Yearly Archives: 2008

Ten Resolutions for the New Year

As 2008 draws to a close, it is natural to think about New Year’s resolutions.*  We think about our businesses, our clients and ourselves and resolve to do better next year.  If you’d like some help, or just some inspiration, here are Ten Resolutions for the New Year.  Enjoy:

1.  Resolve to be better to everyone.  Start with yourself.

2.  Resolve to choose your customers as carefully as friends, knowing that you’ll work best when they’re one in the same.

3.  Resolve to know your business better.  Recognize that being good at what you do is unimportant if you’re not good at being in the business you’re in.

4.  Resolve to stop doing the things your customers don’t pay you to do, unless you love doing them so much, you’d do them for free.  Because you are.

5.  Resolve to value your life by the things you experience instead of the things you possess.

6.  Resolve to eliminate the things in your life that wake you up in the middle of the night — unless you’re married to them, or they need to go outside for a walk.

7.  Resolve to become more useful to your customers.  Stop thinking about what they expect from you, and focus instead on what they don’t expect from you.

8.  Resolve to help the people who work with you (and for you) become better at what they do.  Give them what they need to excel at their jobs, and you’ll find you’re more likely to excel at yours.

9.  Resolve to understand the difference between what you do for clients and how long you take to do it.  They care about the former, and can’t understand why you charge for the latter.

10.  Resolve to do the work you long to do, instead of the work you’ve been doing for too long.  Follow your passions, honor your principles and strive to add value to every relationship you’re in. “Next Year” begins now.  Get started on making it great!

I’d love your input, and feel free to add your resolutions in the comments.  If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series:  Ten Rules for Law Students, Ten Rules for the New Economy, Ten Rules for New Solos, Ten Rules of Legal InnovationTen Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing.

Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

*  Thinking about Resolutions for Lawyers is something I’ve been doing for quite some time.  Here are my 30+ resolutions from 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Do Anything Online

From Mashable:  How To Do Almost Anything With Social Media.  Bookmark it, and read one or two of the linked posts each day and you’ll be a social media wiz in no time.

Taking the “Less” out of Jobless

Looking for a simple way to help the jobless in your community?  A local bar here in St. Louis (where lots of Anheuser-Busch employees are unemployed for the first time) has a great idea: Host a resume-writing clinic.

What else can you do to help the members of your community in their time of need?  Just a few ideas:

  1. Do a seminar on unemployment law, including the rights/responsibilities of employers or employees.
  2. Donate a portion of every payment you receive to a food pantry.
  3. Collect interview-appropriate clothes for job-seekers.
  4. Partner with the local copy shop or printer and offer coupons for free resume printing and mailing.
  5. Enlist local schools and ask them to provide non-peak use of computers (with student mentors) to job hunters.
  6. Donate (and ask clients to as well) used computers, appropriately reformatted, to those who need them.
  7. Teach about LinkedIn, Craigslist, Facebook and other online services that can help job seekers.
  8. Ask your business clients to volunteer to do practice interviews with — and give feedback to — the newly unemployed.
  9. Create and sponsor a job fair in your town.

I’m sure they are hundreds more.  The point is, help those in need.  They’ll thank you and you’ll thank yourself.

Ten Rules for Law Students

Over a year ago, I wrote 15 Thoughts for Law Students.  It was one of my first “Rules” posts, though I wasn’t calling them that at the time.  Since then, it has been one of the more popular items on this blog, and was even republished in the Canadian Bar Association magazine

I’ve revised it just a bit, and shortened it to 10 “rules” for the law students out there.  Enjoy.

1.  Law school is a trade school. The only people who don’t believe this to be true are the professors and deans.

2.  Being good at writing makes you a good law student. Being good at understanding makes you a good lawyer.  Being good at arguing makes you an ass.

3.  You can learn more about client service by working at Starbucks for three weeks than you can by going to law school for three years.

4. Law school doesn’t teach you to think like a lawyer.  Law school teaches you to think like a law professor.  There’s a huge difference.

5. The people who will help you the most in your legal career are sitting next to you in class.  Get to know them outside of law school. They are pretty cool people.  They are even cooler when you stop talking about the Rule Against Perpetuities.

6.  Law is a precedent-based profession.  It doesn’t have to be a precedent-based business.  Challenge the status quo.  Somebody has to.

7.  When you bill by the hour, getting your work done in half the time as your peers doesn’t get you rewarded.  It gets you more work.

8.  Your reputation as a lawyer begins now.  People won’t remember your class rank as much as they’ll remember how decent and honest you were.  They’ll really remember if you were a jerk.

9.  There are plenty of things you don’t know.  There are even more things you’ll never know.  Get used to it.  Use your ignorance to your benefit.  The most significant advantage you possess over those who’ve come before you is that you don’t believe what they do.

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

If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series:  Ten Rules for the New Economy, Ten Rules for New Solos, Ten Rules of Legal InnovationTen Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Own the Upheaval

From Jessica Hagy’s Indexed:

Well put, don’t you think?

Designers Don’t Have a Monopoly on Design

If one of your goals for the New Year is to upgrade your firm’s image, here’s a bit of inspiration for you.  Andy Mangold a 20 year-old design student, took a something we all take for granted (the Monopoly board game package) and looked at it in a different way.  Here’s his stunning re-design



If you asked a 20-something design student at your local college to take a crack at re-imagining your legal brand, what could it look like?  I bet there are a few design students who’d be interested in tackling the challenge.  Do you have the guts to let them?

(via TheDieline)

Make Meetings Shorter

Here’s an easy way to make your meetings shorter:  Fill your conference room with seating from The Slightly Uncomfortable Chair Collection. It is a series of chairs that look just a bit more than “slightly uncomfortable.”  Follow the link to see the whole collection.

Get Paid Faster

Some great advice from Howard Mann on ways to get paid faster.  Here’s my favorite:

4. Make the invoice an experience not a pain.  You work so hard to deliver a great experience to your customers – don’t you? Why stop when the product or service is delivered?  How can you make the delivery of your invoice a memorable event to the recipient? It is a chance to ask for feedback.  It is a chance to thank them for their business. 2 suggestions:

a) Make your invoice look nice great! Your invoice represents your company. Does it do it well? Have the designer that designed your logo, web site or brochure design your invoice.  Make it clear and pleasant to read.  Forms do not have to be ugly.  Make it stand out from the others.

b) Add a message to the invoice that is memorable.  Maybe it is a funny quote or a fun way to present the total due. If you don’t send many invoices then take the time to write a personal email with each one. If you send a ton, then this is impractical.  But you can create a cover email that briefly thanks them for entrusting the work to you.  Change your message every month or so.  Even a variety of facts about your company or staff works. Make it memorable and make it work with the personality of your business. I had one vendor who mentioned in their invoice when staff members had a birthday or had a baby, which drove home their family oriented nature.

An absolutely dynamite idea!  Look at your invoices, are they interesting or memorable?

What I like is…

A quick tip from Johnnie Moore, from this post on improvisation, that’s worth keeping in mind when negotiating with opponents, listening to clients or making restaurant plans with your significant other:

Respond to all offers with, “What I like about your idea is ….”

Good, Fast or Cheap: Pick Two

From GraphJam:

Ten Rules for the New Economy

This economic downturn provides a tremendous opportunity for lawyers to look at their practices in a new (and different) way.  Here are ten “rules” for lawyers facing an uncertain economic future.  I hope you find them helpful.

1. Your best response to bad economic times is to become indispensable to your clients.  What can you provide to them that they can’t do without?  If you can’t answer that question, it is unlikely your clients can either.

2.  Never assume your current clients know all you can do for them.  Never believe your former clients remember all you did for them.  Reach out to both and remind them.  New business will follow.

3.  “Advertise more” is the advice you’ll get from the yellow pages salesperson.  “Blog and Twitter more” is the advice you’ll get from social media consultants. “Serve more” is the advice you’ll get from your clients.

4.  In a bad economy, you can be proactive, reactive or inactive.  Chose the first, knowing most of your competitors will pick the other two.

5.  Don’t lower your rates, increase your terms.  The easier you make it for people to pay you, the more likely they will.

6.  There’s a fine line between compassion and pity.  Your clients aren’t paying you to feel sorry for them, they are paying you so they’ll no longer feel sorry for themselves.  Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” tell them the six words all clients long to hear: “I’ll help you get through this.”

7.  When your worst clients use the economy as yet another excuse to not pay you, use it as an excuse not to keep them.

8.  Though you might earn less of your clients’ money, never deserve less of their trust. 

9.  Your clients never hired you because they wanted a lawyer, they hired you because they needed one.  When they leave you, it isn’t because they suddenly need you less, they just need other things more.  Don’t take it personally, you’d choose food and heat over advice, too.

10.  Remember all those rainy day, practice-improvement projects you’ve put off ‘til “someday” because you’ve never had the time to do them?  Guess what, today is someday.  Now is the time for you to make big changes in your business.  What are you waiting for?

If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series: Ten Rules for New Solos, Ten Rules of Legal InnovationTen Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Twelve Days For You

As a thanks to everyone who’s made my personal and professional life as great as it has ever been, I’m going to give away 12 days in the New Year to you.  Each month, I’ll give a day away to someone to help them make their business better — no strings attached.  I’m working out the details now, and will post them by the New Year.

Here’s my challenge to you:  Can you find your best twelve clients (or their favorite causes) and give each a day of your time and talent in 2009? 

Amazing things will happen if you do.  I promise.

London, England

I’m in London from 12/7 – 12/13.  If you’d like to connect, give me a shout:  Matt (at) LexThink (dot) com.

The Blawg 100

Thanks to the folks at the ABA Journal for naming this blog to The Blawg 100, their list of the “best legal blogs” for the second year in a row.  Check out the entire list, there are tons of great blogs you should be following.

Ten Rules for New Solos

As our economy sours and the legal job market dries up, there are lots of lawyers looking at solo practice for the first time.  As a former solo myself, I’m sharing these ten “rules” for new solos.  There are more to follow, and please share yours in the comments.

1.  The good news:  As a solo, you are your own boss, can do whatever you want and answer only to yourself. That’s also the bad news.

2.  Your solo practice is far more likely to fail because you’re a bad business person than because you’re a bad lawyer. 

3.  If you are a bad procrastinator, you’ll be a terrible solo.  Nothing will impact your ability to succeed as much as your inability to manage your time.  It is unimportant how great you are at lawyering when you don’t send your bills out on time.

4.  Never underestimate the value of the water cooler.  You can find many “co-workers” online in Solosez, Blogs, Twitter, etc.  Just don’t spend all your time there.

5.  Would you let your plumber appear in court for you?  Remember your answer next time you’re fiddling with your phone system, computer network, etc…  You can’t expect someone to appreciate your expertise if you fail to appreciate theirs.

6.  If you’re looking for a guru, you can have Foonberg.  I’ll take Elefant.

7.  If you’re thinking of opening a “general” practice, remember this: Your clients don’t have “general” legal problems, they have specific ones.  They’ll hire you because you’re able to help them, not everyone else.

8.  Your friends, family and business contacts may hire you eventually, but they’ll rarely do so right away.  They have to need to hire you, not just want to.

9.  Never tell prospective clients that being a solo makes you cheaper to them.  Show them that being a solo makes you better for them. If your clients hire you because your rates are low, they will fire you as soon as your rates are no longer low enough.

10.  There is no shame in going solo.  Your clients don’t care that the legal market tanked, that you got laid off from BIGLAW or that you “wanted more time to spend with your family.”  They have their own problems, and are looking to you solve them.  When you do, you’ll both profit.

If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series: Ten Rules of Legal InnovationTen Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Ten Rules of Legal Innovation

“Innovative Lawyer” shouldn’t be an oxymoron.  Lawyers — who are constantly applying their creative, problem-solving skills to help clients — too often turn their innovation engines off as soon as their “billable” work ends. 

If you’re a lawyer, and willing to set aside some time to innovate, I am happy to help you.  Until then, I give you my Ten Rules of Legal Innovation.  Enjoy!

1.  The practice of law requires precedents. The business of law does not.  Knowing that other firms aren’t doing what you are isn’t cause for concern, it’s cause for celebration.

2.   There are (at least) ten things your clients wish you’d do differently, and I bet you don’t know what they are.  Innovation begins with conversation.  Engage your clients so they’ll keep engaging you. 

3. If you’re the first lawyer to do something that other businesses have been doing for years, it isn’t innovative, it’s about time.

4.  When you focus on being just like your competitors, the worst thing that can happen is you might succeed.

5.  If you have to tell your clients you’re being innovative, you probably aren’t.

6.  Innovation is just like exercise.  It isn’t particularly hard to do, but you won’t see results if you don’t practice it regularly.  Also, the more you do it, the better you’ll look (to clients).

7.  The best ideas in your firm will come from your staff.  While you’re paying attention to your clients, they’re paying attention to your business.  Ignore them at your peril.

8.  To be a more innovative lawyer, look inside the profession for motivation, but outside the profession for inspiration. 

9.  Your failure to capture your ideas is directly proportional to your failure to implement them.

10.  Remember, though your clients may tolerate your failure to innovate, they’ll never forgive your failure to care.

If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series:  Ten Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Get Started Today!

From Daring Fireball comes this nugget of advice that should serve as just enough of a push to get you to start that something you’ve been putting off:

Figure out the absolute least you need to do to implement the idea, do just that, and then polish the hell out of the experience.

So, what’s stopping you now?

Looking Back to the Future?

My friend Jordan Furlong writes a great post titled These are the Days of Miracle and Wonder about lessons we can learn from Obama’s win.  The great takeaway:

Twenty years ago, our parents would never have believed it. Twenty years from now, our children will take it for granted.

What amazing thing can you do TODAY in your practice that was unfathomable in 1988 but will be commonplace in 2028?  Get to it!

Ten Rules of Legal Technology

For your consideration:  Ten “Rules” of Legal Technology.  Not many are new, and very few apply only to lawyers, but these are a few more nuggets I’m pulling out of previous posts to fill out my portfolio of speeches I’ve got “in the can.”  Enjoy:

1. Since the first PC, legal tech companies have been promising to help lawyers capture more time.  Capturing time isn’t the problem, charging for it is.

2.  It is more important to get better at working with people than it is to get better working with technology.

3.  You should never have a bigger monitor or more comfortable chair than your secretaries do.

4.  Never brag about implementing technology in your firm that your clients have been using for a decade.

5.  The single piece of technology all lawyers should learn to use better is their keyboard. 

6.  Sophisticated clients don’t demand sophisticated technology, they demand sophisticated lawyers.  They assume the technology is part of the package.

7.  Social Media isn’t technology.  It’s your Rotary Meeting on steroids — though there are less lawyers in the room and the clients are better.

8.  Want to invest in an inexpensive communication technology guaranteed to improve your thinking skills and increase collaboration with clients? Buy a whiteboard for your office.

9.  Belt, meet suspenders: One backup solution is never enough.

10.  The only technology ROI that matters is your clients’ return on their investment in you.

Bonus Rule:  The one piece of technology your clients wish you’d get better at using is the telephone.  Call them back!

Also, check out Ten Rules About Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing.  If you’d like to hire me to speak, head over to LexThink.

Meet Your Future Clients

The other day, I suggested in my Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing that:

9.  Your future clients have been living their entire lives online and will expect the same from you.  If you’re invisible on the web, you won’t exist to them.

Now, I’ve stumbled across this article from Adweek titled Generation Watch Out that explains better than I ever could what I meant:

Today’s young talent represents not-able cultural shifts: They’re digital, message savvy, global and green. (Listen to the Flobots’ “Handlebars” and you’ll get the picture.) They mark fundamental changes from previous grads entering the industry. They’re more associative, culturally networked, nimble and intuitive. While they’re more cynical than cohorts past, they’re also more apt to call BS or volunteer for environmental or political causes. They are easy in their gay-or-straight, vegetarian-or-meat, tatted-or-not choices. F-bombs are tossed around like Frisbees. These kids run hard, adapt easily.

It’s the shortcut generation. That toolbar up top is for old-timers; these guys learned to Cmd-Option-Shift-A in middle school because it was cool, not necessary. Desktops are institutional holdovers. Everyone has a set of on-the-go tools: camera, laptop, videocam, hard drive, cool bag to tote it all. They’re experts early on, manhandling Final Cut or Flash with intuitive authority. They’re Idea 2.0, the mashup generation and one with confluence, that place beyond convergence where the old sloughs off and the new quickly gets morphed into the cultural DNA.

All this makes them, at their best, unbelievably creative and productive. On the other hand, they also think they have all the answers. Morley Safer wrote recently of this generation’s entitlement issues: They’ve grown up with everyone as winners, with inspired birthday parties and planned events, with middle-class privilege and opportunities at every camp, academy and take-your-kid-to-work experience. They expect careers, not jobs. And they expect to have their names—very soon—in an annual or this mag. Hell, they know their blog on a good day might get more eyeballs than the trades.

Get to know them. Understand them.  Because love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re not just your children, they’re your future clients, employees and partners.  Learn to serve them or they’ll serve themselves.

Want to avoid your clients?

OK, I’m not advocating this, but if you’ve got just a minute and don’t want to talk to that client who goes on and on and on …, try Slydial.  The free service promises to to connect you DIRECTLY to a person’s mobile voicemail.   They don’t answer, but get your message, and you can go back to being productive. 

Asking for your help.

Below is an email I received from Doug Sorocco, fellow legal blogger and great friend.  Please take time to read it and help if you can.

Howdy everyone!

As many of you know, I have spina bifida and have been a strong advocate on behalf of all those affected with this disability as well as the 65 million U.S. women of child bearing age.  As you are probably aware, all women of childbearing age should be taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid in order to increase the odds that a child will not be born with spina bifida.  I was honored to be the Chairman of the Spina Bifida Association of America the past number of years and I am now a member of the Board of the International Federation for Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida in Brussels.

Along with our time and energy, Kristen and I are both financial supporters of the Spina Bifida Association.  I have also been fortunate that my firm, Dunlap Codding, has supported my work these past 12 years and given tens of thousands of dollars in financial and in-kind donations.  We all believe in the mission of the organization and the work that it does.

I am now asking your financial support as well.

In conjunction with the Association’s Roast of Stephen Colbert of the “Colbert Report”, we are raising additional funds through donations and car raffle tickets.  The car being raffled this year is a Hybrid Lexus RX 400H – the winner will be able to drive in style, comfort and fuel economy.

I promise you – the Spina Bifida Association is an amazing steward of the funds we raise and the impact we are having in the world is at least 10x the actual size of our organization.  You have my word that the funds raised will be well used.  If you are interested in learning more about what we do – I invite you to go to http://www.sbaa.org

I – and all those affected by spina bifida – need your financial generosity and support at this point in time.

If you can buy a raffle ticket, please fill out the attached form.  Buy two tickets and you get a $25 price break!  Only 2500 tickets will be sold – so your odds of winning are great.

If you are in the DC area, please purchase tickets to the Roast – it should be the event of the year in Washington, D.C.  I can only imagine what members of Congress and The White House, given an open microphone, will say to Stephen Colbert!  The tables will be turned.  The link to purchase tickets is: http://tr.im/sbacolbertroast

If you cannot attend the Roast, you can still make a donation and support the work of the SBA.  I am extremely grateful for any contribution you can make and anything you can give, no matter the amount, will make a difference.

The link for Roast tickets and donations is:  http://tr.im/sbacolbertroast

One last request – please forward this email and attachment to at least ten people in your email address book.  The last time I requested your assistance in writing to Congress, I was overwhelmed with the number of people who responded.  It was astounding, frankly, and I believe that we must have gotten 15-20 more replies than the number of people I emailed.  So – forwarding this email will not take a lot of time, but the impact of forwarding the email is immeasurable.

Kristen and I thank you for your financial generosity and time.  Most importantly, we thank you for your incredible support of the work I have been doing on behalf of the SBA.  Together, we have truly made a difference in the lives of millions of people throughout the United States.

Kristen, Karl and I wish you, and your family, the very best for the holidays,

Douglas

Thanks!
 

Ten Rules About Hourly Billing

After the great response I got to yesterday’s Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing post, I’ve decided to share a few more “Rules” of Hourly Billing I’ve culled from my blog and my speeches.  Enjoy!

1.  Ask your clients what they buy from you.  If it isn’t time, stop selling it!

2.  Imagine a world where your clients know each month how much your bill will be so they could plan for it.  They do.

3.  If you don’t agree on fees at the beginning of a case, you’ll be begging for them at the end of it.

4.  Sophisticated clients who insist on hourly billing do so because they’re smarter than you are, not because they want you to be paid fairly.

5.  When you bill by the hour, your once-in-a-lifetime flash of brilliant insight that saves your client millions of dollars has the same contribution to your bottom line as the six minutes you just spent opening the mail.

6.  Businesses succeed when their people work better.  Law firms succeed when their people work longer.  Your clients understand this — and resent you for it.

7.  Every time your clients jokingly ask you, “Are you going to charge me for this?” they aren’t joking — and they’ll check next month’s bill to be sure.

8.  The hardest thing to measure is talent.  The easiest thing to measure is time.  The two have absolutely no relationship to one another.  Your law firm measures talent, right?

9.  Would you shop at a store where the cost of your purchase isn’t set until after you’ve agreed to buy it? You ask your clients to.

10.  There are 1440 minutes each day.  How many did you make matter?  How many did you bill for?  Were they the same minutes?  Didn’t think so.

If you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Touch Your Audience with These Touchy-Feely Tips

Here’s a must-read post from Laura Bergells with six “touchy-feely” tips that will help when you rehearse your next presentation (you do practice, right?). 

If you ever give presentations to clients, to peers or to juries, you need to be thinking about these practice ideas.  My favorite:

Record your presentation without video. Then, listen to it without watching the slides. I like putting my audio on my portable mp3 player — and taking a walk. While listening to myself on the ellipse machine at the gym last week, I found an area of my presentation that dragged so dismally, I barely registered a heartbeat while chugging along at a high incline! I went back to the office for a rewrite and added more powerful visuals. Listening to “audio only” helps you spot pace and pitch problems — but it also helps you later recall the words and inflections that work well.

More of Me Trying to Sound Brilliant

Episode Four of my interview with Jim Canterucci is up on his Personal Brilliance Blog.  Take a listen.

Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing

Legal Marketing has changed.  It used to be enough to keep an ad in the yellow pages and belong to the Rotary Club.  Not anymore.  Times are tough, so I present to you Ten “New” Rules of Legal Marketing.  Let me know what you think.

1.  “My lawyer can beat up your lawyer” isn’t a marketing strategy.  “My lawyer will call me back before yours will” is.

2.  Google tells me there are 337,000 “Full Service Law Firms” out there.  Which one was yours again?

3.  Unless the person who founded your firm 100 years ago is still alive and practicing law, he’s completely irrelevant to every client who’s thinking of hiring you.

4.  Market to a “want” not to a “need.”  By the time your clients realize they “need” you, it’s often too late — for them and for you.

5.  Your “keep great clients happy” budget should exceed your “try to get new clients” budget by at least 3:1.

6.  Thanksgiving cards say you’re thankful for your clients’ business.  Christmas cards say you’re just like everybody else.

7.  Having the scales of justice on your business card says you’re a lawyer — an old, stodgy, unimaginative, do-what-everyone-else-has-done-for-fifty-years lawyer.  Same is true for your yellow pages ad.

8.  Speaking of yellow pages, don’t abdicate your marketing strategy to their salespeople.  They don’t know marketing.  They only know how to sell you a bigger ad each year.

9.  Your future clients have been living their entire lives online and will expect the same from you.  If you’re invisible on the web, you won’t exist to them.

10.  The single best marketing strategy in the world is to find your best clients and ask them, “How do I get more clients like you?”

Look for ten more rules next month.  For hundreds of legal marketing ideas, check out my Marketing Category on this blog.  And if you want to get these in real time, follow me on Twitter.

Co-Op Your Small Team

If you’re looking for a solution to keep your small team on track, you should check out Co-Op, a lightweight, super-intuitive way to know what everyone in your team is working on right now.  It is a bit like Twitter meets your time sheet, and looks very cool.  Here’s a screenshot:

Pretending to Act Brilliantly

My friend Jim Canterucci interviewed me for his Personal Brilliance Podcast.  He’ll be posting portions of the interviews throughout this month and I encourage you to check it out. I’m not sure how much brilliance there is in my interview, but I always enjoy talking with Jim and I think you’ll find some interesting things in there. 

I’d also encourage you to check out the rest of the podcasts.  I’m working though them right now, and I’ve got to say, so far all of them have been worth a listen!

Hello from Idaho

Picture of the season’s first snow in Sun Valley, Idaho.

I just returned from Idaho, where I facilitated an Idea Market for Boise-area entrepreneurs (more on that in a future post), gave a speech to the fine lawyers at Hawley Troxell Ennis & Hawley and spoke about Innovation for Real Lawyers at the Idaho Bar’s annual meeting.* 

I’ll post my slides next week, along with some pretty cool thinking that came out of the Idea Market.  I’m going to be in Minneapolis, New York, Boston, Atlanta and London in the next two months.  I’d love to meet you when I make it to your city. 

Stay tuned.

*Big thanks go to friend Steve Nipper, Travis Franklin and the Idaho Bar Association for taking such good care of me while I was there!

The Value of a Free Consultation is What You Charge For It

Again from Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive:  Don’t give away anything for "free" because the "the value of an item declines when it is offered as a gift." 

So, instead of offering in your Yellow Pages ad (you’re still doing those?) a "Free Consultation," try offering a "$250.00 case analysis at no cost to you."  Your clients will value your continuing services more highly, and they’ll feel like they’ve already gotten something of value from you to begin with — making them more likely to reciprocate and hire you to take their case.

Pack a house with nervous clients?

Your clients are worried about their financial futures more than ever.  If you do divorce, estate planning, real estate or corporate work, you should be preparing a seminar NOW on the impact of the current situation on your clients. 

Make it “invitation only” and give each client the ability to bring another person.  Make it two hours or less.  Have a handout with the “Top 7 Things You Need to Know Now” or something similar.  Give each attendee at least three copies.  Encourage them to share it with people like them.

Tell it like it is.  Don’t sell.  Your clients (and their hand-picked referrals) will appreciate the information, and look to you as their advisor in times of need.

If Operators are Busy ..

I’ve just started Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B. Cialdini, and can already give it my highest recommendation.  It offers fifty short lessons (2-4 pages each) on persuasiveness, along with the empirical evidence to back them.

One quick lesson from the first chapter in the book:  Simply by changing an infomercial’s call to action from “Operators are waiting, please call now,” to, “If operators are busy, please call again,” resulted in a huge increase in products purchased. 

Why?  Instead of people imagining a room full of operators waiting by silent telephones, infomercial viewers imagined those same operators going from call to call without a break, and assumed “if the phone lines are busy, then other people like me who are also watching this infomercial are calling, too.”

Very interesting stuff.  A highly recommended book!

Looking for the Ugly in Potential Clients

Kevin Kelly writes another insightful essay on The Technium titled “Looking for Ugly.”  Using FAA reporting on aircraft maintenance as his main example, he suggests that when we don’t penalize minor infractions (the FAA encourages penalty-free reporting of minor safety errors), we reduce major ones.  Put another way, to avoid major catastrophe, it is important to encourage people to look for and report “the ugly:”

Looking for ugly is a great way to describe a precursor-based error detection system. You are not really searching for failure as much as signs failure will begin. These are less like errors and more like deviations. Offcenter in an unhealthy way. 

I think he’s right on.  When evaluating new clients, for example, keep track of those things that don’t “feel quite right.”  It could be something as simple as the fact that they rescheduled three times, showed up late for an appointment, or “forgot” their retainer check.  While many of those prospects will turn into great clients, the handful of them that don’t probably have a lot of those little things in common. 

The more you pay attention to those “little things” as they enter your head (as opposed to using your 20/20 hindsight once the relationship has gone sour) the more likely you’ll get better at choosing great clients — and avoiding the “ugly” ones.

The Perfect Law Firm Retreat: Let Your Clients Set the Agenda

So you’re working on the agenda for your firm’s next retreat?  You’ve got the standard bases covered:

Message from the Chairperson?  Check.
Firm financials?  Check.
Important legal decisions?  Check.
Practice-group breakouts?  Check.
Rainmaking training?
Golf?  Check.

Client concerns?  Huh?

You’ve asked your clients what they’d like you to talk about, haven’t you?  You should.  And I’m not just talking about mastering their new billing requirements.  I’m suggesting you should poll your most important clients and ask them what they’d like you to cover at your next retreat. 

You might be surprised at what they’d like you to learn — and they’ll be surprised you cared enough to do so.

Want to Buy a Law Firm Brand?

I came across IncSpring yesterday.  It is a marketplace where designers can sell (and companies can buy) “ready-made brands.”  If is a pretty neat concept, and you get to deal directly with the designer.  Not a lot of “legal” brands yet, but if you’re a Texas Lawyer, you can do a lot worse than Lone Star Law:

The Perfect Law Firm Retreat: Leave the Lawyers at Home

If you are serious about making your firm better, next time you are thinking about a law firm retreat, stop.  Cancel (or postpone) your lawyer’s retreat and spend your money on a staff retreat instead. 

Here are seven reasons you should consider a staff retreat this year:

1.  Your staff know how your firm works better than you do.  You know how your firm is supposed to work.  They know how it actually works.  They observe,  notice and understand the little things that you may overlook.  Unlocking their creativity will give you dozens (if not hundreds) of practical ideas to make your firm work better.

2.  Your staff doesn’t know what your lawyers know, but they know what your lawyers should know.  If you wanted to improve the efficiency of your firms lawyers by training them to do one thing better, what would it be? You might think a seminar on “rainmaking” will improve your firm’s bottom line.  The staff might suggest “copier training” instead — and they’d probably be right.

3.  Your staff knows how to save you money.  Every single person on your staff has at least three ways to save you $100 each month.  Whether you want to reduce your overhead or prioritize your technology spending, your staff will give you better ideas than your attorneys will.

4.  Your clients don’t act like clients around your staff.  When “on the clock,” your clients act like clients.  When talking to your receptionist, secretary or paralegal, your clients act like people.  Your staff know better than you what your clients hate about your firm.  Ask them nicely and they’ll tell you.

5.  Your staff are your best source for competitive intelligence.  Want to know what your competitors are up to?  Ask your staff.  They talk with their peers at other firms, and they know what’s happening in your slice of the legal market.  They also know (probably before you) when and why your clients won’t pay their bills.

6.  Your staff can help you say no.  Your staff know which clients don’t deserve your firm’s work, and which ones you should fire.  They also know the least talented and productive members of your firm, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.

7.  Your staff is cheap.  Well, not really “cheap,” but compared to the hourly billing rates for a day of the firm’s attorneys’ time, a day-long staff retreat is a bargain. The staff probably doesn’t expect four days in Maui, either.

The most important reason to do a staff retreat, however, is that your staff will feel great knowing you value their ideas.  The single most effective way to engage your employees and make them feel good about working for you is to listen to them — and asking them to help your firm solve its most pressing challenges is a tremendous way to do it.

One important key:  whether you hire LexThink or someone else, you absolutely should not facilitate this one by yourself.  Keep lawyers out of the room if you want your staff to speak freely.  You’ll be rewarded with their candor.

And when they get back to the office, make sure they each have their own set of business cards.  If you value them, there’s no better way to show it, than by allowing them to be ambassadors for your firm.

Amazon Prime Time

I’m not sure how many people I’ve told about Amazon Prime, Amazon’s $79.00 per year “Membership” that gets you free second-day shipping on everything Amazon sells (as opposed to stuff Amazon sells for other people), and $3.99 an item next-day shipping when you absolutely, positively have to have it overnight.

The shipping deal is pretty sweet, but the best part is the amount of time I DON’T spend in Target, Barnes and Noble, OfficeMax, etc.  I keep a list of things I use again and again on a shopping list at Amazon, and when I need to replenish my supplies I click “order” and a package arrives at my door in two days.

Here’s the thing:  If you like the idea of Amazon Prime AND want to help me make a little dough, sign up with this link.  I get $12.00 through the end of October for each referral.  If you’d rather not send me some grocery money (who am I kidding, I’ll probably spend it on books and gadgets), go straight to the non-referral link (here) and sign up anyway.  I like Prime that much.

Mediation 2.0 The Wisdom of Crowds?

Mediators and family lawyers out there, check out where your practice area may be headed: 

Crowd-sourced dispute resolution (without the resolution part, yet).  It is called  SideTaker, and promises to “let the world decide who’s at fault.”  Here’s how it works (according to the site):

Step One:  Add your side and tell lover.
Step Two:  Lover adds their side.
Step Three:  People vote and comment.

Everything is anonymous.  Questions, responses and comments range from funny to sad.  If you want to see a way Web 2.0 can impact your practice, check it out.

The Perfect Law Firm Retreat: Introduction

Over at LexThink, I offer creative law firm retreat design and facilitation.  It is something I really love to do, and it is tremendously rewarding to work with a firm’s lawyers as they collaborate and develop amazing ideas — along with a plan to implement those ideas — that will make their business better.
 
However, not every firm can afford to hire someone to design and facilitate their retreat or practice group meeting.  Starting this week, I’m going to be posting some of my thoughts on building the "Perfect Law Firm Retreat."  I’ll include ideas, sample agendas and descriptions of exercises I’ve used to get people working (and thinking) together. 

I’ll also include fun/crazy ideas for holding an "on-site" retreat (or even eliminating retreats all together) that will he help firms get most of the benefits of holding an off-site retreat without the costs.

I’d love your input, via comment, email or twitter (@mhomann).  Thanks!

So Easy a Lawyer Won’t Do It?

"So easy a plumber can do it…" might not have the ring of Geico’s caveman commercials, but when I saw this book excerpt on friend Phil Gerbyshak’s blog from The Celebrity Experience, Insider Secrets to Delivering Red Carpet Customer Service, I knew I had to share it with you.

Author Donna Cutting tells a story about Hub Plumbing and Mechanical, a Boston-area plumbing company.  From the book:

Everyone in the company, including apprentices, has a business card. They give out slick folders, fun magnets, and dry erase boards. They’ve even been known to replace your toilet paper with a new roll bearing the Hub logo!

But John Wood knows something else, too. He knows that branding is not about the trucks, the carpets, or the toilet paper. It’s about the service. If John and his team weren’t consistent in the service they provide, the red trucks, the red uniforms, and the red carpets would simply be decoration. And if Hub Plumbing & Mechanical just relied on decor and didn’t deliver the goods, it would not have grown from a one-man operation to a $1.5 million business with 11 employees in just six short years.

When you call Hub Plumbing, any time of the day or night, a live person answers the phone. (Once you have an appointment) you receive an email from your plumber. He tells you approximately when to expect him, what his specialties are, and all about his family and hobbies. As John says, "When people hire a plumber, their expectations are low. Our guys have personalities!

Did I mention the e-mail is in HTML format and a photo of your plumber is included?

The day of the visit, your plumber calls when he’s on his way to the job. If he’s running late, he will call in plenty of time to see if you want to wait or if you’d rather reschedule. Assuming the best, you would soon look out your window and see the bright red Hub Plumbing truck roll up to your house.

Once you have invited your plumber in, he puts plastic covers over his shoes to keep from marking up the carpet. And he lays down the red carpet with the Hub logo, and places his tools like surgical instruments on it. It’s their Red Carpet Service.

Hub Plumbing took a look at things people said they’d disliked about plumbers:  showing up late, looking bad (plumber’s crack, anyone?), overcharging and leaving a mess — and changed everything.   

Lawyers, if you had to change everything about lawyers that clients hate, where would you start?

And if you want some motivation, take a look at Hub’s Testimonial page.  Do your customers say the same things about you?

UPDATE:  Forgot to mention, HUB charges by the project, not the hour.

UPDATE 2:  Changed the title of the post and edited the content a bit.  Wasn’t meaning to demean plumbers, just show how one plumbing company rethought their business to address (admittedly stereotypical) concerns people had about plumbers.  I wish lawyers (who can teach plumbers a thing or two about undeserved stereotypes) would do the same thing.

Five Reasons Lawyers Need a Digital Camera

Every lawyer needs a digital camera for their exclusive use.  I’m not talking about sharing one with the entire office, or using your camera phone or the one from home (when you remember to bring it).  I’m talking about a small, digital camera (like this one) you can keep in your pocket, briefcase or purse. 

I take mine everywhere.  Here are a few not-so-obvious reasons lawyers should, too:

  1. To remember what your clients look like.  Go ahead, admit it.  When you look through your files at the end of each month (you do that, right?), you always have at least one client’s name you can’t put with a face.  How about the times you get a call from Bob Smith, and you can’t remember just exactly who Bob is?  Every time you retain a new client, take their picture.  Upload it to your practice management/contact management program and print it out to put inside their file.  Even better, also put it in an album of past and current clients (like a yearbook) and you’ll never be caught scratching your head wondering just who that person was you just bumped into at the supermarket.
  2. To make sure you send your bills out on time.  Take a picture of something you want (a new car), or something you love that costs you money (like your children), and clip that photo on top of your stack of bills when you review them every month.  The picture will remind you just why you do what you do, and motivate you to get your bills out on time.
  3. To make copies and turbocharge your whiteboard.  This tip alone could save you (or your clients) the cost of a camera in less than six months.  Sign up for a service like ScanR and send your photos of documents, business cards or whiteboards in and have them converted into .pdf files for free.  This can save you $1.00/page or more vs. paying for copying court files.
  4. To help your clients find the courthouse.  Next time you head to the courthouse, take pictures of the parking lot, the entrance, and even the place you want your clients to meet you.  Send the pics along with your letter telling them about their hearing, and they’ll be far more likely to be on time.
  5. To capture the cool things you see.  There are always things we see that we wish we’d remember.  Take a picture.  What you’ll find is you remember more things, and you’ll also start to become a much better photographer.

Billboard-ize Your Next Presentation

Another great post from Presentation Zen on learning slide design from IKEA billboards.   The key takeaway:

Good billboards and other signage, must:

(1) get noticed,
(2) be read/understood,
(3) be remembered, and
(4) we hope an action is taken or one’s thinking is influenced.

The first three in particular apply to presentation slides as well. I am not suggesting that you literally copy the style of the signs outside an IKEA. But you can incorporate the same principles for your displays used in your live talks that designers use for billboards and other ‘glance media.’ 

Most people could not care less about a billboard or the signs outside an IKEA store, of course. But you’re different. So you slow down and you pay attention to “the design of it.” You notice the elements such as color, size, shape, line, pattern, texture, emptiness, alignment, proximity, contrast, and so on.

You’re really not that funny.

Trying to be funny in your client emails?  You are probably not succeeding. From Psychology Today:

[I]n a series of studies, participants were only able to accurately communicate sarcasm and humor in barely half—56 percent—of the emails they sent. What’s worse, most people had no idea that they weren’t making themselves understood….

The fact that we’re usually very good at making ourselves understood is also what trips us up in the email domain. “We’re all so adept at processing nonverbal cues that we do it without thought, in a happy-go-lucky way.” So much so, that we often don’t recognize ambiguous meanings, like in that dashed-off email that could be read two different ways.”

Tips?  Reread your emails, aloud if possible, and listen closely for ambiguity.  For important emails, compose them, take a break, and come back and re-read before you hit send.

Via Guy:

More on Using Pie Charts

From GraphJam:

Reactivate Past Clients

John Jantsch gives us Seven Tips to Dig Out from a Recession.  The one you should focus on today:

Reactivate past customers – Where did I put that customer anyway, I know they are around here somewhere. Sad but true, sometimes we don’t bother to communicate with current customers unless they call with an order. By the time they have decided someone else appreciates their business more, it’s too late. Reach out to lapsed customers and make them an apology, promise to never ignore them again, and make them a smoking hot deal to come back.

Conference Tips Revisited

Two years ago, I wrote The Conferencing Manifesto on my Real Big Thinking Blog.  I’m about to put that blog to bed (more on that in the near future), and wanted to repost some of my favorites.  Here are a few tips for conference goers:

Know Your Questions.  Seek Your Answers.  Never attend a conference without at least three questions you want answered.  Never leave until they have been.

Their Conference is Your Focus Group.  Want to measure the pulse of the marketplace?  Want feedback on your idea, product, or business model?  Go to a conference populated by your ideal customer.  Forget the sessions.  Hang out in the hallway.  And listen.  A lot.

Be Smart.  Be Helpful.  Then Be Quiet.  Other attendees may have come to the conference to meet people like you.  They may want and deserve your help (and you, theirs).  They didn’t come to hear your hour-long presentation.  Please understand the difference.

Paper Works Best.  Your ability to pay attention to conference speakers and attendees is inversely proportional to your ability to pay attention to the outside world.  Stow the laptop, turn off the BlackBerry, pull out the Moleskine, and start writing.  Oh, and if you can’t leave the real world behind for an hour or two, please don’t leave it at all.

Vendors Matter.  Vendors are like puppies.  They crave your attention.  Give it.  They know your industry and the other attendees better than you do.  Talk with them.  Learn from them.  Then take a few pens.

Blogging is not Participation.  We get it.  Your blog has tens/hundreds/thousands of readers who can’t wait to hear your take on the last speaker’s presentation and about how crappy the WiFi is.  Your “audience” will be there tomorrow.  Your fellow attendees will not.

The most important people at the conference are sitting next to you.   Think Tom Peters gives a rat’s ass about your new business strategy?  Is Seth Godin going to give you personalized marketing advice?  Of course not.  The people at any event who are most likely to have already faced your challenges (and maybe even solved them) aren’t the highly-paid keynoters, but rather your fellow attendees.  They are like you.  They can help you.  Ignore them at your peril.

Hop on the (VW) Bus and Market Your Practice

From Flickr member Jason B comes this great picture of Oklahoma City attorney Chad Moody‘s “marketing vehicle.” 

Any personal injury lawyers out there using ambulances?  Here’s one for cheap.

Twittering

I’m Twittering again, for the first time.  Follow me at @mhomann (is that redundant?) if you please.  More importantly, if you’ve got someone you think I should follow, tweet me and let me know.

Thanksgiving Cards: Another Reason

From my friend Jim Canterucci comes this comment to my post about Sending Thanksgiving Cards:

Matt, I couldn’t agree more. We’ve been sending T-giving cards for at least 15 years. We actually get thank you notes for the cards. It’s great to visit a large client office and see our cards displayed in many offices. We also get Christmas cards from people who likely wouldn’t send otherwise. This is just one more connection.

Mood Ring + Brainstorm = Moodstream

You’ve got to check out Moodstream from Getty Images.  From the site:

Moodstream is a powerful brainstorming tool designed to help take you in inspiring, unexpected directions. Whether you want images, footage or audio, or just need a stream of fresh ideas, tweak the Moodstream sliders to bring a while new creative palette straight to you.

It is really hard to describe, but think of a constantly changing mixture of pictures, video and music that can be customized with sliders in the following ways: happy to sad, calm to lively, humorous to serious, nostalgic to contemporary and warm to cool.  Very neat stuff.  And of course you can purchase the images if you see something you like.

Boise Idea Market

If you are in the Boise, Idaho area on October 8th, I’m going to be facilitating an Idea Market from 6:00 to 9:30.  The Facebook Invite is here.  Cost is $20.00 to cover food and supplies.  Would love to see you there. 

Do your clients know you’re thankful for their business?

It is roughly ten weeks until Thanksgiving.  Have you ordered your Thanksgiving cards yet?  Here’s five reasons why you should:

  1. Thanksgiving is a holiday about giving thanks.  Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to offer your clients a genuine “Thank you for being our client” greeting from the entire firm.  The holiday itself reinforces the message to your clients.  A win-win.
  2. Thanksgiving cards are uncommon.  How many Thanksgiving cards did you get last year?  That’s what I thought.  Your clients don’t get them either.  That’s why yours will stand out.  It is also why yours will be talked about.
  3. Thanksgiving cards have a long shelf life.  Literally.  What do people do with holiday cards?  They display them.  If you send a Thanksgiving card, it will be likely be the first one up on the mantle, and will probably stay there, alone at first, until Christmas card season is done.
  4. Thanksgiving isn’t Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanza.  Hate the minefield of picking the right not-too-religious “Happy Holiday” card?  Avoid it all together with a Thanksgiving card.
  5. At Thanksgiving, there’s still time for your clients to do end-of-year work.  This is perhaps the least-recognized, yet best reason to send Thanksgiving cards:  they’ll generate more end-of-year business for you.  When you send a Christmas card, it is already too late for most clients to get more legal work done before the new year.  By the time the holiday rush is over, they’ve forgotten what they wanted you to do, and wait probably wait another year.  A Thanksgiving card can give them that subtle prompt when there’s at least a month left before the rest of the holiday’s hit, allowing you to close the year on a high note.

Building Banks with Generation-C

James Gardner at Bankervision has been thinking about “future-proofing” banks, and takes inspiration from Linux and Crowdsourcing:

We’ve been tracking a trend at the bank we call Generation-C, the generation that wants to Create. These are the people who write blogs, who mash up applications to create new ones, who contribute to forums and put themselves out there….

What might the power of crowds create if we let them loose on banking products and services?

Because if these Generation-C folk can create a better operating system for free than the folks at Redmond with billions to spend on R&D, what might fantastic things might Generation-C do for financial services?

Indeed.  I think the same goes for law practice.  What do you think?

I Love Post-It Notes!

EepyBird’s Sticky Note experiment from Eepybird on Vimeo.

Beep Beep

From Wikipedia, via Kottke:

The simple but strict rules for Road Runner cartoons.

  1. 1. Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “beep, beep”.
  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote — only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products.
  3. The Coyote could stop anytime — IF he was not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” — George Santayana).
  4. No dialogue ever, except “beep, beep”.
  5. Road Runner must stay on the road — for no other reason than that he’s a roadrunner.
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters — the southwest American desert.
  7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  10. The audience’s sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

If Lawyers Didn’t Exist

I know, the title of this post sounds like the beginning of another lawyer joke, but it comes from a very thought-provoking article from Indi Young on A List Apart titled Look at it Another Way.

Indi suggests several ways we can “step out of our problem-solving role.” This is important because:

Whether we’re improving what we make, how we make it, or how we share it, we normally take the perspective of the creator by default. We can’t help it. We’re drawn into decisions about all sorts of details. We love the minutia—solving problems, finding a way around a limitation. We don’t try to see past our own role in the process.

Instead of trying to improve our businesses (or our processes/outputs/etc.) from the inside, she suggests we drop our problem-solving role completely, forget about our business’ existing limitations and become the person we serve.

Pretend you and your organization do not exist, and study what this person does with all the resources available in her life. For example, what does a citizen need from her town government? She needs a way to get from her house to the grocery store, the library, the post office, her workplace, etc. These could be roads, bike paths, public transit, and sidewalks. She needs utilities like water and electricity to be delivered to her property. She needs assurance that her property will be defended from fire, protected from floods, and accessible during a disaster. She wants to feel safe from assault, whether by a human, an animal, pollution, noise, or disease. This list goes on.

Like governments, lawyers (though some might argue) exist to fulfill a need. Here’s a way to identify those needs: Think about your clients for a moment. But, as the article suggests, don’t think of them as a “user” of the thing you provide. Instead, “think about how and why they accomplish what they want to get done.”

So, who are your clients? What do they look like? Where do they live? What do they need? What do they want to get done?

Most importantly, what wakes them up at 2:00 am the morning before they call your office? Would they say it is because they wanted “estate planning” or because they want to make sure they can “take care of their family” when they die?

Put another way, if lawyers didn’t exist, what unmet need would your clients have? And if you were the only one to recognize that unmet need (in a world without lawyers, remember), would you invent your firm as it exists today?

Would your client?

Would Steve Jobs?

Need Help with Pie Charts?

If you need some design inspiration (or just a humor break), check out GraphJam, a collection of charts and graphs that visually depict really important things.  Like this:

Start Clients Off Right With a “Starter Kit”

Mark Hollander shares a Patient Starter Kit from drug manufacturer Shire on his Group8020 blog (great company name, btw). The “Kit” consists of:

  • 16 page, full color booklet with basic information about the disease state
  • An interactive CD-ROM that plays on both Windows and Macs (the latter representing a smart marketing decision. In the US, Apple represents two thirds of all new computer sales)
  • An ATM-like card to be used at local pharmacies for a free 30-day trial of the product
  • Standard P.I. insert

According to Mark, “The process of converting the “concerned and curious” to new customers begins immediately. The right front page prominently displays a serialized card used for enrollment in the 30-Day trial.”

Some other really cool things in the kit (for an ADHD drug):

  • “Success Tracker” to chart and reinforce a child’s improvement in tasks that had previous proven difficult
  • Recognition Certificate for the child – we’re assuming it works on the principle of “accomplish so many things and your reward will be..”
  • Household Organizer Chart – for both child and parent, bringing a little structure back into home life

Put aside what you think about how drug companies market for a moment, and think about this instead:

What would a New Client Starter Kit look like for your firm?

Would it have basic information about the area of law concerning the client?

Would it contain links, scanned articles and documents (like questionnaires and forms) on a CD-ROM that would work on both Macs and Windows PC’s?

Would it contain photos of your office, including the outside of your building and the parking lot, as well as pictures (and bios) of all your staff?

Would it contain a FAQ?

Would it be cool?

If you’re looking for a project this month, perhaps building a New Client Starter Kit should make it onto your short list.

Line Up for Design Inspiration

Need a little design inspiration? Check out these results from a Smashing Magazine contest. The challenge? Design a horizontal line. It is a pretty basic challenge with pretty amazing results. The best part? They’re all free for reuse.

Upcoming Events: Idea Market and Inter:PLAY

If you’re in and around St. Louis, there are a few things I’m involved in you might like.

The first is an Idea Market on September 15th. We’ve taken off several months for the summer, and I’m itching to try some new things with the group. We’ve only room for 30, so sign up now if you’d like to come.

The second is the Inter:PLAY, the new St. Louis Interactive Festival. The St. Louis Bloggers Guild has put together some really cool panels, and I’m pleased to be participating on three of them:

The Small Business and Social Media – Friday 9/19 @ 4pm

How prominent is your business’s online profile? Is it necessary to build relationships with bloggers and others in social media? Learn just how important social media is to your business – along with how to save your advertising budget dollars, build a viral marketing campaign, increase word of mouth, and other “guerilla marketing” techniques. Featuring Marianne Richmond, David Gray, Matt Homann, and Madalyn Sklar; moderated by Melody Meiners.

The Emerging Ethics of Social Media – Saturday 9/20 @ 1pm

A roundtable discussion on the ethical questions surrounding the world of social media. Topics addressed may include: privacy of bloggers and those whom bloggers write about; truthfulness v. artistic license; email and comment etiquette; and more. Featuring Todd Jordan, Jaelithe Judy, moderated by Matt Homann.

Cyberbullying – Saturday 9/20 @ 2pm

An apropos topic in our state of Missouri – which became the first to outlaw “cyberbullying” with a controversial new law. This panel will host an open discussion on online safety and privacy issues that all internet users face. Explore ways to protect yourself and your family while still participating in online communities. Featuring Elizabeth Helfant, Matt Homann, Kim Dorsey, Dana Loesch; moderated by Lisa Bertrand.

And if you like music, Inter:PLAY is a part of the much larger PLAY:Stl, with 99 bands over 3 days (warning, link opens with music). Hope to see you there!

Think Bigger

I’ve recently upgraded (the understatement of the year) to an Apple Cinema 30 inch display and I can’t describe how much of a positive difference it has had on my work. Just the ability to see multiple windows at the same time has been a tremendous time-saver.

So, since I know a bigger screen helps me to work faster, I decided to try a another “does size matter?” experiment. I grabbed a pad of 18″x24″ drawing paper and a marker and sat down to do some brainstorming.

What I found is that the extra room on the paper gave me permission to think bigger.

  • Doodles? Check.
  • To Do list? Check.
  • Mindmap? Check.
  • Notes? Check.

All on the same page.

If you’ve got something you’d like to think about in a different way, go ahead and up-size your canvas. I bet you’ll find the extra space will give you (or your clients) more room to be creative. Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you.

Criminal Defendants: What I Learned

Want to know what defendants really think about their experience with the judicial system? Add Courthouse Confessions to your reading list. It is a blog by Steven Hirsch, and he interviews people as they leave the courthouse. In many ways, it reads like a more real-life version of Esquire Magazine’s What I’ve Learned series.

Some gems:

Moral of the story is my friends, hang with people in your caliber. If your a person person hang with good people. That’s the moral of this story. I’m a good person. I consider myself a good person. On a scale of one to ten I consider myself an eight. Timothy Jones

I kinda felt better on the sofa than I did feel in jail. ‘Cause I don’t have like a violent history, I don’t have no crime, I don’t have no record, period. Honestly, I should’ve stayed at home, it would’ve been more comfortable. Jamali Brockett

I just got out on five hundred dollars bail and I’m stressed out and I’m mad but um this is life, so this is what it is. Come to find out the marijuana that was supposed to be sold was Lipton tea. Tyrone Carter

I’m here on assault charges which I obviously didn’t do. All the assaults that I actually have done, I’ve never been to court for. Daniel Sbarra

Let me say on the record, I’d like to apologize to the City Of New York for taking a pee. I’d like to apologize to the garbage man that took my pee away in a garbage truck. There’s a reason that garbage man gets paid more then the police. Mark Mark Mark

Never buy phones off the streets. You know, I gotta go to a store and do like everybody else does. I’m not really interested in phones, long as I can make a call, you know? Cori DeSilva

Actually I’m proud and happy that I hit the cops. They deserve it. I feel better. Now I feel better. Evan Munoz

Graffiti is a part of my life. I start when i was a kid. Its like a spirit, it’s my life. I’m a student in graffiti design. Writing on the wall is like I was here, I was in New York, I was in Paris, I was in Amsterdam. It’s like a dog make a pee on the wall. I’m animal. Esteban Gonzalez

So she actually gave me a second chance at getting community service. So when I signed up for community service and they gave me the dates to appear I got drunk again and lost the paper work. Ian Jernigan

As long as I don’t sell no more weed to uncover cop, I’m good money. Kevin Dorsey

In my opinion drugs, selling drugs in my opinion is not a crime, in my opinion…. I’m not doing a public service but in my opinion at the time I was doing more like an entrepreneurship, an opportunist, I saw a large market, decided to go for it, supplied their demand. Jonathan Sierra

I stole a bra. I did. ’cause I wanted it, and I didn’t have enough money…. Sure, I would [do it again.] I had so much fun coming here to court, I met beautiful people, and I saw that it’s not as bad as you think. They were all laughing, the whole time through, we were laughing, joking. Stay good, don’t do bad things, you know? Do good things, don’t steal. Janet Braha

I may look like sh*t right now, but when I dress up and do my hair, and everything, I look very elegant, very classy. But my dream is to keep studying politics and run for the presidency when I get older…. I’m not gonna say that I’m gonna win, but I can say that I’m gonna try my hardest, because I have a lot of great ideas on a lot of different things, and I think I can make a difference and make a change, a better change in the world…. I feel that I’m qualified for that. Judy Guadalupe Schiller Perez Aversa

The Curse of Almost Done

A few days ago, I wrote about how I was suffering from The Curse of Almost Happy. I realized that being “close to” fulfillment in my life and career wasn’t close at all. So, as I’ve spent this past weekend knocking off several things on my “To Do for Too Long” list, it hit me that a cause (companion?) to that Curse is another one: The Curse of Almost Done.

Unless you’re a hyper-productive, always-on-top-of-everything person, you know what I’m talking about. The Curse of Almost Done is evident all around you. It manifests itself the moment you put off completing those last few steps of a project that is “almost done.” It keeps you from picking those projects up and finishing them now because you’ve got more important things to start, and since they are, after all, “Almost done.”

Well, I’ve battled the Curse of Almost Done all weekend. I’m finally happy to unveil the new LexThink.com. It isn’t done, but it is done enough.

Let me know what you think. Still to come: links to my presentations, a client intranet site, some video, my first e-book, and a top-secret project that will launch in two weeks (I promise).

So what’s on your “To Do for Too Long” list? Set aside a day each week where you swear to not start anything new. Use that day just for completing things. “Finish Fridays” anyone?

My iPhone Sucks

Ok, I said it. My iPhone sucks!

I used to love my iPhone, but now I love my iPod Touch. The funny thing is, I’ve not gotten a second device. Rather, the “Phone” part of the “iPhone” doesn’t work much at all. That’s unless you think it is acceptable to drop one conversation FIVE FREAKIN’ TIMES in 30 minutes! Seriously, I’ve now started phone conversations apologizing for the dropped call that’s inevitably coming before I want the call to end.

The iPhone’s my only phone. As someone who spends a good part of their day using the phone, this is simply unacceptable. This is my first bad experience with an Apple product — and I’ve been a fanboy since I bought the original Macintosh in ’85 with money earned during the summer of my junior year of high school.

I’m off to AT&T tomorrow to figure out what to do. I simply can’t have a phone that’s not one most of the time. AAAAAARGH!

Stop Painting a White Room White

I was talking with a friend the other day, and he was telling me how he felt that at work they kept doing the same things over and over again with similar, less-than-remarkable results. He said it was like “painting a white room white.” While the new coat of white paint was fresher and cleaner than the one it replaced, nobody really noticed the difference except the ones who did the painting.

I think the same is true about the incremental changes many of us make in our business. We notice them, and over-value their worth to others even though they’re not likely to realize we’ve made any changes at all.

Next time you contemplate a change in your business, ask yourself, “Will my clients (or co-workers) notice?” If the answer is no, perhaps you should concentrate your energies on changing something they will.

Free Fee-Setting Advice

From my friend Gerry Riskin comes a link to this Report on Fee Setting for Professionals. In it, an all-star cast of legal innovators and business gurus answer the question: What one piece of advice do you need to know to get the fees you deserve?

I’d highly recommend reading Gerry’s post to get a peek at what’s in the report, and then downloading it (sign up required).

Be Mediocre Less

Bob Lotich on the Church Marketing Sucks Blog writes a post outlining some of the reasons he’s Run From Churches. In my original reading, I was thinking it explained why some clients run from their lawyers, but a second (and third) look at it made me realize he’s outlined lots of the reasons why lawyers are running from their clients — and the law practice all together.

His first point is that, in many churches, everything was mediocre:

Mediocrity has been too prevalent in the church today. Be it marketing, music, teaching, evangelism or anything else, it should be excellent. Just a few hundred years ago the greatest music, paintings, literature, etc. were glorifying God. It offends me that the word “Christian” is used as an adjective that is synonymous with mediocre by some non-Christians. It should not be.

Think about the legal profession for a bit. How mediocre have we become? To paraphrase Bob, mediocrity has been too prevalent in the practice of law today. Be it marketing, teaching, client service or anything else lawyers do, it should be excellent. Just a few decades ago, lawyers were admired, honored and the practice of law was a noble calling. It offends me that the word “Lawyer” is now too often the punch line to jokes by non-lawyers. It should not be.

So here’s a challenge for you:

  1. Make a list of the truly “excellent” things your firm does.
  2. Now, compare that to a list of things you do like everyone else. That’s your “mediocre” list.

Which list is longer? Can you think of a way to focus less on mediocrity and more on excellence? If you pick just one item from your mediocre list each week (or month) and make it better, your clients will notice.

The Curse of Almost Happy

Though I doubt that many of you noticed I was gone, I’ve taken almost a month and a half off from blogging. I’ve been working on the next LexThink event (though not enough — more on that later), turned 40 and traveled to London (twice) and Paris to facilitate a few sessions for XPLANE.

While I’ve been working, eating and drinking my way through Europe, a few things hit me. Call it a mid-life crisis, or just a wake-up call, but while I have a good life, an incredible daughter, and the support of great people around me, I realized that I’m not happy.

Just Almost Happy.

I’ve lead much of my life in this perpetual state of what I’ll call “Almost Happiness” that has (until this summer) been more than enough. However, taking my daughter to her first day of kindergarten and meeting a handful of people here and abroad who possess an incredible passion for their work and a single-minded belief that they’re going to change the world has persuaded me to step back, take a look at my priorities and decide that Almost Happy isn’t enough.

I’m rejecting Almost Happy. I’m saying “Close Enough” isn’t anymore. I’m tired of leaving so many opportunities waiting at the door until they grow tired of knocking and decide to move on down the block. I’m inspired to find my One Thing to make the world better.

I resolve to:

  • Follow my passions, honor my principles and strive to create something new every single day.
  • Nurture my intelligence, creativity, passion and wit, and judge my life by the things I experience and not the things I possess.
  • Refuse to let one day go by without realizing that my daughter is my purpose in life, and to build my life for her, not around her.
  • Focus on delivering “amazing” and “way beyond ordinary” in everything I chose to do.
  • Choose my clients as carefully as friends, knowing that I work best when they are one in the same.

And this blog is where I’m going to be sharing my journey. But don’t worry, I’m not abandoning the underlying purpose of this blog: to make lawyers better. In fact, I’m going to embrace it. You’ll see lots more ideas, original thinking and links to amazing, outside-the-box content. I’m going to make this blog (and LexThink) the place to go for lawyers out to dramatically change their practice.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Advertise, and clean up!

Via Springwise:

GreenGraffiti creates advertising on dirty city streets and walls using the clean, green power of plain water. Armed with just a template and a high-pressure water sprayer, the company has “cleaned” advertising messages out of the dirt on behalf of clients including Elle, Telfort and Universal Music. No paper, no ink, no printing process—GreenGraffiti’s ads are completely carbon-neutral, it says. They last up to six months, depending on foot traffic, and cost a fraction of the price of traditional outdoor media, the company asserts.

If you are looking to do some advertising, this could be a clean (and fun) way to go. Just make sure they find enough room in the stencil for your disclaimer!

Lessons learned. Mostly the hard way.

Just entered a presentation to SlideShare’s World’s Best Presentation Contest that I’ve been noodling around with for a while.  It uses pictures of my daughter, and is titled, "If I’d only known then ….  Lessons learned.  Mostly the hard way."  Check it out, and give it a vote if you like it.

Take Your Customers to Work?

In the her Nature his Nurture blog, Sean Hazell suggests having a “Take your customer to work day.” Here’s how it’d work:

- Invite your customer into your workplace to shadow an employee; parties are encouraged to sign up and then paired.

- Open your office, back-shop, or factory doors for the day to give your customers a behind the scenes glimpse of your working environment.

- Your employees represent your brand for the day.

- Customers see for themselves what truly makes your company special.

Still trying to figure out just how this could work with lawyers (client confidentiality and all that), but would it be impossible to have a “take your clients to court day” once a month to give clients with upcoming court dates a stress-free preview of their day a the courthouse? They’d get a chance to know where to meet, where to park, how to get through security, etc. I did this once with a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy client (she accompanied me when we filed) and she was much more comfortable during her hearing than everyone else around her.

And, if you can’t bring them in person, do you at least have pictures of what these places look like that you can share with them before they go?

Still Not LinkedIn?

If you’re not using LinkedIn (or not using it enough), check out this Common Craft video that explains what LinkedIn does and why it matters.

Napkin Thinking for Your Practice

One thing I learned working for XPLANE, is that everyone (not just artists) can use simple visual tools to think better about almost anything. If you’d like to incorporate more visual thinking into your practicef (and communicate better with your clients), check out Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin. It is a great book, and if you want an intro, I highly recommend downloading the Visual Thinking Toolkit (pdf), which was just posted this week.

How To Do Almost Anything

Dumb Little Man has a roundup of 15 Tutorial Websites that can teach you almost anything. Next time you (or someone you know) needs help with something, give a few of these sites a try.

A Great Traveler’s Tip: Let Me Give You a Clue

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project shares a great tip for traveling parents:

A friend of mine has a great tradition when she and her husband travel away from their children.

Like many people, she brings her kids little presents from trips, but instead of just handing them over upon her return, she makes sure to pick the presents early in the trip, then allows her children to ask for clues. Each child gets one clue per day, and they have tremendous fun coming up with the questions, coordinating with each other about who will ask what, keeping a list of the clues that have been revealed, debating amongst themselves, etc.

She says that the gift itself brings them much less fun than the guessing game.

As someone who’s on the road a lot, I absolutely love this idea. Not sure it would work for clients awaiting your trip back from court.

Your Customers Don’t Want to Need You

I’ve been doing a lot of speaking lately, and have been revamping my presentation quite a bit to focus on just a few key themes. I’m going to share a few of them in the blog, and would love your feedback. Right now, I’m organizing my talks around a series of truths or “new rules.”

Here’s the first:

Your clients need you less than you need them. They don’t want to need you at all, and they’re willing to pay for the privilege.

Zen Your Way Out of Bad Meetings

Conflict Zen has become one of my “must reads” lately. Author Tammy Lenski shares Seven Simple Hacks Guaranteed to Improve Your Meetings that collects several of her posts on conflict resolution in groups. I’d recommend her tips to any lawyer who meets with clients regularly, especially this one:

Have you ever been in a meeting where the chair asked something like, “Does that plan sound ok to everyone?” Perhaps there was a brief pause, an assenting remark or two, a couple of nods and silence from the rest. “All right, then it’s a go,” the chair may have said then.

Silence does not mean “Yes, I agree.” Silence can mean: I’m still thinking about it. I may agree but am not sure yet. Yes, I agree. No, I don’t agree but I’m not going to say it out loud here. No, I don’t agree but I’ll never admit to it.

If you’re trying to make a wise and effective decision in a group, avoid the “assumed yes” trap. When there’s silence, ask those folks what their silence means. Don’t challenge, invite.

Silence usually means I’m thinking.

Retreat with Me

About a month ago, I had the great pleasure of working with the Subrogation Group of Cozen O’Connor to help them design and facilitate their portion of a firm-wide retreat in Orlando, Florida. Paul Bartolacci, a fantastic attorney and great guy, just sent this testimonial I thought I’d share:

“We worked with Matt to plan and present a half day involving approximately 100 lawyers from a specific department within our firm. We were looking for something a bit different than the traditional law firm retreat program — upbeat and innovative, while at the same time useful and giving us a strategy to move forward. Matt was perfect. He took the time to listen to what we wanted to achieve and understood our goals. He spent extra time with us before the event to really get to know us as a group and what our practice involved.

Matt delivered a speech that was creative and pointed us towards new ideas and a different way to view and analyze problems. Our activities were fast paced and interactive, yet produced concrete goals and results. In short, he “got it”.

This was the last session of a 3 day retreat and people left feeling very positive and focused. Following our session many members of the group commented that this had been the best session of any of the numerous retreats they attended. I would certainly recommend Matt for any law firm retreat and look forward to working with him again.”

If you are looking for a speaker or someone to help you squeeze a bit more fun, creativity and focused results out of your legal event or retreat, give me a call. I’d love to help.

What’s your practice plan?

Michael Hyatt shares the importance of having a “Life Plan.” He talks about why it is important, and openly shares quite a bit of his own. Under the “My Colleagues” category of his plan, Michael writes:

I want my colleagues to remember my servant-leadership, my integrity, my humility, and my commitment to having fun. I want them to remember how much they learned and grew as a result of knowing me. Most of all, I want them to remember how I empowered them to accomplish far more than they ever thought possible.

When you read his post, think about the things you’d include in a Life Plan for your practice. The quote above would be a great start for the “My Clients” section. Give it a try.

So you think you can dance?

For no other reason than to waste as much of your time as I just wasted of mine: The Pipecleaner Dancer. Enjoy!

LexThink 08: October 6 and 7 in Chicago

If you’re an innovative lawyer and want to find ways to make the Practice (and not just your practice) better, please mark October 6 and 7 on your calendar for LexThink 08. I’m putting all of my thinking about ways conferences can be better into this one. Just a peek into what’s in store:

  • It takes place at the incomparable Catalyst Ranch.
  • The theme for the event is: THINK, LEARN, SHARE, DO.
  • Though it will not be invitation only, we are limiting paying attendees to 75, and every attendee will be expected to contribute to the experience in a meaningful way. We’ll also open up 25 slots to students (law, business, design, etc.). They will come for free, but will have to earn their keep.
  • It will be a “name your price” event. Attendees will put down a deposit when they register, but will ultimately pay a price that matches the value they received once the event is over. There will also be a money-back guarantee.

It is going to be a really intensive collaborative and amazing experience. More details (and the cool website) to follow. I can’t wait to see you there.

You Always Have to Say “I’m Sorry.”

Want to keep your unhappy clients from suing you? Apologize. Bob Sutton writes about the Virtues of Apologies and shares a NY Times article about how doctors and hospitals are reducing malpractice claims (by a sizable amount) by simply apologizing. Read the article and the post for some of the reasons why you should apologize.

What I want to share, though, is this gem from Bob’s post:

[T]he best single diagnostic question for determining if an organization is learning and innovating as it moves forward is: What Happens When People Make a Mistake?

What’s the answer for your firm?

Title Tips for Better Slides

Want to write better titles for your PowerPoint slides (and nearly anything else for that matter)? Frank Roche gives five tips to help you Write the Best Damn PowerPoint Headlines Ever:

Make it good enough to print on a t-shirt. The word Introductions isn’t good enough for a t-shirt. Say hello to my little friend is. Not every headline has to be t-shirt worthy, but that’s not a bad goal.

Make it fit on one line. Hey, what you lack in quality, you can’t make up for in volume. Read the really great headline writers. I like the New York Times and USA Today, but CNN and the New York Post write the killer headlines. They’re short. Often two words. But two killer words.

Say what’s on the slide. Obscurity is great for the CIA, but we’re talking about PowerPoint and communication. If a single word will do, then please be my guest. Otherwise, write descriptive headlines. (And if you violate the “fit on one line” rule, it had better rock.)

Forget headlines. If you can’t think of a great headline, then maybe you shouldn’t have one. Steve Jobs doesn’t need headlines.

If your slide is filled with bullet points, even a killer headline won’t help. You see that little key on your computer that says DEL? Go ahead, push that one. Watch your presentation magically get better.

How many of your titles would look good on a t-shirt? Open up that last presentation and get to work!

Use “You, We, I” to Jumpstart Difficult Conversations

Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace shares this great “You, We, I” tip for starting difficult conversations. It works like this:

When you approach someone to talk, you’re asking for their time and their attention. Your topic might be interesting, it might have some tension attached, or maybe it’s about something you want to change. Regardless, the other person wants to know that you are thinking of them.

The next time you need to engage someone–especially if it’s a difficult conversation–approach it by thinking this way:

You are important to me and this conversation.

We are in this together.

I (hope, need, want) …

Visit the post above to see some examples, and think about starting your next difficult client conversation the same way.

Only the Shadow Shows.

Now, for something completely non-legal, but completely useful (and yes, I know that’s redundant). From Rules of Thumb:

The fastest way to find a small object on [the] floor is to look for its shadow. Roll a flashlight around on the floor. The object may be tiny but its shadow will be big and easy to spot!

Photo Phorensics

Via Photojojo comes a pointer to this Scientific American article titled Digital Forensics: 5 Ways to Spot a Fake Photo. Worth a look if you regularly deal with photographic evidence in your practice.

Word Up!

This Lifehacker post rounds up some pretty neat word tools. Definr (lighning fast, search as you type dictionary), Confusing Words (pretty obvious, actually) and the Visual Dictionary (to connect words with images) will find a home in my writing toolbox.

LexThink Coming Really Really Soon!

The new LexThink site goes live late tonight (though you can probably find it if you look hard enough) and I’ll have some more cool stuff to announce by Friday.  For now, keep October 6 and 7 free on your calendars.  Here’s a peek:  let me know what you think. 

UPDATE:  Having some template problems.  Looks like Friday for the unveiling.

Think Learn Share Do

LexThink 08 website will be up Monday. There, I’ve said it. Don’t visit until then.

Women and Word of Mouth

I’ve been dying to read Michele Miller’s new book, The Soccer Mom Myth. For long-time readers of this blog, you’ll remember Michele as one of the first contributors to my Five by Five series. In the Church of the Customer blog, Michele shares 5 Things You Need to Know About Women and Word of Mouth. Here arethe key two for me:

What can you do to make increase women’s word of mouth?

Here’s the wrong way to do it: “Sign up three friends and we’ll give you a 15% discount.” This feels like you are asking her to sell out her friends. Instead, change the offer to “You and every one of your friends who signs up will get a 15% discount.” Now she has special access to a discount that she can pass along to friends. You’ve made her the hero. She can offer value to her trusted network. She has just increased her trust and standing.

What about asking women for referrals; good idea, or bad idea?

This is tricky. Because women are such great referrers, it seems logical. If you are doing business with her, and she values your relationship, it may seem perfectly acceptable to ask her for a list of friends who might benefit from your services. But that may not be a good idea, even if she thinks you’re the best thing since Starbuck’s drive-thru. She is the gatekeeper of her relationships. She’s not being stingy, she’s being protective. A better idea might be to give her a few of your business cards and say, “if you know of anyone who might benefit from my service, feel free to give them my card.”

Unless you don’t have (or want) women as clients, read her book. I’ve just ordered mine.

Mistake-Proof Your Practice

Haven’t read this one yet, but it saw a review of Mistake-Proofing: Designing Errors Out on Kevin Kelly’s “Cool Tools” Blog. One of the excerpts really made me say, “Wow!” because it is so head-slappingly obvious:

Employees experience a continuous stream of encounters – one defect is a low failure rate. Customers experience a single defect as a 100% failure rate.

Think about that for a minute in the context of your law practice: if you fail to keep just one of 100 client commitments, you’re batting .990. However, to that client you let down, you’re batting .000.

Using Instant Messaging in your firm? You should.

Here’s an article from Science Daily that suggests that Instant Messaging (IM) reduces workplace interruptions. If you’ve been avoiding IM in your workplace because you believe it saps productivity, think again:

The study challenges the widespread belief that instant messaging leads to an increase in disruption. Some researchers have speculated that workers would use instant messaging in addition to the phone and e-mail, leading to increased interruption and reduced productivity.

Instead, research showed that instant messaging was often used as a substitute for other, more disruptive forms of communication such as the telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face conversations. Using instant messaging led to more conversations on the computer, but the conversations were briefer, said R. Kelly Garrett, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State.

Worth a read.

Join Me at the LMA Senior Marketers Summit

In two weeks, I’ll be speaking at the LMA Senior Marketers’ Program at the St. Regis Hotel in Washingon, D.C. The event takes place June 19-20, and is titled “Thought Leadership Amidst Relentless Change.” Here’s the brochure.

I’ll also be facilitating several fun, collaborative exercises, including a virtual scavenger hunt, a new rapid-idea generation experience, and a “build a board game” cocktail hour.

I just spoke with Pat at the LMA, and there are a few slots left (and attendance is not limited to LMA members). I’d love to see you there.

What if you …

My friend Ernie asks the big questions:

What if every day you showed up to work, eager to do something really good? Something meaningful.

What if you came up with ideas on how to do things better? Not at first, but only after you felt confident that you understood the point of the work and all of the subtle forces surrounding it.

What if every day you felt a sense of satisfaction about your work? What if you could try a new approach at the very moment you realized it was better? What if your boss completely supported this? What if you were the boss? What if you worked for yourself?

What if? Indeed. These are some of the things we’ll be talking about at LexThink ’08. Look for more info soon.

Who Killed the Cat?

Here’s what happens when you take a comic strip about a fat, self-absorbed cat and remove the main character. From the intro:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.

Sorry, Mom. ;-)

Congratulations to Matt Buchanan

Friend, drinking buddy, LexThink alum and all-around good guy Matt Buchanan just opened his solo IP shop:  BIPO.  Some really cool stuff there, including his "core principles."  Check it out.  Congratulations, Matt!

London Legal Blogger Meetup?

I’m in London next week, and free Tuesday – Thursday. Anyone want to get together? Email me: Matt@LexThink.com if you’re interested.

Re-XPLANE-ing XPLANE

In my last post, I promised renewed posting and big news. Well, the news I have is big all right, but it isn’t what I was expecting to share. Last week, I was laid off from XPLANE, along with six others. Though I’ll continue my relationship with XPLANE as a contractor — doing about the same amount of work as before — I’m now free to, ahem…as they say, “Explore new opportunities.”

Apart from my continued work for XPLANE, which I love, here’s what else is on my plate for the next 30 days:

1. Relaunching LexThink! with a “future of law practice” event in Chicago this fall. Look for more here next week.

2. Rebuilding my legal speaking and retreat facilitation business. I’ve always been a pseudo-regular on the legal speaking circuit, but I’ve recently been focusing on big-picture legal innovation topics. I just returned from a retreat I designed, facilitated and keynoted for a practice group of a major international firm and will expand and formalize my offerings (under the LexThink brand) before the end of the month. If you want an “Innovational Speaker” for your event, give me a ring.

3. Reviving the blog. I’m going to re-focus my energies on the [non]billable hour, and finally put together all those long-promised posts that have been living in my Moleskine or my head for the last year. Look for several dozen posts in June, as well as my oft-promised e-book on August 1.

4. Reconnecting with you. I’ve met so many amazing people through this blog, and I’m sorry for losing touch. Forgive me. It is good to be back.

Almost Back.

After a quick trip to Helsinki, London and Madrid, I’m off to Orlando to speak at an attorney retreat. I’ve also been (draft) blogging up a storm, so look for some cool stuff next week. Thanks for waiting!

Matt

(Nearly) Free Sarbucks Wi-Fi

If you are on the road a lot, and find yourself in the occasional Starbucks, you can get (nearly) free daily Wi-Fi for the cost of a single cup of coffee each month. Get a Starbucks Card, register it online, and use it at least once a month, and you’ll get two consecutive hours a day of complimentary Wi-Fi.

Of course, if you’ve got an iPhone, or want to pretend you do, you get the free access anyway.

Managing Partners, Report to the LAB

My friend Patrick McKenna has been working hard on a Leadership Advisory Board (LAB) for Managing Partner magazine. Though populated with large firm lawyers, the LAB is shaping up as a pretty amazing resource for managing partners for all sized law firms. Here’s a description:

The LAB was formed as a resource to provide pragmatic advice to assist new managing partners with their critical burning issues and help them succeed. The LAB is comprised of the following distinguished current and former law firm leaders: Angelo Arcadipane (Dickstein Shapiro LLP); John Bouma (Snell & Wilmer LLP); Brian K. Burke (Baker & Daniels LLP); Ben F. Johnson, III (Alston & Bird LLP); John R. Sapp (Michael Best & Friedrich LLP); Keith B. Simmons (Bass Berry & Sims PLC); William J. Strickland (McGuire Woods LLP); Harry P. Trueheart, III (Nixon Peabody LLP); together with Patrick J. McKenna (Edge International).

Check it out, and keep on eye on Managing Partner Magazine for more.

LMA Senior Marketers’ Program

I’m please to announce that I’ll be helping out at the LMA Senior Marketers’ Program: Thought Leadership Amidst Relentless Change. I’m going to be doing a new presentation, titled “The Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing,” as well as facilitating several collaborative brainstorming sessions for the entire group. It takes place June 19 and 20 in Washington D.C., and is shaping up to be a pretty cool event. If you are interested (and an LMA Member), check it out.

My Upcoming Travel

I’ve got lots of stuff coming up for work and fun, and would love to meet some readers of this blog when I’m on the road. Here’s where I’ll be over the next several weeks:

Dallas, TX: April 23-25.
Orlando,FL: May 16-19.
Washington DC: June 18-22.

Also on the “tentative” horizon:

Herndon, VA
Irving, CA
Atlanta, GA

If you’re in the neighborhood and would like to meet, drop me a line and we’ll see if we can connect.

Matt

Charge $297 per hour and not $300.

Here’s a fascinating article in Scientific American titled Why Things Cost $19.95 that discusses the psychological impact certain prices have over others. If you’ve always wondered why we see odd prices so often ($19.95 vs. $20.00), the article gives the answer. Two University of Florida marketing professors studied how consumers relate a ticketed price to the perceived wholesale “cost” of a good or service:

There were three scenarios involving different retail prices: one group of buyers was given a price of $5,000, another was given a price of $4,988, and the third was told $5,012. When all the buyers were asked to estimate the wholesale price, those with the $5,000 price tag in their head guessed much lower than those contemplating the more precise retail prices. That is, they moved farther away from the mental anchor. What is more, those who started with the round number as their mental anchor were much more likely to guess a wholesale price that was also in round numbers. The scientists ran this experiment again and again with different scenarios and always got the same result.

Why would this happen? As Janiszewski and Uy explain in the February issue of Psychological Science, people appear to create mental measuring sticks that run in increments away from any opening bid, and the size of the increments depends on the opening bid. That is, if we see a $20 toaster, we might wonder whether it is worth $19 or $18 or $21; we are thinking in round numbers. But if the starting point is $19.95, the mental measuring stick would look different. We might still think it is wrongly priced, but in our minds we are thinking about nickels and dimes instead of dollars, so a fair comeback might be $19.75 or $19.50.

I’d really recommend you read the entire article, but the initial takeaway for me is this: If you want clients to believe your rate (or set price for a given service) is close to your actual cost, price in odd numbers.

Three Things Wrong? Move On!

Saw this tip about buying antiques on the Rules of Thumb Blog, and thought it applied even more to potential clients:

Don’t buy a piece of antique furniture if you can find three things wrong with it.

So, if you’ve just finished your first interview with a potential client, and there are three (or more) things about that person or their case that don’t seem right, take a pass.  You’ll be glad you did.

Bill before the ‘moneymoon’ is over.

The Urban Dictionary’s Word of the Day today is Moneymoon, defined as:

The time after your purchase of a good or service and before ‘buyer’s remorse’ happens. “The moneymoon is over, I realzie now that buying that boat was a waste of money.”

Made me think of the number one rule of small business cash flow: Bill your clients before the moneymoon is over.

Pick up the phone!

Just a reminder to call your clients every week:

Each week, no matter the condition of the weather, the color of Ethan’s mood ring, or the extra hours it will take to meet our deadlines, we call each of our clients. We check in, ask how they’re doing, and give them an update on the activities surrounding their project. We call every week throughout the project, and even two to three weeks past the time we’ve delivered our work—all to make sure the client doesn’t have any last-minute needs, or has run into any problems.

That’s how we roll. We care like that.

May I have your attention?

Watch this video:

Remember, what we look for is what we see. It is only when we open our eyes to see everything that we notice what should be obvious.

What are you looking for in your practice? Billable hours? Maybe you should look for something different. You might be surprised at what you’ll find.

You Gotta Try PicLens

Trust me on this one. If you EVER view photos or other images in the web, you’ve got to try PicLens. Easily the coolest thing you’ll see on your computer this year. Don’t believe me? Check out this demo. I love it!

Are your customers, or your employees, always right?

For another worthwhile read this morning, check out the Top 5 Reasons Why "The Customer is Always Right" is Wrong from the Chief Happiness Officer Blog.  Reason Number 4, it results in worse customer service:

[W]hen you put the employees first, they put the customers first. Put employees first, and they will be happy at work. Employees who are happy at work give better customer service because:

  • They care more about other people, including customers
  • They have more energy
  • They are happy, meaning they are more fun to talk to and interact with
  • They are more motivated

On the other hand, when the company and management consistently side with customers instead of with employees, it sends a clear message that:

  • Employees are not valued
  • That treating employees fairly is not important
  • That employees have no right to respect from customers
  • That employees have to put up with everything from customers

When this attitude prevails, employees stop caring about service. At that point, real good service is almost impossible – the best customers can hope for is fake good service. You know the kind I mean: courteous on the surface only.

Do you put your customers first, or your employees?

Need a Vacation?

Brad Feld has a great recap of the ways he takes time off to recharge, including a quarterly, week-long vacation and semi-regular weekend getaway:

Go Dark Weekend: When I find myself feeling burned out, I do a go dark weekend. I turn off my computer and cell phone at 6pm on Friday night and don’t turn it back on until 5am Monday morning. I cancel anything that is scheduled for the weekend and just do whatever I feel like doing. This is usually a once a quarter event; occasionally more frequently depending on how busy I am. I’m considering doing this around each of my marathon weekends also.

Anyone reading this feeling burned out? How about “going dark” this weekend and reconnecting with your kids?

Your Brain Rules!

Want to learn more about what’s going on inside your own head? Check out Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina. The site (linked to above) has lots of pretty cool, short videos explaining why our brains work the way they do. Working for XPLANE, I especially liked Rule # 10: Vision Trumps All Other Senses, and it contains this rule of thumb for presenters:

You’ll get 3x better recall for visual information than for oral. And you’ll get 6x better recall for information that’s simultaneously oral and visual.

Here’s why:

  • We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.
  • Pictures beat text as well, in part because reading is so inefficient for us. Our brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures, and we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them. That takes time.
  • Why is vision such a big deal to us? Perhaps because it’s how we’ve always apprehended major threats, food supplies and reproductive opportunity.
  • Toss your PowerPoint presentations. It’s text-based (nearly 40 words per slide), with six hierarchical levels of chapters and subheads—all words. Professionals everywhere need to know about the incredible inefficiency of text-based information and the incredible effects of images. Burn your current PowerPoint presentations and make new ones.

Wow!

Got Anxious Clients?

Think about it. Every client who enters a lawyer’s office is anxious. In fact, they’d probably prefer going to the dentist. That’s why this article on How to Deal with Anxious People is important reading. It sets out some research, with some valuable tips for deciphering visual cues, that every lawyer should know. Here’s why:

The more you talk over or at anxious people, the more pressure you put on their middle brain and the more they will close their minds to what you are saying.

Alternatively, the more you talk to an anxious person — or even better yet, with them — the more you alleviate that pressure and the easier it is to access their upper brain and open their minds to you. Here’s a critical point, though: the approach you may think you are taking in a conversation with an anxious person may not be the approach the other person perceives.

Also worth remembering when you are confronted with that big guy in the bar who accuses you of cheating at pool.

Size Matters

If you are still tooling around with a small computer monitor (or worse, your staff is), check out this post from the WSJ’s Business Technology Blog. It is time to supersize:

Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks like editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using different computer configurations: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones. There is an upper limit, however: Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen.

Think Learn Share Do

LexThink 08 is coming. More details next week.

The Devil’s In the Details

The New Yorker has created a series of 10 second animations for several of their cartoons. If you are a PowerPoint (ab)user, check out this one.

Let’s ReThink LexThink

If you head over to the LexThink! site, you’ll see it is “Under Construction.”  We’ll have some more info soon after Techshow.

Notice What’s Right Before Fixing What’s Wrong

So often, we focus (obsess?) on fixing what’s wrong with our selves, our families or our businesses.  For a week, try to focus instead on what’s right.  Make a list of the three things that are the "right-est."  Take your three things and do just one thing this week to make them even better.  Challenge your family, friends, staff and even clients to do the same.  You can always go back to worrying next week.

Heading to Techshow (For Just One Day)

I’m going to be swinging through Chicago this week, and figured I might as well stop by Techshow — my favorite legal conference.  I’m not speaking this year, and will thus be relegated to a free exhibit-hall pass (Tom, can you hook me up?) I’ll be hanging around Wednesday and part of Thursday.  I hope to see you there.  

How to Run Your Law Firm Like a Startup … or Not.

Jason Calcanis heads up Mahalo, a human-powered search engine.  In this post, widely circulating around the tech/startup blogosphere, Jason gives 17 tips on saving money while running a startup that will (I didn’t say should) surely resonate with some BigLaw managing partners.  Some of his “really good” ideas (since toned down a bit in an update to the post):

  • Buy everyone lunch four days a week and establish a no-meetings policy. Going out for food or ordering in takes at least 20-60 minutes more than walking up to the buffet and eating. If you do meetings over lunch you also save that time. So, 30 minutes a day across say four days a week is two hours a week… which is 100 hours a year. You get the idea. 
  • Don’t buy a phone system. No one will use it. No one at Mahalo has a desk phone except the admin folks. Everyone else is on IRC, chat, and their cell phone. Everyone has a cell phone, folks would rather get calls on it, and 99% of communication is NOT on the phone. Savings? At least $500 a year per person… 50 people over three years? $75-100k
  • Buy your hardest working folks computers for home. If you have folks who are willing to work an extra hour a day a week you should get them a computer for home. Once you get to three hours of work a week from home you’re at 150 hours a year and that’s a no brainer. Invest in equipment *if* the person is a workaholic.
  • Fire people who are not workaholics… come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game.  Don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it.  Go work at the post office or stabucks if you’re want balance in your life for realz.
  • Get an expensive, automatic espresso machine at the office. Going to starbucks twice a day cost $4 each time, but more importantly it costs 20 minutes. Buy a $3-5,000 Jura industrial, get the good beans, and supply the coffee room with soy, low fat, etc. 50 people making one trip a day is 20 hours of wasted time for the company, and $150 in coffee costs for the employees. Makes no sense.
  • Stock the fridge with sodas—same drill as above.

Sound like BigLaw to you?  Well, except for the awesome coffee machine.  That’s not a cost like copies that you can pass on to clients.

This Speech Sponsored by …

My pal JoAnna Forshee has (finally) started to do some blogging at her new venture InsideLegal.  She recently hosted the InsideLegal Summit, and it appears to have been a fantastic success.  The one topic that really caught my eye was the debate surrounding the “Pay to Speak” trend.  What is Pay to Speak?  It is when conferences (like LegalTech*) allow vendors to “sponsor” a conference track.  The controversy, which has been brewing in the legal conference industry for a while, is over what level of control the vendors have over their sponsored track, and what responsibility conference organizers have to disclose that control.

Why is this a big deal?  If a (fictional) company XYZ Discovery Solutions pays $25,000 to sponsor the “Electronic Discovery” track at a conference, what do they get for their investment?  More specifically:

  • Does XYZ get to pick the topics for the track?  
  • Does XYZ get to choose the track’s speakers, favoring those who sell or promote XYZ products, and excluding other speakers who don’t?  
  • Does XYZ have a responsibility to present information the attendees want to hear instead of information they want attendees to hear?

If the answers to any of these questions are yes, do the attendees know that the “CLE accredited” sessions they attend are given by a hand-picked roster of sponsor-friendly speakers?  And are any CLE accreditation rules compromised?

Right now, the answers to these questions aren’t clear, and I’m sure each conference organizer and each sponsor approach the “sponsored track” differently.  I don’t think the sponsored track should go away, but I do think some disclosure is in order.  Just as lawyers must avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest (which in some cases can waived by agreement), conference organizers must recognize the inherent conflicts that arise when a for-profit vendor sponsors, designs and staffs a CLE accredited, “educational” session  

At a minimum, the conference must disclose whether the speakers in a sponsored track are chosen by the conference or by the sponsoring vendor, and whether those speakers are paid by the vendor.

I applaud JoAnna and her InsideLegal partner Jobst, for getting this out in the open.  Your comments are welcome.

* I use LegalTech as an example here only because I know they have sponsored tracks, and the InsideLegal Summit happened in NYC at the same time of LegalTech.  I don’t know what the vendors get for their investment and what rules (if any) LegalTech places on the speakers or the content in those sponsored tracks.

(How) Do You Take Credit?

Here’s a great idea for ways to remember the folks who’ve helped you along the way, from this post on How to Take Credit:

So when the time comes to take the stage, remember that you didn’t get here alone: go ahead, grab the microphone and acknowledge your team. Do it before a crowd and in e-mail. Say it with bonuses and baked goods — but be sure to say it. No one likes to be left out. By sharing the credit the right way, you won’t diminish your own accomplishments, you’ll add to them by building a reputation as the kind of person people want to work for and for your focus on developing others.

Not sure whom to credit? In their book, Becoming a Resonant Leader, Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis and Frances Johnston suggest keeping running lists of peers who have helped you along your route to success — along with notes about what you actually learned from them. Keeping such a list will likely help ensure that you don’t forget them in your acceptance speech.

I really like the idea of keeping a running list of people who’ve helped you along with a note or two about how they’ve helped.  This is a pretty powerful way to not only remember how you’ve gotten to where you are, but to also remind you to give help to others who seek it from you.  More on this in the next post.

Six Word Memoirs

If you liked my PowerPoint Haiku exercise, you’ve got to check out this Six-Word Memoir video (thanks, Magda).  Can you write your memoir in six words? 

My first shot:   Stopped lawyering. Having way more fun.

Simple Solutions, Informally Delivered

Paul Graham shares his product development strategy in a wonderful essay:

Here it is: I like to find (a) simple solutions (b) to overlooked problems (c) that actually need to be solved, and (d) deliver them as informally as possible, (e) starting with a very crude version 1, then (f) iterating rapidly. When I first laid out these principles explicitly, I noticed something striking: this is practically a recipe for generating a contemptuous initial reaction. Though simple solutions are better, they don’t seem as impressive as complex ones. Overlooked problems are by definition problems that most people think don’t matter. Delivering solutions in an informal way means that instead of judging something by the way it’s presented, people have to actually understand it, which is more work. And starting with a crude version 1 means your initial effort is always small and incomplete.

Paul suggests that his technique extends beyond startups to any type of creative work, and I’m inclined to agree. 

In the delivery of legal services, what are the overlooked problems that can be simply solved?  How many of us ask our clients (before, during or after they’ve engaged us) about the one thing we could change in our practices to improve their experience?  Is it something as simple as shifting our office hours to be available when our clients can see us?  Or, is it something more profound like changing the way we charge for our services?  No matter what that one thing is — and it could be a different one thing for every client — what’s keeping us for trying it?  Just once.  To see if it works.

New Research Explains Billable Hour’s Staying Power!

Well, not exactly, but this article in the Telegraph discusses an experiment exploring humans’ preference for a familiar (though less efficient) path, and found:

most of us are happy to play follow-my-leader, even if we are trailing after someone who does not know where they are going and taking the most meandering route.  Even more striking, even when we are shown a faster route, we prefer to stick with the old one and tell others to take the long road too, a finding that could have lethal implications when it comes to evacuating a building or ship in an emergency.

In the study, participants were led from one room to another. When asked to return to the first room, almost all took the familiar path back, even when they were aware of a shorter path:

All but one person took the route they had been led. What we were surprised by was how strong this effect was, even when the alternative route was much shorter …. They preferred the long route even when the experimenter had drawn attention to the alternative route, or when the experimenter took the long route solely to pick up a fallen poster, eliminating the possibility that participants thought the experimenter had a good, but unknown, reason to take the long route. By asking participants to collect the next guinea pig in the experiment, the scientists observed that each person in the chain copied the route of the participant before them: a simple tradition that meant the alternative route was never discovered.

Interesting food for thought, don’t you think?

Here are Some Posters for Your Waiting Room

Need some subtle reminders to your clients as they wait for their appointment?  I ran across this online poster shop titled Advice To Sink In Slowly that has well-designed posters containing GREAT advice. My favorite (and there are many I absolutely love) is Work Hard. Play Hard. Create something amazing.  Check it out.

More PowerPoint Resources

Need some more PowerPoint inspiration?  Check out this amazing resource list from Meryl’s Notes Blog.  Lots (and lots) of great stuff.

Go Ahead, Write on Your Walls

I’m certain that I think better when I’m standing in front of a dry-erase white board, so my perfect office (or house, for that matter) would have dry erase boards everywhere.  If you are like me, check out Markee Dry Erase Paint.  According to the website, it is a clear paint that turns any smooth surface into a dry-erase board.  It is about a hundred bucks a gallon.  If you’ve tried it, I’d love to know your results.     

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Don’t Forget the List

My friend (and XPLANE co-worker) Bill Keaggy put together The Ultimatest Grocery List that you should check out and modify for your office.  Create a list of all the things you regularly buy — even once a year — for your practice and add each item to the list.  Check off the boxes when things are getting low, and you’ll save at least one or two trips to Office Depot or Best Buy each year.    

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Can You Build a Firm this Cool?

Need some inspiration as you build your firm?  Check out HiQ, an English auto repair chain.  Rethink your model.  Put the customer first.  I know I’d at least check this place out if there were one in my neighborhood.

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Got an Ass for a Client?

If you aren’t sure if one of your clients is an ass****, take this handy-dandy test.  Better yet, have your secretary, assistant or associate complete it for each client.  Fire those clients that “pass” the test.  Sad, but true.

I LOVE Tripit

If you travel at all, you have to check out Tripit.  You can forward all of your travel confirmation emails (from airlines, Hotwire, Expedia, hotels, etc.) to one email address and Tripit organizes your itinerary for you.  I’ve been using it since the early beta period, and I love it.  Highly recommended!

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Debrief your Client (Engagements)

LifeHack has a great list of questions has a great list of questions to answer once you get finish a big project that should go on every lawyer’s file closing checklist.  You have one of those, don’t you?  Here they are:

  • What was the outcome of this project?
  • What is good about the outcome of this project?
  • How do I feel about my performance?
  • What mistakes did I make that slowed or otherwise negatively affected the completion of this project?
  • How could I avoid making those mistakes in the future?
  • What was the best part of the project? What was the worst?
  • What strengths did I discover in the completion of this project?
  • What new abilities or knowledge have I learned from doing this project?
  • What do I wish I had known when I started this project?
  • In one or two sentences, what were the lessons of this project?

You should answer these questions (and some others posed in the article) after every client engagement.  However, don’t file your answers away with the now-closed client file– especially the answers to the last two questions.  Instead, keep them in two documents titled “What I need to know before starting a project,” and “Lessons I don’t need to learn again” that you review every time before accepting a new client.

Use Haiku to Get to the Point

I just returned from VizThink, where I facilitated a few exercises for the nearly 400 attendees.  My favorite — and the one I used to close out the conference — is one I call PowerPoint Haiku.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Everyone gets three "slides" (one each for the questions they have to answer) that can be notecards, 8.5 " x 11"  cardstock, or even (gasp) actual PowerPoint slides.
  2. You pose three questions to the group.  At VizThink, they were:  "Why did you come to VizThink?"  "What did you learn?" and "What are you going to do next?"
  3. Each question is answered on a separate slide with this Haiku-like twist: The first question MUST be answered in 5 words, the second question in 7 words, and the third in 5 words.  And yes, I know that in true Haiku, you count syllables instead of words.
  4. Everyone can then take their "slides" and add a drawing, picture or other visual images to each one.
  5. The mini-presentations are then shared around the table.

Here’s the VizThink recap from the VizThink Blog.  I love this exercise, and use it in almost all of my XPLANE sessions to understand "what good looks like" to the stakeholders.  It is fun, and often provides startling insights.  Give it a try with your clients.  Ask them:

  1. Why are you here?  (5 words)
  2. What can I do for you?  (7 words)
  3. Why is it important to you? (5 words)

Let me know what happens.    

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Great Historical Photos: Free

The Library of Congress is releasing bunches of their historical photos, free of all usage and copyright restrictions.  Some amazing pics, with more on the way.  Here’s the Flickr page.

Keeping Tabs on Clients

I seem to be thinking a bit about client monitoring today.  Here’s another interesting service called RivalMap, that is “a web-based collaboration software that gives companies a central place to share and address information about competitors and their industr[ies].”   Seems like a great place to keep tabs on what your clients (and their competitors) are up to.  Check out a review here.

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Kill Your Projects, Not Your Clients

Here’s an interesting idea from Scott Young that may just help with your growing to-do list:  Set up a Project Kill Day. In short, you schedule a distraction-free, off-site day to “kill” off one of your projects.  Check out the entire post for his step-by-step guide.

Not sure which projects you have that merit an entire day?  Try writing down the first client-related task you think of in the morning and the last one you think about before bed.  If it is the same one for more than a day or two, kill it before it kills you!

Monitor Client Web Sites with Dapper

You are keeping up with all your clients’ web sites, aren’t you?  Well, one way to do it is to use Dapper with your handy-dandy RSS reader.  Dapper can take any site (or portion of it) and turn it into any number of formats for you.  Very slick!           

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An Interview with Me

Just in case you’re interested, here’s a link to an interview I did about innovation, law practice and becoming a former lawyer.  It’s here if you’d like a listen:

Build a Better Firm Workbook

While I finish the e-book, I thought I’d share a workbook of sorts that I’ve been using as a handout when I speak to groups about building innovative law practices.  I hope you like it.

Think REAL Big: Ten Ways to Build a Better Firm.  (Download pdf)

Need More “Work” to Do?

Hugh MacLeod has a great idea for juicing your creativity:

Add 25% to amount of hours you work every week, and fill them with fun, interesting, useful stuff. Google allows its employees 20% of their work time to devote to their own personal projects. If your employer won’t allow you to do this, you should unilaterally make the time for yourself, either at the office or at home, hence the extra 25%. Your peers in the office may think you weird at first, but after a while it’ll start paying off.

I’ve been trying to do this for a while now, and it is starting to pay off.  I’m finishing up the e-book and stretching myself to be creative in different ways.  Give it a try!                 

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In San Francisco Next Week? Come to VizThink!

I’ve not written much about my work at XPLANE on this blog – ok, I’ve not written much of anything, lately — but I’m really enjoying my work at “The Visual Thinking Company.”  I’ve had an amazing time working with some really amazing clients.  One of the super cool things I’m going to be doing happens next week at VizThink, a conference for visual thinkers that takes place in next week San Francisco from January 27-29th.  I’m going to be facilitating several visual “icebreakers” for the 325+ attendees before each of the plenary sessions.  I’ll also be hanging out a lot after the sessions, so if you are in the S.F. area, give me a call on my cell 314-541-6412 or email me if you’d like to meet up.

One more thing.  Here’s a Slideshare presentation about why you should go.  Enjoy!

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Remind Your Clients of Their Apointments

Here’s an interesting (and free) application called Oh, Don’t Forget … that allows you to send a future text message to any phone at at predetermined date and time.  Use it to send yourself reminders, or to remind your clients when they are supposed to show up for court, appointments, etc.

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