Legal Business Development Infographics

As you’re no doubt aware, infographics are hot.  In my view, that’s because infographics are easily consumable written “edu-tainment”.  Although they’re especially valuable for the business-to-consumer market, they can be useful to convey information to anyone.  Check, for example, this Pinterest board of law infographics collected by Gyi Tsakalakis.

I’ve been collecting infographics that concern marketing, and today I’d like to share the top four with you.  If one addresses areas you know you need to work on to build your book of business, print it out and put it somewhere you’ll see frequently.  And then, most importantly, apply the information.

  1. LinkedIn Marketing Strategy.  I like this infographic because it addresses a must-do activity that few lawyers use effectively and gives tips for beginner, intermediate, and advanced users.  The title is a little misleading in that the strategy is designed to help you gain connections and exposure but doesn’t offer a clear path to turn those into new business, but it’s a great start and one every lawyer should be working on.
  2. How to Create Content Ideas for a New Client Although this infographic is designed for markets who support businesses, it offers some great tips on what makes for good content.  My favorite tip (and one that I share every time I mention legal newsletters or updates) is “Don’t reiterate the news.  Find a way to connect the news to the client’s industry.”  In other words, share your insights on why the news matters to your readers.
  3. Grow Your Business:  Your simple guide to building online.  I have always maintained that the average lawyer is much better advised to outsource technical online marketing, including website building, pay-per-click advertising, and SEO.  The technology and the rules change quickly enough that trying to stay up-to-date is impractical for non-professionals.  However, you can’t outsource what you don’t understand.  This infographic gives a nice overview and flowchart for using each of these methods, as well as social media (which can be partially outsourced if closely managed) to grow a business or a practice.
  4. Your Video Marketing Handbook I believe that video marketing is a tremendous opportunity for lawyers.  Not the cheesy “Have YOU been in an accident” advertising style videos, but short, high-content and high-quality videos that address various legal issues and start the viewer’s relationship with a lawyer or law firm.  This infographic offers some useful information about why video matters and how to use video effectively.  More a teaser than a true handbook, it’s still a useful resource.

Legal Business Development: Evaluate the Cost/Benefit Ratio Before Agreeing to Write or Speak

Before you decide to speak or to write an article concerning your area of practice, you must ensure that your time will be well invested. 
Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Will this reach the right audience?  Writing for or speaking to the wrong audience (meaning, an audience composed of people whom you do not serve) will not bring enough benefit to justify the investment of time, so ask this foundational question before you begin.  Your business development plan will define the right audience.
  2. How much time will this require?  Short, practical articles (done well) will deliver good results in a reasonable time.  Longer articles can be valuable in building your credibility, but they take a greater investment of time.  Speaking always requires preparation, especially if you’re delivering a new presentation.  Be realistic in your estimate of the time required — before you begin.
  3. What results would make the expenditure of time worthwhile?  As with any business development activity, you must measure the results that you get from writing or speaking.  What’s more, you must know, before you begin, what results would make it worthwhile for you to have taken on the activity.  You may find that writing an article will pay off significant dividends for credibility enhancement, for example, but if you’re hoping to bring in new business in the near future as a direct result of the time you put in, writing almost certainly isn’t your best bet.
  4. How does this opportunity to write or speak compare to more immediate high-yield activity?  Regardless of how terrific your article is, and regardless of the subject matter and the kind of results that you achieve, writing is a slow-yield opportunity.  It is incredibly unlikely that you will write an article, have it published, and have your phone ring with a potential client calling you only because they saw that article.  So, you must consider, before you begin, whether you would be better advised to invest your time in something that is a higher-yield activity.

Writing and speaking can be an effective way to increase your professional reach, or it can be a time-consuming approach that delivers disappointing results.  Going through these questions will help you to make foundational decisions that will get you on the right track — before you begin.

Book Review: Average Is An Addiction

Average Is An Addiction
by Deborah Dubree

Where are you average?  Make no mistake:  every area of life, even among top performers, separates into top, middle, and bottom tier.  Author Deborah Dubree notes that:

very few people have the guts, determination, discipline and commitment to break out of average and become the greatest at what they do.  Some people…have settle into being moderately satisfied with their current level of success.  Still others didn’t even realize they had options.

But those who are willing to be bold and push the limits of performance have the opportunity to bust through mediocrity and to move to the top in every area of their professional and personal lives.

Deborah Dubree started her career as a receptionist with a high school degree; she became owner and CEO of a $20 million commercial construction company.  Deborah is anything but average, and she now works with professional athletes (think NFL players from the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, and more), college athletes, business professionals, and more to help them escape the trap of average.

Although this talk of getting out of mediocrity and reaching excellence might sound at first blush like motivational hoo-hah, it’s anything but.

“Average equals expendable.”  Large firm lawyers aw this principle in action at the height of the 2009 economic plunge, when those who had done all the right things and performed as expected (in other words, the average of that band of professionals) suffered layoffs.  Those who were above average either retained their jobs or had the opportunity to escape a firm’s failure by making a lateral move.

In more general terms, “[a]verage thinking leads to average behavior, which leads to average results, which leads to average and sometimes catastrophic consequences.”

Dubree instructs top performers to “tame and train the B.E.A.S.T.”:

  • B   –>   Beliefs:  eliminate unfounded and unreliable beliefs
  • E   –>   Emotions:  avoid those that undermine performance and encourage those that empower you
  • A   –>   Acute awareness:  consciously design your objectives and create a plan to reach them
  • S   –>   Self-identify:  know who you are and who you can become when you are your highest, best performing self
  • T   –>   Talk and walk:  design your self-presentation for maximum effectiveness

Through the 7 “C”s of Excellence, Dubree offers practical how-to steps on how to implement her anti-average action plan, by using choice, consciousness, change, courage, confidence, commitment, and consistency.

What’s the relevance for lawyers?

One of the key stumbling blocks for lawyers seeking to grow a book of business is contentment.  If you settle for “good enough,” it’s a safe bet that you’ll never push yourself, you’ll never go the extra mile, and you’ll never accomplish what you might otherwise have done.  You’ll be average.  (The same problem adheres for those who accept high competence in a professional skill and don’t pursue excellence.)

It’s easy to say you’re going to stop accepting average, but it’s tough to take the necessary actions and make the necessary changes without a roadmap.  Dubree’s experience in working with professional athletes should speak to lawyers:  operating in a highly competitive, lone-ranger culture in which admitting any weakness can be career suicide, it takes courage and dedication to reject the status quo and aim for higher performance.

Using the steps Dubree outlines, you’ll be able to identify the areas of your life in which you are an average performer, to decide whether that’s acceptable to you, and to step up your game if not.  This is the ideal time of year to take a retrospective look at 2013 to see whether you’re satisfied with the level of your performance or whether you’ve been merely content.  Average Is An Addiction is an entertaining and quick read, and if you apply its teachings, you can shift the trajectory of your career and your life from average to excellence.

The 2013 Finish Strong Legal Business Development Challenge

We’re down to 41 days left in 2013…  Just 25 days, excluding weekends, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
  Not much time to make a big shift…  Or is it?

The stereotypical lawyer’s answer:  it depends on what you do with that time.  And that’s why I’m inviting you to accept the 2013 Finish Strong Challenge.

Here’s how you play:

  • Choose one focus for the remainder of the year.  You could select networking, getting back in touch with former clients or other contacts, getting that article written or that blog set up and populated…  The focus depends on your own business development plan, but the key here is to choose only one focus for the challenge.
    Of course, you can choose to take on other business development activity during this time, but having a single focus point will make the challenge crystal clear.
  • Decide how many days you’re going to take action.  I’m a fan of consistency in business development activity, so I’d urge you to choose daily activity. (And I do mean daily, not daily on business days.)  Your challenge can be effective if you take action on selected days, but since this is a sprint to the end of the year, give serious thought to taking action as frequently as possible between now and the end of the year.  You may even find it’s a habit you’ll want to continue!  Whatever schedule you select, be sure to note it in your calendar or elsewhere so you remember which days you set up as Challenge Days.
  • Select your measurable activity.  Examples might include contacting one former client per Challenge Day by telephone, by note, or in person; commenting on  a blog relevant to your practice on each Challenge Day; or making a useful introduction to a member of your network on each of your three-times-a-week Challenge Days.
    Be sure that the activity you select fits in with your business development plan.  Sprinting through pointless activity won’t do you any good.
  • Set up a tracking system for your activity.  If you’re an iPhone user, look at apps such as Habit List; if you prefer low-tech, consider adopting Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” system.  The key here is to track your activity and your results, so you’ll be able to see the correlation.
  • Set up a tracking system for your results.  Be sure that you’re noting not just new business that you land (which, depending on your practice, may or may not happen in this short time) but also interim successes such as making useful new contacts or getting invited to speak to a group of ideal clients.
  • Design an accountability system for your Challenge Days.  Get a colleague or friend in on the action and check in daily by email or short (2-minute) phone calls.  If you’re a lone wolf, check out online systems like HassleMe.
  • Make your declaration.  Drop me an email, and I’ll cheer you on.  No guarantees, but I might even be able to share some extra tips with you.
  • Do what you committed to do, when you committed to doing it, the way you committed to doing it.  Obviously, this is the crux of the Challenge.
  • After January 1, evaluate your progress.  What did you learn?  What went well, and what didn’t?  What was effective?  How do you want to carry the challenge forward into 2014?

Will you accept the Challenge?  Take 10 minutes today to make your plans — after all, with so few days left, you don’t want to miss a single one!  (If you’re finding it difficult to get started with the Challenge, you may not have a business development plan that’s clear enough to show you what to do.  If that’s the case, send me an email requesting a complimentary consultation.  Trying to build a book of business without a carefully-designed plan will leave you wandering aimlessly, wasting time.)

Legal Business Development: How to Determine Whether a Rainmaking Expense is a Cost or An Investment (And Why It Matters)

I once talked with a client who was upset at the prospect of paying nearly $1,000 for equipment required for making a presentation to a group of her ideal clients.
 She confirmed my expectations that she’d be able to use the equipment again for similar presentations, and I suggested that she view the financial outlay as an investment rather than a cost.

“What’s the difference,” she sighed, “call it cost or investment, that money is just plain gone.”  You spend cash for both costs and investments, true, but the distinction is critical in making smart decisions about rainmaking expenses.

A cost is defined as “the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something;” an investment is “the outlay of money, usually for income or profit.”  The difference?  No matter how beneficial, a cost is money paid or time spent that doesn’t produce further profit or income.  An investment, however, is intended to be recouped and, if the investment is well chosen, to bring in more money than you originally paid  Big difference!

You must understand this distinction so that you can evaluate opportunities that come your way.  When you are presented with a chance to do something, whether it’s sponsoring some sort of event, speaking to a group, or enhancing your own professional development through training or coaching, you need to be able to discern whether you’ll be paying a cost or making an investment.  Both have their place, but you have to budget differently for each kind of expense.

For example, in the past few years, I’ve made an annual 5-figure investment in working with business mentors, and those investments have paid off handsomely.  The feedback I’ve received and the ideas generated have brought in substantially more than the sums I paid.  I decided to make those investments after following the mentors and carefully evaluating what was offered.  I would not pay the same amount as a cost that I didn’t expect to recover — but I’ll happily invest any amount of money when I know that it will produce a multiplied return in new income.

When you’re making a decision about spending (including whether the opportunity is an investment and whether it’s the right one for you), consider these questions:

  1. What benefit can I reasonably expect from taking part in this opportunity?  Consider not just financial or business benefit but also the ancillary relationship benefits that may accrue.  For example, if attending a meeting holds little direct benefit to you, but one of your best clients has asked that you attend, you might find that the benefit of meeting your client’s request will merit the investment of time.  If the only benefit is emotional and unlikely to lead to a business benefit — your own enjoyment or development of a social relationship — then you should consider the opportunity to be a cost rather than an investment and make your decision accordingly.
  2. What’s the likelihood of reaping the anticipated benefit?  You may not be able to predict with mathematical certainty the probability of attaining the benefit that you’re seeking, so a qualitative estimate is all you need here.
  3. What’s the magnitude of the anticipated benefit?  I look for at least a 2-to-1 payoff for financial investments.  For instance, when I had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles a few years ago to speak at a conference, I weighed the $2000 travel and hotel bill against the lifetime value of getting at least one additional client.
  4. What will I need to put into this opportunity to increase the likelihood of getting the benefit?  Especially when an investment is primarily beneficial, it’s important to recognize that you may need to put in additional time and energy — and perhaps additional money — to get the results that you want.  That isn’t necessarily an indication that you shouldn’t make the investment, but you need to know what you’ll need to do before you commit.  To continue the previous example, in addition to the financial expenditure, I knew it would take several days to craft and practice my presentation.
  5. Am I able to make the necessary investment of money, time, and energy?  When you’ve defined the scope of expenditure you’ll need to make to get the benefit you’re seeking, determine whether you can make the investment.
  6. Am I willing to make that investment?  As I often tell my coaching clients, if you want things to change, you will need to change.  Even if an opportunity carries no financial cost, be sure you’re willing to invest your time and energy, since no benefit flows without some sort of investment.

Use these questions in making your own decisions, and use them to help your clients see the benefits of investing in working with you on financial and other levels.  In many substantive areas of practice, a clear need often precedes an engagement, and convincing is unnecessary.  When your work is characterized as planning or arranging something (estate planning, for example), you may get more business when you’re able to demonstrate how investing will pay off, in reduced taxes for your client’s estate (financial benefit) and in reduced stress for your client’s survivors (emotional benefit).

How do you use the language of cost vs. investment in your own business and in making your own decisions?  Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to notice the ways you think about the outlay of money, time, and energy.  Are you making the right investments?

Legal Business Development: How can you revive a neglected professional relationship?

Despite the best of intentions, it’s easy to let a relationship slide.
 You get busy, you lose track of your contact schedule, you run out of ideas for keeping in touch…  And next thing you k now, your relationship has atrophied.

But, like a muscle, an atrophied relationship can be rebuilt.  By focusing time and attention on your relationship and maintaining consistent effort, you’ll often be able to revive a good relationship more easily than you built it in the first place.

But you might feel awkward trying to re-energize a stagnant relationship, especially if you aren’t sure that the relationship can be reinvigorated.  If you find yourself about to write off a relationship, you need to be sure that the relationship can’t be resurrected.  It’s easy to allow discomfort to lead you into turning a neglected but visible relationship into a dead one, and lawyers far too often write off relationships before they’re truly finished.  But how do you know?  Or, as someone often inquires when I’m presenting a business development workshop,  Is it ever too late to rebuild professional relationships that have languished?

The short answer is that it depends on the relationship.  The deeper the relationship, the more likely it can be resurrected.  If, however, you meet once and fail to follow up, or if you follow up only once or twice, the relationship will lack the firm footing necessary to allow it to flourish following a period of silence.  That said, it never hurts to try to rebuild a relationship, particularly if your sole reason for reconnecting is to re-establish communication and not to seek a favor.

So, what can you to do rebuild a connection that has faded?  The simplest, and often the most effective, approach is to do precisely what you would do with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time:  pick up the phone and say, “I realized it’s been a while since we’ve spoken, and you’ve been on my mind.  Is this a good time to talk for a few minutes?  How are things with you?  What’s new?”  If several months have passed since you were in touch with this contact, you may even begin the conversation by re-introducing yourself.  (This is where my recommendation to maintain a database of contacts proves especially helpful:  you don’t have to try to remember when and where you met.)  You may experience a few awkward moments as your contact gets back into the connection, but most people will pick up relatively quickly.

If, like many lawyers, you’d rather do nine hours of painstaking document review without a coffee break than pick up the phone, you do have other options.  For example, you might consider the following:

  • Send an email to reconnect.  You might suggest talking by telephone and either arrange a time to let your contact know you’ll be calling.  While you’ll still have to pick up the phone, you’ve created an expectation that you will call, and chances are good that you’ll avoid an awkward beginning.  If you suggest that you’ll call, though, you absolutely must do so — or run the risk of looking like a flake.
  • Send an article or other resource that will interest your contact.  The resource may address a legal or non-legal issue, but it must be tied in some way to a conversation you’ve had with the contact.  Attach a note that says, “I remember talking with you about [topic of resource] at [wherever you had the conversation] and thought of you when I saw this [resource].  Hope it’s useful!”  By doing so, you not only reconnect by offering assistance, but you do so in a way that will bring your conversation back to your contact’s mind and refresh the relationship.
  • Issue an invitation.  You might invite your contact to an open house or to attend a CLE or other seminar of interest with you.  If you deliver an invitation by mail or email, be sure to attach a note saying that you look forward to reconnecting.  This personal touch will indicate to your contact that your interest in genuine.
  • Seek out news about your contact.  This may be a more challenging approach if you’re seeking to reconnect than to maintain a relationship, but it’s worth a quick search to see whether your contact has been in the news recently.  You may find news of a professional event (an honor awarded, a trial won, a leadership position attained) or a personal event (a new marriage, a new baby, a recreational or community activity).  Such news offers an ideal reason to get in touch again.

Take a few minutes this week to review your list of contacts.  With whom should you reconnect?  Choose three to five people and reach out to them.  Building and maintaining your network is always a valuable activity, and keeping relationships alive will often pay off (often in unexpected ways) over time.

Got Purpose? (If you want a successful and satisfying legal practice, your answer had better be yes!)

I recently started listening to podcasts again after getting out of the habit for some reason.
 (Isn’t it interesting how even successful and enjoyable habits can erode if we don’t stay on top of them?)  My new favorite podcast that’s also available via video:  Good Life Project™, by Jonathan Fields.  The Good Life Project™ presents a weekly deep-dive interview with an entrepreneur, artist, author, or thought leader.  The interviews are educational, informative, and often moving.

As I was pulling into my garage after a 90-minute drive last week, I was listening to Fields’ interview of Simon Sinek.  Sinek’s story and insights (covering storytelling, leadership, impact, service, and purpose) were so fascinating that I sat in my garage for another 15 minutes, too spellbound to move.  Here’s why…

When you connect what you do with why you do it, you fuel your efforts.

Why do you do what you do?  I’ve written before about the importance of connecting with your “big why” to help propel you even when times get challenging in your practice or in your business development efforts.  And that’s important, especially when you need some extra motivation to power through the tough spots.

Perhaps even more importantly, feeling a sense of purpose and service will embolden you to go further than you otherwise might, because it’s the right thing to do.

My clients are sometimes reticent to get in touch with a new contact (potential client or referral source) for fear of seeming too pushy or annoying.  And I get it.  On occasion, I’ll have a consultation with a potential client who will promise a return call and then disappear.  In the past, I wouldn’t follow up with that person because I didn’t want to pressure someone into a decision.  I still don’t, but I now follow up because I can’t let something as important as moving ahead (or not) in building a book of business slide just because I’m uncomfortable.  Being of service demands that I follow up.

A sense of service outweighs discomfort every time.

If  you’re working to grow your practice, if you’re a leader in your firm, or if you’re feeling a hollowness in your career and life, listen to Sinek’s interview.  You won’t be sorry.

Also, ask yourself the question Fields asks to close each interview:  What does it mean to you to live a good life?  Are you doing that?  If not, how is your practice (and your life) affected?

Efficient Email Processing (So You Can Get to the Real Work!)

You’ve probably heard the time-proven suggestions about email:
  set aside the first 90 minutes of your day for productive work, not for checking email; disable “new email” notifications; be careful when you address an email; use descriptive subject lines…  On and on and on.  If these tips are new to you, you have an opportunity to recover some of the time you’re now spending on email.

But these tips don’t tell you what to do when you’re faced with an overflowing in-box filled with client communications and requests, administrative matters, newsletters of professional and personal interest, and who knows what else.  An in-box isn’t designed for storage; important emails can easily get lost.  You need to take charge so that your daily activity isn’t subject to other people’s priorities as expressed through their emails.

Here’s how to process an overwhelming in-box easily and effectively, so you can get on to the real work.  (Be sure to set aside a block of time — at least an hour — to complete these steps if you have more than 100 emails.)

  1. Sort the folder by sender.  Sorting by sender will let you drill down quickly based on how important the information is likely to be from a particular email correspondent.
    1. First, handle emails from clients, opposing counsel, or other professional contacts.  Respond quickly if possible, and if a response requires more thought or research, highlight or flag those emails or move them to a folder labeled “Respond ASAP” or similar.  Whatever you do, do not allow them to recede back into the chaos.
    2. Delete any emails that you don’t need to read, including those from retailers and spammers.  Yes, you might miss the deal of the century, but it is unlikely — and certainly not your top concern.
    3. You will likely find any emails that contain good information — perhaps ABA newsletters or other newsletters that you find useful (maybe even this newsletter).  Delete them.  If you’re concerned that you’ll miss something, move the emails to a “Review Later” folder and calendar a date by which you’ll delete anything you haven’t otherwise handled.
  2. Sort your in-box by subject.  Sorting by subject may help you recognize important emails that you haven’t already caught.
    1. Delete or file everything that does not require a response.  (And note that the standard is “require”, not call for or deserve.  Your goal is to streamline.)
    2. If you can respond to an email within two minutes, do so.
    3. If the response will take more than two minutes, highlight or flag the email or move it to a follow-up folder.
  3. Respond to all of the emails you have marked for follow-up.  This step will require the bulk of your time.  Set a goal to have it completed in no more than a week.
  4. Resolve to process your in-box regularly going forward, using these steps:
    1. Scan your email for important emails.  During this step, delete anything that you can tell immediately does not require attention, such as a reminder of an appointment of which you are well aware or spam.  Do not read any email, though, even if you know you will delete a message as soon as you have read it.  The only purpose for this step is to find anything important that may be buried in your in-box.
    2. Read each email.
      1. Delete or file every email that does not require a response.
      2. If you can respond to an email in 2 minutes or less, do so.
      3. If an email will require a more in-depth response:
        1. If you are checking email on an hourly basis, move the mail to a folder labeled “Respond Later”, and return to it during your designated time to deal with correspondence.
        2. If you are checking email only 2 or 3 times a day and processing your email fully during that time, respond to each email — and be sure to keep track of your time, if billable.  Your initial review of your in-box will allow you to address all emails pertinent to a particular matter in one block, which will facilitate billing for your email review.
    3. File or delete each email after sending your response.

Applying these steps may take some practice, but they’re integral to avoiding email overwhelm.  Where will you start?

Legal Business Development: Client service lessons from a hospital stay

Client service is one of the foundations of business development.
 Why?  First, client service is the heart of your practice and should be well-executed for that reason alone.  And second, excellent client service makes it more likely that you’ll get repeated and expanded client engagements as well as referrals from happy clients.

As lawyers, though, we tend to focus on the substantive aspects of client service and diminish (in our own minds, and possibly in execution) the experiential aspects.  Some clients can and will judge a representation primarily on the basis of the substantive work you do.  Many, however, will not…  And all clients will take note of how you treat them in the course of the representation.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When I had to call an ambulance to our cabin in the Grand Teton National Park, client service was the last thing that was on my mind.  However, the lessons started immediately and will linger for some time.  Here’s what I learned.

  1. Be aware of your client’s emotional state, even though you may not reference it directly.  The emergency dispatch officer sending an ambulance to help used short, direct sentences as we spoke.  Her tone was initially more clipped than ordinary conversation, and if I’d felt panicked, her tone and cadence would have grounded me by prompting me to focus on responding to her, not on the larger situation.  As we talked, and as she concluded that I was fairly calm, her tone and language pattern relaxed.Legal clients are much like medical clients in that the issue motivating the contact may be routine, with relatively low emotion, or an urgency or emergency that may carry more pronounced emotion.  When you’re aware of your client’s emotional state, you can adapt your own communication to speak most effectively with your client.

    For example, an angry would-be litigant may not have the emotional capacity to hear you urge restraint until you acknowledge the emotion in some way.  A fearful client may need you to provide written information that his fear may prevent him from hearing when you share it orally.  You need to know your client’s emotional state so that you can adapt how you communicate.

  2. Make it easy for your client.  We were in Jackson, Wyoming, nine and a half hours from the Denver airport.  The doctor suggested that we fly out of Jackson to avoid driving through sparsely populated areas.  Flights from Jackson would require a 14-hour travel day with three flight legs, which provoked much consternation, until a nurse suggested the 5-hour drive to Salt Lake City.  Easy.What do you know (that your client may not know) that will simplify things for your client?  Be sure to share that information.  It’s easy to dismiss what you know as common knowledge that doesn’t bear repeating, but it may be just the piece of information your clients needs to understand a process or to make good decisions.

    Be sure to consider how to make the process of working with you easy as well.  At the beginning of an engagement, ask how your client would prefer you to communicate with her.  You probably have your own preferred style of communication, but your client’s preference should govern the way you operate.  (For additional suggestions about making it easy for your clients to work with you, see Chapter 2 of The Reluctant Rainmaker.)

  3. Make your client comfortable.  After spending much of the day in the Emergency Room, I slept in my family member’s hospital room on the first night.  The Jackson hospital provided a comfortable cot that the nursing assistant set up for me while I was talking with the doctor, and she directed me to a small kitchen provisioned with sodas, coffee (complete with real mugs, not cardboard cups), and light snacks for patients’ families.  The hospital even offered room service meals for patients and the family, and the food was both good and inexpensive.  These touches offered much-needed comfort and allowed me to focus on what was most important.How can you make your clients comfortable?  Drinks, snacks, and comfortable chairs are easy and fairly inexpensive.  Consider what else your clients might appreciate.  A quiet spot to make telephone calls?  Toys and books to keep children occupied?  A list of resources?  Few clients will enjoy spending time in your office, but a little effort can minimize discomfort.


Take a few minutes today to audit your client care habits.  Consider asking a few of your clients what they like about working with you and what would make the experience better.  Don’t promise changes you’re unable or unwilling to make:  if you get a suggestion that doesn’t work for you, let your client know that you’ll look for other ways to offer a similar result.

Overwhelmed? Feel like you’re working too hard? Stop…and read this now!

“You’re working too hard.  Why don’t you look for ways to work smarter?”  
That was a key element of the feedback I received during this quarter’s mastermind meeting.  After hearing my colleagues’ suggestions, I put some new practices in place to help me work smarter, and I do believe I can already see a difference..

And you’ve no doubt heard this distinction before.  All sorts of management experts talk about how to work more efficiently, more effectively, maximizing the results of time.  Some of them even have good ideas.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to say that practicing law is hard work.  I don’t have any question that it is challenging and demanding, for reasons that I’ve mentioned numerous times.  When clients question whether it’s possible to “work smart” in practice, my answer is a resounding yes.

Working smart means managing your physical environment.  If you take the time to keep your desk clear, so it’s always easy to locate the files and the resources you need.  Nothing wastes time like clutter.  The simple act of taking an extra 5-10 minutes to clear and tidy your work area at the end of the day can yield significant time savings.  I had to learn this the hard way, but having learned it, it’s become a standard for myself in the office.

Working smart means managing energy.  If I’m exhausted and I try to power through rather than resting, chances are good that it’ll take me more time than usual to accomplish anything.  I’ll make more mistakes, and I won’t be as creative as I might otherwise be.  I’ve put structures in place to take advantage of my energy rhythms (you’ll often find me at my desk at 6 AM, but only rarely after 6 PM) and I’ve been working to enhance my energy with enough rest, enough exercise, good hydration and nutrition, and fun.

Working smart means managing commitments.  It’s easy to say yes to every demand, but it just isn’t smart.  Making intentional and purposeful decisions about which commitments to accept and which to decline allows me to avoid the frazzled, frantic pace that undermines good work.  By the same token, I aim to prioritize my work so that I accomplish what’s most important first.

Working smart means managing people.  Good delegation enhances effective work.  Whether it’s requesting research or asking an assistant to draft routine communications for my review and editing, delegation frees my time so I can concentrate on doing the things that others can’t do.  (Thanks to our global marketplace, getting help is easier and less expensive than ever before.  I’m hiring.  Should you?)

It’s important to note that what’s smarter for one person will be useless for another.  You must identify what makes sense for your practice, your preferences, and your clients.  (That’s why Seven Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys includes numerous exercises that make it easy to figure out how you can best apply the principles I share.)

Does any of this mean that it’s possible to take shortcuts and reap the rewards of practice without putting in plenty of time and effort?  Absolutely not.  But attention to smart management will make the time and effort you put into your practice pay maximum rewards.