The start of a new year is always a time for reflection and renewal-out with the bad and in with the good. In our book, we highlight several resolutions every lawyer should make for a safe and profitable new year. We have updated those resolutions for 2010 to include several more tips specifically to shake off the blues of 2009 and make the coming year your most successful ever!
1. Lawyers are being targeted on bad check frauds in record numbers – be alert and don’t be duped: Fraudsters posing as clients on collection matters, business finance or mortgage loans are targeting lawyers. The ruse is simple: trick lawyers into running counterfeit certified checks or bank drafts through their trust accounts. The fraudster gets legitimate funds and the lawyer is left with a shortfall-often six figures! Take 20 minutes to learn more about these scams and what you need to know to prevent them from happening to you.
2. Spend time learning LinkedIn. Facebook and other social media tools. These social networks are fast emerging as sources of new business. Create a profile, search for connections/friends, and post regularly about your practice and your professional life. If you are familiar with these networks, spend time to learn their power in more detail, or expand to other networks, such a Martindale-Hubbell Connected (Beta) or LegalOnRamp. The December 2009 issue of LAWPRO Magazine is a good social media primer as it has articles on the different social networking tools, how to use them to market yourself, and the dangers you need to be aware of when using them.
3. Book a vacation now! Everyone needs some downtime. Grab your calendar and block off two weeks together or two one week blocks. (Health experts say a 2-week vacation is best.) Get your spouse, partner or significant other to block the same dates off in his or her calendar. Those dates are sacred – don’t book anything in them. If you don’t block them off now and keep them clear you will never get the holiday your mind and body needs.
4. Resolve to improve client service and don’t do any of the eleven things that annoy clients the most: How many can you name? Don’t read the next paragraph – close your eyes and see how many you can come up with.
OK, how did you do? Here’s our list:
* Not returning phone calls.
* Not replying to e-mails.
* Making clients wait in reception.
* Ignoring client/staff incivility.
* Dropping names to impress others.
* Not clarifying for the client.
* Not delivering on promises of performance.
* Not delivering on a promised outcome.
* Not communicating during long periods of inactivity.
* Failing to be prepared.
* Sending a very large bill without warning or explanation.
See an excerpt from our book for more on the 11 biggest client annoyances, and more importantly, what you can to do avoid them. Applying the tips featured in this excerpt will help you have happier clients, and even better, reduce the likelihood you will face discipline complaints and malpractice claims.
5. Recognize the growing need for bi-lingual legal services. Consider language classes at a community college or consider popular software just to start. The world is changing, those that greet the changes will be the most successful.
6. Connect with your peers: Join the ABA Law Practice Management Section or the ABA GPSolo Division to get the best information on developing or fine-tuning your law practice. Also, join your state bar Solo and Small Firm Section to increase your networking opportunities. If your state bar does not have one, start one!
7. Don’t just say you will start a marketing plan this year–do it! For yourself and for you firm. While marketing efforts are always welcome, shotgun efforts really are inefficient. We recommend the practical and realistic plan outlined in our book as a great place to start. To keep your marketing momentum, make appointments for yourself each week throughout the year–written on your calendar now–to implement all parts of your plan.
8. Evaluate your fee structure and retainer requirements. Are you asking clients to pay for value or results? Is your message “We’ll do your last will and testament, trust, power of attorney, and medical directive for X dollars, rather than “We can protect you, your family and estate from government intervention, taxes, and most family squabbles for X dollars? Turning the discussion from “price for paper” into a discussion of “price for value” is more effective in convincing clients to hire you. Analyze, revise, and practice incorporating this new approach into your discussions with clients.
9. What is the one thing you would like to change about yourself? We all have our personal shortcomings and foibles. Some of them are small, some of them are big. Pick one things that you would like to change or improve in your personal or professional life. Write it down on a piece of paper – and then write out the steps you need to take to make the changes you want to make. This is your path to make one significant change to improve yourself over the next twelve months.
10. Buy our book – The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice. If you like the short tips format and content of the above tips, you will love our book. It contains more of the same – almost 75 collections of ten or so tips on client service, marketing, strategic planning, business process improvement, technology-all targeted to help busy lawyers be even more successful. We guarantee it will contain at least one tip that earns back your purchase price.
We wish you a happy and successful 2010!
Dan and Reid