Quotes of the Month

“Do first things first, and second things not at all.”
~Peter Drucker

“Action expresses priorities.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Two blog posts that got me thinking about how I start and spend my days:

Tim Miles, “How Do You Keep Up With All This Writing

Tim is the author of Your Customers Like This: The Whats, Whos, Hows, & Whys of Shareworthy Customer Service, which I reviewed earlier this month.  As I noted then, I’m a fan of Tim’s blog and so I’ve been delighted that he’s posted every single day this year.  And I’ve wondered how he managed that, since generating that much good content is no easy feat.  His post is helpful for those of you who write articles and blog posts (as most everyone should do) and his emphasis on ritual is worth noting and considering.  (See, for example, the discussion of ritual in The Power of Full Engagement.)

Erika Napoletano is Redhead Writing

Erika is a brash, opinionated writer who has merciless views about time management and priorities.

I’ve chosen not to include the title of this post or any of the subheadings because they include multiple expletives.  If cursing bothers you, please don’t click through to this post!

Her wake-up call is so persuasive and the directives offered are so blindingly obvious and yet easy to overlook that I’m suggesting you check it out if you’re not faint of heart.  Not all will work for lawyers or for those who aren’t sole practitioners, but the overall thrust is worth a skim.

Daily Busyness

This past week has been so busy that it’s made the hours I kept while in practice look appealing. Those of you who are sole practitioners or equity partners know that being a business owner as well as a practitioner means that you burn the midnight oil even more often than non-owners.

My current busyness is the result of great developments:  clients who are up to big things, new opportunities, and working behind the scenes on some significant projects that you’ll hear about soon. But it still means that I have more work than hours in a day.  Perhaps you can relate?

I recently read a quote that reminded me why I encourage (and practice) the discipline of daily business development activity.

“A small daily task, if it be really daily,
will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”
~Anthony Trollope

The same point applies to all manner of pursuits. I’m working to do the small daily tasks in my most critical areas of business and life, no matter what else is going on.  It isn’t easy, and I don’t always succeed, but consistent effort gets me much further than delaying important tasks.

What are your small daily tasks? What are you doing to keep track and make sure you’re getting them done?

Why Bother?

Social media is among the hottest activities online. It comes in many different flavors:  the “big 3” (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter), Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and many others.  When done in a way that generates conversation and connections, blogging becomes one of the most effective social media platforms available.  And yet, using any of these platforms takes time and efforts.

The biggest question I encounter about social media is, Why bother? It’s a fair question, especially given the number of lawyers who complain publicly about the lack of results from marketing via social media.  The three key reasons to use social media, however, also suggest how to use it effectively and why you should bother.

  1. Use social media to build connections. Depending on the platform you use, you may build collegial consequences to serve as a sounding board for tough practice questions or you may build connections within your target market industry or individuals.  As with in-person connections, social media contacts may refer clients to you, request co-counsel assistance, or point you toward opportunities that you might otherwise miss.Isolation is bad for practice building. Social media allows you to build a wide web of connections that reaches beyond geographic limits, without requiring the time and travel required for in-person meetings.  However, don’t assume that an online-only connection holds the same value as an online connection.  Take valuable contacts to face-to-face or telephone meetings so that you can cement relationships.  You may also use social media to further develop offline relationships through repeated exposure.Remember to put the “social” in social media. Engage and interact rather than simply shouting about your latest adventure.
  2. Use social media to build your expertise and develop others’ perception of your knowledge. Answer questions (exercising, of course, due care as you do so), share relevant articles or blog articles you’ve written, and share slides from helpful presentations.  Doing so not only assists your social media contacts, but it also builds a digital footprint that helps others to assess your knowledge in your area of practice.Even in the absence of interaction (for instance, the vast majority of blog readers will not post comments or otherwise interact with the author), creating and sharing content related to your practice elevates the perception of your expertise. Rather than being someone who simply recounts experience that suggests skill, you have the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and insight.  If you use social media for this purpose, your top task is to curate information, selecting what’s likely to be most relevant for your readers, and to provide the “so what” analysis that goes beyond mere reporting.
  3. Use social media to let others “meet” you before they even decide to contact you. Social media creates the opportunity to build relationships that facilitate in-person relationships.  For example, I recently met a new client face-to-face for the first time.  Although we had not met previously, we felt as if we had because we’d seen each others’ social media postings and videos.  Social media had given us the opportunity to experience one another without actually meeting, and our first face-to-face meeting had an air of familiarity as a result.Especially if your clients may be a bit leery of contacting you, this opportunity offers significant advantages. Social media exposure gives the potential client the opportunity to get to know, like, and trust you without ever interacting with you.  That familiarity with you (especially when it’s buttressed by evidence of your relevant knowledge and skill) creates comfort that may be lacking otherwise.

Social media has many additional purposes, but these three are foundational. If you’re using social media, you should be fulfilling at least one of these purposes and preferably all three.

What’s your social media plan?  And how consistently successful are you in implementing it?

Two Must-Show Qualities

The Whats, Whos, Hows, & Whys of Shareworthy Customer Service
By Tim Miles

Sometime last year, I began receiving emails from a blog titled The Daily Blur, written by Tim Miles. I have no idea why I got on the list (though I’m sure I subscribed) but I found value in almost every email, so I kept reading.  Tim is a Mac aficionado, and his emails helped guide me through my switchover.  Handy tips, links to interesting posts across the ‘net, but I still wasn’t quite sure what the blog was all about.

After what seemed like a long silence in the Fall and early winter, I began getting daily emails at the beginning of this year, and they started focusing on customer service with a Jan. 9 post that announced “Best Buy Made My Mom Cry”. A long series of posts culminated in the eBook The Whats, Whos, Hows, & Whys of Shareworthy Customer Service, which is available for a minimum 99-cent donation to Touchpoint’s Central Missouri Autism Project.  Being a sucker of a win/win proposition, and having been impressed with the blog series, I bought.  So should you.

According to Tim, “shareworthy” customer service is composed of “policies and procedures that arouse such delight in customers that they head to Facebook and Twitter and their blogs to brag about you.” Realistic for lawyers?  Probably not, given the sensitivity of the matters we handle for clients.  What is attainable, however, is service that will prompt your clients to tell their friends and colleagues about you, service that makes it a pleasure to deal with you even (or perhaps especially) when the underlying matter is anything but a pleasure.  You might even get call-outs on Facebook or Twitter, not to mention positive reviews on LinkedIn, Avvo, and the like.

Tim suggests that “shareworthy” service always has two common threads:  professionalism and kindness. Each of these threads breaks down into seven subcategories, which Tim calls the 14 Facets of Shareworthy Customer Service:


  • Appearance
  • Attentiveness
  • Consistency
  • Dependability
  • Focus
  • Proactivity
  • Simplification


  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • Engagement
  • Memory
  • Manners
  • Playfulness
  • Privilege

Nailing these “whats” of shareworthy client service isn’t easy. It takes thought, creativity, and dedication.  It also takes willingness to discover and shift following a failure.

Stories of terrific customer service help to inspire creativity, and Tim shares plenty of stories. One recounts the experiences of visiting the Cleveland Clinic.  A hospital with great patient service?  I’ve never heard of that before, but it appears that the Cleveland Clinic delivers from the get-go in ways that lawyers might adapt, such as making quick appointments designed to match the patient’s schedule, a website and social media presence that provides a plethora of useful information, and a health information file that patients can access and update.  You can deliver amazing customer/client/patient service, regardless of whom you serve or what you do.

Where Tim’s eBook excels (and where it goes substantially beyond the series of posts I mentioned earlier) is in its implementation section — the “how” of shareworthy customer service. In short:  get granular.  Ask your staff to implement each of the 14 Facets.  They may know more about what frustrates and what delights your clients, and they’ll certainly have insight that you’d miss otherwise.  What’s more, they know what will energize the team, the ones who create the client service experience.  Energize the team, get them thinking about how to dazzle the client, and you change your clients’ experience.

What if you don’t have a staff, or if you’re a cog in a large firm wheel? You can still apply Tim’s insights.  You’ll find it helpful to get input from others about what kind of client service they want and need, and you can even seize the opportunity to ask your clients for their suggestions.  (You’re a large firm associate with little direct client contact?  Remember, the more senior lawyers with whom you work are your clients.)

There’s more to it, of course, and I encourage you to buy the eBook for the rest of the story. It’s 93 pages long, you can read it in no time flat, and your brain will light up with ways that you can make your clients’ experience better.  I’m always skeptical of something that only costs a buck, and especially skeptical when a product purchase benefits a charity, but I’m glad I took the plunge on this — and even happy that I chose to pay more than the recommended 99 cents.

As for me, I felt inspired when I finished the eBook, and I have a list of changes to make. It’s tough work that always delivers rewards.  If you’re ready to improve your client service, buy Tim’s eBook today and read it by the end of the weekend.

Make It Simple

Quiz: What’s the task that’s on your list over and over, daily or weekly, that makes you groan every time you think about it? Maybe it’s keeping your time, filing expense reports, updating your LinkedIn contacts, or reviewing and paying invoices. Pick the one that nags at you the most, the one that feels like it’s always hanging over your head.

My “oh no, not this again” task is filing. Even in our electronic age, I produce and receive a ton of paper. Most of it gets scanned and then filed online, and accomplishing that is my most dreaded task that feels pointless yet necessary. (Even when I’m able to delegate that to an assistant, the task is still there in some way, since I need to indicate how the filing should be done.)

My first job after law school was clerking for a federal District Court judge, and that’s where my dislike of filing began.
When I started, the senior clerk suggested taking Friday afternoons to update the case files, but I always wanted to crank out a little more “real” work to finish the week instead. Result? The senior clerk would face Monday morning with a clear desk and empty in-box, and I’d have a huge stack of papers and a feeling of dread. After all, Monday is definitely for “real” work. How and when to cram in the necessary but onerous task of filing?

Unfortunately, I didn’t master the task while I was clerking. I always played catch-up and hated it, but not enough to change my pattern. And then, while practicing, I figured it out: create an on-the-spot system to ensure that the necessary but annoying “non-work” tasks get done bit by bit, on a regular basis. For filing, that means that I now tack on an extra minute or two to scan and save documents after I do the “real” work. I rarely keep time now, but when I do, I keep a pad by my desk to make running notes and tally it up at the end of the day. It’s ongoing (just like the annoying tasks) but it makes the irritation easier to handle because things don’t pile up.

How do you spot “on-the-spot system” tasks, and how do you create the system? Seven steps.

  1. As you do your work, notice what “unthinking” tasks you do and dread over and over.
  2. Determine the central actions of the task. Is it scan paper, save file, recycle paper, as with filing? Is it categorizing receipts from a business trip?
  3. Determine how long that central action takes. Is it something that could be accomplished “in the moment” rather than piling a lot up to handle all at once? “In the moment” tasks are those that could be handled in one or two minutes, tops. (Filing correspondence, yes; writing it, no.) Is there a benefit to doing it all at once? If so, you need a system, but not an on-the-spot system.
  4. Set aside time to clear yourself of the backlog. Take an hour and respond to all of those LinkedIn requests or catch up on your billing. Finish the dreaded task. Notice the feeling of delight, and notice how quickly the next task of the same kind pops up.
  5. Create your in-the-moment system. Starting immediately, scan and file each paper as it comes in. Starting immediately, note your time as you work. Starting immediately, put your receipts for business trips in envelopes labeled by client or by trip. Whatever you do, begin it right away. Otherwise, your system is doomed before it begins.
  6. Do the task as it arises, every time it arises. Starting work? Note the time and task. Reviewing email (in your designated email review time, please) and see a LinkedIn request? Click accept, then send a “great to connect” message, delete the email, and move on. Whatever your task, do it without delay, and don’t let it mount up.
  7. When you slip (and you will) go back to step 4 and start over.

Once you get accustomed to your system, you’ll find it much easier to handle the small pieces of these annoying recurring tasks as they pop up. You may even discover that someone else can help you and that tasks broken down to the central action are more delegable than you’d imagined.