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37 posts from December 2006

December 22, 2006

Resolutions III: December 22

Resolve to get less business. 

Step One:  Go through your client list and place a check next to every client who:

  • you hate
  • treats your staff poorly
  • never pays on time
  • always complains about everything – including your service
  • is never happy with anything
  • etc.

Step Two:  Figure out how much of your income comes from these clients.  Fire them.  If too much income comes from clients you hate serving, find a different practice area or a different job.

Step Three:  While you are at it, look at your calendar for the last year.  How many things (like family outings, vacations, and your children’s activities) didn’t you get to do because you had to work?  Add up the amount of money you made by missing these events.

Step Four:  Add the amounts from Steps Two and Three.  Increase your hourly rate (unless you already use value pricing) to make up for the business you are letting go.

Step Five:  Explain your rate increase to clients by telling them you decided to work for fewer clients to deliver the remaining ones better service (and to remain sane). 

Step Six:  Deliver that better service to your remaining clients.  Spend more time with your family.  Be happier. 

December 21, 2006

Resolutions III: December 21

Resolve to help your clients help each other.

Step One:  In addition to your normal engagement agreement, develop a “Client Promotion Agreement” that your clients sign that permits you to discuss with others what they do (in a most generic sense) and allows you to introduce them to others who can help them/buy from them/sell to them/etc.*

Step Two:  When asking them to sign the Client Promotion Agreement, explain to them that you take their privacy very seriously, but also believe in helping them and their business in any way that you can, and that you have many clients whom they might benefit from being introduced to.

Step Three:  Get to know as much as you can about your clients’ non-legal needs.  Try not to charge for these conversations (and do it at their place of business, if you can).  Ask them questions like these:

 What are the most common problems your customers have that you aren’t able to help them with?

What one thing could you do this year with someone’s help that would have the greatest impact on your business?

Step Four:  Introduce them to others who can help them.

 

* Though you may not ethically need this agreement (or you could cover it in your engagement agreement) it is a good way to reinforce how much you care about them and a nice way to begin the rest of the conversation about how to help them.

December 20, 2006

Resolutions III: December 20

Resolve to ease the technology burden on your employees.  Here’s how:

1.  Ask everyone in your office to keep track of every computer application and web-based tool they use each week.

2.  Have everyone rate each application/tool on “ease of use” on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being easiest.

3.  Either get rid of the applications that scored a 1, 2 or 3, or invest in training to teach everyone how to use them.

December 19, 2006

The 18 Percent Solution - January 23, 2007

I’ve been working with several great people to develop a small business seminar here in St. Louis on January 23rd called The 18 Percent Solution.  It takes place at the amazing Gran Prix Speedway in Earth City.

The entire event is focused on sharing innovative tips and tricks that help small businesses thrive.  I’ll have a lot more on the event over on my Idea Surplus Disorder Blog tomorrow, including a preview of the creativity and innovation portion of the program I’m running (think UnConference + LexThink + Idea Market + Go Cart Racing).

If you sign up at the link above and add “Homann” in the special instruction field, you’ll save $20 off the normal price ($95 before 1/3 and $125 after).

See you on the 23rd!

17 Lawyer Tips: A Mini Manifesto

After writing 15 Client Tips: A Mini Manifesto, I figured that turnabout is fair play.  Here are 17 for Lawyers:

1.  Whenever your clients don’t understand what you are doing for them, they think about what you are doing to them.

2.  Many of your clients remain your clients because it is a pain in the ass to find another laywer – not because they love you.

3.  Every time your clients get your bill, they think about how beautiful your office is and about the nice car you drive.  And they wonder if you are worth it. 

4.  If your office is a dump and you drive a wreck, they wonder about that too.

5.  If your client doesn’t pay you, fire them.  Don’t ignore them.

6.  At least once a year, tell a client, “It’s on the house.”

7.  Taking a client to play golf doesn’t show how good a lawyer you are.  It shows how good a golfer you are.

8.  Quit being a pompous, demanding jerk around the office.  If you can’t keep good staff, you don’t deserve good clients.

9.  Your clients will always know their business better than you do.  They may even know the law better than you.  Make sure to seek their advice before giving yours.

10.  A lawyer charging extra for stamps and copies is like a car wash charging extra for water.  Stop it now.

11.  Your clients have wants.  Your clients have needs.  They often don’t know the difference.

12.  Whenever you interrupt a client meeting to take an “important” call, your client thinks about hiring another lawyer.

13.  Imagine a world where your clients knew each month how much their bill from you will be so they could plan for it.  They do.

14.  If you hate being a lawyer, be something else.  You are smart.  You’ll figure it out.

15.  A bill is not communication.  At least not the good kind.

16.  When is the last time you called a client just to thank them for being your client?  That’s what I thought.

17.    People don’t tell lawyer jokes just because they are funny.  They tell lawyer jokes because they think they are true.  Spend your career proving them wrong.

Resolutions III: December 19

Today’s resolution is to do this exercise every week:

Write down your priorities.  Now look at your calendar.  Do the things you spend your time on mirror the things you think you should be doing?  Probably not – and it could be the primary reason you are dissatisfied with what you do.

Either your priorities will change to match your daily routine, or vice versa. 

I think this would be even more powerful if done office-wide, with this additional wrinkle: 

In addition to comparing everyone’s priorities with their calendars, ask everyone in a supervisory role to list the priorities of those they supervise.  Ask the supervised employees to list the priorities they think they are supposed to have.  Compare and discuss. 

December 18, 2006

Resolutions III: December 18

Distribute a monthly Postcard-Sized Newsletter from your firm.

December 17, 2006

Resolutions III: December 17

Here’s one of my favorite ideas from 2006:  Have a Trade Your Headache Day in your office:

Unless you are among the small percentage of hyper-motivated and totally focused people out there in the world, you know you have at least one “headache” sitting in a pile on your desk or on your to-do list.  It may be that project you keep putting off, that client you hate dealing with, or that phone call you just don’t want to make.  No matter what it is, imagine how happy you’d be tomorrow if it weren’t your responsibility any longer.

Well, odds are your co-workers have similar “headaches” they face every day too.  Here is a way to cope: 

Every week (or month) get together with your co-workers and bring your number one headache with you.  Identify it, and then trade it with one that someone else brought.  Think of it like kind of a regular white elephant gift exchange.  Just make sure the same headache doesn’t get traded over and over again.

December 16, 2006

Resolutions III: December 16

The first week of 2007, go buy seven decks of cards. (via Eric Maisel, and this post on Worthwhile):

Get seven decks of cards with similar backs. Lay out all seven decks on your living room rug, backs showing. This is a year of days (give or take). Let the magnitude of a year sink in. Experience this wonderful availability of time. (This is a powerful exercise.)

Carefully count the number of days between two widely-separated holidays, for instance New Year's Day and the Fourth of July. Envision starting a large project on that first holiday (today!) and completing it by the second.

December 15, 2006

Resolutions III: December 15

Read “The Yes Man” by Danny Wallace – a book about what happens when a guy says “yes” to literally everything for a year.  Scott Ginsberg suggested I read this book about six months ago.  I did, and since then I’ve recommended this book to more people than any other book I’ve ever read.  It can be a real life changer.