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Jan Copley
Certified Practice Advisor
Atticus, Inc.

530 South Lake Avenue, Suite 250
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 696-3145
(626) 421-6747 (fax)

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Thanksgiving 2012

November 21, 2012

Filed under: Current Events — @ 2:41 pm

It’s Thanksgiving again. It’s my favorite holiday of the year. I like it that we use the day to mark the start of a season of good cheer. I also very much like the concept of the holiday — to give thanks for what we have.

As it turns out, it looks —at least according to a couple of recent articles in the Los Angeles Times — that gratitude — and the happiness and peace of mind that comes from it — may help you build a successful business. According to one article, “The Benefits of Gratitude,” “if we developed the discipline to be consciously grateful on a regular basis, research shows we’d be happier and suffer less depression and stress.”

And, according to a second article, “Happiness May Bring You More Money, Study Says,” gratitude, and the happiness you derive from it, might mean that you’ll make more money. Of course, this is inside out from the accepted notion that more money will make you happier!

It sounds as if encouraging my clients and readers to celebrate Thanksgiving — and to take the message of the day seriously — may very well be good coaching on my part.

So, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Let’s think of it as a start to the best year ever for each of us.

Stupid Networking Mistakes – Part Two

November 16, 2012

Filed under: Networking — @ 8:00 am

In my previous blog posting, I wrote about being subjected to a serious network mistake: brazenly asking for business. It’s unfortunate, but at the same meeting, I was exposed to another networking technique that served to annoy me and drive me away from working with that person.

Mistake No. 2: Talking Too Much. After I disentangled myself from the woman who told me I should send my clients to her, I spotted another woman with a badge that indicated she works with a senior living facility in the area. I walked over, introduced myself, and told the woman I had had a couple of clients who were very satisfied with the care their parents received through that facility. Nice of me, right?

The woman thanked me for passing on the compliment, but then she made a serious networking mistake: she wouldn’t stop talking. She launched into a long exposition about the superior way her facility cares for people, and then about the planned Christmas party, and then about how she would invite me to the party, and then how I should bring younger family members to the party. She didn’t see my eyes glaze over because I really wasn’t interested in any of this, and she wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise (and I did have a couple of questions for her). She finally shut up when I pointed out that our youngest family member lives in South Carolina and isn’t likely to travel to Southern California to attend the party.

So, the end result of all of her talking was that she offended me. It prevented me from starting the kind of relationship I need to know, like and trust her. I still think the facility has value, but if I were to refer any clients to it, it would certainly be through a different marketing person.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Stupid Networking Mistakes – Part One

November 14, 2012

Filed under: Networking — @ 8:16 pm

I just got back from the monthly meeting of the Fiduciary Round Table of the San Gabriel Valley. It’s a nice organization composed of private fiduciaries, home healthcare service professionals, financial advisors, attorneys, accountants, appraisers — people that help other people in fiduciary or semi-fiduciary capacities. I’ve been a member for fourteen years now, and it’s been a source of business, and also a source of help for my clients.

Of course, one of the reasons everyone attends the meetings is to network to generate business. This morning was no different. But, I was subjected to two serious networking mistakes, and I thought I’d blog about them.

Mistake No. 1: Brazenness is Offensive. After I walked into the meeting room, a woman I didn’t know marched up to me, handed me her card, and said, “Hi, my name is Jane Doe. I’m a private fiduciary. Send your clients to me.”

Now, really, why in heaven’s name would I want to do that? What this person succeeded in doing was offending me with our very first contact! I don’t know her; I don’t know if she’s any good at what she does; and I’m not going to trust my clients’ care to a total stranger, especially one with bad manners like that! Rather than building a relationship, this woman made sure that I will never send work her way.

Don’t make this woman’s mistake. People refer work to other people they know, like and trust. This takes time. So, be patient. Don’t bludgeon someone with your requests for business; rather, get to know the person, learn about his/her concerns, and build a relationship. Only then will you be in a position to work together.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Meetings You Need to Have – Part 2

November 2, 2012

Filed under: Meetings — @ 8:00 am

In my previous posting, I wrote about the importance of meeting with yourself every Monday morning so you can focus on what you need to do over the next week, as well as your long-term goals.

There’s a second meeting you need to have: a weekly conference with your team. After all, your team members cannot help you unless they know (1) what’s going on and (2) what needs to be done.

So, after you’ve met with yourself, meet with your team. I suggest the following items for your agenda.

    1. Everyone’s wins for the past week.

    2. New client retentions, including interesting information about the clients. This is important so (1) your team has a personal interest in the new clients and (2) they are aware of any sensitive issues that might come up.

    3. Reviewing the calendar for the next two weeks to see what’s scheduled and what people need to do.

    4. Reviewing work in process. This helps to prioritize what needs to be done, avoid work getting stale, and reduce bottlenecks.

    5. Going over any outstanding management issues, including progress reports on long-term goals.

    6. Discussing what we used to call “training tidbits.” This can be anything that helps people do their jobs; it might be as simple as talking about a newly-discovered keystroke in your word processing software.

    7. Soliciting suggestions for improvement (in anything).

It took me awhile to develop team meetings that worked. However, once we successfully implemented our Monday morning meetings, I found the meetings served to create a real team culture in the office, reduce conflict, get my employees emotionally invested in the business, and move my practice forward. In other words, our weekly meetings were essential.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Meetings You Need to Have – Part 1

October 31, 2012

Filed under: Meetings — @ 1:43 pm

I’ve previously blogged about meetings, how deadly they can be, and how to improve them.

However, some meetings are essential. I recently gave a presentation about focus management to a group of successful attorneys. Among other things, my co-presenter, Vinnie Bonazzoli, and I talked about weekly meetings you should schedule on your calendar. The audience surprised me by wanting to know more.

Vinnie and I both recommend that you have a meeting with yourself once a week. Why? So you can focus on what you need and want to do over the next seven days.

So, consider doing the following first thing every Monday morning:

    1. Close the door and turn off the ringer on your phone. DO NOT CHECK YOUR EMAIL!

    2. Write down the good things you accomplished over the last week (to get your confidence up).

    3. Look at your calendar for the next week to see what’s coming up.

    4. Look at your revenue for the month. How close are you to your goal? How much money do you need to make this week?

    5. Look at your list of open cases and prioritize the work you need to do, with an eye to working on the cases that will bring in the most money.

    6. Check your long-term goals. What can you do this week to move them forward?

    7. Review your wins again (so you get your confidence up again).

If you do this every week, my guess is that you’ll have the necessary clarity to accomplish what you want. On the other hand, if you don’t have your self-management meeting, I predict you’ll have trouble growing your business — and be frustrated by the feeling that you’re constantly running just to stay in place.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Don’t Let the Important Things Slip

October 26, 2012

Filed under: Focus/Time Management — @ 8:00 am

I co-taught a presentation about time management to a group of successful attorneys last week. All practice management coaches talk about time management (and I’ve written about it), so what’s the big deal?

Well, I’ve found that every time I teach something, I learn something new about the topic. This experience was no different: I began to consider how planning your time on a monthly — rather than a daily or weekly — basis can help you move your practice forward.

Think about it — there are some crucial aspects to running your business that you don’t have to do every day or every week. For example, you probably don’t send out your newsletter more than once a month; the problem might be that it doesn’t go out at all because there isn’t structure in your schedule for writing the content. Similarly, some attorneys don’t get their bills out regularly because they don’t have the time for billing written into their routine.

So, if you find you let these kinds of things slide, you might want to consider planning your time on a monthly basis. Get out your calendar for the month and create designated times for:

  • Marketing
  • Meeting with clients
  • Production
  • Meeting with your team members
  • Billing
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Email and phone calls
  • Strategic planning

And, don’t forget the truly important stuff:

  • Fun
  • Date night
  • Sleep
  • Weekend away

Please let me know how this helps you!

Little Things Mean a Lot … Or, How Ignoring the Details Can Cost You Business

October 24, 2012

Filed under: Practice Management — @ 6:26 pm

My brother-in-law died recently, leaving his widow, my sister-in-law, with an estate to settle. For us lawyers — especially the estate planners — it probably looks like a pretty simple estate to settle, but, for my sister-in-law, it’s overwhelming.

So, my sister-in-law made an appointment with the local lawyer who had drawn up her and her husband’s wills. What happened? She walked into a messy office, was greeted by a distracted receptionist, had to wait fifteen minutes, and then shown into the lawyer’s messy office. The experience did not instill confidence in her, and my sister-in-law chose not to retain the attorney.

So, what’s the point of this particular blog entry, you say? It’s that because this lawyer was sloppy about first impressions, he lost business. And, if he’d just used some manners and common sense, my sister-in-law probably would have retained him — she was already predisposed to do so.

What should the lawyer have done differently? He should have focused on the message he was conveying through first impressions, including:

  • Keeping his reception area and meeting room clean and neat
  • Making sure my sister-in-law was greeted warmly —and with sympathy — at the door
  • Not making my sister-in-law wait

And, really, how hard would it be for him to do these simple things? Wouldn’t it be worth it so that he wouldn’t lose business?

Please let me know how this helps you!

What’s Your Story?

September 12, 2012

Filed under: Marketing — @ 2:35 pm

Do you tell stories? I bet you do. I’ve heard at least one person, Scott Farnsworth, say that “stories are our native language.” I absolutely believe it.

Why should you tell a story? Think about it — if you attend a presentation, what do you remember afterward? If you’re like me, you remember (1) if the speaker was funny; and (2) the stories the speaker told. It’s only through the stories that I remember the legal-technical discussion or whatever the talk was about.

Use stories to market yourself. Have you thought about using stories as a marketing tool? Telling stories is one way to make you memorable, to both referral sources and prospective clients. You can use a story to tell how things can go wrong; how you’ve been able to craft a great solution for someone; and to make you look human. And, because stories are memorable, the people who hear them will remember you.

How do you tell a story? Lawyers are educated, literate, articulate people, so it surprises me when I talk to attorneys who are flustered by the concept of telling a story and can’t quite figure out how to do it. So, I thought I’d pass along some pointers:

    1. Keep it simple. To be effective, a story should have a point — a punch line, if you will — and it shouldn’t take very long to get to the conclusion. Otherwise, the listener will lose interest. So, when you tell a story, don’t wander around in the details; hone your stories so you get your point across quickly.

    2. Only one point to a story. As lawyers, we like to tell people everything we know. Although that’s a wonderful, generous trait, what you are saying can be quite confusing to a listener. So, as tempting as it may be to throw in lots of information, construct each of your stories so there’s only one point to each of them.

    3. The three key things. There are three crucial elements to a story: (1) a protagonist; (2) conflict; and (3) resolution. Keep this in mind when you think of stories to tell people.

    4. Tell more than horror stories. As lawyers, our job, by and large, is to clean up other people’s messes. We love to tell horror stories. And, although it’s fun and can be useful to talk about how things have gone wrong, sometimes it’s more effective to tell a story in which you enabled something to go right. I’m sure you’ve had some successes — why not tell your stories about them?

Please let me know how this helps you!

Social Media Backup

September 5, 2012

Filed under: Social Media — @ 5:28 pm

Do you use Social Media to market your law firm? If not, you’re falling behind on implementing new forms of marketing.

But using Social Media creates some problems with complying with ethics rules. Here in California, attorneys are required under rule 1 400(F) of the Rules of Professional Conduct to maintain, for two years, “a true and correct copy or recording of any communication made by written or electronic media.” Your postings on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter probably fit within the definition of “communication” as used in the rules.

So how do you maintain those copies?

As it turns out, it’s not that hard. I recently ran across an article, “Backup Your Social Media,” on the Legal Productivity website. The article contains instructions for backing up your postings on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn.

My recommendation, for what it’s worth, is for you to create written processes for backing up all your Social Media postings and to delegate the actual work to one of your assistants. Then, all you have to do is go ahead and post on the Social Media site(s) of your choice.

Please let me know how this helps you!

How Do You Get Paid?

August 29, 2012

Filed under: Billing,Pricing — @ 8:00 am

When I was practicing, I accepted credit card payments for my services. I used what was then the traditional route — a machine to swipe the card. I paid a percentage of the amount charged to the credit card processor.

It worked well. Hardly anyone carries checkbooks any more and people like to get the airline miles and other perks from using their credit cards. It meant that the credit card company financed payments, rather than me having to take installment payments. It also meant something really important — I got paid for my work.

As a result, I’m always surprised when I hear lawyers resisting taking credit card payments. They very often quote the downside of having to pay a certain percentage of the transaction to the credit card company. My response is that if the credit card company is charging 3%, raise your rates 5%. A client that won’t pay the additional 5% won’t pay what your original charge was, either.

Since I closed my practice, the financial world has created other, perhaps cheaper, ways for you to accept credit cards. Therefore, I thought it would be useful to my readers if I passed along the link to a recent posting, “Five Ways to Receive Credit Card Payments” on the Attorney at Work website. I especially like the concept of accepting credit cards that can go to your trust account — that would make it so much easier to keep an evergreen retainer.

Please let me know how this helps you!

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