Why be LESS productive?

This weekend, I opened an email and read a list of 10 tested, proven ways to become less productive. Nobody wants to be less productive, but it just happens some days, right?

Problem is, as I read the list I realized that it’s like a checklist of problems that prevent lawyers from succeeding in business development—or really, anything else.  Nobody wants to fail (especially while working to succeed) but these ten behaviors will undermine productivity. Of these ten, the most common that I hear are:

  • Spend more time planning than doing: creating and honing a business development plan can be a great way to avoid ever taking action.
  • Pack your schedule: being busy is an alarmingly easy way to push business development tasks to the back burner.
  • Work on autopilot: reacting to demands rather than setting a plan and sticking to it absent an emergency is a great way to feel needed and productive, but you may be accomplishing the less important things while leaving your true priorities behind.

If you’re feeling less productive than you’d like when it comes to business development (or to any other priority in your life), check this list to identify the likely reasons… And then do the opposite.

Are you willing to sacrifice to build your practice?

Are you willing to sacrifice to build your practice? The only way to answer that question honestly is to weigh the sacrifice against what you expect to gain as a result. This quote from Simon Sinek offers a neat summary:

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What might you sacrifice? This answer will be unique to each person, but common responses include time, energy, money, and missed social and professional opportunities.

What might you gain? Again, answers will vary, but lawyers generally expect increased income, more professional opportunities, more control over their time and their career, and increased professional and personal satisfaction.

When you’re clear on what you may sacrifice and know that your anticipated gain is sufficiently appealing, it’s easier to decide to keep going when it would be easy to stop. Alternatively, if the gains you expect aren’t worth it, you’ll decide to stop more readily and with more certainty.

So… What are you sacrificing to build your practice? What do you expect to gain? And is the gain worth it?

Identify Topics for Writing & Speaking

One of the best ways to build your reputation as being skilled in your area of practice is through content marketing. Offering articles, blog posts, presentations, and the like that are centered on your practice area and that share substantive information useful to your audience highlights your knowledge, adds to your credibility, and shares something about who you are as a lawyer. If used well, these pieces can also lead to website traffic and even direct contact with a potential client.

Content marketing just might be a reluctant rainmaker’s best tool, if used strategically. Assuming you select the right topics and that you place your writings in appropriate online and offline publications and speak to the right audiences, you can benefit because your audience is actively interested in the information you’re sharing and you’re demonstrating your value while marketing.

But the need for content generation can also be the bane of a lawyer’s existence. The content must be timely (or evergreen), relevant, easily consumed, and—most importantly—good. Creating qualified content isn’t necessarily easy. If you imagine sitting in front of an blank computer screen, wracking your brain for an interesting topic you can cover effectively in the time you have available, not to mention trying to squeeze in one more activity in your already-overburdened schedule, you aren’t alone.  

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be so painful.  Many of my private clients find that coming up with ideas is the most difficult part of content marketing.  Here’s how to make it easier:

  1. Use listening tools. Twitter and LinkedIn can be useful for tracking trending topics. Skim or read periodicals relevant to your industry as well as some from outside your industry. One of my favorite tools is the app Flipboard, a “personalized magazine” that pulls news from a variety of sources grouped by the categories selected by the user.
  2. Use your clients’ questions and concerns. You probably field questions day in and day out. What themes do you notice? What questions should your clients be asking? If you’re stumped, skim your sent emails. You’re almost certain to find topics suitable for inclusion in written materials and presentations.
  3. Ask your clients what they’re thinking and wondering about. Not only will you learn more about your clients’ needs, which is a useful business development activity in itself, but also you’ll notice themes that interest your clients and are ripe for content generation.
  4. Review a book or service that your clients will find useful. Chances are that you’re aware of sources that your clients don’t generally follow. (For example, I periodically review business books in this newsletter. Most lawyers don’t make the time to read these books, and I often get notes of thanks for highlighting useful information.) Bringing information your audience might not discover otherwise adds value.
  5. Myths, misunderstandings, and outright lies. Chances are that there are some incorrect but commonly-held beliefs or approaches related to an issue that your clients face. Sometimes it’s a simple factual misunderstanding or misinterpretation, and sometimes it’s all about the deeper truth. Debunk those misapprehensions or challenge the common wisdom. When you explain myths and truths, you can quickly get the attention of your audience. And it’s ok to take a controversial position in doing so as long as you have facts and logic to back up your position.

Most importantly, keep a running list of your ideas for content. You’ll probably find that the best ideas occur to you while you’re exercising, showering, watching TV – anything except sitting at your desk. Use Evernote or a simple Word document to list your ideas. That way, when you’re facing a blank computer screen, you’ll have a list of ideas ready to go.

What can you learn from cell phone carriers?


Pop quiz: why are you a customer of your cell phone carrier? Take a second to answer. Got it? You likely gave one of these reasons:

  • Your carrier is the cheapest (price)
  • You’ve been with the same carrier forever with no reason to change (inertia)
  • Your carrier offers an advantage that others don’t (distinction)

Legal services are no different. If you’re competing on price alone, you’ll wind up in a race to the bottom, just like the carriers who have introduced their cut-rate brands to capture the cost-conscious market. If your clients are working with you simply because it takes too much effort to hire another lawyer, they’re ripe for the plucking.

But if you offer an advantage that others don’t, clients have a reason to hire you and to stay with you. Your point of distinction not only sets you apart: it establishes your value proposition, and as long as you deliver that value, your clients are less likely to explore other representation.

Points of distinction take many forms, but examples include:

  • Special knowledge (legal or factual, especially “inside information”)
  • Valuable connections and demonstrated willingness to make introductions
  • Ancillary services that are especially useful in conjunction with your legal services
  • Ease of working with you
  • Billing approaches that represent value to your clients

To return to the cell carrier example, I was with AT&T (and its predecessors) for many years—inertia—but then I began spending more time in Wyoming, where AT&T’s coverage was pitiful. Verizon offered much better coverage (their point of distinction), and so I switched even though Verizon is more expensive than other options.

What would make a client prefer to work with you rather than someone else? If you can’t answer that question persuasively right now, you have some work to do.

A question to begin the month

The beginning of the month is always a good time to do a spot-check on your business development efforts. I have only one question for you today:

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