Monthly Archives: December 2006

Resolutions III: December 31

Take Lisa Hanneberg’s advice.  Choose one resolution, and each day:

- Tell two people about it.
- Take two actions that support it.
- Make two requests that support it (no matter how unreasonable).

Resolutions III: December 30

Resolve to be your clients’ creative guru. 

You don’t just want to be your clients’ problem solver (though that is better than ‘problem resolver’), you want to be the person they go to when they need to think about ways to grow their business, tackle new challenges, make more money, and be happier. 

Here is an amazing list of almost 200 different creativity techniques that you can use with your clients to help them be more creative.  Who knows, you may just learn to be more creative yourself.

Resolutions III: December 29

Resolve to understand what you sell.  This is pretty straightforward.  Ask your clients what they are buying from you.  If they answer “time,” then by all means continue to sell it.  If they answer something else (and it will be something else), learn to sell that instead.

Just to get you started, here’s one of my favorite posts of 2006:

Having a difficult time “selling” your value as an advisor instead of a tecnician?  Here’s an easy-to-understand way to communicate the differences between Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom, from the Across the Sound podcast (via Howard Kaplan):

Data is "the sun rises at 5:12 AM"

Information is "the sun rises from the East, at 5:12 AM"

Knowledge is "If you’re lost in the woods without a compass, follow the direction of the sun to find your direction"

Finally, wisdom is "Don’t get lost in the woods"

Resolutions III: December 28

Resolve to rethink your business cards.  In August of 2005, I wrote about my new index card-sized business cards.  Here are the cards I’m using now for realBIGthinking:

Picture of RBT Card

I rarely get a negative comment when I hand the card to someone, and the cards almost always begin an interesting conversation.  And isn’t that what a business card is supposed to do?

Blawg Review Awards

Blawg Review’s anonymous (and very smart) editor has posted his/her Blawg Review Awards for 2006.  This blog was named “Best Legal Consultant Blog.” 

I’m honored, but the thing that struck me as I read through the list of award winners was that I know 22 of the other bloggers named, and have met at least 17 of them in person (18 if you count the Editor).  Every single one of them is someone I’m glad to know, and that but for the blog, I’d have never met otherwise.

So thank you Blawg Review for reminding me this holiday season how cool it has been to be a “blawgger.”  More importantly, thank you for reminding me how many incredible people I’ve met along the way.

Lawyers Appreciate …

Last week Gerry Riskin asked me to write a post that  begins with the words “Lawyers Appreciate”  (the idea was originally conceived here).  Here’s mine:

Lawyers Appreciate Gifts.  Here are three things I’d like to (belatedly) give all my lawyer friends for the holidays:

1.  A family who loves them.

2.  A community who respects them.

3.  Great clients who pay them. 

And if I didn’t spend all my budget on those three things, I’d add four more:

4.  One hour each day to dream about how they’d make their business better.

5.  The courage to try the things they’ve thought up. 

6.  The wisdom to ignore those who say those things can’t be done.

7.  Friends like Gerry to cheer them on.

Resolutions III: December 27

Another favorite tip:  When your clients come to see you, resolve to help them see you.

Ever have clients come by your office who need to read documents?  Get a load of this tip (for waiters and waitresses) from Tricks of the Trade:

Keep a pair of reading glasses at hand. At least once every few days you’ll get a customer who forgot their glasses and are unable to read the menu. Produce your spare pair and a good tip is secure.

Reading glasses are cheap at Wal-Mart, Target, etc.  Grab a few pairs and your clients will “see” what a great lawyer you are. 

Resolutions III: December 26

Here is a really simple one.  If you want to get more done (and you don’t dictate everything), resolve to type better.  In fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of a cheaper and better way to improve office-wide productivity, than to get everyone typing faster. 

Of course, if partners responding to their e-mails could get the response off in a “.10” instead of a “.20” clients would benefit as well.

Resolutions III: December 25

Resolve to tell your family and friends how much you love them.

Resolutions III: December 24

Resolve to become aware of news affecting your cients before they do.*

1.  Using Google Blog Search or Google Alerts set up several searches for each of your clients.  Use their names, industry, competitors’ names, products, etc.

2.  Subscribe to the RSS feed for each search.

3.  Notify your clients whenever you see something relevant to them or their industry.

Extra Credit:

4.  If you use Google Reader as your RSS Aggregator, create a “tag” for each of your clients.

5.  For each tag, Google Reader allows you to create a unique URL for that tag that you can share with your clients.

6.  Give each of your clients their tag’s unique URL and everytime they open it in their browser, they’ll see everything you’ve “marked” for them to read.

*  This post will be expanded into a longer how-to in January.

Resolutions III: December 22

Resolve to get less business. 

Step One:  Go through your client list and place a check next to every client who:

  • you hate
  • treats your staff poorly
  • never pays on time
  • always complains about everything – including your service
  • is never happy with anything
  • etc.

Step Two:  Figure out how much of your income comes from these clients.  Fire them.  If too much income comes from clients you hate serving, find a different practice area or a different job.

Step Three:  While you are at it, look at your calendar for the last year.  How many things (like family outings, vacations, and your children’s activities) didn’t you get to do because you had to work?  Add up the amount of money you made by missing these events.

Step Four:  Add the amounts from Steps Two and Three.  Increase your hourly rate (unless you already use value pricing) to make up for the business you are letting go.

Step Five:  Explain your rate increase to clients by telling them you decided to work for fewer clients to deliver the remaining ones better service (and to remain sane). 

Step Six:  Deliver that better service to your remaining clients.  Spend more time with your family.  Be happier. 

Resolutions III: December 21

Resolve to help your clients help each other.

Step One:  In addition to your normal engagement agreement, develop a “Client Promotion Agreement” that your clients sign that permits you to discuss with others what they do (in a most generic sense) and allows you to introduce them to others who can help them/buy from them/sell to them/etc.*

Step Two:  When asking them to sign the Client Promotion Agreement, explain to them that you take their privacy very seriously, but also believe in helping them and their business in any way that you can, and that you have many clients whom they might benefit from being introduced to.

Step Three:  Get to know as much as you can about your clients’ non-legal needs.  Try not to charge for these conversations (and do it at their place of business, if you can).  Ask them questions like these:

 What are the most common problems your customers have that you aren’t able to help them with?

What one thing could you do this year with someone’s help that would have the greatest impact on your business?

Step Four:  Introduce them to others who can help them.

 

* Though you may not ethically need this agreement (or you could cover it in your engagement agreement) it is a good way to reinforce how much you care about them and a nice way to begin the rest of the conversation about how to help them.

Resolutions III: December 20

Resolve to ease the technology burden on your employees.  Here’s how:

1.  Ask everyone in your office to keep track of every computer application and web-based tool they use each week.

2.  Have everyone rate each application/tool on “ease of use” on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being easiest.

3.  Either get rid of the applications that scored a 1, 2 or 3, or invest in training to teach everyone how to use them.

The 18 Percent Solution – January 23, 2007

I’ve been working with several great people to develop a small business seminar here in St. Louis on January 23rd called The 18 Percent Solution.  It takes place at the amazing Gran Prix Speedway in Earth City.

The entire event is focused on sharing innovative tips and tricks that help small businesses thrive.  I’ll have a lot more on the event over on my Idea Surplus Disorder Blog tomorrow, including a preview of the creativity and innovation portion of the program I’m running (think UnConference + LexThink + Idea Market + Go Cart Racing).

If you sign up at the link above and add “Homann” in the special instruction field, you’ll save $20 off the normal price ($95 before 1/3 and $125 after).

See you on the 23rd!

17 Lawyer Tips: A Mini Manifesto

After writing 15 Client Tips: A Mini Manifesto, I figured that turnabout is fair play.  Here are 17 for Lawyers:

1.  Whenever your clients don’t understand what you are doing for them, they think about what you are doing to them.

2.  Many of your clients remain your clients because it is a pain in the ass to find another laywer – not because they love you.

3.  Every time your clients get your bill, they think about how beautiful your office is and about the nice car you drive.  And they wonder if you are worth it. 

4.  If your office is a dump and you drive a wreck, they wonder about that too.

5.  If your client doesn’t pay you, fire them.  Don’t ignore them.

6.  At least once a year, tell a client, “It’s on the house.”

7.  Taking a client to play golf doesn’t show how good a lawyer you are.  It shows how good a golfer you are.

8.  Quit being a pompous, demanding jerk around the office.  If you can’t keep good staff, you don’t deserve good clients.

9.  Your clients will always know their business better than you do.  They may even know the law better than you.  Make sure to seek their advice before giving yours.

10.  A lawyer charging extra for stamps and copies is like a car wash charging extra for water.  Stop it now.

11.  Your clients have wants.  Your clients have needs.  They often don’t know the difference.

12.  Whenever you interrupt a client meeting to take an “important” call, your client thinks about hiring another lawyer.

13.  Imagine a world where your clients knew each month how much their bill from you will be so they could plan for it.  They do.

14.  If you hate being a lawyer, be something else.  You are smart.  You’ll figure it out.

15.  A bill is not communication.  At least not the good kind.

16.  When is the last time you called a client just to thank them for being your client?  That’s what I thought.

17.    People don’t tell lawyer jokes just because they are funny.  They tell lawyer jokes because they think they are true.  Spend your career proving them wrong.

Resolutions III: December 19

Today’s resolution is to do this exercise every week:

Write down your priorities.  Now look at your calendar.  Do the things you spend your time on mirror the things you think you should be doing?  Probably not – and it could be the primary reason you are dissatisfied with what you do.

Either your priorities will change to match your daily routine, or vice versa. 

I think this would be even more powerful if done office-wide, with this additional wrinkle: 

In addition to comparing everyone’s priorities with their calendars, ask everyone in a supervisory role to list the priorities of those they supervise.  Ask the supervised employees to list the priorities they think they are supposed to have.  Compare and discuss. 

Resolutions III: December 18

Distribute a monthly Postcard-Sized Newsletter from your firm.

Resolutions III: December 17

Here’s one of my favorite ideas from 2006:  Have a Trade Your Headache Day in your office:

Unless you are among the small percentage of hyper-motivated and totally focused people out there in the world, you know you have at least one “headache” sitting in a pile on your desk or on your to-do list.  It may be that project you keep putting off, that client you hate dealing with, or that phone call you just don’t want to make.  No matter what it is, imagine how happy you’d be tomorrow if it weren’t your responsibility any longer.

Well, odds are your co-workers have similar “headaches” they face every day too.  Here is a way to cope: 

Every week (or month) get together with your co-workers and bring your number one headache with you.  Identify it, and then trade it with one that someone else brought.  Think of it like kind of a regular white elephant gift exchange.  Just make sure the same headache doesn’t get traded over and over again.

Resolutions III: December 16

The first week of 2007, go buy seven decks of cards. (via Eric Maisel, and this post on Worthwhile):

Get seven decks of cards with similar backs. Lay out all seven decks on your living room rug, backs showing. This is a year of days (give or take). Let the magnitude of a year sink in. Experience this wonderful availability of time. (This is a powerful exercise.)

Carefully count the number of days between two widely-separated holidays, for instance New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July. Envision starting a large project on that first holiday (today!) and completing it by the second.

Resolutions III: December 15

Read “The Yes Man” by Danny Wallace – a book about what happens when a guy says “yes” to literally everything for a year.  Scott Ginsberg suggested I read this book about six months ago.  I did, and since then I’ve recommended this book to more people than any other book I’ve ever read.  It can be a real life changer.

Resolutions III: December 14

Here’s a simple resolution for you:

Each week, identify one client and send them a hand-written card thanking them for being your client.

Resolutions III: December 13

Has your accountant told you that you need to spend some money on office things before the end of the year?  Try this:

Let’s say you have $20,000 and ten employees.  Tell everyone that you have $10,000 to spend to make the office better.  Ask each employee what one thing (costing from $1–10K) they’d buy the office to make it a better place to work for everyone.  Put the suggestions up on the wall and let everyone discuss and vote for the winner.  Then buy it.

Now, take the remaining $10,000 and divide it equally among your employees (including yourself).  Don’t pay it to them.  Instead, ask each how they’d spend their $1000 to make the office work better for them.  Then buy it.

I think you’ll be amazed at what a morale booster this will be for your office.  The amount doesn’t have to be $20k either.  Your employees will be happy to know that you not only value their input on making your office a better place to work, you act upon it.

Resolutions III: December 12

Yesterday, I posted about a way to have more ideas by taking a walk with a small camera.  Here’s how to get your entire organization into the habit:

Step One:  Get your office a camera (even better, get everyone in your office a camera).

Step Two:  Take turns choosing a particular object, thing, or shape of the week. 

Step Three:  Ask everyone to take pictures of the subject of the week. 

Step Four:  Upload all of the photos taken to a common location (like Flickr).

Step Five:  Discuss the best photos at a weekly staff meeting. 

Step Six.  Pick the best photos each week, print them out, make the photographers “sign” them, and then frame them. 

Step Seven:  Throw out your store-bought “art” and hang up your new original artwork.

INNOVATION BONUS:  Instead of choosing an object, thing, or shape, identify a challenge your office is facing.  Ask your budding photographers to take pictures like before, but suggest they make each picture relate to the challenge (or its solution) in some way – no matter how tenuous the connection.  At you weekly meeting, have everyone explain how/why their photos relate to either the challenge or the solution.

 

 

15 Rules for Clients: A Mini Manifesto

UPDATE:  Welcome Gapingvoid Readers.  If you liked this, check out my 15 Tips for Lawyers, another mini-manifesto.

You are a client.  You need a lawyer.  Here are 15 rules (guidelines, actually) that may help you find and understand your lawyer:

1.  You have wants.  You have needs.  Focus on the needs first.  Wants are bonus.

2.  If you are seeing a lawyer because your dispute is “not about the money, but about the principle of the thing” don’t be surprised if your lawyer runs away. You can never be satisfied.  Also, it’s really about the money.

3.  Your case/matter is the most important thing happening to you right now.  It is not the most important thing happening to your lawyer right now.  It may not even be in his top ten.

4.  If you think your lawyer is trying to kill your deal, remember this:  though there may only be a “one percent” chance your deal will go bad, your lawyer sees that “one percent” over and over again.  She’s looking out for you.  She cares about you and your business.  She also doesn’t want her malpractice premiums to go up.

5.  You want to buy results, not time.  Most lawyers sell time, not results.  Make sure you both understand the difference before your first bill arrives.  You will certainly understand the difference after.

6.  If you want to find a lawyer who sells results, look hard.  There are a few of them out there.  They are the ones who can still smile because they get to see their children before 9:00 at night. 

7.  Big firm lawyers are not more efficient.  Or smarter.  Or cheaper.  They are certainly not cheaper.

8.  Make sure your lawyer understands your business.  If your lawyer doesn’t understand your business, find out if he’s going to learn about it on his time, or yours.

9.  You are your lawyer’s boss.  You are not her only boss.  She has hundreds of other bosses too.  Each one of them thinks their matter is more important than yours.

10.  How messy is your lawyer’s desk?  When they bill you for thirty minutes of “file review,” how much of that time was spent looking for your file?

11.  When you call a lawyer for the first time, how long does it take for him to return your calls? After you hire that lawyer, expect it to take at least three times as long.  Same goes for e-mails.

12.  Does your lawyer have reputation for being a “bulldog?”  That probably means they are an asshole.  To everyone.

13.  Look for a lawyer with a technology IQ no more than fifty points less than yours.  If you live in e-mail and your lawyer doesn’t, learn to like your mail carrier.

14.  If you hate your lawyer, fire him.  He probably deserves it, and you aren’t getting his best work anyway.

15.  You wouldn’t automatically marry the first person you date, so don’t automatically hire the first lawyer you see.  A great lawyer-client relationship can last a lifetime.  Your lawyer can be your advisor, counselor, confidant, and friend.  Most lawyers are good people genuinely interested in their clients’ best interests.  Find one you like, stick with him or her, and spread the word.  Oh, and stop telling lawyer jokes.  They aren’t really that funny.  ;-)

 

 

Resolutions III: December 11

My favorite quote I found in 2006 is from French philosopher Emile Chartier, who said, “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.”  Following this advice, today’s resolution is to be less dangerous by having more ideas.  Here’s one of my favorite ways:

Step One:  Buy a (small) camera.  This is the one I love.

Step Two:  Go for a walk (don’t forget the camera).

Step Three:  Take lots of pictures, focusing (pun intended) on a particular object, thing, or shape.

Step Four:  Upload them to Picassa, Flickr, iPhoto, etc.

Step Five:  After your walk, spend no more than 10 minutes writing down any random ideas rumbling around inside your head.  For extra credit, write the ideas on the label or note section of your photo-organizing tool.

Step Six:  Repeat daily.

Resolutions III: December 10

Do you use Linked In?  More and more of your current and prospective clients do.  If you use it, here’s a LinkedIn-flavored resolution for you:

1.  Update your profile.

2.  Connect with your contacts (the Outlook Plug-In works great!).

3.  Ask trusted contacts to endorse your work.

Taking a bit of my own medicine here, I’m asking anyone who’s in my network already (or who’d like to join) to endorse me.  Check out my LinkedIn profile in a month to see if I’ve been successful.

Resolutions III: December 9

Didn’t get your Christmas cards out on time?  No worries.  While I’m not sure if this is exactly a resolution or not, there is a tremendous opportunity to use your firm resolutions as a marketing tool. 

Once you’ve settled on five or so firm-wide, client-facing resolutions (not things like deploy a new SQL server, or charge more for copies and postage), send a New Year’s card to each client that reads something like this:

Happy New Year from ABC Firm.   While each New Year brings the promise of wealth and happiness, we know how quickly business resolutions made in January can fade by March.  We’d like to help you keep your 2007 business resolutions … and we’d like you to help us keep ours.

In 2007, we resolve to (add your 1–5 resolutions here):

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

How about you?  What do you resolve to do in 2007 to make your business more profitable, more successful and more fun?  Let us know on the card attached and drop it in the mail.  We will set up a time to meet with you (at no charge) and identify things we can do to help you keep your resolutions and grow your business in the next twelve months.  

One last thing:  We are serious about our resolutions and want you to help us keep them.  If you catch us failing to live up to any of ours, or if you see anything we haven’t resolved to do that you think we should, let us know.  We want to make your 2007 – and ours – the best year ever!

Resolutions III: December 8

Here’s an easy one.  Tomorrow, for an hour:

1.  Unplug your office from the internet.

2.  Send your phones to voicemail (and make sure the ringer is off, too).

3.  Have everyone in your office make a list of something, but don’t have them sign it.  Thinks like:

  • The things I need most to make my job easier/better/more fun.
  • The thing(s) our competitors do WAY better than we do.
  • The thing(s) we do WAY better than our competitors.
  • Our favorite clients.
  • Our least favorite clients.
  • The things that I’d change around here, if only I were boss.
  • If given $1000, I’d buy ______ for the office.
  • My/Our biggest challenge is …

4.  Every 10 minutes, put all the lists in a pile on a table, and have everyone pick another one. 

5.  After the end of the hour, share the lists with everyone.  Leave them somewhere they can be added to.

6.  At your staff meetings, discuss one list each week.

Now, go check your voicemail.

links for 2006-12-08

Resolutions Part III: Building the Innovative Firm

I know I’m a week behind in my annual resolution series.  An unexpected (though tremendously rewarding) last-minute trip to New York City has got me playing catch-up.  Come Monday, I’ll be on track again with 31 daily resolutions for the New Year.

This year’s focus:  Innovation.  I’ll share 31 tips, tricks, and waaaaaaaaay outside of the box ideas to turbocharge your firm’s innovation engine.  I’ll back-date the posts so one corresponds to each day in December.  If you are antsy to get started on some resolutions now, check out the ones from 2004 and 2005.

Resolutions III: December 7

Is one of your resolutions to get more business?  Here are some ways to do just that:

1.  Make a list of the one industry you serve best (or that you’d like to serve better). 

2.  Ask someone familiar with the industry what periodicals everyone reads. 

3.  Subscribe to (and read) those magazines.

4.  Leave them in your waiting room when you’re done.   

Extra Credit:

1.  Submit articles to the magazine(s) that demonstrate your legal expertise.

2.  Attend trade shows advertised in the magazines.  Make sure everyone you meet knows the only reason you are there is to learn more about the industry you serve.

3.  Host a quarterly or twice-yearly event highlighting industry trends for local industry members.  If there is some sort of continuing education requirment in the industry, get your event certified.

Extra, Extra Credit:

1.  Compile all of the important materials, books, magazines, etc. for the industry in your office.

2.  Call this an “Industry Lending Library” or something similar.

3.  Make sure everyone in the industry knows they can stop by and borrow what they need (and not have to subscribe to/buy the materials themselves).

4.  Write a “Best Of” Report for each conference you attend.  Mail it to each industry member in your community.  Or blog it.

Extra, Extra, Extra Credit:

1.  Send me $5,000 as soon as someone identifies you as an “Industry Expert.”  ;-) 

Resolutions III: December 6

Resolve to be the place your clients turn to for innovative ideas.  Here’s just one way:

First, go to each of your business clients in the next 90 days and ask them this question (taken from this post by Kathy Sierra):  "What is the one thing that you are most afraid of that could put you out of business before the decade’s over?"

Second, once all of your clients have answered the question, identify the three or four most common answers and find people who can help the clients with their perceived problems.  Invite clients (5-10 at a time) to meet with these people and brainstorm solutions.  Don’t charge for these brainstorming sessions (you will identify enough new business out of them to justify the time).

Third, record the ideas, share them with all your clients, and help clients to implement them.

Finally, plan a hell of a party around New Year’s in 2010 and celebrate with the clients who’ve survived the decade.

 

Resolutions III: December 5

Add this question to your client intake form: 

What is something that you want to accomplish but you need someone else’s help in order to make it happen?

From The Ripple Effect

Resolutions III: December 4

Niche is an amazing new St. Louis restaurant in the Benton Park neighborhood.  After making reservations several weeks ago, I went for the first time Saturday night.  It was fantastic!

The Menu has three main categories:  First Things First, On to Bigger Things, and Sweet Dreams (appetizers/salads, entrees, and desserts).  Though the items listed in each course have individual prices, the restaurant offers diners their choice from each for a flat $35.00.  Not surprisingly, almost everyone chooses the “three for thirty-five” option.

Taking a page from Niche’s menu, here’s the resolution for the day:  Build A Menu for Your Firm.

  • Pick a practice area you are very familiar with, and divide the typical representation into three phases.  
  • Under each phase, list the kinds of things that you would do for the average client (like initial meetings, fact gathering, pleading preparation, etc.) 
  • Now, review old bills to get a sense of how much you really charge for each service, and come up with a price for each.
  • Prepare a “Menu” modeled on the one from Niche.

Even if you don’t plan on using the menu, it will force you to think about the attractiveness of the flat rate price.  Still not sure?  Ask your former clients (who’ve previously utilized the services you’ve set forth on the menu) what they think –  and most importantly, what they’d have thought if you’d presented them with the menu before they hired you.

BONUS:  If you are going to adopt the menu pricing model, go to a good restaurant supply store and have your prices printed in actual menus! 

Oh, and one more thing:  while you are developing a menu, don’t forget the “Whine List.”  Make a list of all of the things the typical client complains about.  Try to address those complaints with the client at the beginning of the representation, not at the end.

Bon Appetit!

 

Resolutions III: December 3

Build an office gallery:

Ask your employees to bring in the artwork of their children/grandchildren/nephews/neices/etc. and hang it in your firm’s “Gallery.”  Every year, have an art show, where all the kids are invited (with parents, of course) to see their work.

Resolutions III: December 2

Find your five favorite clients.  Take them to dinner.  Don’t let them leave until they answer this question:  What can I do to get more clients like you?

Resolutions III: December 1

Build a 2007 Resolution Wall.

Find a blank wall in your office where everyone can post as many firm-related “resolutions” as they want on 5×8 inch Post-It Notes.*   

At the beginning of 2007, draw a line ( tape) down the middle of the wall.  Label one side “Someday” and the other side “Now.”  

Ask every staff member to pick JUST ONE resolution they personally commit to achieving and move that Post-It from the Someday side to the Now side.

Every week, review the resolutions and ask everyone for an update on their progress. 

Once a resolution is achieved, place a huge checkmark (or big gold star) on it, and move another over from the Someday side to the Now side.

Repeat as necessary all year long.

* If you are feeling particularly brave, ask your clients to add their resolutions for your firm to the wall, and keep them up-to-date on your firm’s progress.