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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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What Not To Do

May 30, 2012

Filed under: Goals,Lists — @ 1:24 pm

I’ve previously written about the importance of setting goals, and keeping lists and checklists to keep you focused on what you want to accomplish. I’ve suggested that you keep a list of your goals, review it often, and update it frequently.

Two lists to manage your life. Until I read this article, “Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning,” it had never occurred to me to keep a second list of the things I don’t want to do. The idea is that we often get distracted by things that are urgent, which means that the things that are important don’t get done.

What are you willing to let go? The suggestion is to write down a list of things you are willing to let go. This makes sense to me — maybe it’s okay to decide you won’t read every email that comes into your inbox. Maybe it’s all right to ignore that professional article on an arcane area of the law. If an activity serves nothing more than to keep you on a treadmill, maybe it’s better to skip it.

What’s the tradeoff? If you do decide not to do something and that gives you the opportunity to accomplish something that is truly important to you — attending your children’s sporting event, for example — the tradeoff is probably worth it. So, having a list of what you don’t want to do will help keep you focused on what’s important and what you really want to accomplish.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Is Your Firm Healthy? A Twelve-Point Checklist

May 25, 2012

Filed under: Growing Your Business,Practice Management — @ 1:02 pm

The mega-firm of Dewey & LeBeouf is imploding; according to an article in the May 18 Wall Street Journal, there are rumors that Dewey will seek protection in the bankruptcy court soon. It’s not the first time a big law firm has gone down in flames, and it won’t be the last. And you can’t just blame it on economic conditions; during the thirty years I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve seen the biggies go down during good times as well as when times were tough.

As a law practice management coach, I mostly work with small firms and solo practitioners. So, you may think that any lessons to be learned from Dewey’s demise aren’t applicable to my clients. If so, you would be wrong.

I recently ran across a blog article, “A (Don’t Be) Dewey Dozen: Use This Checklist to Make Sure Your Firm Isn’t Dewey” on the ABA Legal Rebels website. According to the article, there are twelve questions to ask to determine if a firm is healthy:

  • Does the firm trust its leadership?
  • Is the firm sufficiently liquid?
  • Can everyone articulate the firm’s strategy and value proposition?
  • Do proposed mergers and acquisitions advance the firm’s strategy?
  • Are clients firm clients, not just clients of an individual partner?
  • Is firm leadership truly aware of the firm’s finances?
  • Does partner compensation make sense?
  • Does the firm encourage client feedback?
  • Are the firm’s clients happy?
  • Does the firm listen to its critics?
  • Does the firm believe its value can be improved?
  • Is the firm willing to experiment with new ways of doing things?

Think about it: why would these rules not apply to small law firms? Ask yourself these questions about your business; if you answer no to one or more of them, it may be time to step back, acknowledge that improvements are necessary, and work to fix the problem.

Please let me know how this helps you!

How Do You Do?

May 23, 2012

Filed under: Marketing — @ 1:12 pm

If you’re at a networking meeting, or when you are introduced to someone and you are asked what you do, what do you say about yourself? Do you respond, “I’m an attorney”?

How boring is that?

The idea behind introducing yourself is to be memorable. I’m sorry, but saying that you’re a lawyer, without saying anything else is not a good way to ensure that someone will remember you.

So, what do you do?

Here at Atticus, we suggest you create what we call your “Laser Talk.” Other people might call it your elevator speech. That is, figure out a way to introduce yourself very briefly — say, during an elevator ride — in a way that will be interesting and so the person you’re talking to will remember you and want to learn more about you.

Crafting a memorable Laser Talk is not easy. It requires that you to be clear about the kind of people you like to work with, how you help them, and what makes you special — and to say all that in a couple of sentences. Fortunately, I have a formula to help you get started:

    I work with [kind of client] who wants to [client goal]. I do this by [say how]. What’s unique about me is that [say why you’re special].

So, for example, when I was practicing as an estate planning attorney, I used the following as my Laser Talk:

    My job as a lawyer is to help caring people protect their families and their money. I do this by helping my clients create plans that really work. What’s unique about my practice is that my team and I treat you with the respect and individual attention you deserve.

Once you’ve roughed out your Laser Talk, try it out on people you know (if your spouse laughs at you, you probably need to rework it).

Over time and with practice, you’ll craft a Laser Talk that truly reflects who you are and what you do. Then, when you introduce yourself, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Your Monthly Marketing Calendar – Part 2

May 18, 2012

Filed under: Follow-Up Process,Marketing,Referrals — @ 1:10 pm

In my previous posting, I wrote about creating your monthly marketing calendar. I suggested you determine the types and number of marketing activities you want to accomplish each week. Then, your job is to actually do what you think you should do; I suggested you get someone to hold you accountable to your marketing goals.

It occurred to me that what I’m talking about might make more sense if you could see a sample marketing calendar. So, let’s take a hypothetical attorney, who has decided he/she wants to accomplish the following activities during the course of a week:

  • Two letters to referral sources with interesting information
  • Two face-to-face meetings with potential referral sources
  • Five follow-up calls
  • One networking event
  • Two blog postings
  • One thank-you note

Using these parameters, the attorney’s weekly marketing calendar might look something like this:

In this case, our attorney has met twelve of his/her thirteen goals for the week. Not bad!

Please let me know how this helps you!

Your Monthly Marketing Calendar

May 16, 2012

Filed under: Follow-Up Process,Marketing,Referrals — @ 6:03 pm

For many of us, our marketing efforts could aptly be described as “random acts of lunch.” And, of course, we get the results that we put into our efforts — random referrals from people who might think of us.

One of the problems I had when I was practicing was figuring out what I should be doing other than taking potential referral sources to lunch. I’ve previously written about the importance of following up with people.

Your marketing plan. But, what really works is having a marketing plan — a system to do certain things. Well and good, but plans aren’t worth anything unless they’re implemented. So, I’m going to suggest that you set some goals and deadlines for your marketing activities.

What marketing activities are we talking about? First, think of all the marketing things you should be doing, and how many of each you should do during the course of a month. Your activities might include:

  • Face-to-face meetings with potential referral sources
  • Sending interesting information to potential referral sources
  • Making follow-up calls
  • Publishing (an article, a blog) and letting people know about it
  • Attending networking meetings
  • Social events
  • Sending thank you notes

Your marketing calendar. Once you’ve created your marketing goals, put them on your calendar and break your monthly activities into weekly activities. Then, track what you’re doing on a weekly basis to make sure you’re keeping up with yourself.

An accountability system helps. If you have accountability issues, ask a team member to check in with you weekly. If you’re like me, you’ll actually do some of the things you should be doing because you’ll be too embarrassed to admit to your employee that you’re letting yourself down.

Be patient! Marketing takes time. After a month or two of tracking your monthly activities, you may think you’re not getting the results you want, but if you keep at it consistently, you’ll develop the relationships — and generate the referrals — you want.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Managing Your Email

May 11, 2012

Filed under: Email,Focus/Time Management — @ 8:00 am

My very first blog article was about managing email. Since then, I’ve read D. Rock, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long (HarperCollins 2009), which says, among other things, that if the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning is check your email, you’ll be stupid for the rest of the day.

So, what do you do about this form of communication that’s too easy, too burdensome, and too time-consuming? Nora Bergman, my friend and fellow Atticus practice advisor, recently alerted me to a wonderful post on Videojug about Business E-Mail Efficiency. In the video, Tim Burress, co-author of M. Song, V. Halsey and T. Burress, The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your Email Before It Manages You (Berrett-Koehler Publishers 2008), gives the following tips:

  • Make sure your email message is clear, concise and complete so the recipient understands what you’re talking about and doesn’t have to email you back to ask for clarification
  • Try to limit the number of emails you send to any one person to three a day or less
  • Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone
  • Set parameters for when you need a reply (i.e., “I’d appreciate it if you would get back to me by tomorrow afternoon”)

Please let me know how this helps you!

A Little Self-Promotion

May 9, 2012

Filed under: Speaking Engagements — @ 6:09 pm

I have some speaking engagements coming up — both webinars and an in-person appearances. Here’s the information:

On June 7, I will be giving a live presentation called ”How to Attract and Retain More High Net Worth Clients in a Down Economy” at the 2012 Trusts and Estates Symposium in Carlsbad, California. Two other speakers — Tim Voorhees and Richard Muscio — will be speaking about tax and business succession planning. You can register for the program by clicking here.

On July 12, I’ll be giving my webinar about “How I Built a Successful Estate Planning Practice and Sold it for a Tidy Sum” for the Ultimate Estate Planner.

On August 8, I will be giving another webinar for the Ultimate Estate Planner, this one titled, “The People in Your Office: How to Find, Hire and Train Great Employees.”

I hope you can attend one or all of my presentations!

Efficient Googling

May 4, 2012

Filed under: Searching in Google — @ 12:45 pm

You know, I wonder how we used to practice law without the Internet. Actually, I do remember — it was slow and laborious and you had to use casebooks and digests. You couldn’t just look up your opposing counsel on your state bar website or Avvo; you had to pull the big, heavy Martindale-Hubbell books off the shelf (if your firm had them, that is).

It’s a lot easier to find information than it used to be. I remember complaining to a customer service representative at an insurance company about how they didn’t have a fillable beneficiary designation on the insurance company website. You don’t have to do that very often anymore.

However, even with the Web, sometimes I still have trouble finding stuff. Assuming you occasionally encounter a similar challenge, I pass along a recent Los Angeles Times article, “Ways To Get Better, Faster Search Results” about searching in Google. The article suggests five ways to improve your Google searches:

    1. Exclude terms from your search.
    2. Limit your search to a specific site.
    3. Use an asterisk for a wildcard search (it sounds what I used to use for Boolean searches on Lexis).
    4. Use it to solve math problems (although I’m not sure why this is better than Excel) or convert currencies.
    5. Use shortcuts.

The article tells you how to perform each of these tricks. I’m going to play with these techniques and see how they work for me.

Please let me know how this helps you!

The Psychology of Fraud

May 2, 2012

Filed under: Practice Management — @ 1:13 pm

I remember the first time, when I was a young lawyer, I realized a client had lied to me. I was shocked! Unfortunately, as the years went by, more and more of the people I dealt with — clients, opponents, trustees, beneficiaries — led me astray, and I grew jaded.

I think that at some point, every attorney realizes that someone in his or her practice — be they clients, opposing counsel, employees, referral sources or otherwise — has engaged in fraudulent or unethical behavior. Of course, as attorneys, we are obligated to watch out for, and prevent, fraudulent behavior. That’s why “The Psychology of Fraud,” a recent story on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” caught my ear.

Why some people lie. According to story, recent research reveals that many people commit fraudulent behavior because they’re not thinking about the ethical ramifications of what they are doing — rather, they are thinking in terms of a business decision.

Based on my experiences, I think there is truth to the theory. For example, I remember a conversation with a potential trust administration client: she told me that her ailing, demented mother had proposed leaving her entire estate to the potential client, even though mother would be disinheriting her other children. The prospect told me she “prayed to God” for clarity and came to the decision that accepting her mother’s offer was the right thing.

Of course, we know her decision — whether or not approved by God — wouldn’t stand up to a legal challenge. However, it’s not that my prospective client was an inherently bad person. Rather, it’s very likely she was thinking in “business” terms — what would benefit her — and had not focused on the ethical ramifications of her proposal.

By the way, I declined the case.

Is it a business or an ethical decision? The point, however, is that as attorneys, we need to be aware of the ethics of what the people around us propose and do. So, based on the research cited in the article, I think it’s useful to remember that when you are faced with a decision, or are evaluating decisions made and actions taken by the people around you, to step back, stop thinking about the issue in business terms, and consider the ethics of what is proposed.

Please let me know how this helps you!