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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)
jan@copleycoaching.com

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I Am Not Nostalgic

April 29, 2011

Filed under: Technology — @ 12:55 pm

I recently came across “The Lawyer’s Toolkit: A 30 Year Retrospective,” an article by J. Scott Bovitz in the March 2011 edition of Los Angeles Lawyer. In the article, Scott talks about technological changes that have happened in the law over the past three decades.

The article intrigued me because it reflects what I have experienced during the course of my legal career. Scott is a graduate of Loyola Law School, Class of 1980; I am a graduate of Loyola Law School, Class of 1981. Scott started his lawyer life as a bankruptcy lawyer; so did I.

But, to me, Scott’s article doesn’t acknowledge how changes over the past thirty years have increased the stress of practicing law. We have to be more perfect — there’s no excuse for messy documents any longer. And the time pressures are more onerous: people seem to expect responses to emails in about ten minutes!

Finally, there’s more competition. About 180,000 new lawyers have been admitted in California since I was. The Supreme Court issued Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, allowing lawyer advertising, only four years before I graduated. In 1981, lawyer advertising was still considered dirty. If you have that attitude now, you’re going to starve to death.

So how do we meet these challenges? We have new resources available to us and we take advantage of them (don’t we?). As far as I know, there were no legal marketing experts or practice management coaches when I started practicing; I certainly wasn’t aware of any. There are a lot now and we acknowledge it’s okay to get help from them. We know that working with a practice management consultant is really no different than bringing on a new team member or hiring an associate. In either instance, what we’re doing is getting the assistance we need to accomplish our goals.

Am I nostalgic for the “good old days” of thirty years ago? No. I like it that the business of law is less stodgy than it was. I think the increased stress and competition force us to have more clarity about what we want from our profession and to do a better job. As a woman, I like it that I’m no longer a novelty in the profession. And, I still like it that the foundational reason for practicing — helping people while making a good living — is valid.

What are your thoughts? How has technology changed your life? How have you adapted? Please let me know!

Life in the Cloud

April 27, 2011

Filed under: Technology — @ 1:10 pm

Unless you’re with a big firm with dedicated IT people, it’s hard to keep up with technology. But, as I learned long ago, when I bought my first iPod, if you ignore technology you miss possibilities — that is, opportunities to do cool things, or ways to do things more quickly and more easily. Besides, as a practice advisor for lawyers, I should at least have some awareness of what’s going on in the legal technology world. That’s why I’ve been interested in recent developments in cloud computing and why I’m writing about it. It might be advantageous for you.

The cloud? We can store data in the cloud — that is, on someone else’s remote server that allows us to access what we need from any computer with an Internet connection. If you’re using Gmail or GoogleDocs you’re already working in the cloud. But you can do more! You can store and share documents. You can manage your contacts.

Is there a downside? There are people in the legal industry who have expressed concerns about cloud computing. The ABA, for one, has put together an “Issues Paper Concerning Client Confidentiality and Lawyers’ Use of Technology”. The major concern seems to be that storing data in the cloud may jeopardize client confidentiality. The ABA also worries about reliability of cloud computing vendors.

A lot of this discussion reminds me of the late 1990s, during the rise of email. The ABA initially recommended against email communications with clients, once again citing concern about client confidentiality. It was only in 1999, in its Formal Opinion 99 413, that the ABA bowed to the inevitable convenience of email, saying it “affords a reasonable expectation of privacy.” I suspect that the same thing will happen here. And, I frankly think that some of the confidentiality discussions are a little silly — as one commentator on the Legal Productivity blog noted, cloud data storage is probably more secure than what most of us are doing right now!

The cloud is in all of our futures. I think the concept of cloud computing is great. As an example, I’ve been researching cloud Contact Relationship Management software. It won’t matter what kind of computer system I have (I use a Mac, which means there’s a lot of software that won’t work on my operating system). I won’t have to spend tons of money on software updates. I’m not limited to working on a computer which has the software installed on its hard drive; I’ll be able to access the information from anywhere. My team members will, too. I won’t have to worry about my computer crashing because everything is backed up remotely. Besides, many of the services we’ve checked out are dirt cheap — as little as $5 a month!

So, is this useful to you? Please give me your thoughts.

Book Review: 365 Thank Yous

April 26, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — @ 1:39 pm

I recently saw John Kralik speak at a local civic event. I was intrigued enough by his story and his gentle demeanor to download his book, 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life (Hyperion 2010) to my Kindle. It’s an easy read.

In his book, Kralik, an attorney, tells the story of how he found his life in shambles: just before Christmas 2007, he couldn’t pay bonuses to his staff because he had lost money over the last year; he was in the middle of a divorce; he hated where he lived; and his girlfriend had broken up with him. On a hike in the mountains on New Year’s Day, something made Kralik decide to write 365 handwritten thank-you notes in the following year. Although the project took him about fifteen months, he found it was well worthwhile — he discovered many reasons to be grateful, he began to enjoy his life again, and he got his dream job: Kralik was appointed judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

So how does this apply to law practice management? I think there are two relevant points:

1. As lawyers, we have things to be grateful for. Practicing law is a hard, time-consuming, stressful, hyper-responsible job — to the point that there is a blog out there called “Practicing Law Sucks” . I know; I’ve been there. But, if we step back and look at what we do for a living, we realize we have the skills to do tremendous things for people: we can keep them out of jail; we can ease the pain of the loss of a loved one; we can get clients out of messes they’ve created; we can help them protect their assets. There’s great satisfaction there. Also — and this is one thing I didn’t think about when I went to law school — being a lawyer provides us with tremendous opportunities for self-determination. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for that.

2. Kralik’s project turned out to be a great marketing activity. He sent thank-you notes to clients who paid him; they continued to pay him and retained him for other work. Kralik sent thank-you notes to people who referred him business; they thanked him for the thank-yous and sent more business. Not only did Kralik’s life get better because he found many things to be grateful for; it got better because he started making more money!

In my life as a practice management coach for attorneys, I often urge my clients to write thank-you notes to clients and referral sources. Now I have Kralik’s book to back up my advice.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know.

What Makes A Great Rainmaker? Part Six

April 20, 2011

Filed under: Rainmaker — @ 4:25 pm

I had planned to end my rainmaker series after five installments, but I recently received this “Business Booster” from John Thompson, a colleague of mine. John, a mortgage professional, is one of the best entrepreneurs I know.

John’s short posting made me realize there is a fifth component to being a great rainmaker: authenticity. You, as a great rainmaker, allow other people to know the real you! You are willing to let people know personal (that is, not related to your profession) aspects of your life. You realize that if you pretend to be someone else, no one will trust you — and who wants to work with someone they don’t trust?

Please let me know if you agree with me!

What Makes a Great Rainmaker? Part Five

April 15, 2011

Filed under: Rainmaker — @ 2:22 pm

As I’ve written in my previous four blog postings, I think there are four key components to being a great rainmaker: (1) listening; (2) value; (3) commitment; and (4) vulnerability.

I’ve previously written about listening, value and commitment. Today I write about vulnerability. If you want to be a great rainmaker, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable. It’s scary, I know!

What does vulnerability mean, exactly? It means you, as a great rainmaker, are open to asking for help. It also means that you, as a great rainmaker, are willing to risk failure to move your business forward.

This is how I think you, as a great rainmaker, use your vulnerability to grow your practice:

A great rainmaker asks for help. You, as a great rainmaker, are willing to admit when you need assistance — from colleagues, referral sources, and even clients — to grow your practice. You don’t see this willingness to seek help as a sign of weakness; rather, you realize people are willing to help and you take advantage of those resources.

Being open to assistance manifests itself in many ways. It may be as simple as a straightforward request for referrals from clients. It may be more complex; a great rainmaker may ask another professional for a referral to another professional. A great rainmaker is willing to learn what has and has not worked for other entrepreneurs. A great rainmaker is willing to pay for assistance with issues confronting him or her, such as working with a marketing company and a website developer. And, I don’t know a successful lawyer who hasn’t received some form of coaching during his or her career.

A great rainmaker risks failure. You, as a great rainmaker, know you sometimes have to take chances and risk failure to grow your business. You take a chance every time you try something new. You might not think of it this way, but you take a chance and risk failure with every new employee you hire! However, you, as a great rainmaker know that you must take chances to grow your business — to do otherwise is to guarantee stagnation and failure.

A great rainmaker admits mistakes. We all make mistakes. You, as a great rainmaker, are willing to admit it. You don’t hide behind something or blame your mistakes on others; you own up to them. You show integrity. Besides, you know that admitting a mistake is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it makes you human and endearing! Showing your vulnerability makes you trustworthy, which means people are more likely to want to work with you.

What do you think of my observations? Please let me know!

What Makes a Great Rainmaker? Part Four

April 13, 2011

Filed under: Rainmaker — @ 12:53 pm

I think there are four key components to being a great rainmaker: (1) listening; (2) value; (3) commitment; and (4) vulnerability.

I’ve previously written about listening and value. Today I write about commitment. If you want to be a great rainmaker, you must be committed to rainmaking. What does that mean, exactly? It means that you, as a great rainmaker, know who you are and are consistent in getting your message out.

This is how I think you, as a great rainmaker, are committed to rainmaking:

A great rainmaker communicates. You, as a great rainmaker, understand who you are in the marketplace, and you communicate it to the people around you. You know who you help, how you do it, and what’s unique about you and your practice.

Not only that, you have a way of communicating what you do so people remember you. You know that when someone asks you what you do, “I am an attorney” is not a compelling or memorable answer! You have developed a short, pithy speech — what we at Atticus call your “Laser Talk” — as an essential part of your marketing plan, and you use it! People understand what you do. They remember you. And, new business comes to you as a result.

A great rainmaker gets out there. You, as a great rainmaker, do not sit behind your desk waiting for the phone to ring. You know you have to get out in the community to meet potential clients and referral sources. Therefore, you set aside time on your calendar specifically dedicated to marketing. Because you do this consistently, you touch more people, develop more relationships, and generate more business.

A great rainmaker is open to new ideas. You, as a great rainmaker, know marketing is as much an art as a science. You won’t learn if something works until you try it — more than once. You, as a great rainmaker, know new ways of marketing your business are continuously developing (think Social Media!). Finally, you also know marketing ideas that have worked in the past may not work in the future (think Yellow Pages!).

The only way to deal with all this is to learn and try new things. You are willing to implement them in your own practice to see if they work. Because you are open to learning, you are ahead of other people in your profession and you take advantage of opportunities others miss.

A great rainmaker is consistent and persistent. You, as a great rainmaker, know it takes time to build a relationship. You know it takes multiple contacts to build a relationship so someone will know, like, and trust you enough to refer business your way. You also know that if you want a relationship with someone, you are 100% responsible for building and maintaining that relationship — you can’t wait for someone to take the first (or the second, or the third) step.

Therefore, you have a system for regularly following up with your marketing contacts, knowing that, over time, you will build relationships with them. Your follow-up is consistent, not haphazard. Because you are patient, you have strong, long-term relationships with your referral sources that generate quality business for them — and for you.

Please let me know if these tips are helpful!

What Makes a Great Rainmaker? Part Three

April 8, 2011

Filed under: Rainmaker — @ 1:06 pm

I think there are four key components to being a great rainmaker: (1) listening; (2) value; (3) commitment; and (4) vulnerability.

I’ve previously written about listening. Today I write about value. If you want to be a great rainmaker, provide value. What does that mean, exactly? It means that you, as a great rainmaker, consider the other person’s concerns and provide resources to that person, even if you don’t get immediate benefit from doing so.

This is how I think you, as a great rainmaker, provide value:

A great rainmaker provides help. Because you, as a great rainmaker, have a genuine interest in a potential client or referral source, you may become aware of issues that person is facing. If you can provide assistance to him or her, you offer to do so, even if you don’t receive an immediate benefit in return. You will, if nothing else, earn that person’s gratitude, which is key to developing the kind of relationship that will lead to referrals from that person.

A great rainmaker acts as a connector. Sometimes, you may not be able to provide assistance to a potential referral source, but you know someone who can. You, as a great rainmaker, know how to match the right people with the right partners, even if that partner is not you. Why would you do this? At the very least, you’ll be a hero (which, although not necessarily remunerative, is always good for the ego); at best, someone will remember you with gratitude and refer work your way when he or she has the opportunity to do so.

A great rainmaker has an abundance mentality. Are you detecting a theme here? You, as a great rainmaker, put the interests of someone — a potential client or referral source — before your own. You don’t fear competition, either from other lawyers or other business professionals, because you know that, for great rainmakers, there is enough business to go around.

A great rainmaker is reliable. Finally, you, as a great rainmaker, are reliable. If you promise to do something, you do it — and on time! You follow up with someone to find out if you have provided assistance to that person. By doing so, you will impress the other person with your care and concern — which can only lead to leaving the kind of good impression that causes someone to remember you when it’s time for that person to take advantage of the services you offer.

Please let me know if these tips are helpful!

What Makes a Great Rainmaker? Part Two

April 6, 2011

Filed under: Rainmaker — @ 1:23 pm

I think there are four key components to being a great rainmaker: (1) listening; (2) value; (3) commitment; and (4) vulnerability.

Today we will talk about listening. If you want to be a great rainmaker, listen.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat through a lot of discussions with potential referral sources. I’ve walked away from some looking forward to working with the person; I’ve ended others hoping I don’t have to talk to that person again! If you want to be great rainmaker, and you want to grow your business through referrals, it means you have to build relationships with referral sources. And that means listening.

This is how I think you, as a great rainmaker, listens:

A great rainmaker shows genuine interest. Have you ever had the impression that the person you are talking to is only interested in fishing in your client pool and has absolutely no interest in you as a person? It’s not a very successful sales tool, is it? You walk away feeling used.

In contrast, you, as a great rainmaker, will express genuine interest in the other person, the person’s concerns, and the person’s concerns for his or her clients. That person will feel good; he or she will start to trust you. Treat any referral source you want to work with the same way. It will lead to the kind of relationship that can generate work for you.

A great rainmaker lets you finish your sentence. Every family and every office has one: a person who constantly interrupts. And what do we think of that person? Annoying! So, you, as the great rainmaker, sit back, focus the conversation on the other person, and lets that person have his/her say. The person will enjoy the conversation and you might learn something useful.

A great rainmaker doesn’t lapse into technobabble. I recently met with some trust officers and we talked about, among other things, marketing. They asked me what marketing mistakes I’ve seen other financial advisors make. I told them that I never want to hear a technical discussion about asset allocation ever again!

So, what’s the point of this? You, as a great rainmaker don’t focus on technical expertise in your conversation. You know that if you lapse into legal-technical, people won’t understand what you’re talking about. People assume you know your stuff; if you start talking about how great you are; you’ll sound defensive and as if you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Besides, it’s boring! You, as a great rainmaker, just let referral sources know you can help them and their clients.

A great rainmaker never, ever pounces. One of the things I’ve learned from being an advisor is never give advice unless someone asks for it. This goes for rainmaking, too. You, as a great rainmaker, don’t break into conversations to make points for your own benefit. If a potential referral source starts talking about something in which you have expertise, you, as a great rainmaker, don’t pounce to say what you can do. Rather, you, as a great rainmaker, will offer assistance only if asked, and without turning the spotlight of the conversation your way.

Please let me know if these tips are helpful!

What Makes a Great Rainmaker? Part One

April 1, 2011

Filed under: Rainmaker — @ 1:33 pm

To paraphrase Jane Austen, “it is a truth universally acknowledged” that law schools don’t teach law students how to market. Although I didn’t think about it when I was a law student, this is a huge omission in an attorney’s education — just how are we supposed to make a living practicing law if we don’t have any clients and don’t know how to find them?

I thought I would tackle this question through a series of blog articles. So, here goes!

One way — and one of the best ways — to generate business is through referrals. A good referral source is a wonderful thing. If you develop a real relationship with someone, he or she may consistently refer work your way and serve as a resource for you and your clients.

A referral source can be another attorney, a financial professional, a satisfied client, or someone else you’ve touched and who feels that he or she benefits from associating with you.

So, how does a great rainmaker create relationships with referral sources? I think there are four aspects to that person:

    1. A great rainmaker listens;
    2. A great rainmaker gives value;
    3. A great rainmaker is committed to marketing; and
    4. A great rainmaker is open to vulnerability.

We’ll go through each of these rainmaking assets in subsequent entries. If you’d like to contribute what you think makes a great rainmaker, let me know!