2011 August | Jan Copley Atticus Blog
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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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It’s a Good Thing if Your Team Disagrees with You

August 31, 2011

Filed under: Team Meetings — @ 1:27 pm

I recently attended a team meeting. The discussion grew heated and passionate — what diplomats call “open and frank” — at times.

Why arguing is a sign of health. The conflict at the team meeting was good. According to Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Josscy-Bass 2002), one symptom of a team that doesn’t work is the fear of conflict. If your team members fear conflict, your team meetings will be boring and you won’t accomplish much. Your team members won’t be willing to volunteer their own ideas.

What you can lose. Rather, team members will go along with whatever you, the boss, propose, but they won’t be invested in the ultimate decision. They’ll simply wait for your direction and implement it like robots. Your team members will be sullen and resentful. Their great ideas won’t see the light of day. The growth of your business will be negatively affected.

What you may gain. On the other hand, if your team members are willing to hash things out, they are much more likely to buy in to whatever the ultimate resolution may be. At the meeting I attended, I thought the conflict was a tremendous breakthrough for the team involved, because it was the first time people were truly willing to engage, to be vulnerable, and to hold each other accountable. The team had difficult conversations that some team members felt were long overdue. The result was a flowering of trust and creativity.

You have to have rules of engagement. Of course, to effectively disagree, your team must have some ground rules for expressing opinions (and team members must abide by the rules). Guidelines for team meetings must be designed so team members feel safe. Basic rules include:

  • No personal attacks
  • No dismissive or belittling comments
  • Confidentiality

Are your team meetings productive? Try creating a feeling of safety, and then stand back for the tremendous flow of creativity you will see!

Please let me know how this helps you.

What Do You Expect?

August 26, 2011

Filed under: Practice Management — @ 1:43 pm

Have you ever had a relationship blow up on you? If not, you lead a charmed life!

I’ve come to the conclusion that success in any relationship depends upon communicated expectations. Think about it — if you’ve ever had a dispute with a client, it’s probably because your expectations did not match those of your client (or vice versa). If an employee has let you down, it may be because the employee didn’t know what you expected of him or her.

So, one key to running a successful, profitable law practice is to clarify expectations by communicating what they are. For example:

  • Tell your clients that you will return their calls within a certain amount of time, make sure the time period is realistic, and then follow through on your promises.
  • Tell your team members what you expect of them, the deadlines for getting projects done, and the consequences for not meeting expectations.
  • Have your clients and team members tell you their expectations of you. This might be a real eye-opener.

In other words, the “you should have known” method of interpersonal relations can lead to problems, while if you just say what you expect — and let the people you work with tell you what they expect — you’re much more likely to maintain successful relationships with the people around you.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Your Marketing Front Line

August 24, 2011

Filed under: Marketing — @ 1:11 pm

Who is your most important marketer? The answer is: the person in your office who answers the phone.

A good response and a stupid reply. In “Verizon, Take a Clue from Jet Blue”, an article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, we learned the story of two sisters’ experiences with a pair of large companies. The sisters’ mother had just died and sisters needed to make some adjustments to services from each business. One company expressed its condolences and accommodated a sister’s needs; the other company tried to sell more services. Can you guess which company has a cancelled account, and which company now has a loyal customer for life?

Your phone is the gateway to your business. The moral of the story is these experiences arose out of the sisters’ contact with people on the phone. One customer service rep handled the matter well; the other behaved badly. Management was not involved in either encounter. Yet, each encounter will affect the business.

Your team is your most important marketing asset. The same thing applies to your law practice. A client — or potential client — will form and/or revise his or her opinion about your business based upon his or her contact with your support staff. If your receptionist — or, as I prefer to call the position, Director of Client Relations — shows genuine interest in a caller, the caller will have a better impression of the company, and will be more likely to retain you or continue to work with you. On the other hand, if your Director of Client Relations is short or rude, that will adversely affect your business.

Make it clear that your team markets for you. The problem is that most attorneys don’t seem to think in these terms, and don’t convey the importance of proper communication to their team members. So, tell your team members that every time they communicate with someone, they are marketing for your firm. Emphasize that they need to provide a positive experience with every contact they have.

Please let me know how this helps you!

How Do You Reset?

August 19, 2011

Filed under: Focus/Time Management — @ 5:22 pm

In my previous blog posting, I wrote about our growing addiction to cell phones. Today, I want to talk about an even more serious illness — lawyers’ addiction to work!

Can you see beyond your nose? Some of my clients have been so tired and stressed lately, to the point that they are losing focus. They can’t seem to work as efficiently as they would like. And, can they take the time to think about their future or the future of their practice? Forget it! Yet they think they can’t leave the office because there’s just too much to do. They continue to slog away, feeling miserable about it.

What’s the cure? My advice for this may sound counterintuitive, but I’ve been recommending that my busy, stressed-out clients take some time off! Read something trashy; get outside and do something fun; reconnect with your loved ones; eat junk food (in moderation). Consider the time away from your office to be your personal Ctrl+Alt+Del. Trust me — you’ll feel better and, when you return to the office, you’ll be much better at your job.

Think about it. I remember when I was practicing that by Friday afternoon, emails would come in that I just couldn’t muster the energy to answer. But, after a weekend of not working, it was easy to write the answers on Monday. Just think what a week — or even a long weekend — away from work will do for you!

Please let me know how this helps you!

Gonna Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to…Phone

August 17, 2011

Filed under: Technology — @ 1:28 pm

I’ve previously written http://www.copleycoaching.com/blog/2011/03/don’t-surrender-to-the-tyranny-of-email/ about the tyranny and addictiveness of email. Well, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, many of us are hooked on an even more insidious, insistent form of technology: our smart phones!

According to the article http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/08/technology-addiction-chocolate-caffeine.html, “our addiction to technology trumps caffeine, chocolate and alcohol.” Of the 514 people surveyed, 22% would give up their toothbrushes before they would surrender their smart phone; the number goes up to 40% for iPhone users. Eewwww! One-third would give up sex! Do you think Robert Palmer should update his hit song, “Addicted to Love?”

So what does this have to do with law practice management? One of my jobs as a coach for lawyers is to remind my clients to have a life outside their work. So, don’t let technology run your life — or ruin it. In other words, don’t go to your Facebook app, don’t answer that incoming call, don’t check your email. Just put down the phone!

Please let me know how this helps you!

What’s on Your Reading List?

August 12, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — @ 1:20 pm

I just ran across this article, “30 Lawyers Pick 30 Books Every Lawyer Should Read”, in the ABA Journal, in which thirty prominent lawyers recommend thirty books. It’s an interesting list, because a lot of the books are not about lawyering or the law. And the big two — To Kill a Mockingbird and Gideon’s Trumpet — are not on the list.

I find the breadth of the list and the eclectic selections inspiring. I think the article provides an important insight: as lawyers, we have to know as much or more about life as we do about the law in order to do our jobs well. If all you read are books about the law, you’ll not only be boring, you’ll be out of touch with your clients!

I’ve read three of the books, The Invisible Man, Cleopatra, and The Little Prince, as well as the two honorable mentions on Brendan Sullivan’s list, Snow Falling on Cedars and The Innocent Man.

Which of the books have you read?

Ten Ways to Boost Profits

August 10, 2011

Filed under: Growing Your Business,Practice Management,Pricing — @ 1:51 pm

I’m still not sure how I got on the mailing list CPA Trendlines, an email newsletter for accountants, but I certainly enjoy it. The latest edition contained an article about boosting profits. There’s enough similarity between accounting and law firms that I thought it would be useful information to pass along to you.

I especially like the following points:

    • Don’t be shy about raising your prices.

    • Get rid of unprofitable clients.

    • Set goals for everyone in the office.

    • Not everyone who breathes is a potential client.

    • Set goals and focus on them.

I bet if you implemented at least one of these strategies, your profitability would go up!

Please let me know how this helps you!

A Nifty Tool to Manage Social Media

August 5, 2011

Filed under: Social Media — @ 8:00 am

If you are using Social Media as part of your marketing efforts and you don’t have quite the same compulsion to check your Facebook page as often as your fourteen-year-old daughter, what do you do?

I recently spoke with Dave and Carolyn at Mark Merenda’s wonderful company, SmartMarketing, about managing my Internet presence, including various Social Media outlets. We talked about a nifty, free service called NutshellMail provided by Constant Contact.

What NutshellMail does is send you email updates about activity on all your Social Media sites. NutshellMail will track your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare and YouTube presences.

As an example of how the service works, I receive three emails a day from NutshellMail, telling me about postings on my Facebook page, changes in my LinkedIn contacts, and Twitter feeds from my followers, all in one email! You can set your settings differently. It’s a great timesaver; I don’t have to log into each website individually. Moreover, I don’t have to remember to check the Social Media sites; NutshellMail does that for me.

Would this be useful for you? It certainly is for me, which is why I’m sharing it with you.

Please let me know how this helps you!

The Good Thing About Failure

August 3, 2011

Filed under: Growing Your Business,Practice Management — @ 12:59 pm

Something I often see in my life as a law practice management coach is attorneys’ fear of failure. For some reason, many lawyers are afraid to take risks that will, in the long run, help them succeed. Some resist spending money without an immediate, guaranteed return. I think others are cautious because they are afraid that by failing, they will look bad.

I find this fear of failure to be ironic, because what is the practice of law other than managing risk? Judges and juries are always wild cards. Transactional work carries danger, too: a client may not understand the transaction and will mess it up, or the law will change, making the planning inappropriate or inoperative.

Failure is good. In fact, maybe because of my experience as a lawyer, I’ve come to believe that failure is an inherent part of success. It’s nice to know that at least one other person out there shares my opinion. Samantha Power, this year’s commencement speaker at my alma mater, Occidental College, told the graduates, “failure is a profound sign of success.” According to Power, “failing to fail is a sign that you aren’t yet testing the limits of what you are capable of.”

Failure only works if you learn from it and make changes. Of course, no one succeeds simply by getting out there and failing! As the old saw goes, we learn from our mistakes. That’s the upside of failure — we discover what doesn’t work. I recently had an epiphany, however: failure is a growth tool only if we learn from it and make changes based upon our new knowledge! So, the moral is that in order to succeed, we need to try things we haven’t tried before, analyze what didn’t work about it, and then make the adjustments necessary to make our experiment successful. If we don’t do this, we’ll never grow — and we’ll never grow our practices, either.

Please let me know how this helps you!