2012 February | 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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Is Email Ruining Your Life?

February 29, 2012

Filed under: Email,Focus/Time Management — @ 6:23 pm

Ranting about email. I have previously written about the dangers of email controlling your life and made some suggestions about how to control email. But I thought it was interesting when, this week, not one but two articles popped up about how email can ruin our lives. I think both articles have something valuable to say, so I pass along the observations here.

Control email expectations. The first article, “Tune Out Technology” from the Lawyerist blog, makes a good point about the importance of setting boundaries with email. I really like the observation that if your practice doesn’t require you to be constantly in touch with your clients, “don’t be available all the time.”

Think about it: how damaged will somebody really be if you don’t respond to that person’s email until tomorrow morning (or, if on the weekend, until Monday)? If your answer is that you don’t have to answer now, set expectations: tell clients you’ll respond to an email within twenty-four hours, but not necessarily immediately.

Email management tips. The second article, Amy Gallo’s “Stop Email Overload” from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, contains some tips about controlling email. I like the following ones:

  • If you have too much email in your inbox, it’s really a sign that you don’t have effective protocols for making decisions — for you and for your firm.
  • Tell people to limit the “fyi” emails and don’t send out the one-word “thanks.” Both types of correspondence are burdensome for the receiver and don’t add to the conversation.
  • Keep your inbox clean. Just because something shows up, that doesn’t mean you have to open it. If the title reveals the email is something that probably doesn’t concern you, delete it.
  • Take a break from email. Don’t check it on weekends. If you work on a Smartphone, change your settings so that you only receive email when you ask for it, rather than having it pushed to you automatically.

Please let me know how this helps you!

A Roadmap to Social Media

February 24, 2012

Filed under: Social Media — @ 2:36 pm

Are you still having trouble figuring out the various Social Media outlets and how to use them? Here’s a useful tool, courtesy of web designer Todd Richards and his Promising Sites company.

Please let me know how this helps you!

How to Make Your Team (and You) Miserable

February 22, 2012

Filed under: Staffing — @ 6:13 pm

Staffing again. I seem to be writing a lot about working with your team. I know, I know, it’s not an especially glamorous topic. However, a recurring theme in my job as a practice management coach is my clients’ struggles with their employees! As a result, I think I should continue to talk about how to be a successful employer.

Why it’s crucial. Getting staffing right is incredibly important. If you and your team get along and work well together, your life as the boss is so much better. You can delegate with confidence and focus your efforts on what you should be doing — marketing and true legal work.

If you and your team don’t work well together, you’ll be spending way too much time putting out fires. You and your employees will be miserable. You’ll experience lots of turnover, as well the costs that go with constantly hiring and training new people.

That’s why I thought it would be useful to pass along this article, “9 Surefire Ways to Destroy Employee Morale,” from the American Express Open Forum website. The article lists nine signs that you are a bad boss.

Do you do any of these things?

    1. Blame others for your mistakes
    2. Embarrass your team members in public
    3. Lie to your staff
    4. Set impossible goals for your employees
    5. Threaten your employees’ jobs
    6. Give vague/incomplete instructions
    7. Micromanage
    8. Withhold praise
    9. Ignore employee suggestions

If you do, you might want to rethink your management style. Otherwise, it’s likely you’ll never resolve your staffing issues — which means you’ll always be dealing with them. And, because of recurring employee problems and turnover, you’ll be too distracted to grow your business in the way you would like.

Please let me know how this helps you!

What Do You Do if One of Your Employees
is Using?

February 15, 2012

Filed under: Substance Abuse — @ 6:32 pm

I seem to spend a lot of time blogging about employee issues. Fortunately, there’s one issue I’ve never had to deal with: an employee who has substance abuse issues.

I think I’ve just been lucky; in speaking with my coaching clients and listening to other lawyers’ experiences as employers, I’ve heard horror stories about employees who were using. So, when I came across a recent article in the Los Angeles Times titled “Tips for Dealing with Substance Abuse Problems in the Workplace”, I thought it would be helpful to my readers if I passed it on.

According to the article, there are five things you should do to deal with substance abuse in your workplace:

    1. Watch for signs. Is the employee consistently showing up late, or has his/her performance become quite erratic?

    2. Create a substance abuse policy in your office. If you have an established drug-free policy in your office, it’s harder for an abuser to work there.

    3. Don’t enable the employee. Don’t make excuses and don’t lend money.

    4. Don’t intervene on your own. Let an expert do this.

    5. Don’t delay taking action. The problem is not going to go away on its own.

Please let me know who this helps you!

Are You (Yawn) Enduring Another Meeting?

February 10, 2012

Filed under: Meetings — @ 2:07 pm

In a previous blog posting, I wrote about how awful meetings can be. Apparently other people share my opinion. I recently ran across an article, “Five Ways to Tame Out-of-Control Meetings” in the Los Angeles Times. The article suggests five techniques to make meetings more bearable:

    1. Set goals for the meeting — figure out what you really want to accomplish.

    2. Hand out materials ahead of time — and insist that people review the materials — so everyone in the meeting will be prepared.

    3. Set a time limit for the meeting.

    4. Make it a stand-up meeting (that is, no one sits down).

    5. Review everyone’s action steps at the end of the meeting.

These are great suggestions.

However, I think you have to use the rules in light of all the purposes of a meeting. I always encourage my coaching clients to have weekly meetings with their team members. The purpose of the meeting, of course, is to review the previous week and set goals for the upcoming week.

However, another reason for the meeting is to bond with and empower your team — if your team members feel connected and involved in the decision-making process, they’re more likely to be invested in driving your business forward. So, I’m not sure having a stand-up meeting works under those circumstances.

Nor do I recommend stand-up meetings with clients. Do you?

Please let me know how this helps you!

Six Things to Say for a Successful Relationship

February 8, 2012

Filed under: Referrals — @ 7:29 pm

I recently attended a talk by Dave Isay of StoryCorps. He was promoting his new book, All There Is (Penguin 2012), a compilation of oral histories about how people found, lost, and found romantic love at last.

I have been smitten by the advice given in one of the stories: there are six things to say to your spouse to assure a successful marriage. They are:

    1. You look great.
    2. Can I help?
    3. Let’s eat out.
    4. I was wrong.
    5. I am sorry.
    6. I love you.

This is invaluable advice!

The six rules got me thinking — are there six similar things we should say to ensure successful relationships with our referral sources? Here’s what I’ve come up with:

    1. I admire what you’ve accomplished.
    2. How can I help you in your business?
    3. Let’s get together.
    4. I was mistaken.
    5. I apologize.
    6. Thank you.

What do you think?

Please let me know how this helps you!

Yeah, I Know I’m Supposed to Follow Up — But What Does That Mean?

February 3, 2012

Filed under: Follow-Up Process — @ 1:50 pm

I’m a member of a group on LinkedIn that recently had a conversation titled, “Financial Advisor Marketing: Do You Suck At Follow-Ups?” In a video, Len Schwartz berates financial advisors for making contacts with potential referral sources and then failing to pursue the relationship. Schwartz urges his viewers to put together a systematic follow-up process.

This is good advice for attorneys as well as for financial advisors. I completely agree that following up is essential to creating a successful relationship with a referral source — I’ve heard that it takes seven touches to create a real professional relationship. And I also completely agree that creating some kind of follow-up system is crucial.

The problem with Schwartz’s video is that he doesn’t give you any idea of what following up with someone means. As one of my coaching clients once said to me, “once you’ve met them, what are you supposed to do with them?” And, so, I thought I would outline a simple system for you to follow:

    1. Meet face-to-face. Despite Social Media and electronic contact, it’s really hard to develop a real relationship without shaking hands and looking someone in the eye.

    2. Acknowledge. Once you’ve had that initial meeting with the referral source, send him/her a handwritten (by you, not your assistant) thank-you note.

    3. Mail something interesting. About ten days later, send the referral source something — an article, a brochure — that might be interesting to him/her. I suggest snail mail, because people tend to keep something that comes in the mail longer than they keep marketing emails.

    4. Make a call. After about thirty days, call the referral source. Ask him/her if he/she has any questions for you, and then ask the Three Magic Questions.

    5. Ask permission to put the person on your mailing list. Good for you if you have some kind of regular process for contacting referral sources. However, don’t automatically put someone on your mailing or email list — ask permission first.

    6. Make a call. After sixty days, repeat step 4, above.

    7. Make a call. After ninety days, repeat step 4, above.

After the ninety-day period has elapsed, sit back and evaluate the relationship. Do you think it’s going to go anywhere? If so, repeat Step 1. If not, keep the person on your mailing list and focus on other, more promising relationships.

Please let me know how this helps you!

What Should You Do First?

February 1, 2012

Filed under: Billing,Focus/Time Management,Practice Management,Processes — @ 6:20 pm

When I talk to my coaching clients, many of them express the sense of feeling overwhelmed — they have too much to do and they’re not sure what they should work on first. Thinking you might occasionally feel the same way, I thought I would write about an easy way to decide which projects you should tackle: work first on the cases that will bring you the most money.

You probably have a spreadsheet or some other tracking system listing the open matters in your practice (and if you don’t, you should). You may list the client name, the work to be done, and any deadlines — filing dates or client meetings, perhaps. Why not add another column, listing the amount of money you expect the case to bring in? It will help you really prioritize what you need to do.

Here are two other benefits to keeping this kind of list:

    1. You will have an idea of the amount of money you have in your pipeline. It’s probably more than you think, and that will give you confidence about your practice.

    2. Second, you can watch the amount of work you have coming in and see when your pipeline is not full enough before cash gets tight. You’ll know when it’s time to ramp up your marketing to get more work in the door.

Please let me know how this helps you!