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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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Patience and Lessons From Chicago

July 29, 2011

Filed under: Growing Your Business,Marketing,Practice Management — @ 12:56 pm

I attended the WealthCounsel/Advisors Forum/ElderCounsel “Planning for the Generations” symposium in Chicago last week. This time I went in my new role as an Atticus Practice Advisor, rather than as a practicing attorney. Although I sat in on a couple of legal-technical presentations (I don’t want to lose my edge!), my real job was to chat it up with everyone I met.

It was an interesting experience. I learned a lot about what the attendees are worried about. I also learned about new resources available to us through the various vendors there. I don’t know if I generated any new business.

So, was it worthwhile for me to go? The answer is a resounding yes! Why?

I got a refresher course in an important marketing principal. I keep telling my clients that it takes seven touches to create a relationship. For some reason, I had forgotten this in connection with my own marketing activities. Actually meeting people I’ve previously spoken with only on the phone reminded me of this principle, and also gave me a chance to make one more touch. In other words, we need patience and persistence in all things — especially marketing.

I got some useful feedback. By talking to people, I learned what they are worried about nowadays. As usual, marketing seems to be near the top of the list, but the participants also expressed concerns about conquering new areas of the law — and new technology. It reminded me that change can be hard. Change requires commitment, persistence, and accountability. The conversation also reminded me that if we don’t commit to change, we grow stagnant.

I learned it’s not all gloom and doom. While chatting with my friends and colleagues, I also learned that many of them are doing well. Sometimes professional gatherings can turn into exercises in group paranoia, so it was great to hear people say they are happy. I also heard people — friends, colleagues, and clients — express gratitude for relationships the person and I have developed over time. If that isn’t worth the price of a trip, I don’t know what is!

Please let me know how this is helpful to you!

The Three Magic Questions

July 27, 2011

Filed under: Growing Your Business,Referrals — @ 12:51 pm

Most of the attorneys I coach say they want more clients. They usually want to build relationships with referral sources with the idea of using those relationships to generate business. This makes sense, because a good, reliable referral source for your business can be a wonderful thing.

The problem is that many attorneys don’t know what to say to a potential referral source (and the referral source doesn’t know what to say to the attorney, either). So, the relationship goes nowhere and everyone winds up being disappointed.

It’s not that hard, really. Referral sources want to know, like and trust the people they work with and to whom they send their clients. The quickest way to build such a relationship is to allow a referral source to open up to you and for you to let the referral source know that you are open to new business.

I think there are three magic questions to ask every time you talk to a referral source, whether it’s for the first time, or if you have been working with this individual for many years. Here they are:

Question 1: “How can I help you in your business?” By showing genuine interest in someone, you are much more likely to build a relationship with that person. Wouldn’t you like it if someone asked you this question? Offer to be a resource and to help. It will get you a long way — and a lot of business.

Question 2: “Do you know anyone you think I should meet?” Most people want to help. It’s okay to ask for assistance. Very often, a referral source knows someone who might be helpful to you in your business. Why not ask? If you do, you create the opportunity to learn about a potentially beneficial new relationship.

Question 3: “Are you working on any interesting cases lately?” This question is another way of reminding a referral source that you can be a resource to him or her. The referral source may not have thought about how you can help. So remind him or her. At worst, the answer to the question will be no. If so, you won’t have lost anything. However, the question may very well be yes, resulting in more work for you.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Ten Questions About the Future of Your Practice – Part Four

July 22, 2011

Filed under: Practice Management,Selling Your Law Practice — @ 9:00 am

I’ve previously posed eight questions about the future of you and your practice. Here are my final two questions:

9. What do you need to do to implement your exit strategy? Even if your strategy is to never retire and let others pick up the pieces when you die, you still need to think about the effect your exit will have on the people who depend on you. There will be unfinished business. Will anyone be able to figure out what you were doing? Will there be enough money to pay final salaries and to take care of your family? Who will provide legal services for your loyal clients?

10. Do you have protection for your exit strategy? Another thing to consider is professional liability exposure on your exit. Some companies offer free tail coverage after you have been with them for a certain number of years. Have you considered this? It might be worth a chat with your insurance professional.

Hopefully, I’ve raised some questions here that have you thinking — you don’t get answers unless you ask questions first! The point of this and my last three postings is that no matter where you are in your life — even if you just opened your practice — it’s time to make emergency plans in case of your death or disability. If you are farther along in your career, consider what has to happen for you and your family to live happily ever after!

Let me know how this helps you!

Ten Questions About the Future of Your Practice – Part Three

July 20, 2011

Filed under: Selling Your Law Practice — @ 1:04 pm

In my previous two blog postings, I wrote about questions to ask yourself about your future and the future of your practice. Here are three more things to consider:

6. What is your plan? If dying at your desk is not your plan, it makes sense to think about what your strategy should be.

Another thing to consider is your compensation when you leave your business. Just how do you want to be paid? A common way to transfer a law practice is for the purchaser to pay you a percentage of new work derived from your current clients. That puts all the risk on you. Is it what you want?

7. Is your business worth selling? This question goes to the salability of your practice. Is it worth anything? I mean, would you buy it? If not, why not? I realize I am asking a nasty question here, but until you answer it you won’t be able to implement the strategies for an exit plan that makes sense for you.

8. If it’s worth selling, who’s going to buy it?
Do you want to keep your business in the family? Do you want to sell it to your partner(s) and/or associate(s)? Is the best option to sell it a third party? If so, when?

Let me know how this helps you!

Ten Questions About the Future of Your Practice – Part Two

July 15, 2011

Filed under: Practice Management,Selling Your Law Practice — @ 9:00 am

In my previous posting, I suggested that if you are unsure about the future of your practice, you might want to ask yourself some questions to help you organize your thoughts. Here are three more questions to consider:

3. What would you change? What do you like and not like about your practice? Are you working too many hours? Do you enjoy your clients? Do you have a good staff? Do you enjoy what you do, or do you go to bed on Sunday evenings dreading the upcoming week? If your answer is the latter, maybe it’s time to consider fixing things to make your practice more enjoyable or, alternatively, getting out.

4. Are you making enough money? Of course, this is a key question. Shouldn’t you be making money? If you aren’t, why not? Are you charging enough? Are you doing too much of the work yourself? Are your collection procedures sloppy or nonexistent? Do you see a profitable future for your practice? Do you have the necessary energy to improve your profitability?

5. Do you have an exit strategy? Even if you have no immediate plans to leave your business, how you will exit is something you should think about. After all, you will leave in one way or another, even if it’s to die with your boots on. What do you want your exit to look like?

Let me know how this helps you!

Ten Questions About the Future of Your Practice – Part One

July 13, 2011

Filed under: Selling Your Law Practice — @ 1:03 pm

As attorneys, most of us spend time talking to our clients about their exit strategies. I’ve had personal experience with two kinds of business exit strategies. I sold my estate planning practice, effective January 1, 2010. I shut down my father’s medical practice eight years ago. My experiences have caused me to think a lot about questions that arise when someone leaves their professional practice. Since all of us are going to transition out of our businesses at some point, I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you.

1. Are you happy? We get engrossed in our professions. Our obligations keep us busy, sometimes to the point where we don’t seem to have the time to think about anything else. I talk to a lot of attorneys and they don’t sound happy with what they do. Does this apply to you?

As difficult as it might be, it may make sense for you to step back to consider if you are really happy with what you are doing. Do you want to practice law forever? Or is it time to do something else?

2. What do you want? What do you want from your professional life? For that matter, what do you want your professional legacy to be?

It can be hard work to answer these questions. However, if you do the heavy lifting you’ll realize what it is you want, and you’ll get the clarity to actually accomplish your goals. If you don’t, you’ll never know!

Let me know how this helps you!

Show Me the Value!

July 8, 2011

Filed under: Pricing — @ 1:12 pm

When I first started charging for my work as an estate planning attorney, I struggled with setting and quoting my prices. It was hard for me to decide what my services were worth. When I spoke with other people about it, one response I got was to “show the value” of what I was doing. Unfortunately, I could never quite figure out how to show the value to a potential client.

It’s not about you. Well, I think I’ve finally got it. Show the value of what you do by letting your clients tell you what’s important to them. Value is not an issue of how much time it takes you — clients care about the results, not the internal processes in your office. And, it’s not that much about your legal expertise or training, because the client assumes you know how to do your job.

Listen, listen, listen! We often make the mistake of assuming what’s important to the client without really checking in with them. You may think a wealthy client is concerned about saving taxes — and the client may well be — but, with careful listening, you might find something else is more important to him or her. If you insist on spending all your time talking about taxes, the client will realize that you’re not all that interested in what the client has to say and take his or her business elsewhere.

Let the client tell you what the value is. On the other hand, if you do take time to find out what a client’s real concerns are, reflect the concerns back to the client, and assure the client you can solve his or her problems, the client is much more likely to (1) trust you; (2) retain you; and (3) pay you a fair price for what you do. And those are the clients you want, right?

Let me know how this helps you!

Are You Marketing Coherently?

July 6, 2011

Filed under: Growing Your Business — @ 1:31 pm

We’ve just entered the third quarter of 2011. I previously wrote http://www.copleycoaching.com/blog/2011/06/say-aaaah-…-it’s-time-for-your-business-checkup/ about how it’s a good time to take stock of your business’s performance for the first half of the year, including suggesting that you check in on your marketing performance so far.

It’s not just marketing, it’s how you market. I recently ran across a blog, “Stop Chasing Too Many Priorities” in the Harvard Business Review. The theory behind the posting is that companies don’t market coherently; rather, they tackle any marketing strategy that looks good to them. As a result, the marketing message gets confused and the company’s marketing efforts are not as successful as they should be. I think this ties in with my advice about checking your marketing message: is it consistent? Does it make sense to the consumer?

Put together your marketing plan. In my experience, we, as lawyers, are just as guilty as other business owners of muddling our messages. We chase after the latest good idea without considering if that idea is a good fit for us. The result is confusion in the marketplace and frustration for us.

I suggest that a better approach for you is to figure out what you do well and the message you want to put into the market place, and then how to communicate that message consistently. Try limiting your marketing strategy to three major messages and get those messages out regularly. After an appropriate period of time — at least six months — step back and see what’s beginning to work. Then, tailor your message and it’s likely you will find that your marketing is becoming much more effective!

Please let me know how this helps you!

Uses and Abuses of Social Media – Part Two

July 1, 2011

Filed under: Social Media — @ 9:00 am

In my last posting, I talked about how Social Media is an important tool for marketing your business, but that some people don’t focus on the results of their efforts. I’ve also written about how email, if not properly managed, can control your life. Today, we’ll talk about how the Internet and Social Media sidetrack your team members from getting work done.

Is the Internet costing you money? I recently came across an article, “Distraction in the Workplace,”, about a study to the effect that employee use of the Internet and Social Media can cost businesses thousands of dollars each year. And it’s not necessarily because employees are frittering their time away looking at the computer — just like you and me, they get distracted.

Keep your team focused on what needs to be done. What I really like about the article are tips about how to manage these distractions. I think the most important strategy, however, is to clarify your expectations of your team members. Let them know you understand the need to use the Internet and Social Media from time to time for personal purposes, but also set performance goals and rewards. Talk about how surfing the Internet can cut into productivity, profits — and employee bonuses. If you set expectations, you’re likely to find your team members will meet them.

Please let me know how this helps you!