The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success

Essential Tips to Power Your Practice
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Archive for the ‘Coping with E-mail’

The Busy Lawyer’s Top Ten Tips for a Successful 2010

January 01, 2010 By: Reid and Dan Category: Client Service, Coping with E-mail, Ethics & Professionalism, Fraud prevention, Making (more) Money, Marketing and Client Development, Strategy & Planning, Technology, Wellness and balance

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

A Positive Reminder About Negative E-Mails

May 26, 2009 By: Reid Category: Coping with E-mail, Firm Management & Operations

Our friend and ABA colleague, Tom Grella, took a moment to share the following e-mail tip with us this week. More than an e-mail tip, it is sound guidance on helping to maintain law firm collegiality.  Tom says he’s not sure where he first came across this, but it has been a handy reminder taped to the corner of his computer monitor for a few years:

In general a positive tone is good – a negative, overly critical or unconstructive tone is not. The following are specific examples of undesirable behavior:
1. Needless, one or two word responses (such as ditto, right on, yea or I agree), or responses that are clearly directed toward one member, not the membership at large, and directed at another inappropriate email by someone else.
2. Direct comments about other attorneys or staff that are abusive, derogatory or defamatory.
3. Comments that could be reasonably interpreted to be malicious in intent toward any other attorney or staff member.
4. Unnecessarily or intentionally negative or unconstructive tone in comments, opinions or suggestions about the firm, or any of its attorneys or staff.
5. Comments that are divisive with intent to segregate or polarize attorneys or staff.
6. Statements with blatant, malicious, unsubstantiated inaccurate or deceptive information.
7. Unsubstantiated comments, negative or positive, about staff or attorneys.

Thanks, Tom. We all can use this reminder of the power of e-mail as a quick and often unretractable form of communication. Unfortunately, the reminder was not in time for a first-year associate at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges last week who, according to the ABA Journal, could have benefited from it taped to his monitor!

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Don’t Miss An Important Message Or Bulletin: Please Whitelist Your Bar Association, Insurer (And Anyone Else Important!)

May 12, 2009 By: Dan Category: Coping with E-mail, Ethics & Professionalism, Technology

Last night I posted on the SLAW.CA blog about a fraud warning my employer (malpractice carrier LAWPRO) sent to the 20,000 lawyers in private practice in Ontario. There is an important lesson to be learned from our e-blast.

We have received more than a dozen calls and e-mails from lawyers further to the fraud warning blast we sent out Monday afternoon this week. Thankfully, that e-mail blast prevented most of these lawyers from being victims of a bad cheque fraud.

However, two of the lawyers who called didn’t get our message because their Spam filter caught our e-blast. One happened to call us for advice on how to handle a suspicious transaction further to articles he had read in past issues of LAWPRO Magazine. The other just happened come across our message when he checked his Spam filter this afternoon.

The lesson: Spam filters aren’t perfect. They sometimes catch legitimate messages – these are called false positives. Please whitelist your Law Society, malpractice carrier and anyone else that you really need or want to get messages from. And on a regular basis please check your Spam filter for messages that should not have been caught by it. It could save you from a malpractice claim.

I did mention this point at the end of my SLAW post last night, but felt that it warranted a post of its own here to make sure people get this important message. No doubt, LAWPRO will get calls next week from lawyers that were victims of this fraud because they didn’t get our e-blast warning messages.

Eliminate your biggest daily interruption: Banish the new e-mail pop-up

April 01, 2009 By: Dan Category: Coping with E-mail

Coping with e-mail is something we all struggle with. E-mail is killing productivity for lawyers and staff alike in many law offices. For this reason coping with e-mail was one of the 8 bigger picture topics Reid and I felt deserved to be covered in our book.

And while I won’t give all our tips away here, you need to buy the book to get them, I will tempt you with what I think is one of the best tips for coping with e-mail.

Most people are presented with a beep and the “new message” pop-up window when a new e-mail message arrives in their Inbox. This innocent little pop-up window is a huge interruption and distraction. I dare say it is the biggest interruption in your day (unless you are on Twitter or another one of those other new fangled Web 2.0 tools – but that is a topic for another day).

Think about what happens when that pop-up appears on your screen. Your train of thought gets interrupted, you get bounced out of whatever you were working on, and it makes your wonder about what might have arrived.

No doubt many of you get important and even urgent e-mails, but I don’t think most of you need to know the instant every message arrives in your inbox. To get more done, turn off that darn new mail notification window! Go with just the new e-mail beep. And, if you don’t really need to know the instant something arrives in your inbox (and be truthful here – most of the time you don’t), consider turning off the beep too so it doesn’t distract you as well.

You’re going to get around to checking your inbox reasonably regularly anyway (just before your break or lunch etc.), and I guarantee you messages will all be there waiting for you.