 Resolutions with the number one favorite tip I’ve gotten in 2005.  Resolve to make Five “Unreasonable Requests” each week.  From my original post:

I had the pleasure of a long telephone conversation with Lisa Haneberg yesterday.  Lisa gave me some great tips I’m sure to implement in my Innovation Coaching Program, but one thing she told me really got my attention.  Each week, she resolves to make at least five “unreasonable requests” to people she has no business asking for favors.  She reasons that if just one request is granted, she’s gotten a bit of a bonus that week.  Doing a quick google search, I realize I’m not the only one impressed by Lisa’s approach.

I’ve been doing this religiously over the last two months and the results have been astounding.  If there is only one thing you will resolve to do in 2006, make it this.

Also:  Last Year’s Resolution

Resolutions for Lawyers – 2005 Edition

One year ago, I posted this:

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. 

Well, now I’m going to do it again.  Between now and December 31, I’ll post 31 all new resolutions and repost a few of my favorites from last year.  E-mail me at Matt@LexThink.com if you’ve got any you’d like me to add.

New Niche for Lawyers?

Looking for a practice niche?  Mike McLaughlin has an idea for you:

It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of employed workers plan to begin job searches during the next 12 months, and almost 25 percent are already looking.

This study, conducted by Yahoo/HotJobs, is unscientific but shows a noteworthy trend.

Most people are looking for new jobs because they’re not happy with their current compensation. And almost half of the respondents believe their current jobs offer “no potential for career growth.” The news gets worse: One in four people feels underappreciated as “valued employees.”

Imagine feeling stuck in a job, unappreciated and underpaid. That’s a dangerous combination, which leads to unnecessary turnover.

Some employers risk getting blindsided by this trend, so it’s a compelling topic for discussion with most any client. 

With 40 percent of employed workers looking for different work, how about marketing yourself as the Career Change Lawyer?  You could offer a flat-rate package that included review of (and advice concerning) any non-compete/confidentiality agreements, severance packages, benefit issues, etc. 

Heck, you accountants, bankers, and financial planners out there should do the same.

Grab the domain now and start your blog tomorrow!

links for 2005-12-01

“Presentation” does not mean “Documentation”

This post’s title comes from a comment in this 43 Folders thread on presentation tips.  I’d also recommend this post from Particle Tree sharing some more PowerPoint/presentation resources.