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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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Book Review: The Litigators

January 25, 2012

Filed under: Book Review — @ 2:16 pm

I just finished reading John Grisham’s newest book, The Litigators (Doubleday 2011). It’s fun. I’ve never thought of Grisham as a humorous writer, but he does a great job skewering, among other things, small law practices, large law firms, mass tort litigation, expert witnesses, the federal court system, and quickie divorces.

Grisham’s book is about the misadventures of the people who make up the Chicago law firm of Finley & Figg, a firm that’s “selective” “because no one wanted to work there.”

Of course, as a law practice management coach, I can’t resist writing about the guidance I would give to Finley & Figg. If they were my clients, these are the things I would suggest they work on:

  • Client Selection. Finley & Figg has awful clients. The clients don’t pay, they’re not responsive, and they have unrealistic expectations. As a result, Finley & Figg’s cash flow is terrible and the lawyers don’t like their jobs. So, I would tell the folks at Finley & Figg to fire all their bad clients. The lawyers are better off spending their time marketing for better-quality people to work with.
  • Cash Flow Management. Largely because Finley & Figg has terrible clients, it has terrible cash flow. It’s continuously dodging bill collectors. Because money is tight, the partners don’t feel they can spend the money on more effective advertising. And the lawyers in Finley & Figg will continue to just get by — or worse, lose money — unless they change. I would work with them to (1) get their prices up; (2) create a process to effectively track their time; (3) implement a system to collect for work billed; and (4) track their revenues so they can get rid of the bad cases and clients.
  • Marketing. Finley & Figg has no marketing plan, other than chasing ambulances and looking for the next best thing. It’s no wonder the business is failing! They need to put together an effective marketing program to attract quality clients and referral sources, and then they need to implement it.

With some effort and a little patience, Finley & Figg can stop chasing ambulances and start making money.

Please let me know how this helps you!

A Little Self-Promotion

January 20, 2012

Filed under: Speaking Engagements — @ 8:00 am

I thought I would take a little time to talk about two upcoming presentations I am giving:

First, I’m leading a webinar titled, “How to Get Paid a Fair Price for What You Do.” Does this sound like something that interests you? If so, and if you want to learn more, click here.

Second, I am, along with my fellow practice advisors, Patrick Wilson, Glenn Gutek and Chris Akers, teaching the Atticus “Practice Builder” program in Pasadena, California on March 2 and 3. The Practice Builder is a two-day boot camp designed to help you gain control of your law practice and improve your life. We’ll be holding it at the Courtyard by Marriott Old Town Pasadena. For more information, click here. Also, just a little nudge: the price increases $400 after February 15.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Book Review: The 5 Languages of Appreciation
in the Workplace

January 18, 2012

Filed under: Book Review — @ 8:15 pm

I’ve previously written about the importance of expressing appreciation for your team members. If your team feels valued for what they do, you’re more likely to have engaged employees and less disruptive turnover.

What I hadn’t considered is that there are different ways of expressing appreciation, and that the form of appreciation goes a long way in making someone feel valued. That’s what I learned from reading G. Chapman and P. White, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People (Northfield Publishing 2011). The book is worth reading.

According to Chapman and White, there are five different ways of expressing appreciation at work:

    Words of Affirmation. This is when you give verbal praise to someone for something they did. If it’s going to work, the praise must be sincere.

    Quality Time. Some people feel most valued when they have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with their supervisor. The employee will feel valued by having the chance to talk about his or her job.

    Acts of Service. Some employees feel most valued when someone offers to help them out.

    Tangible Gifts. Some people most value a tangible gift — tickets to something, for instance. Of course, this act of appreciation only works if the gift is appropriate to the recipient; the sports nut in your office might not feel valued if you give him or her tickets to the ballet.

    Physical Touch. Physical touch is important to some people. Expressing appreciation this way can be tricky, of course, if it could be construed as uncomfortable or harassment by the employee. However, for the right person, a High Five or a pat on the back is a very effective way of making that person feel valued.

Another point that Chapman and White make is that some people value one form of appreciation, while others respond to other forms. Additionally, you, as the boss, may have a blind spot about what your team members value, because you have our own language of appreciation.

So, this is something to think about the next time you want to tell one or all of your team members how much you value what they do for you. To be most effective, express your appreciation in the language most effective for the recipient.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Setting Goals

January 11, 2012

Filed under: Goals — @ 1:48 pm

In my previous posting, I wrote about the qualities of a successful entrepreneur. One of those qualities is the ability to set and commit to a goal.

I’ve found that goal setting is not as easy as it sounds. The process forces you to admit there may be things in your life that need improvement.

Here are some hints for successful goal setting:

Think of categories. If you’re like most of us, there’s probably more than one area of your life that could use some improvement. I’ve found it useful to set categories for goals I want to accomplish. Here are some examples:

  • Financial goals
  • Health goals
  • Relationship goals
  • Technology goals
  • Fun (this is my favorite category)

Make it specific and measurable. “Lose weight” is a slogan; “lose ten pounds” is a goal.

Set a deadline. If you set a deadline, you can hold yourself accountable to that deadline. Otherwise, working toward accomplishing the goal will always be something you do in the future. So, your goal might be, “lose ten pounds by the end of March.”

Break it into steps. You might think a goal is so big there is no way that you can attain it. However, there are ways to reach very large goals. One useful technique is to break the goal down into small steps. Rather than saying “lose ten pounds,” give yourself a stepping stone on the way to the goal: “lose one pound this week.”

Declare it. If you keep your goal a secret, no one can hold you accountable to it. You will have a much better chance of attaining your goal if you tell someone about it. So, write it down and give your list of goals to someone you trust.

Please let me know how this helps you!

What Does It Take to Be a Successful Entrepreneurial Attorney?

January 4, 2012

Filed under: Entrepreneurs — @ 3:07 pm

In my role as a coach for attorneys, my job is to help my clients in their roles as entrepreneur. It’s not something they teach in law school.

But that doesn’t mean being a lawyer means you can’t be a successful entrepreneur as well. Au contraire. With focus and determination, you can create a law practice that provides you with satisfaction and a good living.

What does it take to be successful? I recently ran across an article, “Will 2012 be the Year of the Legal Entrepreneur” on the Solo Practice University website. In it, Susan Cartier Liebel identifies the following characteristics of a successful legal entrepreneur:

  • Ability to build relationships and connect with others
  • Ability to see opportunities others miss
  • Commitment to an end goal
  • Stamina and endurance to realize a vision

What really struck me about Liebel’s article were two observations she makes:

  • The attributes of a successful entrepreneur “are likely learnable skills that education, training and practice can improve upon.”
  • Most successful entrepreneurs get help to improve their entrepreneurial skills: “evidence indicates that startup firms that take advantage of resources such as mentoring, counseling and other small business development assistance have a better survival and growth rate than do their peers.”

You can do it! There is hope for us accidental entrepreneurs — those of us who opened our own shops because we didn’t like the people we were working for (both clients and the partners), got laid off, needed a different lifestyle, or just wanted to be our own bosses.

If we are willing to take the necessary risks to build our practices, we can learn the skills we need to have and get the help necessary to develop those skills. A good coach can help you identify your goals and push you to get out there so you accomplish them.

Please let me know how this helps you!