Yearly Archives: 2009

Resolve to Count Cards


As 2009 draws to a close, we all find ourselves with lots of stuff on our "to do" lists for the next year.  Whether your thinking about finding time to meet your deadlines, accomplish your goals or even follow your resolutions, there never seems to be enough time to do it all.

As you begin 2010, Resolve to Count Cards, using this this incredibly powerful exercise I first ran across in 2006.  From an article in the now-defunct Worthwhile Magazine (by creativity guru Eric Maisel) comes this gem:

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

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

It also works great with clients!  Give it a try.

Social Media Primer — Comic Book Style

Telestra (an Australian Telco) is training its 40,000 employees on the do's and don'ts of social media.  To do so, it has created an interactive comic book

I really like their focus on the "Three R's" of social media: Responsibility, Respect and Representation.  Lots of companies (and employees) could learn from this.  Here's the introductory video:

(via BrandFlakes for Breakfast)

Resolve to Apologize Better


Everyone makes mistakes.  Even lawyers.  That's why, in 2010, you should Resolve to Apologize Better.  

Why apologize?  Apologies increase client loyalty and reduce malpractice exposure.  But how do you apologize better?  Practice! 

Here's a great guide from Psychology Today (about apologizing to women) that sets out the six mandatory elements a good apology:

1. Acknowledge the Wrongful Act

2. Acknowledge that You Have [Caused Harm].

3. Express Your Remorse

4. State Your Intention Not to Repeat

5. Offer to Make Amends

6. Seek Forgiveness

Read the entire article for examples of language you should and shouldn't use, and practice apologizing.  You may find a well-timed apologize helps you as much as it helps your relationship with your client.

Resolve to Keep Your Promises


Most of us don't break our promises on purpose.  But as anyone with a seven-year old can attest ("But daddy, you promised!"), promises are in the mind of the beholder. Too often, we fail to realize someone else believed our vague pronouncement committed us to a concrete course of action. 

Since keeping your promises begins with knowing whether you've made one or not, in 2010 resolve to know (and keep) your promises better.  Never end a client conversation without asking them these two questions:

  1. What have I agreed to do, and when do you expect me to do it?
  2. What have I have promised (or predicted) will happen, and when do you expect it to?

Hearing their answers to these questions will help you know if they are hearing what you think you're saying.  Most importantly, you'll stop making (unintentional) promises you can't keep.  Now, if it would only work with seven-year old little girls….

Resolve To Fix Your Technology Less


This resolution is for nearly every solo and small firm lawyer out there (including those with computer science degrees): Resolve to Fix Your Technology Less.

How many times has a quick technology fix turned into a day of un-billable time?  Trust me on this one, no matter how much (or little) work you have, your time is better spent building your business and serving your clients than it is crawling around on the floor underneath your desk repairing your computers or troubleshooting your network.

Need help remembering this resolution?  Try this simple trick:

Everywhere in your office where you have technology (on the copier, on the network switch or router, and on every computer) tape a label that has the following information on it:

  1. Your hourly rate
  2. The hourly rate of your tech-support person
  3. Their phone number

Now every time you’re tempted to “fix” something yourself, call in the experts instead.  You’ll find that you (and your technology) will be happier and more productive when you spend your time doing your job instead of doing someone else’s.

Resolve to De-Confuse Clients


What confuses your clients?  What are the things that your clients never seem to really understand?  Is it the directions to your office, your retainer agreement or their monthly bill?

No matter how much you deserve it, undivided attention from clients is a rarity today.  Whether it is because of their email pinging, cell phones ringing or children screaming, you’re getting less attention from clients now then ever before — and a distracted client is far more likely to be a confused one.

That’s why, in 2010, you should resolve to make every communication you have with clients (both in person and via mail/email) less confusing.

Start by asking every client in every meeting if there is something you could have made clearer and easier to understand, and pay attention to the things you explain over and over again.  Next, pick one of those things each month to “de-confuse” for your clients.

Whether you use photographs more, rewrite your retainer agreement so a sixth-grader can understand it or complete a “Frequently Asked Questions” handout, by the end of 2010, you’ll find your less-confused clients are easier to serve and more satisfied with you.

Resolve to See Yourself as Others Do


How do your customers see you?  When they arrive for a meeting, what do they experience?  What do they see?  How do they feel? 

Do you work in a deadline-driven practice area, yet always show up late for appointments?  Is your office strewn with other clients' files?  Are there piles of unread letters in you in-box?  Do your secretaries and staff regularly discuss confidential matters on the phone that people in your waiting room can hear?

Do you have magazines that your clients want to read?  Do you have complementary wi-fi for them to use while they wait for you?  Do you offer them more to drink than just coffee?

Don't think your clients pay attention to these things?  You're wrong.  And they're not just comparing their experience to the ones they've had with other lawyers — they're comparing it to the experiences they've had with everyone. 

So, in 2010, Resolve to See Yourself as Others Do.  Start by asking a friend your staff doesn't know to sit in your waiting room for an hour while you're "busy."  Ask them to pay attention to what they see, hear, smell and feel, while recording the things they'd improve.  Once you've gotten their list of things to fix — and there will be things on the list you've never noticed — work with your staff to fix them.

Resolve to Juggle Less


This is one for the general practitioners out there: Resolve to Juggle Less. Remember, your clients don't have "general" problems, they have specific ones — and if you're the lawyer who will do "anything for anyone" they are far less likely to hire you do that "one thing" for them. 

So, how do you know if you're doing too many things?  Here's an exercise that just might help:

  1. Take a pad of Post-It notes, and on each one, write a type of matter you handle.  Err on the side of inclusiveness (write "Divorce," "Child Custody," "Legal Separations," etc. on separate notes instead of just "Family Law"). 
  2. Put all the Post-Its up on a wall.
  3. Ask your staff to add the kinds of things you do to the wall as well.
  4. Group the post-its in logical categories.
  5. Step back and look at the wall.

If there are more than 3 groups of Post-Its in front of you, you're probably doing too many different things.

In 2010, work hard to focus on the one or two categories that are most profitable, most challenging and most fun.  You'll have a much easier time finding clients, and a much better time serving them.

Resolve to Ask Current Clients More


If you’re a lawyer who only surveys your clients once the engagement’s over, you’re leaving a lot of information on the table — information that will not only help you serve future clients, but your current ones as well.

That’s why, in 2010, you should Resolve To Ask Current Clients More.  Institute a regular, ongoing client survey process that reaches out to your current clients at least quarterly.

But what kinds of questions should you ask?  I’ve put together the LexThink Model Client Survey (pdf) that contains four short questions for your current clients.

The questions are:

1. On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 10 being best), how well are you being served by this firm, our lawyers and staff.

How could we earn a higher score from you?

2. On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 10 being most likely), how likely you are to recommend us to your peers?

When you describe us to your peers (if you do), what are some of the words you use?

3. What one change could we make to our firm to earn more business from you?

4. What is your most pressing challenge (business, legal or otherwise) you’d like to overcome in the upcoming year?

LexThink Model Client Survey

Resolve to Do One Big Thing


If you asked your clients identify the biggest change you've made in your business in 2009, what would their answer be?  Would they be able to name anything (besides your rate) that you've done differently in the past 12 months? Would you?

For 2010, I challenge you to resolve to make a change in your business your clients can't help noticing.  Not sure what to change?  Ask them. 

Send each client a letter the first week of 2010 that says:

Dear client,

As the New Year arrives, we are grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve you.  For 2010, we're resolving to serve you better.  That's why we're asking all our clients the following question:

If you could make one change in our business, what would it be?

Nothing's off the table.  If you think we need to charge differently, stay open longer, use different technology, or even answer the phone faster, let us know.  We're committed to making our business better for your business.

We'll collect the answers, and post them in our office for everyone to see.  On January 31, we'll choose (at least) one to implement in 2010.  Of course, we'll keep you up to date on our progress, and may ask you for some help in getting everything "just right."

Thanks again for being our client — and for helping us to become the law firm you deserve!

Once all the responses are in, consider hosting a "Resolution Party" to sort through and prioritize the responses with your clients.  And don't forget to ask them for their resolutions for their own businesses — you may just find a few things you can help them with, too.

Resolve to Let Your Clients Grade You

Report card

Once you've asked your clients what they expect from you, let them grade you on it.  Here's how:

  1. Make a list of 3-5 non-negotiable "Client Commitments" that you and your firm promise to keep in every matter with every client.
  2. Share those Commitments on your website and in every engagement agreement.
  3. With every bill (or at least quarterly), send your clients an old-fashioned "Report Card" that asks them to give you a grade on each of your Client Commitments.
  4. Follow up with the client each time you get a B or below to find out about specific ways you can improve.  
  5. At least yearly, schedule a "parent-teacher" conference to review your performance with the client.
  6. Consider refunding part of your fees every time a client gives you a C or D — and think seriously about giving a client's entire fee back (and helping them find another lawyer) when they've "failed" you, because you've probably failed them

Resolve to Measure What Your Clients Treasure


I doubt that if you asked your clients what they buy from you that they'd answer, "Time."  Yet because (many of) you sell time to them, it is often the only thing that you measure with any rigor.

In 2010, Resolve to Measure What Your Clients Treasure.  Start by asking every client this question:

"How will you measure your satisfaction with us as we serve you?" 

Don't settle for an answer that depends completely on the end result.  Instead, press for answers like "By always keeping me up to date," and "Returning my phone calls promptly."

Once you've identified at least two things most of your clients want from you, begin to measure how well you're doing them.  Your clients already are.

Resolve to Know Your Best Clients Better

Now that you've identified your worst clients, fired them, and stopped taking more like them, you can now focus your time and energy on building your practice doing the kinds of things you like to do for clients that you enjoy serving.

And the first step to take is to get to know your best clients better.  Identify your seven favorite clients, past or present.  Take them to lunch or dinner in person (or over the phone) and get to know them. 

Make your time together about them. Tell them they're one of your favorite all-time clients and you wanted to catch up.  Learn about their plans for the new year and the challenges they're facing.  Talk about their family and hobbies.  Find out about the charities they care about and the professional organizations they belong to. 

But don't stop there.  The more you know about your clients, the better you'll be able to serve them.  A great list of things to could/should know about your clients is the "Mackay 66" (pdf download here).

And at the end of each conversation, don't forget to ask:

How do I find more clients like you?

Client Worthiness Index

Client Intake Worthiness Scale

In my last Resolution (on trusting your gut), I mentioned the new LexThink Client Worthiness Index (CWI).  I only included a link to the pdf version of it in that post.  Here’s a pic of what it looks like, if you’re interested.

Resolve to Trust Your Gut


Every time you interview a potential client, you have a "gut" feeling on whether they will be a good client or a bad one.  Unfortunately, too many lawyers ignore our gut, and end up paying for it in the end.

Today's resolution is to Trust Your Gut.  Don't ignore those uneasy feelings you (or your staff) have about potential clients.  Instead, pay attention to them, and trust yourself to differentiate good clients from bad.

To help you trust your gut better, I've created a LexThink Client Worthiness Index Worksheet (links to .pdf) for you to use every time you interview a potential client.  Fill in the blanks (and ask your staff to help) after your meeting, and you'll come up with a "Client Worthiness" number between 1-100.  Do your best to take clients scoring 75 or better, and you'll weed out the bad ones before it is too late.

Resolve to Fire Better


In yesterday's resolution I encouraged you to understand what makes your bad clients bad, and avoid taking any more like them.  But what do you do with the terrible clients that are already on your books?  Fire them!

Sounds easy, but the reason so many lawyers continue to serve clients they shouldn't is that it is uncomfortable/awkward/difficult/etc. to let those bad clients go — especially early in the relationship when we know the client is a difficult one, but promise ourselves they'll improve.  Sound familiar?

So today's resolution is an easy one:  Resolve to Fire Better.  Start by reviewing the ethics rules in your jurisdiction regarding termination of the attorney-client relationship, and then:

  1. Add a "Client Expectations" section to your retainer agreement that sets out the kinds of things you expect from your clients and the things they're prohibited from doing (like belittling your staff, constantly canceling appointments, etc.).
  2. Draft three form letters (first warning, stern reminder, and "You're Fired!") that you can pull out on a moment's notice and use with minimal modification when clients deserve one.
  3. Write a script of the what you'll say when you tell the client they're fired.
  4. Practice your script!  Difficult conversations become less so when you're accustomed to having them.

Once you've cleaned out your waiting room, you'll be able to start focusing on the clients you love to serve, and on building your practice to serve them better.  More on that in tomorrow's resolution.

(Thanks to Julie A. Fleming, who's comment on yesterday's post contained some great advice on firing clients.)

Resolve to Understand Your Worst Clients

Admit it, you have clients you hate.  Whether they're not paying you, always coming up with excuses for not following your advice, or belittling your staff, your worst clients don't deserve your best work and probably aren't getting it anyway.  Their work is the last you do, and their calls are the last you return.  You wake up worried about their file, but then find a myriad of excuses to avoid touching it all day.  Your worst clients sap your energy and take the fun out of practicing law.

So, in 2010, I challenge you to resolve to understand your worst clients better.  This isn't about liking them, but about avoiding more like them.  Here's how:

1.  Identify your 10 worst clients (past and present).

2.  List at least three things they all share in common — things like the warning signals you ignored when they hired you, the kind of problems they asked you to solve, or even the type of lawyer on the other side of the case.

3.  Title the list: "Types of Clients and Cases I'll Never Take Again."

4.  Review the list before every potential client interview, and think twice before taking on another "worst" client.

Once you've resolved to understand the kinds of clients you hate to serve, you can start building your practice around serving the clients you love.

Resolve to Stop Being a Sheep


Lawyers are creatures of precedent.  We're told from the first day of law school that everything we do, every argument we make and every brief we file must be based upon something that's happened before.  Unfortunately, we use our reliance on precedent to justify why our offices, our rates and even our business cards look just like those of our competitor down the street.

I'm challenging you resolve in 2010 to ignore your peers when it comes to changing your practice.  Don't worry about what they're doing, and don't ask for their advice.

Hugh MacLeod, in his tremendous book Ignore Everybody, explains, "The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you."  He continues:

[A] big idea will change you.  Your friends may love you, but they may not want you to change.  If you change, then their dynamic with you also changes….  With business colleagues it's even worse.  They're used to dealing with you in a certain way….  If your idea is so good that it changes your dynamic enough to where you need them less or, God forbid, the market needs them less, then they're going to resist your idea every chance they can.

So, in 2010 resolve to stop being a sheep.  Do something different.  Surprise your clients with tremendous service.  Dump the billable hour.  Offer a guarantee.  Just don't expect your peers to understand why you're challenging their status quo.  And remember, while the practice of law requires precedents, the business of law does not.  Knowing that your competitors aren't doing what you are isn't cause for concern, it's cause for celebration.

Resolutions are Back!

In the first few years of this blog, every December, I'd share one "resolution" each day of the month (here are the ones from 2004, 2005 and 2006).  The purpose of the posts was to give my readers a handful of things they could implement in the coming year to make their practices better.  I skipped 2007, and did a single Ten Resolutions for Lawyers post last year.

Since one of my resolutions for 2010 is to write more, I figured this was a good time to get the series running again.  Between today and the end of the year, look for 31 "Resolutions" focused on identifying your best clients and serving them better.  Some you've seen before on this blog, and some are new.  I hope you enjoy them all.

Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers

My friend Reid Trautz is back with his fifth Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers.  I want the Zvox Incredibase!

Ten Rules of Law Firm Retreats

Whether your next law firm retreat takes place at a tropical location or in the firm’s conference room, there are several things to keep in mind to make it productive, useful and fun.  Here are my Ten “Rules” for law firm retreats.  Feel free to add your own in the comments.  Enjoy!

1.  When planning a retreat, the most important voice at the table should belong to your best clients.  Ask them what you need to improve upon in the coming year, and invite them if you dare.

2.  At a good retreat, firm management spends as much time listening to the lawyers as they do talking to them.  At a great retreat, that ratio is closer to 3:1.

3.  It is far more important for attorneys to think together at your next firm retreat than it is for them to golf together.

4.  If you don’t make time for lawyers to improve your firm during the retreat, they’re less likely to take time to improve your firm when the retreat is done.

5.  In big firms, the first thing you should teach lawyers is one another’s names.  Familiarity builds collegiality.  Lawyers won’t care what their colleagues do until they know who they are.

6.  “Networking” cocktail parties don’t encourage firm-wide collaboration as much as they encourage firm-wide inebriation.

7.  If the firm retreat is the only time lawyers talk about marketing, it will be the only time they think about marketing.  Same goes for client service.

8.  Your staff knows more about how to serve your clients well than your associates do.  Bring them along, value their opinions and act on their suggestions.  You’ll find that the cost of their attendance is far lower than the cost of their absence.

9.  The three questions every lawyer should be able to answer after a retreat are: “What can I do better?” “Who should I know better?” and “Why should I be better?”

10.  The two costliest items at any firm retreat are the time and attention of the attendees.  Use them wisely.

If you'd like some help implementing some of these suggestions, check out LexThink and drop me a line.  If you'd like to see more Ten Rules posts, here they are.

Does Your Firm Know Customer Math?

Jackie Huba has a great Q and A with Jeanne Bliss, the author of “I Love You More Than My Dog”: Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.”  There’s a lot of meat in the interview (and probably in the book as well), but the real nugget is this reminder to pay more attention to serving existing customers than to pursuing new ones:

Q:  Do companies need to be customer-driven to grow?

A: Companies forget that customers keep them in business.  Customers who love companies grow them.  To understand this, think of customer math — a rigorous way to track incoming customers by volume and value and then reconcile that number with the lost customers in that same period, comparing incoming and outgoing customer volume and value.  The ‘aha moment’ comes when the math reveals that company marketing dollars are spent replacing customers lost rather than growing the business with the addition of new customers.  In essence, many companies are running in place. I believe in elevating customers as the asset of the business.  That means creating a competency for rigor around a) identifying and getting rid of those things driving customers away; and then b) getting really great at specific things that create a distinct memory and impression about a company and its people.  We forget the fact that it’s the creation of those memories that we make on purpose or accidentally through our operations decisions or policy choices that connect or repel us from customers.

More on this in a few weeks…

Keep Your Clients Healthy

John Jantsch, of Duct Tape Marketing, tweeted this “killer retail traffic strategy” that could work for law firms:

hook up with RN and offer flu shots in your store or business.

Could you offer a free flu-shot to your clients?  Especially if combined with a legal check-up, too?

Ask Your Clients What Surprised Them

Paul Graham collects some sage advice from the founders of startups he’s helped fund.  Preparing for a talk, he sent emails to all the founders and asked them “what surprised them about starting a startup?” According to Paul, asking what surprised them amounted to “asking what I got wrong, because if I’d explained things well enough, nothing should have surprised them.”

This is a very powerful question that should be on every lawyers post-matter client survey:

What surprised you the most?

Like Paul, you’re asking your clients in a polite way about the things you got wrong (or that they think you did because you didn’t communicate well).  And I’m quite certain you’ll get powerful, surprising and sometimes harshly critical responses — which are just the types of feedback you can use to eliminate surprises in the future for you and for your clients.

Why Lawyers Procrastinate

Can the source of lawyer procrastination be traced to law school?  Joel Spolsky, in his always-insightful Joel on Software Blog, takes on colleges teaching computer science, and squarely blames them for turning out students poorly prepared to tackle time-based, collaborative projects. 

College students in their final year have about 16 years of experience doing short projects and leaving everything until the last minute. Until you’re a senior in college, you’re very unlikely to have ever encountered an assignment that can’t be done by staying up all night….

Students have exactly zero experience with long term, team-based schedules. Therefore, they almost always do crappy work when given a term-length project and told to manage their time themselves.

If anything productive is to come out of these kinds of projects, you have to have weekly deadlines, and you have to recognize that ALL the work for the project will be done the night before the weekly deadline. It appears to be a permanent part of the human condition that long term deadlines without short term milestones are rarely met.

Lawyers, does this sound familiar?  I’m doing some more thinking on this, but it seems to me that law students not required to meet deadlines (and work collaboratively) are ill-prepared to become good lawyers.  Your thoughts?

Motivational Interviewing for Lawyers

I’m helping facilitate a workshop later today titled “Working with Difficult Clients” for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri’s annual conference.  One of the exercises we’ll be doing teaches how lawyers can use Motivational Interviewing techniques to get better responses from distressed clients. 

Here’s a quick way example of Motivational Interviewing questions (be sure to ask them in this order):

How important would you say it is for you to ______________?

On a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is not at all important and 10 is extremely important, where would you say you are?

Why a 3 and not a 0?  OR: Why an 8 and not a 10?

Give this method of questioning a try next time you’re talking to a client.  It is a great way to understand what they think is important, and most importantly, why they feel that way.

Twenty Ideas

Here's a handout I've been using to supplement my presentations titled Twenty Ideas.  I hope it is useful to you.

Download Twenty Ideas

Free Webinar and Kansas City Keynote This Week

If you’d like to hear (or see me) speak, you’ve got two opportunities this week.  The first is a (free) webinar tomorrow at 1pm Eastern and the second is in Kansas City on Thursday, where I’ll be keynoting the Kansas City Solo and Small Firm Conference.

In both, I’ll be sharing innovative strategies lawyers can use to build their practices, identify their ideal clients and thrive in this down economy.

The New

After lots of work, I'm happy to unveil my new LexThink site.  I still have lots of work to do, including some minor tweaks and major content additions, but am happy enough to release it in "beta" for now.

On a technical side, it is built in WordPress, using the amazing Headway theme.  My friend M. Jason Robards did all the art work, but the design and content are all mine.

I’m in the Spotlight

Friend and colleague JoAnna Forshee interviewed me for InsideLegal‘s “Legal Innovators Spotlight” a few weeks ago.  The interview is up here, and is mostly about LexThink and the services I offer the legal industry.

However, there’s one question (along with my answer) that I wanted to share here:

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the legal industry now and in the upcoming year?

Most lawyers are focused on returning their practices to profitability — which is a near term problem for many of us.  However, I think a far greater challenge is looming in the distance, and that is irrelevance. 

For far too long, lawyers have taken their clients and customers for granted.  Quietly, real alternatives are emerging that are making lawyers less necessary to clients.  In just the last five years, we’ve seen more and more consumers turn first to the web as they draft their will, start their LLC, etc.  This is a trend that will only continue, and lawyers must begin thinking about a day when the least valuable thing they have to offer their clients is advice.

I’d love your feedback here.

Advertise What Matters (to Clients)

If you’re wondering what to put on your website (or in that next yellow pages ad), take a cue from the Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida.  Instead of trumpeting just how great their doctors are, they’re using a nearby billboard to display a real-time statistic that lots of people care about: ER wait times.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

To find out how long the wait is in the emergency room at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, you can check its Web site, send a text, or, now, cruise past a billboard on Interstate 4.

The hospital this week started posting its ER wait times on the billboard, on the eastbound side near State Road 46. It’s part of a campaign to use technology to spread the word about decreasing the wait.

“Putting our wait times to see a physician in real time on a billboard is just one more step in educating the community about our service,” said Wendy Brandon, the hospital’s chief executive officer. The wait times to see a physician are updated every 30 minutes and reflect an average from the previous four hours.

What do your clients want to know about you?  Do they see the answer in your advertising?  They should.

LexThink Labs

Here’s another image from the new LexThink site (coming really soon).  It will be on the “LexThink Labs” page, which will include lots of fun, interesting and unique exercises, retreat ideas, and more.

Sell Me This Pencil

Here’s a list of 100 Great Interview Questions, that includes most of the obvious ones, such as “What are your weaknesses?” and “What’s your ideal company?” etc. 

However, there was one “question” that stood out to me above all others:

Sell me this pencil.

Think about that for a moment.  The question doesn’t require an answer, it requires a performance.  I wonder how it might impact hiring by law firms if their interviewers asked it just once in a while…

Prepare Better for High-Stakes Meetings

Here’s a checklist from The Eloquent Woman that she uses to prepare herself for every presentation she gives.  As I was reading it, I realized that her list isn’t just for presenters.  Instead, it is the perfect preparation for nearly every client meeting, negotiation and court appearance. 

My favorite section are the questions about intent:

  1. Do I know what the audience wants from me?

  2. Is that what I’m going to give them? Do my goals match theirs? If not, why am I speaking to them? How will I reach them?

  3. What do I want to get out of this speaking experience?

  4. What do I need to learn from the audience? How will I find out?

  5. Do I intend to engage the audience? Do I just want them to listen? Do I intend to get them to act on something?

Before your next high-stakes meeting, answer each question, first replacing “Audience” with Client, Judge or even Opposing Counsel.  I suspect you’ll gain answers that make asking the questions worthwhile. 

Test for Toxic Clients

Not sure whether to take that client?  Here’s a great test from Milton Glaser he uses to avoid toxic people:

[T]here is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energised or less energised. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.

Perhaps something to think about after every initial consultation?

(via Kareem Mayan’s Weblog)

Bonus Your Staff Before Your Attorneys

In this great TED talk by author Dan Pink, he argues that while incentives improve people’s performance on routine tasks, just the opposite is true when creativity or problem solving is involved.  Incentives not only fail to improve performance on creative tasks, they diminish it.  What’s more, the larger the reward, the worse the performance.  Might be something to think about when deciding just how to motivate lawyers. 

Watch the entire talk (it is roughly 18 minutes), it is worth your time.

Want cooperation? Think reciprocation.

If you struggle to get prospects to fill out a lengthy form before meeting with you, perhaps some new research will change your mind.

In a study summarized here in the Nuromarketing blog, rearchers compared the effectiveness of two strategies often employed by websites to collect personal data from visitors: requiring the visitor’s info before allowing them to access specific content (a reward strategy), or requesting it after they’ve already seen the content (a reciprocity strategy).  The result:

It turns out that a reciprocity strategy works better – give them the info they want, and then ask for their information. In the impressively titled Embedded Persuasive Strategies to Obtain Visitors’ Data: Comparing Reward and Reciprocity in an Amateur, Knowledge-Based Website, Gamberini et al found that twice as many visitors gave up their information if they were able to access the information first. It’s counterintuitive, perhaps, but even though these visitors were under no obligation to complete the form, they converted at double the rate of visitors seeing the “mandatory” form.

What does this mean?  Whenever you ask prospects to do something, work with reciprocity in mind.  Instead of demanding their cooperation before meeting you, ask for it after they do.  You’ll likely get more cooperation and better information from them, while starting the representation off on the right foot.

Focus Wins

From Seth Godin:

When you have someone who is willing to accomplish A without worrying about B and C, they will almost always defeat you in accomplishing A.

Clients Care About Price, Not Cost

Last week, I posted a Q & A on Flat Fee Pricing.  Just as I've finally found the time to respond to the comments, Jay Shepherd does me one better in this thoughtful piece titled Hourly Billing: The End of the Beginning.  Please read the entire piece, but I'll share here Jay's response to lawyers who argue that time determines price (even in flat-fee models) and should be tracked:

The price depends on only one thing: the amount the customer will pay at that time. You can prattle on all you want about costs and budgets and efficiencies and inefficiencies, but it doesn't matter a whit. It's up to you to set a price that is less than or equal to the value the client places on your service. If you do, you'll be hired for the job. If the value to the client is high enough, you should be able to charge enough so that your revenue exceeds your costs, giving you a profit. But don't expect your client to care about your costs or your profits — that's not their job.

Introduce Your Staff to Your Clients

Here's a great idea from the London Underground (subway) via the U.K.'s Creative Review.  The Underground hired photographer Maria Cox to visit each of the London Underground's 264 stations and take a picture of someone who worked there. 

The photographs are combined with some information about each person, and then displayed at the station where he or she works.  Here's the profile of John Osborne, a customer services assistant at the Shepherd's Bush Line station:

It makes me wonder how many businesses here in the states could benefit from a similar approach.  I think many clients would be more apt to hire a firm that cared enough about their employees to feature them in this way.  What do you think?

Free Photos for Great Presentations

I use my own photos in almost all of my presentations.  If you’re not up to taking your own pics, but still want to avoid cheesy clip art, check out this resource: 37 Places to Get Free Stock Images.  I really like (and use) Every Stock Photo and Stock Exchange.

Q and A on Flat Fee Pricing

I was recently interviewed by the Minnesota Lawyer newspaper for an article on flat fees that grew out of my Twelve Truths of Time presentation in Duluth, MN.  We did the interview as a series of questions, which I’m reproducing below.  Once I get a link to the actual article (if it isn’t behind a subscription firewall), I’ll post that here, too.

In what types of cases does flat fee billing work best?

There’s no one type of case where it works best, but there are certainly cases where it works easiest: ones with a certain beginning and ending that fall squarely within the lawyer’s expertise.  However, any case can be priced on a flat fee basis provided the attorney has the experience to properly evaluate the matter and has the systems in place to handle it economically.

The key thing to remember is that a lawyer doesn’t need to make the same money on each case as they’d have made by billing hourly.  Instead, so long as lawyers price right on average, they’ll win in the aggregate.

Is it possible to do flat fee billing in litigation matters? If so, how does that work?

Litigation is really no different than other complex transactions — such as building a sky scraper — that are handled on a fixed-price basis every day.  The key is to enter into a mutual understanding with the client that accounts for the unexpected.  Much like “change orders” are used by contractors, lawyers, too can utilize them to account for a case that takes an unexpected turn.  The key is to define ahead of time the kinds of things that are truly out of the ordinary and make certain the client understands that when circumstances change dramatically, so too can the price.

Another simpler way to begin down the road of fixed-fee pricing is to assign a price to each discrete service (such as depositions, interrogatories, days in court, etc.) that the client agrees to before the representation begins.  Then, in partnership with the client, a lawyer can map out a strategy for litigating the case and give the client a pretty accurate picture of the costs before they are incurred.

Can/are large law firms also using flat fee billing? If so, in what kinds of cases?

Large firms should have an advantage in flat fee pricing, because they’re not only able to absorb better the “one bad guess” on price, but should have a far greater amount of date from which to accurately estimate what their costs are in each matter.  The irony is that while large firms have a significant advantage in doing flat fee work, they are the least likely to adopt it as a primary method of pricing their services.

What are the advantages of flat fee billing?

There are so many, but the principal one — and the one clients embrace, too — is that the lawyer’s and client’s interests are now aligned.  Both now desire to handle the case in the most expeditious way, and law firms are now driven to embrace client-friendly innovative practices instead of eschewing them.

What are the disadvantages?

The key challenge in implementing flat fee pricing is that because so many lawyers don’t have accurate records of their cost per case or client, they often guess wrong on price.

Are clients demanding other options to “billing by the hour”?

Not all clients are demanding options, because many don’t know options exist.  I do know from personal experience that my lawyer clients who are introducing flat fees to their customers are receiving an enthusiastic response.

Any final thoughts/tips for practitioners when it comes to flat fees?

Don’t be afraid of flat fees or other alternative pricing methods.  So long as you know your business and know your clients, you can implement alternative ways of pricing your services that can make you more money and satisfy your clients.  And if you’re not sure about how to go about developing a flat fee pricing model, ask your clients.  They’ll love to give you some advice for a change.

Ten Rules for Presentations Slides

Here’s are the slides for my “Ten Rules for Presentations” posted to Slideshare.  Enjoy!

Ten Rules of Client Service Slides

I’d like to share the presentation of my Ten Rules of Client Service with you.  Here are the slides (posted using Slideshare).  I hope you like it.

Some Tips for the Suddenly Solo

The fellas at Lawyerist caught up with me in Duluth after one of my presentations at Minnesota CLE’s “Strategic Solutions for Solo and Small Firms” conference. Sam Glover asked me to share some tips for the “Suddenly Solo” lawyers out there.  Here’s the video:

Interview with Matt Homann from Lawyerist Media on Vimeo.

Because You Can Do It Doesn’t Mean You Should

A quick tip that popped into my head while speaking in Minnesota earlier this week:

Tape the telephone number of your IT/Tech professional under your desk near the tangle of cords coming from your PC (and on your server, router, etc.) so you see it when you’re most likely to try to work on your tech stuff yourself.

Still tempted?  Next to the number, write your billable rate and write theirs.

Culture Lessons from NetFlix

Netflix recently released a "Reference Guide" titled "Culture" on Slideshare, giving everyone a chance to peek "behind the curtain" at the values the innovative company expects from its employees. There are some real nuggets in the presentation.  Here are a few of my favorites:

The "Keeper Test" for managers:

Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving in two months for a similar job at a peer company, whould I fight hard to keep…"

The irrelevance of "hard" work:

It is about effectiveness — not effort — even though effectiveness is harder to asses than effort.  We don't measure people by how many evenings or weekends they are in their cube.  We do try to measure peole by how much, how quickly and how well they get work done — especially under deadline.

The refusal to tolerate "Brilliant Jerks" in the workplace:

For us, the cost to teamwork is too high.

The preference of "Rapid Recovery" from vs. Preventing error:

You may have heard preventing error is cheaper than fixing it … not so in creative environments.

The entire policy for expensing, entertainment, gifts and travel:

Act in Netflix's Best Interests.

Please read the whole thing, and while you do, imagine how a law firm would thrive (or fail) if it adopted a similar culture as Netflix's.

View more presentations from reed2001.

Thanks to the Emerging Leadership Circle blog for the pointer to the presentation!

Get Your Writing to Flow

Want some great tips to get your writing to flow? Check out How to Add Flow to Your Writing from  Men With Pens. The author suggests you read your writing aloud with a pen or marker in hand — not to find grammatical errors, but to evaluate flow. Here’s why:

When you read aloud, you’ll find certain sentences don’t sound right. Your tongue trips over them. You lose track of what you were trying to say. You find that the comma you inserted in the middle there makes you sound like you have a mild speech disorder.

Great advice!

Minnesota Strategic Solutions for Solos & Small Firms

If you’re in Duluth next week (or anywhere in Minnesota), come on by the Strategic Solutions for Solo & Small Firm Conference presented by Minnesota CLE.  I’m delivering two speeches and participating in four workshops, including the debut of my “Real Innovation for Real Lawyers” talk, and another based upon my Twelve Truths of Time (slides below). I hope to see you there!

Join LexThink on Facebook

I just started a LexThink business page on Facebook.  I’ve got big changes in store for LexThink, including a complete website redesign, but wanted an easy place to post news, events, upcoming speaking gigs, etc.  Head on over there, and please become a fan.

Business Card or Brochure? Both.

I'm headed to the ACLEA conference in Salt Lake City this week. I'm a new member of the Association of Continuing Legal Education professionals (I know, the acronym needs some help) and am looking forward to my first ACLEA event — especially because I'm doing lots more speaking about innovation, creativity, marketing, alternative billing, etc. to lawyers, firms and at CLE's.

Since I'm working on a website redesign (live in August) that helps show visually what I do, I thought I'd use some of the images we've created for the web on new 3" x 5" business cards that double as a kind of brochure. (I'm using a 6" x 5" card folded in half).

Here's the inside of the folded card:

And here's the back and front:

And here are the LexThink cards I've been using. Let me know what you think!  Here's the card in pdf format.

Using Facebook Ads to Find Legal Work

Attention Law Students:  There’s a great post over at One Day One Job abut Using Facebook Ads to Make Employers Hunt You Down that’s definitely worth a read. It recaps an experiment where job seekers used targeted Facebook ads to reach people who worked for companies they admired.  For Katelyn Hill (below), here’s what happened:

Katelyn Hill recently graduated from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Electronic Media. She loves television and movies and hopes to work in the entertainment industry, so she targeted the Walt Disney Company with her Facebook advertising campaign. Her ad received 685 clicks, which garnered 21 e-mails and 4 Facebook messages. She was offered one job interview, but wasn’t quite qualified for the position, so she declined. She also had several e-mails from individuals who offered to forward her resume to their supervisors. Many others offered her general advice on finding a job with Disney or commented on how creative they thought her ad campaign was.

I think this is a brilliant idea.  It isn’t a reach to take this approach and target attorneys and staff at specific firms you’d like to work for. 

It could (though your malpractice carrier may disagree) also work for lawyers targeting specific clients or types of work as well.

One Thousand Dollars an Hour is Dumb.

If you must compete on price, here’s a McDonald’s billboard that might give your marketing people some inspiration:

Found on BillboardomFull Story Here.

Blocked? Stop Typing!

The title of this short post from the 37 Signals Blog says it all: Writer’s Block is Sometimes Just Typer’s Block. If you’re having trouble writing, try this:

Record the conversation where you get it out right. When you speak an idea, it engages a different part of your brain than when you write it. You often say it clearer when you’re just riffing aloud. And you get to more gut-level stuff too. You bypass that “should I say this?” filter. You get it straight from your gut/brain instead of your fingers.

As someone who used to dictate all the time, I’ve gotten away from the think first, type later model of writing, but am going to break out my digital recorder and give it another try.

Your Firm, R.I.P.

Patti Digh talks about Living an Irresistible Obituary, and just started a site she’s dedicated to sharing “living obits” sent in by readers. Patti challenges us to live a life that, when recounted in the inevitable obituary, makes people say “wow!” As an exercise, she suggests writing an obituary for yourself of the life you hope to lead before you die. This can be a powerful exercise for us individually, to be sure, but I’m quite certain it would pay some really significant dividends for law firms as well.

If you had to write your firm’s “obituary” today, would it be about a firm you’re proud to have served? Would your firm be mourned by its clients and employees? Would your local legal community miss the firm’s contributions? Would former clients even notice the firm had gone?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” what can you do to turn your firm into one that matters? Perhaps writing an “irrestible obituary” would be a good start.

What Do Your Clients Think About You?

Here’s an exercise I’m working on for a Client Service Workbook that’s been an on-and-off project of mine for a while.

There will be several comic strip-like panels depicting scenes of a client interacting with you and your staff. Each will be on a worksheet you can give to yourself and your staff. Everyone will fill in the empty thought-bubbles with what they believe the “client” is thinking in situations like when:

They’re in the reception area waiting for their appointment:

They’re listening to you give them advice:

They just received their bill:

Once the thoughts are filled in, you compare and discuss the similarities and differences. To make the exercise even more valuable, ask your current and former clients to complete the same exercise.

Let me know what you think. I’m committed to finishing the Workbook by the end of the year, and will be testing similar exercises with my consulting and coaching clients ’til then.

100 Ways to Be More Creative

I found this great list of 100 Simple, Low-Cost, Soulful Ways to Be More Creative on the Job and wanted to share it with you.  Next time you’re stuck, pick a few off the list at random and give them a shot.

A Social Media What-To-Do

Lots of folks are talking about using Social Media for business, including me. When I speak to lawyers, after the “What the heck is …” questions come the “How much time will this take me?” ones. Last week, my friend Chris Brogan published his 19 Presence Management Chores You COULD Do Every Day post on his fantastic blog. In it, he shares 19 “chores” one could do every day (or at least every week) to keep one’s online presence alive and kicking on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogs.

Here are his LinkedIn tips:

  1. Enter any recent business cards to invite them to LinkedIn (if you’re growing your network).
  2. Drop into Q&A and see if you can volunteer 2-3 answers.
  3. Provide 1 recommendation every few days for people you can honestly and fully recommend.
  4. Add any relevant slide decks to the Slideshare app there, or books to the Amazon bookshelf.

Nobody knows this growing world of “Presence Management” better than Chris, and I’d highly recommend you not only read his full post, but add some (or all) of his suggested “to-do’s” to your list.

A Legal Blogging Roundtable

Last month, I participated in a legal blogging roundtable for the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis that was published in their subscription-only newsletter.  My partners in crime were Dennis Kennedy (DennisKennedy.Blog), George Lenard (George’s Employment Blawg), and Evan Schaeffer (Trial Practice Tips and The Legal Underground).  Together, we have combined for more than 20 years of blogging experience.

Dennis took our contributions and republished them to his blog as A Blogging Guide for St. Louis (and Other) Lawyers (and Others).  Here’s one of our takes on the future of blogging:

Matt Homann: I think we’ll see the continued adoption of blogs by legal professionals as much by choice as necessity. The next generation of law firm clients have lived their entire lives online, interact with Twitter and Facebook constantly, and read blogs everyday. They may have never used the Yellow Pages, and instead look to the web before making any major purchasing decision. They’ll expect a robust online presence from the professionals they hire, and a blog is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build that presence.

George Lenard: Integration with the surviving remnants of mainstream media into enriched, customized streams of information in manageable chunks for busy readers, plus continuing contributions to the wealth of information available to web users through ever-more-sophisticated search technologies. I was recently told by a web-content distribution company that my posts now have the potential of appearing in a news stream on the Wall Street Journal’s law pages amidst conventional sources such as the ABA Journal, if they match the WSJ search criteria, with no distinction in appearance that would suggest that my content is in any way inferior or less professional than that written by professional journalists.

Evan Schaeffer: I don’t have any predictions about the future of blogging. If you think of blogging as merely a means of publishing one’s writing, which it is, you don’t have to be too worried about the future. Get into the habit of writing, and if you like it, you can always migrate to the next technological platform, if and when there is one.

Dennis Kennedy: Among bloggers, Twitter and microblogging is all the rage. That will continue to affect blogging, but blogging still has great potential, especially to cover niche topics. I remain bullish on blogging. As for predicting the future, I still like what Ernest “Ernie the Attorney” Svenson said in an article on the future of blogging from four years ago in Law Practice Magazine: “Perhaps the biggest question that remains is: How quickly will law firms move to develop blogs? It depends on a lot of internal and external factors. But the clock is certainly ticking. For some firms that sound is just loud and annoying, while for others it is stirring and prompting them to act. So when will your firm create a blog? Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick . . . .”

Twelve Truths About Time

In early August, I’m headed to Duluth, Minnesota to speak at the Strategic Solutions for Solo and Small Firms conference. One of the presentations I’m giving is called the Twelve Truths About Time. In it, I share twelve reasons why attorneys should abandon the billable hour. Here’s the slide deck for that presentation. 

It is still in “draft” form, and I expect to tweak it a bit before I use it live, so please let me know what you think. My friend and artist/designer, M. Jason Robards, drew the clocks. We’re working next on a “Real Innovation for Real Lawyers” slide deck.  I’ll share that as soon as it is done. Thanks!

Ten Rules for Presenters

Lately, I’ve been giving lots of presentations, and have six more coming up before the Summer ends. I work pretty hard on my speeches (here are a few examples of my slides) and thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learned the hard way in this Ten Rules post. Enjoy!

1.  The greatest gift you can give your audience is a passion for your material. If you don’t care for it, they won’t care for you.

2.  Your audience’s attention is a lot like your virginity. You only get to lose it once.

3.  PowerPoint is always optional. A great speech doesn’t improve when accompanied by slides in a dark room.

4.  If PowerPoint makes it easy to do, you probably shouldn’t do it. Avoid bullet points, clip art and cheesy animated transitions at all cost.

5.  The number of words on a slide is inversely proportional to the attention your audience will give it.

6.  Your slides are not your script. The purpose of PowerPoint is to help others understand your material, not to help you remember it.

7.  Never read your slides. When you do, it suggests to your audience you think they’re incapable of doing so themselves.

8.  The average person remembers just three things from your presentation. Great speakers make certain everyone remembers the same three things.

9.  Unless your presentation tells a story, the audience won’t care about the ending — they’ll just pray for it.
10.  Never underestimate the impact a great presentation can have on your audience or your career. Being prepared serves both of them well.

If you’d like to see more Ten Rules posts, you can check them all out here.  If you’d like to read thoughts like these as I have them, follow me on Twitter.

Using Simple Technology isn’t Easy

Last week, I was listening to several lawyers complain about how hard it was to convince new associates to learn the technology everyone else in the firm had been using for years. From embracing dictation to using books instead of online tools, newbies “just didn’t get it” according the the group of senior attorneys. 

As I tried to explain to them that the technology they utilized, though pretty basic, wasn’t easier to use for someone unfamiliar with it, I struggled to find a good example. Today, I finally found one in the unlikeliest of places: an article by a teenager who gave up his iPod for a week and replaced it with his father’s 25-year-old Sony Walkman.

The article is hilarious at times, but highlights just how older, “simpler” technology isn’t actually easier to use for people unaccustomed to it. Some of the best quotes:

My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day. He had told me it was big, but I hadn’t realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Personally, I’m relieved I live in the digital age, with bigger choice, more functions and smaller devices. I’m relieved that the majority of technological advancement happened before I was born, as I can’t imagine having to use such basic equipment every day.

Let Your Clients Pick Your Next Associates

Seth Godin shares how he narrowed down 27 finalists for his “Alternative MBA” program to just ten participants: he let the applicants decide. Here’s how he describes the process:

More than 48,000 people visited the page that described the program and 350 really cool, talented people applied. I picked 27 finalists and all of them flew out to New York to meet each other. This was the most fun I’ve ever had at a cocktail party (it helped that it was at eight o’clock in the morning).

The conversations that day were stunning. Motivated people, all with something to teach, something to learn and something to prove. I asked each person to interview as many other people as they could. After three hours, I asked everyone to privately rank their favorite choices… “who would you like to be in the program with you?”

After they left, I tallied up the results. It was just as you might predict: nine or ten people kept coming up over and over in the top picks. I had crowdsourced the selection, and the crowd agreed. (It turns out that the people they picked were also the people I would have picked).

On January 20th, the most selective (one in 40 got in) MBA program in the world got started. Since then, they’ve never failed to live up to my hopes.

What if your firm choose its associates this way, by letting the applicants choose the others they’d like to work with? Or be even bolder, and bring your applicants in to spend a day with a mixture of your best clients — and let the clients decide!

Twitter Presentation for LegalTech West Coast

I’m off tomorrow for Incisive Media’s LegalTech West Coast. I’m speaking about Twitter on a four-person panel, so my time will be limited. Here are the slides I’m going to use to support my presentation. I’d love your feedback.

What’s Your Type?

I ran across Matthew Butterick’s wonderful Typography for Lawyers site today and wanted to share it here. Matthew’s a typographer turned civil litigator who started the site to help lawyers write prettier — if not better.

Why does typography matter?

When you show up to make an oral argument, you make sure that you present yourself as professionally and persuasively as possible. Similarly, your written documents should reflect the same level of attention to typography.

I highly recommend you add this to your reading list. Now, if I could just stop hitting the space bar twice after each period.

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.  Here’s a presentation full of “Lessons Learned” that uses pictures I’ve taken of my daughter, Gracie.  Enjoy!

Tired of Talking About the Weather?

Here’s a great collection of conversation starters from CanTeach.  Organized helpfully in categories of “What is…” “What if…” “What do you think…” etc., I’d take a quick look at these next time you’ve got a get together and want to come up with something for everyone to talk about besides the weather or their occupation.

Meet me in Los Angeles

Heading next week to Incisive Media’s upcoming LegalTech West Coast, which takes place June 24-25 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  I’m going to be reprising my role on the Twitter panel June 25th at 2:15 pm with Kevin O’Keefe.  Joining us will be Denise Howell and Nina Goldberg (links to their Twitter pages), and the moderator will be the incomparable Monica Bay.

I’m thinking about a Tweetup/PubCrawl along the lines of the one we did at Techshow for the evening of the 25th.  Anybody interested?

Ten Rules of the New Web

I just returned from the fantastic Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference, where I led a session (with Reid Trautz) unofficially titled the New Web for Lawyers.  We talked Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogs.  Here are some of “Rules” we discussed:

1.  “Social media” isn’t rocket science.  It’s just sharing who you are, what you do, and what you think with friends, colleagues and clients online.

2.  LinkedIn is: “Where are you working?” Facebook is: “What are you doing?” Twitter is: “What are you thinking?”

3.  Ever thought it would be cool to be invisible?  Ignore Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and to a vast number of your potential clients, you will be. 

4.  Want to understand the value of being active online?  Ask the guy standing in the corner by himself at your next networking event how many friends he’s made.

5.  First impressions are no longer made in person.  People want to get to know you before they meet you — and the place they go is the web.  Are you there, and what kind of first impression do you make?

6.  Just because you are “friends” with someone online doesn’t mean they’d recognize you in a crowd of three people.  Make your online connections the start of relationships, not the extent of them.

7.  Unless you measure the value of your real friendships by business you receive from them, it is unfair to hold your online friends to a higher standard.

8.  The only thing you’ll get from your online friends are their updates… unless you ask them for more.

9.   Before Facebook, what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas.  Now, what happens in Vegas can impact your business.  Be careful on Facebook, but ignore it at your peril.

10.  The most important social media tool is the telephone.  Reaching out to online friends can turn them into real ones.

If you’d like to see more Ten Rules posts, you can check them all out here.  If you’d like to read ideas like these as I develop them, follow me on Twitter.

Meet Me in Missouri

I’m headed down to Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks this week for the Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference to speak about marketing, innovation, technology and the web.  There will be over 900 lawyers there this year — which makes it the largest solo and small firm conference in the country.

If you’ll be there, be certain to say hello.  If you can’t make it, I’ll be covering as much as I can on Twitter and will be using the hashtag #mossfc

Website overhaul preview.

Does it look like me?

Looking for Cool Ways to Connect with Clients? -(STOP)-

Telegramstop is a company that will send an old-time looking telegram to anyone in the world for under five bucks.  Could be a cool, retro way to connect with some clients or friends.

The Math of Justice

I’m a big fan of Craig Damrauer’s New Math site.  He combines simple text and visuals with math to describe sometimes complicated concepts.  Here’s his latest:

And my favorite:

Get Up and Think

Sitting at your desk trying to solve a complicated problem?  You might be better off getting out of your chair and moving around.  In this study, researchers found that, “a person’s ability to solve a problem can be influenced by how he or she moves.”  In other words, our minds and bodies can work together to help us solve problems:

The new findings offer new insight into what researchers call “embodied cognition,” which describes the link between body and mind, Lleras said.

“People tend to think that their mind lives in their brain, dealing in conceptual abstractions, very much disconnected from the body,” he said. “This emerging research is fascinating because it is demonstrating how your body is a part of your mind in a powerful way. The way you think is affected by your body and, in fact, we can use our bodies to help us think.”

Next time you’ve got a problem to solve, get up off your butt, move around a bit, and you might find that your body helps your brain find the answer.

Ten Rules for Conference Vendors

In March, I shared Ten Rules for Conference Attendees.  As the spring and summer conference seasons heat up, I’ve put together Ten Rules for Conference Vendors.  Here they are:

1.  If the only way you can sell your value proposition is with a white paper, you don’t have a value proposition.

2.  You do not earn my attention by giving me a pen. You earn it by solving a problem I can’t solve without you.

3.  The more your booth looks like everyone else’s the more I think your product does what everyone else’s does, too.

4.  Don’t get offended if I don’t believe your product will do what you promise.  I’ve been burned before by people who sounded and looked a lot like you.

5.  Everyone working your booth should have a 7 word answer to the question “What do you do?”  The first three words of that answer should be “We help you…”

6.  The number of words on your booth is inversely proportional to the likelihood I’ll read any of them.

7.  These five words should NEVER appear on your booth: Trusted, Leading, Innovative, Premier, and Unique.  If they do, you probably aren’t.

8.  Dump the booth babes.  If I can’t trust you to make good decisions about your marketing, how can I trust you to make good decisions about serving me?

9.  Your product’s benefits are not as different from your competitors’ as you believe them to be.  Instead of selling me “unique” features, sell me outstanding service.

10.  Capture my attention before you capture my contact information.  A one-dollar USB drive in exchange for a year of emails and telephone calls is not a fair trade.

You can read the rest of my 10 Rules Posts here

Ten Rules of Networking

Networking events are part and parcel of a business person’s life.  Next time you find yourself at a networking event, keep in mind these Ten Rules, and the people you meet will thank me:

1.  “Network” isn’t something you do, it is something you build.

2.  Meeting someone for five minutes at a networking event does not entitle you to become their “friend” on Facebook. Ever!  Feel free to send them a LinkedIn invite, though.

3.  It takes more time to recover from a weak handshake than it does to learn to give a firm one.

4.  Your life story is far more interesting to you than to someone you’ve just met — and you’ve already heard it before.

5.  Stories that start with, “This one time, I almost ….” are boring as hell.  Learn to embrace experiences instead of avoiding them.

6.  Never enter a conversation at networking event with more than half a drink in your hand. Needing a refill is great excuse to leave.

7.  Asking someone “What do you do?” w/in a minute of meeting suggests your interest in them depends on their answer.

8.  When you meet someone for the first time, make certain they don’t hear you complain. About anything.

9.  The most underrated skill to possess at networking events is ability to end conversations, not start them.

10.  Never “network” to meet people. Network to help people.

You can read the rest of my 10 Rules Posts here.  I’ll see you at the next networking event!

100 Tweets: Thinking About Law Practice in 140 Characters or Less.

I really like Twitter.  For those who follow me, you know that I try to share lots of legal-themed tips, thoughts and ideas.  In fact, most of my Ten Rules posts started out on Twitter — where I’ll test 15-25 “rules” to see which ones work best before picking the ten favorites.

However, there’s lots of stuff that lives on Twitter now that used to live here on the blog.  And since I don’t expect everyone reading this to follow me there (or go back and read through my 2000+ Twitter messages), I decided to compile a “Best Of” list of my favorite tweets.

So, here (in .pdf form) is a little e-book I’ve titled:  100 Tweets: Thinking about Law Practice in 140 Characters or Less.  It contains my favorite 100 tweets, in no particular order, and should give you a sense of what I share on Twitter that you don’t always see here.

If you enjoy it, and would like to follow me on Twitter, I’ll see you there.

Selling Through a Slump E-Book

I had the privilege of contributing the legal chapter in the new Selling Through a Slump:  An Industry by Industry Playbook

Oracle and The Customer Collective co-sponsored the guide, which contains great advice for selling in multiple verticals, including accounting and consulting, retail, the public sector, health care, insurance, telecommunications, services, technology, media and manufacturing.  The author list reads like a who’s who of industry experts, and I’m honored to be in such great company.

Check it out here.  Registration is required, but the download is free.

Ten Rules PDF Preview

As I gear up for several speaking engagements this summer, I'm putting together my slides and handouts this week.  While most of these will ultimately live at my LexThink site, I thought I'd share the first one with you here on the blog.

Here are my Ten Rules of Client Service (from my original post here) in a spiffy new pdf format that I hope will turn into an e-book of sorts.

I hope you enjoy the look, and find the pdf easy to share.  Let me know what you think.

Talk to Me About…

Instead of using name tags at your next event, try this tip (found at The Kitchn blog) to get conversations started:

The idea is that instead of “Hello my name is…” stickers, you give your guess ones that read “Talk to me about…” Guests can fill in their career specialty, their hobby, their passion of the moment, or their favorite meal (just keeping it foodie, here!).

We picked this suggestion up from SwissMiss, who used it at a talk she was facilitating, and we think it’s a brilliant idea for all sorts of social situations. Name tags like these are guaranteed conversation starters!

We think they also take away some of the discomfort factor. Personally, we feel much more comfortable approaching someone who wants to talk about a subject in which we’re interested than we would just striking up a random conversation.

I’d take it a bit further, and give each guest 4-5 name tags.  Every 30 minutes or so, have them switch out their “I want to talk about…” tag with a different subject.

Wonder what my friend Scott “The Nametag Guy” Ginsberg would think?

Get a Life — In Only Two Days

I’ve been spending some time talking to the organizers of the Get a Life Conference, after connecting at Techshow and on Twitter.  It looks like a great event, and I’m really working hard to figure out a way to make it — and perhaps do some cool LexThink-like unconference stuff with them if I do.

Lots of great speakers, including the incomparable Gerry Riskin, are on tap.  Expect lots of talk about practical ways to make your law practice a more profitable business.  From their site:

In this two-day workshop, you’ll learn how manage all the moving parts of a successful law practice and still have a life. But there’s one very important thing missing – you! One of the greatest challenges you have is making time for what’s personally important to you – your hobbies, friends and family.

It happens May 27th and 28th in Chicago.  Check it out, and if you’d like to go, here’s a link to a 25% discount (Enter INSIDER upon check-out).  I hope to see you there!

Now, if it only came in legal size…

If it only came in legal size:

Found on Apartment Therapy.

Unofficial Techshow Pub Crawl

This Thursday (April 2, 2009), I'll be leading the second annual Unofficial Techshow Pub Crawl at ABA's Tecshow.  We took a year off last year, but are back in 2009.

We'll meet up at the Hilton Chicago Lobby at 8 and head out for a few beers at 3-4 bars in the neighborhood.  Expect a great time, good fellowship and a hangover Friday morning.

UPDATE:  Here's the "agenda" for our evening:

7:30 – 8:00:  Meet in Hilton Lobby Bar
8:00 – 9:30:  South Loop Club, 1 E. Balbo Ave. (about a block from Hilton)
9:30 – 11:00:  Hackney's Printer's Row, 733 S. Dearborn
11:00 – 12:00: Villains Bar and Grill, 649 S. Clark
12:00 – ???:  Kitty O'Shea's in the Hilton Chicago

Here's the map:

View Larger Map

If you want to join the group early, many of us will be convening at a Tweetup here.

For real-time Twitter updates from the Crawl, you can follow me (@matthomann), or follow the Unofficial Techshow Pub Crawl hashtag (#utspc).

See you in Chicago!

Ten Rules for Conference Attendees

With the ABA’s Techshow and the LMA Annual Conference kicking off in tandem this week, I thought it was a good time to revisit a list I did a few years ago about attending conferences.  Here are my Ten Rules for Conference Attendees:

1.  The amount of preparation you do before the conference is directly proportional to the benefits you’ll receive after it.

2.  Never attend a conference without at least three questions you want answered.  Never leave until they have been.

3.  Your ability to pay attention to conference speakers and attendees is inversely proportional to your ability to pay attention to the outside world.  If you can’t leave the real world behind for an hour or two, please don’t leave it at all.

4.  The most important people at the conference are sitting next to you.  They are like you.  They can help you.  Ignore them at your peril.

5.  Vendors know your industry and the other attendees better than you do.  Talk with them.  Learn from them.  Then take a few pens.

6.  A conference rolls thousands of first impressions into a three-day period.  Be kind, listen well, don’t dress like a slob, and pick up the tab every once in a while.

7.  Don’t go to a conference until you can answer — in less than 5 seconds — the question, “What do you do?”

8.  Don’t tell someone you’ll follow up unless you intend to.  Breaking the first promise you make to someone makes them believe you’ll break others, too.

9.  The only thing you need at most conferences is an exhibit hall pass.  The true value of the event is in the conversations and not the presentations.  Forget the sessions, hang out in the hallway (and the bar) and listen.  A lot.

10.  Knowing someone online is not the same as knowing them in person.  Don’t assume that someone you follow on Twitter, friended on Facebook and linked to on LinkedIn knows who the hell you are.  Introduce yourself as if you’re a stranger, make friends the old fashioned way and your relationship will be stronger as a result.

You can read the rest of my 10 Rules Posts here.  I’ll see you at the next event!

LexThink Innovate: Canceled

Whether it is the economy, location, dates or some combination of the three, I’ve had to cancel LexThink Innovate.  With just over a week to go, there just weren’t enough people committed to the event for me to deliver the experience I’d promised. 

I’m still going to work with the attendees who choose to come to St. Louis, and I’ll have more details tomorrow.  Thanks!


Your Clients Multiply Your Mistakes

Another fun “Rule of Thumb” that sounds about right, even with no empirical proof:

Every time you mess up, your boss will remember it as three times that number. If the total number of actual mess-ups is greater than 3, your boss will remember it as “always.”

Works for clients, too!

Say My Name!

Here’s a quick and cool idea from a Smashing Magazine post on building a perfect portfolio website:  Tell your customers how to pronounce your name.  Here’s a snippet from designer Chikezie Ejiasi’s site:

If you’ve got a hard-to-pronounce name, tell web visitors how to pronounce it.  You’ll make it a lot easier for them to ask for you by name.  I’d think about doing this with business cards, too.

If you’re designing a law-firm website, you can do a lot worse than to check out the rest of the article for lots more great ideas.

Afraid to Innovate?

Afraid to try something new in your business, figuring that if it really worked, everybody else would already be doing it?  Think again!  Here's a re-imagining of the lowly paper clip (from picocool):

Now, what's stopping you from thinking differently about your practice?

Client Collaboration and the IKEA Effect

One of my favorite lists of the year is Harvard Business Review’s Breakthrough Ideas for 2009.  As always, the entire list is worth a read, but the one that caught my eye is  one labeled The IKEA effect, which suggests that people are willing to pay more for things they had a hand in creating:

When people construct products themselves, from bookshelves to Build-a-Bears, they come to overvalue their (often poorly made) creations. We call this phenomenon the IKEA effect, in honor of the wildly successful Swedish manufacturer whose products typically arrive with some assembly required.

In one of our studies we asked people to fold origami and then to bid on their own creations along with other people’s. They were consistently willing to pay more for their own origami. In fact, they were so enamored of their amateurish creations that they valued them as highly as origami made by experts.

What does this mean for professional service providers?  Instead of defaulting to a “Let me handle that for you” position with clients, require them to actively participate in their case.  By collaborating with them, and allowing them to make meaningful contributions to the work you (both) do, they’ll likely value your services more and be happier with the end result.

Ten Rules of Client Service

Quick, name your favorite customer service class from law school.  Can’t do it?  I’m not surprised.  Most lawyers don’t learn much about client service in school, and the only class that touches upon service at all is Legal Ethics — which is kind of like teaching someone to ride a bike by showing them lots of bicycle accidents.

By delivering great service, you can delight your customers, increase their satisfaction (and reduce malpractice exposure), cut your marketing budget and turn your clients into your best salespeople.  And because many of your peers believe something as simple as returning client calls is optional, the bar to delivering the best client service in your community is set pretty low. 

Here then, are 10 simple “rules” to help you remember that it is your customers who keep you in business, and when you work to delight (instead of frustrate) them, you’ll both be successful.

1.  Just because clients don’t expect great service from lawyers doesn’t excuse you from providing it.

2.  Don’t assume you’re great at service because your current clients don’t leave.  Many remain your clients because they fear their new lawyer will treat them just like you do.

3.  It costs less to delight a client than it does to frustrate them.  You pay to delight them once, but you pay for frustrating them forever.

4.  It is also far cheaper to compete on service than it is on price, because there will always be someone far cheaper.

5.  People tell others about service they receive, not competence they expect.  Ever heard someone brag about how clean their dry cleaners get their clothes? 

6.  The time clients care about isn’t yours, it’s theirs.  Build your practice to save them time and they’ll be less reluctant to pay you for yours.

7.  Though you might be measured against your peers in a courtroom, when it comes to service, you’re measured against everyone.  If your clients named the top ten places they get great service, would your business make the list?  It should.

8.  Eighty percent of your time should be spent on satisfying your clients’ expectations and twenty percent should be spent on exceeding them.

9.  You can’t measure how you’re doing when you only ask how you’ve done.  Improving client service begins with learning how to serve your current clients better.

10.  If your clients can go months without hearing from you, they can go forever without recommending you.  To lawyers, indifference and incompetence are two different things.  To clients, they are one in the same.

If you’d like to see some more posts like this one, check out: Ten Rules of RainmakingTen Tweets about TwitterTen Resolutions for the New YearTen 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 see hundreds more ideas on creative ways to deliver great client service, check out all of the Client Service posts here on this blog.

Replace “Fiance” with “Client”

Found this one over at Rules of Thumb.  Replace Fiance with Client and Married with Retained:

If your fiance does something that bothers you before you’re married, it will bother you ten times more after you’re married.

Let Your Clients Decide Your Price

One of the biggest barriers lawyers must overcome when contemplating alternative pricing models is understanding just how customers perceive the value lawyers provide. 

One of the ways I've combated this in my consulting practice (and at LexThink Innovate) is I let customers set the price of the work I do — after it is done.

Below is a copy of my "You Decide Invoice" that I use for all my consulting work.  The relevant provisions read:

YOU DECIDE: Your absolute satisfaction with LexThink isn’t just our goal, it’s the measure of our worth — and the determination of our fee. The rules are simple: you pay us what you feel we were worth to you. You decide, no questions asked. The only rule? We want to know why you paid what you did, and how we could have done better.


WHEN TO PAY:  While we leave our fee in your hands, we can’t leave it there forever. Please send us  your payment and feedback within 21 days after you get this invoice.  Please send a copy of this along with your feedback and your payment.  Thank you for your business.

On the second page (not shown), I ask for feedback from the customer:

Tell us, in as many words as you want, how we did. Think about your expectations, the result, and how it felt to work with us. Also, let us know if we can share your feedback with others — and if we can give you credit. Attach more sheets if you need to.

That's it.  I explain to the customer before they engage me that they'll set my price, and then give them the invoice as soon as the engagement's done.  So far, I've always received at least as much as I've expected — and most importantly, usually more than I would have charged if I'd set my price before beginning. 

I also know that when I will ultimately receive less than I expect (or not get paid at all), it will tell me I need to learn lessons from the engagement, and improve my services (or be more selective with my clients) so it doesn't happen again.

What's keeping you from experimenting, and letting a few (trusted) customers name your price? 

LexThink Testimonial: “Format both innovative and effective”

David Gulbransen writes another LexThink testimonial I wanted to share:

Matt Homann has posted 10 reasons why you should attend LexThink:Innovate in March. And while I can actually cook 2 ‘three minute’ eggs in less than six minutes, the LexThink conference format is both innovative and effective. Well worth the time, in my book. And Matt’s put his money where his mouth is with a “name your own price” guarantee. When was the last time you saw a conference do that??

The timing of the conference couldn’t be worse for me (work projects) but I’m still trying to find a way to go… you should, too.

LexThink Testimonial: “You will walk away a better person”

Steve Nipper, someone who’s attended two former LexThink events, tells his readers on his Invent Blog why they should come to LexThink Innovate:

Matt Homann is putting on another “unconference,” this time on March 29-30, 2009 in St. Louis. Called the LexThink: Innovate conference, it is a “Legal Innovation Event for attendees interested in creating their perfect law practice.” Think of it as getting a roomful of the brightest, most creative attorneys around, adding a few catalysts, stirring the pot and encouraging collaboration/discussion on how to build the PERFECT law practice.

I’ve been to two of his LexThink conferences before and hope I can make this one (but may not be able to due to the timing (with IgniteBoise and state high school mock trial competitions the week before…I’m going to be hurting for family time)).

The impact on me personally, in attending the two LexThink’s I did, was unreal. I literally left there, both times, with migraine headaches…my brain swimming with all sorts of new ideas for my practice and my life. What a tremendous value! When was the last time you lost sleep because your brain wouldn’t stop thinking of GOOD things. The conference resulted in a number of things I implemented…things that made a real difference.

If you can make it, I guarantee that it will be worth your time. You will walk away a better person, have great ideas to implement, and will meet new friends.

Now is the time to innovate in your law practice. Now is the time to think outside the box. Now is the time to seriously consider attending LexThink: Innovate.

I hope to see you there!

LexThink Testimonial: “Worth Every Penny”

Reid Trautz, a former LexThink attendee, offers this take on LexThink Innovate:

Matt Homann has more good ideas than just about anyone else I know. And when it comes to legal  "conferences" there is no one who does it better. I attended the first LexThink event in Chicago a few years ago, and still think it was one of the more rewarding learning experiences I have had as a lawyer. Several years later, I engaged Matt to consult on a legal conference I was co-organizing, to make it more interesting and vibrant for attendees. Once again, his ideas were a hit.

So I am pleased to learn that Matt has designed and organized LexThink Innovate, the latest in his LexThink events (I hate to call them "conferences" because is is so unlike other legal conferences). Billed as part "unconference", part retreat, LexThink is meant to engage and challenge all participants. It requires thought, participation, and deeper commitment to action than your typical CLE conference. Rest assured, this is not a marketing consultant selling you an expensive service; Matt is a former practicing lawyer who has devoted the last five years to rethinking how lawyers can come together to innovate their law firms.

Matt's latest innovation for LexThink Innovate? It is the first "Name Your Own Price" legal event. Yep, you pay the value of what you think you got out of it–after you attend! Guaranteed. In short, he's turning “you get what you pay for,” into “you’ll pay for what you got!”

With that kind of creativity and confidence going in, you know it is going to be different.  I don't know exactly what Matt has in store, but if it is like his past conferences, it will be well worth every penny.

As I write this, there are about 25 spots left for LexThink Innovate.  I hope to see you there.

LexThink FAQ: Will There be Sponsors?

Q:  Will there be sponsors at LexThink Innovate?

A:  This is an easy one: I don't know. It isn't as if a sponsorship (or five) wouldn't be helpful, but from the beginning, I've built LexThink Innovate to serve the attendees first.  I'd rather deliver an amazing experience to them, than worry about delivering sales opportunities to sponsors. 

However — and this is a big however — vendors are welcome, on two conditions: 

First, if you want to attend as an attendee, you must participate, contribute to the innovation discussions and NOT SELL your products or services to others at the event.

Second, if you'd like represent your company (instead of yourself) and have an opportunity to make a pitch, tell the attendees about your product, hand something out, and/or demo something, you must buy one of five Vendor Tickets.  Unlike the Attendee tickets, these are non-refundable.

If you're thinking about sponsoring or attending LexThink Innovate, feel free to contact me at  It is going to be cool, and I'd love to see you there.

LexThink FAQ: What Will it Look Like?

Q:  What will LexThink Innovate look like?

A:  That’s a hard one to answer, but think markers, crayons, lots of Post-it notes, laptops, projectors, music, easels, artists drawing (more on that in a later post), lots of people talking in small groups, whiteboards, index cards and big sheets of paper.

Or, if you want to see what past LexThinks have looked like, here’s a link to the LexThink tag in Flickr.  Below are just a few pictures from an event in Chicago.

LexThink FAQ: Will there be CLE credits?

Q:  Will I be able to get CLE credit for attending LexThink Innovate?

A:  No.  Most states require conference organizers to jump through lots of hoops to get CLE credit.  Presenters must submit written materials, attendance must be taken, and only certain topics qualify for credit in different states.  Frankly, it’s just too hard to get credit, and I’d rather spend my time making the experience great for the attendees than getting CLE credit for them.

Also, I want LexThink Innovate attendees to be at the event because they want to change the way they use their law license, not just to satisfy some requirement for keeping it.

LexThink FAQ: Why is Attendance Limited?

Q:  Why are you limiting the number of attendees for LexThink Innovate?

A:  LexThink Innovate is focused on providing the best collaborative experience for the attendees.  As I’ve planned the event, I’ve thrown out all of the old-school conference “rules” such as:  you’ve got to do it in a big city, you have to have well-known speakers, and that bigger is better. 

Instead, LexThink Innovate will be an intimate event, more akin to a retreat than a conference, where everyone will have an opportunity to make meaningful connections with one another, and be able to carry their collaboration and idea-sharing beyond our two days in St. Louis.  Also, by keeping attendance to around 30-40 people, everyone will have multiple opportunities to share (and solve) their challenges with the entire group.

In short, after having designed and facilitated experiences for groups as large as 400, I’m convinced that, for an innovation-focused event a smaller conference makes for a better conference.

LexThink FAQ: What’s on the Agenda?

Q:  What's on the agenda at LexThink Innovate?

A:  Much of LexThink Innovate is built around an “open space model” that encourages attendees to have the conversations and share the ideas they find most compelling.

However, unlike many “unconferences,” attendees will participate in several innovation-focused exercises and activities designed to help them build their “perfect” law practice.  Attendees will be challenged to think differently about topics such as creatively marketing their practices to prospective customers, developing innovative billing models, delivering amazing client service, and thriving in this new economy — and always urged to answer the questions:  “What now?”  “What next?” and “What if?”

Finally, to keep the promise that LexThink Innovate will be “unlike any other legal conference,” there will be a handful of surprise speakers, lessons from other industries, cool activities and even a field trip to keep attendees’ creative juices flowing.

LexThink FAQ: Is LexThink Innovate Just for Lawyers?

Q:  Is LexThink Innovate just for lawyers?

A:  No.  LexThink Innovate is for everyone who’s interested in making the legal profession better.  At past LexThink events, we’ve had lawyers, consultants, vendors, technologists, students, professors and even clients.  All have contributed to the innovation conversation and taken away something valuable to help their business thrive.

Do Your Best Customers Know They Are?

This week I received a letter from Hotwire (which is, along with Tripit, my favorite travel site) that began:

“Welcome to Hotwire Express, a new service designed for our best customers.  Given the volume of business you do with Hotwire, you’ve earned this enhanced level of service and support, which includes…

The letter continued to list a series of benefits I’ll now receive as an Express member including faster response times, dedicated travel specialists, and increased flexibility to change already-paid-for bookings.

I wasn’t expecting the letter, and didn’t know I was one of Hotwire’s “best” customers, though I’ve spent thousands of dollars with them.  I hadn’t even thought I needed the additional services Hotwire’s now giving me for free.  In short, it was the kind of pleasant surprise that made me feel good about my past use of their service and more likely to use them again. 

I also realized that this strategy lends itself well to other businesses.  What could you do to surprise (and better serve) your best customers? Take some lessons from Hotwire and:

1.  Identify your best customers.

2.  Tell them they are, in fact, your best customers and sincerely thank them.  They’ll be surprised and happy to know you’re grateful for their business. 

3.  Finally, give them additional services and benefits that they’ll appreciate without them having to ask for them.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Ten Rules of Rainmaking

I often quibble with the term “rainmaker” because I think it too often describes lawyers more interested in getting new clients than in keeping current ones.  However, because “10 Rules for Business Development,” and “10 Rules for Keeping Clients So You Don’t Have to Replace Them” don’t have the same nice ring as “ 10 Rules of Rainmaking,” I’ll use the term here.  Let me know what you think:

1. You’ll never be passionate about rainmaking until you start searching for clients you’ll be passionate about serving.  Remember, a great client is one for whom you’d work for free, but one who’d never ask you to.

2.  The best way to get new clients is to impress old ones.  Measure the happiness of your existing clients with the same diligence you measure your time, so you can work less on developing new business and more on deserving it.

3.  While there are hundreds of “strategies” to get new clients, there’s only one strategy to keep them:  serve them well.

4.  When meeting a potential client, don’t sell your competence, sell your compassion.  They must know you care about them before they’ll care about you.

5.  The single best way to get new clients is to ask your best ones, "How do I get more clients like you?"

6.  A client will never be as surprised by great legal work as they will by by good service.  

7.  Your new client’s definition of a “great” lawyer is probably far different from yours.  You must understand their expectations before you’ll ever be able to meet them.

8.  Recognize that while it is usually easier to ask for new business from prospective clients than it is to ask for more business from current ones, it is rarely more profitable.

9.  If your answer to “What kind of clients are you looking for?” is “Ones who pay,” you’ll get paying clients.  Terrible paying clients.

10.  The best thing you can promise a prospective client is more sleep.  Ask what problems keep them up at night, and build your practice to solve them.

I'd love your input, and feel free to add any of your "Rules" in the comments.  If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series:  Ten Tweets about TwitterTen Resolutions for the New YearTen 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.

Re-Thinking Business Cards

Several years ago, I started using 3″ x 5″business cards in place of traditional-sized cards.  Since then, I’ve never gone back, and constantly get comments about how my cards (printed, by the way, on my own printer) are “unique,” “creative,” and even “cool.” 

In fact, I’d bet that the average person to whom I hand my card interacts with it at least 5 times longer than they do with a traditional one — pretty much the reason you hand out cards to begin with, don’t you think?

At LegalTech, I promised someone I’d share my current cards here on my blog, so here you go:

If you position yourself as a different kind of lawyer to your clients, make sure you have a different kind of card.  And lose the scales of justice — they’re so 1909.

Use Conferences to Build Your Practice in a Down Economy

If you have a niche practice, you should already be asking your clients what conferences and trade shows are “must attends” in their industry.  If you’re not already a regular attendee (or speaker) at these events, you should be — now more than ever.  Here’s three reasons why:

1.  You Can Increase Client Satisfaction:  One of the first things your clients will cut back on in a down economy is attending these events.  Go in their stead, and promise to report back to them on what you learned.  You can do so in a letter, newsletter, blog or even on Twitter (more on that in a second).  They’ll appreciate you being their eyes and ears at the event and will always remember how you cared enough about their business and industry to attend when they couldn’t.  As a bonus, they’ll likely introduce you before the event to their friends/colleagues/peers who’ll be there.

2.  You Can Meet Quality Potential Clients:  The attendees who will be there are potential clients (but ones who CAN afford to attend) who will be impressed by your commitment to your existing clients and your desire to increase your expertise in their industry.  You’ll also be one of the few lawyers in the room.

3.  You Can Become an Industry Expert:  Your clients aren’t the only ones interested in what’s happening at the event.  Instead of saving your updates for your clients, broadcast them (along with your expert analysis) to the world via your blog and Twitter — especially Twitter.  By doing so, you’ll not only reach other attendees at the event, but capture the attention of others in the industry watching the conference from home.  Depending on the technological sophistication of the attendees, you may be the ONLY source of real-time conference news to non-attendees.

In short, forget legal conferences (except for LexThink, of course) and go to client conferences instead.  You’ll get much more bang for your buck, impress existing clients, meet new ones and establish yourself as an industry expert.

Keep your sandwich to yourself.

Do the tough economic times have you bringing your lunch to work more often than before?  If you’re one of those folks who’s had that lunch “accidentally” taken by someone else, here’s an inspiring design solution to your problem:  Anti-Theft Lunchbags:

Brilliant, don’t you think? 

And if you’re a legal vendor — because you knew there had to be some sort of legal angle to this, didn’t you — and you want to engage your customers in a conversation about privacy, data protection, or (yes) even spoilation, I can’t imagine a better trade show giveaway.

Ten Tweets about Twitter

As I've prepared for my LegalTech session on Twitter, I've been thinking about what to say.  Since I've been having so much fun with all of my "Ten Rules" posts, I thought I'd do Ten Tweets about Twitter.  As a bonus, all but the last one are exactly 140 characters!  Here you go:

1.  It's easy to learn how to use Twitter, but it's hard to learn why.  Once you get the “why,” you'll move from skeptic to disciple overnight.

2.  Twitter isn't like Facebook: Twitter starts conversations with people you’d like to know. Facebook starts them with people you used to know.

3.  The greatest value of Twitter doesn’t come from knowing what the people you follow are doing.  It comes from knowing what they are thinking. 

4.  Ever think, “If only I could get 5 minutes with Mr. _______, my biz would explode” moments?  They’re on Twitter, you’ve got 140 characters.  Go!

5.  If you want to extend your Twitter relationships into the real world, be a real person on Twitter — and don’t call yourself “@imgreat12375”

6.  If you fear Twitter will interfere with your ability to get your work done, you’re not afraid of Twitter, you’re afraid of doing your work.

7.  Twitter helps start conversations like kindling helps start fires. However, without further attention and real fuel both will soon burn out.

8.  Twitter's like a networking meeting on steroids — though the conversation’s better and there're a lot fewer insurance salesmen in the room  

9.  There are Twitter friends and real life friends.  The successful Twitter user values both, but knows how to turn the former into the latter.

10.  The number of followers you have is far less important than the number of followers you deserve.  Always work to deserve more. 

BONUS:  Twitter How To: Follow, Care, Follow, Share, Connect, ReTweet, Repeat

If you'd like to catch up while at LegalTech, shoot me an email at You can also follow me on Twitter

Who needs those Guinness Book folks?

Ever wanted to set a world record and not have to worry about those sticklers from the Guinness Book of World Records?  Check out The Universal Record Database.  An open, participatory site for posting your own world "record" and daring anyone out there to top it.

Some of the featured records include: Most People Complimented in One Minute, Most Panama Kicks in One Minute, and Fastest Time to Open a Can of Campbell's Alphabet Soup and Spell "Pantyhose".

The site is equal parts brilliance and sheer stupidity — and it is utterly addictive. 

Now for the "legal" bit:  How about brainstorming a world record for your firm to set?  You can post it for the world to see.  Imagine how much fun you'd have, and think about the all the fun press you'd get.  I'm already thinking about what we can attempt at LexThink Innovate.  Any ideas?

UPDATE:  As I write this, there are no "records" posted involving "law" "lawyer" or "legal".

LexThink Innovate: Who should come?

I appreciate that it is kind of difficult to get your mind around a “legal innovation conference,” so I’m going to take the next few days to describe what I’m trying to accomplish with LexThink Innovate, and give some insight into the kinds of things we’re going to be doing.

Since I’ve had several inquiries about what kind of lawyers would find the experience valuable, I’ve compiled a list of Ten Things (similar to my “Ten Rules” posts) that describe who I believe to be the typical LexThink Innovate attendee.  If any of these resonate with you, keep March 29 and 30 open on your calendar:

1.  You don’t think “innovative lawyer” is an oxymoron, but you do think lawyers who refuse to innovate are morons.

2.  You appreciate the difference between creative thinking and “creative” billing, and embrace the former while avoiding the latter.

3.  You know that if you focus on being just like your competitors, the worst thing that will happen is you’ll succeed.

4.  You understand that innovation is just like exercise: it isn’t particularly hard to do, but you know you won’t see results unless you do it everyday.

5.  You’ve learned more about serving clients from paying attention at Starbuck’s than you’ve ever learned by paying attention in law school.

6.  The only thing you want to measure in six minute increments is how long it takes to make two three-minute eggs.

7.  You know that you can’t take care of your clients if you don’t take care of your business — and you refuse to apologize for making a profit when you succeed at both.

8.  You get more value from the conferences you attend by standing in the hallways and talking to attendees than you do by sitting in the ballrooms and listening to speakers.

9.  You’re far more likely to have just finished reading a business book than a legal text, and recognize that lawyers can learn more from well-run businesses than businesses can learn from well-known lawyers.

And the most important one:

10.  You’re tired of being the only lawyer you know who thinks like you do, and long to meet others who feel the same way.

The registration page is here.

LexThink Innovate: Name Your Own Price

One thing I’m trying to do with LexThink Innovate is to put in practice some of the ideas I advocate for lawyers.  One of them is focusing on the value you deliver to clients vs. the time you take to do their work.  In that vein, I’m making LexThink Innovate a “name your own price” event.  From the LexThink Blog:

We understand that it takes quite a leap of faith to come to a “legal innovation event” if you’ve never been to a LexThink event before– especially one that promises to turn the business-as-usual legal conference world on its head.

Instead of asking you to believe it when we tell you that LexThink Innovate will be the most unique and valuable legal conference you’ve ever attended, we’re willing to put our money where your mouth is: You’ll tell us how much you’ll pay when the event’s over instead of before it begins.

When you register, you’ll pay a $500 deposit to hold your space.  At the end of the event, we’ll ask you how much value you received.  If you don’t believe LexThink Innovate was the best legal conference you’ve ever attended, and you want some (or all) of your deposit back, you’ll get it, One Question Asked.*

However, if you believe LexThink Innovate was worth far more than your deposit (as we promise it will be), we’ll humbly ask you to pull out your checkbook and pay us some more — a little or a lot.  Again, it is completely up to you.,

In short, we’re turning “you get what you pay for,” into “you’ll pay for what you got,” and trusting you to hold us to our promise that you’ll love LexThink Innovate.  We know we’ll love seeing you there.

*The only question we’ll ask is how we could have made the event more valuable to you.

What do you think?  Regardless of whether you’re going to come to the event, is this an idea that appeals to you?  Would you try it in your own practice? 

Here’s the registration page.

LexThink Innovate: Logo

Everything’s coming together for LexThink Innovate.  Registration page is here, and I’ll have lots more up on the web later today!  March 29-30 at Washington University in St. Louis.

Tweet Me at LegalTech

I’m headed to NYC next week (Sunday-Tuesday) for LegalTech.  I’ll be speaking on a panel about Twitter on Monday, from 3-4.  Here’s the link to the session.  If you’d like to catch up, shoot me an email at You can also follow me on Twitter here:

Announcing LexThink: Innovate

More details to come all week (both here and on the LexThink site) but here’s the announcement:

There has never been a more important time to think differently better about the practice of law. “Business as usual” isn’t anymore, and lawyers who fail to think deeply about the future of the practice of law will have an uncertain future in their own.

Fortunately, there’s a place for creative, innovative lawyers to gather and not only discuss the future of law practice, but prepare for it: LexThink: Innovate.

On March 29 and 30, forward-looking lawyers (and lawyers to be) can gather on the campus of Washington University’s School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri for the most thought-provoking, creative, practical and (yes) fun two days of their legal careers. Guaranteed.*

At LexThink: Innovate, attendees won’t just consume information, they’ll create it — in a totally unique and collaborative setting. Gone are conference “tracks” and boring panel presentations. Instead, every conversation, exercise, and presentation at the attendee-driven event will be focused on helping participants dramatically re-think their practice, engage their clients, energize their business, and learn to love lawyering again.

The “Agenda,” packed with out-of-the-box sessions, discussions and exercises, will center around helping attendees answer just three big questions about their law practice: What now? What next? and What if?

By working together in small groups to answer those questions, participating in thought-provoking exercises and sharing their own lessons learned, attendees will create their “perfect” law firm and leave with a focused plan to future-proof their practices.

Unlike past LexThink events, which were invitation-only, LexThink: Innovate is open to all lawyers who are passionate about using innovation to make their practices better. Tickets go on sale Monday, January 19th at Contact Matthew Homann at for more information.

* Bet you were expecting some legal mumbo-jumbo about the Guarantee. There isn’t any fine print. LexThink: Innovate is the world’s first “name your own price” legal event. After the event, attendees will decide what price they’ll pay for the conference they’ve just experienced — and can even request a full refund of their ticket deposit — no questions asked.

LexThink: Innovate 09

Just wanted to give everyone a head’s up before the big announcement tomorrow morning: the next LexThink event happens in St. Louis at Washington University Law School on March 29-30. 

Tomorrow, you’ll see the full announcement here and on the LexThink site.  Carry on.

Is there a litter box in your waiting room?

From the “Something to Think About” department:  Pet Living Wills.  (Via Unusual Business Ideas that Work).

Encourage your Clients to Look Back From the Future

Want clients to spend more on legal services?  Ask them to step into the future.  From this article from Psychology Today about economists studying why people pay premiums for immediate over future rewards (called temporal discounting), we learn that people who better connect their present with their future selves make better long term decisions:

Stanford researcher Hal Ersner-Hershfield has preliminary results from a study in which virtual reality lets people experience old age. Subjects put on video goggles and move through a world where they look just like themselves, or similar, but with gray hair and wrinkles.

Standing in front of a virtual mirror, they’re asked to decide how to spend a thousand dollars. Gifts? Parties? A retirement plan? Those with the elderly avatar put more than twice as much into long-term savings. Ersner-Hershfield says that embodying your future self may also encourage more responsible planning in other domains, such as relationships (should I cheat?), the environment (should I recycle?), and health (should I smoke?).

So what if you don’t have a VR system at home? You might get results from simply thinking about what you’ll be like when you age. “Realize that your interests and values will be similar when you retire,” Ersner-Hershfield says. “Sure, a 25-year-old avid rock climber might not be as into scaling Everest when he’s in his 60s, but he’ll probably still like outdoor activities.” Once identified with your future self, you might suddenly care whether he looks back on you and curses you for being such a knucklehead.

What does this mean for lawyers?  If you’re working with clients and encouraging them to make better long-term decisions for themselves or their businesses (estate planning, incorporating, succession planning, etc.), you’ll get better results — the study suggests — if you ask your clients to look to future and imagine themselves already there.

Ask clients to see themselves twenty years from now.  What have they accomplished?  What challenges have they overcome?  What are their children doing?  Who’s running their business?  Etc. 

I think you’ll find them far more open to your advice and less likely to say, “Well, we’ll just wait ’til we get there” because they already are.

Pop the Bubble on Each New Day

I have to admit, I LOVE the Bubble Calendar.  It is a “poster sized calendar with a bubble to pop every day.”  If you’re looking for something cool to give your customers, you can even have them customized.  Just one customization idea:  if you’re a tax attorney or CPA, imagine having one with your logo as well as April 15th (and other appropriate deadlines) highlighted in red.  I’m ordering mine today.

Do it all Online.

Mashable has a comprehensive list of over 270 Online Tools to Help You Run Your Business.  If you’re thinking of moving more of your business functions “into the cloud,” you should check out this list.  Sites covered can help you with Accounting, Billing, Invoicing, Scheduling, Collaboration, Meetings, Presentations, etc.  Lots of cool things I’d not seen before.  Enjoy!

What Will Change Everything?

Each year the World Question Center rounds up dozens of experts from multiple disciplines and asks them a simple question.  This year’s question:  “What will change everything?”  Among the essayists answering the question are anthropologists, philosophers, physicians, artists, humorists, biologists, novelists, playwrights, psychologists, actors, mathematicians, and physicists (though not a single lawyer makes the list). 

Check out the entire list of essays.  I’m certain you’ll find more than a few big, new ideas that will stretch your brain in a good way.  While you’re reading what others have to say, think to yourself: 

In my profession, what will change everything? 

Are you prepared?