Monthly Archives: September 2008

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!