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:
- Your hourly rate
- The hourly rate of your tech-support person
- 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.
“Innovative Lawyer” shouldn’t be an oxymoron. Lawyers — who are constantly applying their creative, problem-solving skills to help clients — too often turn their innovation engines off as soon as their “billable” work ends.
If you’re a lawyer, and willing to set aside some time to innovate, I am happy to help you. Until then, I give you my Ten Rules of Legal Innovation. Enjoy!
1. The practice of law requires precedents. The business of law does not. Knowing that other firms aren’t doing what you are isn’t cause for concern, it’s cause for celebration.
2. There are (at least) ten things your clients wish you’d do differently, and I bet you don’t know what they are. Innovation begins with conversation. Engage your clients so they’ll keep engaging you.
3. If you’re the first lawyer to do something that other businesses have been doing for years, it isn’t innovative, it’s about time.
4. When you focus on being just like your competitors, the worst thing that can happen is you might succeed.
5. If you have to tell your clients you’re being innovative, you probably aren’t.
6. Innovation is just like exercise. It isn’t particularly hard to do, but you won’t see results if you don’t practice it regularly. Also, the more you do it, the better you’ll look (to clients).
7. The best ideas in your firm will come from your staff. While you’re paying attention to your clients, they’re paying attention to your business. Ignore them at your peril.
8. To be a more innovative lawyer, look inside the profession for motivation, but outside the profession for inspiration.
9. Your failure to capture your ideas is directly proportional to your failure to implement them.
10. Remember, though your clients may tolerate your failure to innovate, they’ll never forgive your failure to care.
Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.
Remember the television show Quincy? Jack Klugman played a Los Angeles medical examiner, and in every episode, his autopsy would reveal that the decedent (who’d seemingly died of “natural” causes) was a victim of foul play. Using the clues he’d gained from his examinations, Quincy would convince the police a homicide had occurred, and then manage to singlehandedly finger the killer. In a pre-CSI world, it was pretty compelling stuff.
So why all this talk about an obscure 70′s crime-drama? Because if you’re really interested in identifying the work you love to do and learning how to serve your clients better, you may want to spend some time each week playing Quincy. Instead of investigating foul play, however, you should closely examine those things you’ve given up for dead in your office: your closed files.
Perform a File Autopsy. Here’s how:
1. Grab at least five old files that have been closed for at least a year. Though you can choose files randomly, it works better if you’ve take some you liked and others you’d rather never touch again.
2. For each file, complete the LexThink File Autopsy (pdf) form. Be brutally honest with yourself as you answer questions, which include:
About the file:
- In hindsight, should I have taken this file?
- Were there any “red flags” I should have noticed?
- What lessons did I learn from handling this file?About the work:
- Did I like the work?
- Was I good at it? How could I have been better?
- If I didn’t like the work, how could I do less of it?About the client:
- Does this client have any other legal work I could be doing?
- How would this client describe me to their peers?
- How could I have served this client better?
About the money:
- Was this a profitable matter for me to handle?
- Did the client feel my fees were fair?
- How could I have priced this matter differently?
3. Every week, grab a few more files and repeat the exercise. If you have staff, ask for their input as well.
4. If you’re seeing common themes (either positive or negative) throughout the files, make sure to note them as well.
5. Once you’ve performed 20-50 “autopsies,” you’ll have a better sense of the kinds of work you like to do, clients you enjoy serving and alternative ways to price your services. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll understand the kinds of work you don’t want to do and learn to avoid taking matters and clients better passed on to your competition.
Smashing Magazine has published a tremendous guide to designing an easy to understand e-commerce checkout process for web sites. If you take credit cards on your site, it is a must-read. However, even if you don't charge people on the web, you should check out the article anyway, because it explains something about collecting sensitive…
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…
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…
Keith Ferrazzi shares a few simple “Relationship Rituals” that should be on every professional’s weekly checklist: 1. First thing every day after you turn on your computer, ping one friend and one acquaintance. 2. Every weekend, invite someone else into an activity that you normally do alone (walks, gym sessions, gardening, shopping trips). 3. Pick…
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…
I’ve always thought the idea from this post was a powerful way to understand the gift of time and what you can accomplish in a year: 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…
Here’s a tech-related tip from this post: 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…
Legal Marketing has changed. It used to be enough to keep an ad in the yellow pages and belong to the Rotary Club. Not anymore. Times are tough, so I present to you Ten “New” Rules of Legal Marketing. Let me know what you think. 1. “My lawyer can beat up your lawyer” isn’t a…
As 2008 draws to a close, it is natural to think about New Year’s resolutions.* We think about our businesses, our clients and ourselves and resolve to do better next year. If you’d like some help, or just some inspiration, here are Ten Resolutions for the New Year. Enjoy: 1. Resolve to be better to…
Lots of lawyers claim to be “results-focused.” Clients want good results, after all, and marketing yourself as one “focused” on delivering them has got to be a lot better (to clients, anyway) than being “timesheet-focused.” However, I think many lawyers who focus only on the result are hurting their clients (and their own practices). Let…
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…
I’ve been using my “You Decide” fill-in-the-blank invoice, for over a year now. In that time, I’ve found time and time again that my clients pay me more than I would have charged them. And, in situations where clients demand a fixed price, I’m quoting them much higher prices (coupled with a money-back guarantee) than…
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…
If you’ve got a big client, odds are they’ve got a pet project. Whether it is for a community organization, charity, civic group or volunteer event, supporting the causes your clients do can deepen your relationship with them while benefiting those in need. That’s why, in 2010 you need to Resolve to Take Care of…
Over a year ago, I wrote 15 Thoughts for Law Students. It was one of my first “Rules” posts, though I wasn’t calling them that at the time. Since then, it has been one of the more popular items on this blog, and was even republished in the Canadian Bar Association magazine. I’ve revised it…
Do you have Shiny Shiny Syndrome? I do. Here’s a post from January 2012 about a technique I still use: Many of the attorneys I work with suffer from the same thing I do: Shiny Shiny Syndrome. You suffer from S3 when you regularly give in to an overwhelming urge to start working on something new…
I’ve been a big fan of Merlin Mann for several years now. As I was checking out his website yesterday, I found his pricing page cheekily titled: Do You Charge Money to Do Things? Here’s how Merlin describes his pricing scheme: For most all of my speaking, consulting, and advisory work, yes: I do charge…
Have prosecutors in the past ever blamed telephones or fax machines for public reaction to their poor decision making?
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Want to describe that annoying distant relative at the holiday table? "Second Cousins," "Once Removed" Explained http://t.co/dW2hFQ0rH6
- Tuesday Nov 25 - 10:50pm
Heading out for some Thanksgiving shopping? Maybe you can pick up a few extra things: What Food Banks Need Most http://t.co/7JE0a4bUzL
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