Law Practice Tips Archive: 1 – 50

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Tip #50

Remove the Pile of Files from Your Office

If you are one of the many lawyers who moves on to the next matter without removing the files from the matter you have completed - follow through with getting the files out of your office.

You could:

  • Just do it - take time off from your practice and go through the files
  • Break the task down into manageable small components
  • Get help - schedule doing this with your assistant or someone else
  • Decide that someone else can take the files away and sort them for you

If you have not looked at files in over 6 months have someone else put them into a file cabinet and then you can review them in that area when you are able to get to them. You may not get to them either, but at least they won't be draining your energy while they are in your office and you will know where they are should you need them.

Tip #49

Rejuvenate Your Personal Batteries: Plan to Take Time Off

For a lot of lawyers taking time off is not easy. One thing that makes it easier is to plan for it. Time off includes:

  • A Two or three week vacation
  • A 4 day break
  • A weekend away
  • Days off during the week
  • Half days off during the week

Block the time off in your calendar, tell people you will be away - really commit to the time off.

Tip #48

To defeat procrastination help yourself get into action by:

  • Breaking the matter down into small steps - and take the first step.
  • Doing the background research. Find out what you need to know.
  • Delegating the matter to someone else.
  • Hiring someone to handle the matter.
  • Choose the first easy step you can take and get started. Action leads to further action.
  • Do the hard thing first.
  • Schedule time in your calendar.
  • Set deadlines that you share with someone.
  • Be realistic. (Don't let perfectionism get in your way.)

Tip #47

Defeat Procrastination by identifying the real reason why you are not doing what you should be doing

In order to defeat procrastination you must first identify the reasons behind your procrastination. Take a particular example of something on which you are procrastinating and consider whether any of these reasons are the reasons you have not done what you need to do.

  • You are trying to do too much.
  • You don't know what to do or how. This usually means you need to do some research.
  • You are afraid you will fail. Raise your consciousness about your fears.
  • Your standard is too high. Perfectionism is holding you back.
  • You are not convinced of the benefit doing the matter.
  • You are not committed to the matter.
  • You have some belief that is getting in the way. -i.e."I can't do this."

To be continued...

Tip #46

For that Personal Touch, Send Birthday Cards to Your Favorite Clients

Find out when your favorite client's birthdays are - that will mean getting to know more about them - which will result in deepening your relationship.

That may lead to

  • more fun and enjoyment in working with them,
  • more work from them, and
  • referrals from them.

Tip #45

Always Carry Plenty of Business Cards with You*

You never know when you are going to meet a potential referral source or client, so always be prepared. Have cards with you no matter where you are going.

*I am surprised how often lawyers at net working functions don't have any cards with them - or they only have one left.

Tip #44

Move Your Practice from Good to Great

What would it take to move your good practice to a great practice? Be open to the fact that there is always room for improvement. What could you improve?

Consider improving:

  • Your quality of service to clients
  • Your leadership skills
  • Delegation skills
  • Your legal skills i.e. evidence or writing
  • Personal marketing skills
  • Communication skills with clients and others

Tip #43

What are you saying no to when you say yes?

One of the easiest ways to improve your practice is to become more aware of the impact of your decisions. Ultimately, you want to choose what/where/when you say yes or no. For Example:

  • Saying yes to working late to complete a matter for a partner or client means saying no to going home to your family or another meaningful activity.
  • Saying yes to taking Saturday off means saying no to getting your office organized.

What values and principles will help you make those decisions? Making decisions in alignment with your values will help you make better yes and no choices.

Tip #42

Ask your Clients for Work

Ask your clients for additional work and referrals for new work. Let your clients know that, although you are busy, you would still like more work and referrals for new clients from them. Ask them what they need from you in order for them to refer and give you more business from them.

Tip #41

Keep your clients informed of new developments in your practice

To maintain developing relationships keep clients informed of your own business developments. Remember, your clients or referral sources don't know what is going on in your practice unless you tell them.

Tip #40

Develop Your Relationships

It is important to nurture your existing client relationships outside of the work you do for them. In order to develop them as referral sources or generate further work from them spend time getting to know them in personal conversations and doing things you both enjoy together.

Tip #39

Maintain Your Marketing All the Time

In order to keep your practice generating the kinds of clients you want it is important to market and build relationships continually . This might seem difficult when your practice is busy, yet that is the very time to keep your marketing actions going.

Those actions might be as simple as always delivering 10 out of 10 service to your clients - to spending a weekend with a client or referral source doing an activity you both enjoy.

It is critical to be aware that no matter what you are doing or how you are being you are always developing relationships that may lead to referrals or more work.

Tip #38

Prepare for the Holidays

Now (if you haven't already) is the time to prepare your holiday cards for your clients, referral sources, other lawyers, and other contacts. Include a personal note. Sending a holiday card maintains your relationship with the people that make a difference in your practice.

Are there clients or referral sources to whom you want to show your appreciation? Consider giving them something more than a card. Prepare that list now.

Take time to plan the upcoming events you will attend. This is a time full of networking opportunities. Choose wisely. Say no to those events that will not help you have the kind of practice you want. Be sure to include plenty of time for family and friends.

Tip #37

Consider Changing your Billing Habits to Improve Cash Flow

Rather than billing all your clients at the end of the month, space your billing over the month. For example, bill a quarter of your clients each week.

If you do choose to bill once a month pick a date other than the end of the month so that the client receives your bill at a point in their billing cycle that will result in you getting paid sooner.

Bill clients as soon as a matter is completed rather than waiting for the end of the month.

Bill clients bi-monthly rather than once a month.

Tip #36

The Secret to Being Organized is Consistency

Do you want to be more organized? The key is not merely setting up a new system to be more organized like new files, clearing your desk, or getting the existing piles of files out of your office. It is necessary to constantly maintain a clean desk or office. This takes daily/hourly/ongoing maintenance. Schedule time everyday to maintain your organization.

What do you need to do to start your maintenance program?

Tip #35

Acknowledge Your Support Staff

Make a point the next time you interact with your support staff to acknowledge their value to you. They are an important integral part of helping you be more successful in your practice. Let them know that.

Tip #34

Improve your Retainer Policy

What do you need to do to improve your retainer policy? Do you need to ask for a larger amount up front? Do you need to set up evergreen accounts so you are sure that money is available before you proceed with work?

Tip #33

To-Do Lists Make a Difference

Start your day by taking time to update your daily to-do list. In addition, maintain an ongoing to-do list. Make your daily to-do lists realistic - only list what you can accomplish that day. The importance of to-do lists is maintaining them. Have the preparation of them become as natural as brushing your teeth everyday. It will make a world of difference in feeling organized and not overwhelmed by all you have to accomplish.

Tip #32

Be Innovative In Developing Your Practice

In practicing law, lawyers follow precedents and advise against risk.

Use a different mind-set in developing your practice and step outside that training - be innovative and take risks. Be willing to be the first to try something new and to learn from your failures or mistakes.

Take a calculated risk - do something you have not tried before to improve some aspect of your practice.

Tip #31

Block Out Time to Accomplish Your Tasks

If you find yourself saying I did not get something done yet meant to, try blocking out time in your calendar to get the matter handled. Schedule an appointment in your calendar and then stick to it. Be realistic about scheduling the time to handle the task based on your workload.

Tip #30

Deliver Clear Expectations

When working with staff, other lawyers, and even clients it is extremely important to be very clear about what you expect from them.

For example, comments like "I wish you would do a better job dealing with clients". and, "Will you get back to the client promptly on what we discussed." and, "Please provide me with the following information as soon as possible." leave a lot of room for the listener's interpretation.

Instead, let your listener know what "a better job", "promptly", and "as soon as possible" mean by giving specific, clear instructions. Do this by using definitive statements such as: "I would like you to return calls to clients within two hours of their calling." and, "Will you get back to the client no later than 5 p.m. today?", and "Please provide me with the following information within two business days."

Delivery of clear expectations will lead to more satisfactory results.

Tip #29

Encourage Firm Cross Referrals

Promote your legal or other expertise within your own firm. Your partners, associates, and staff can be a great source of referrals. Take the time to get to know them. Make referrals to their practice. Let them know you and the nuances of your practice so they know what kind of work to refer to you.

Tip #28

Dress to Suit Your Practice

How many times have you made decisions based on someone's appearance? If you are like many of us - many times. With that in mind, dress in a professional way that will appeal to the people you want to work with in your practice. Let your appearance help people decide this is the kind of person I instinctively trust and respect.

Tip #27

Screen Potential Clients

Screen potential clients so you can say "no" earlier and not waste valuable time that could be better spent. Before taking time to meet with potential new clients first find out if you will be willing and able to handle their matter. Create some method like a questionnaire or check list of questions to find out what you need to know to make an informed decision. Trust your intuition. Learn to say "no" early.

Tip #26

Share your successes with clients, referral sources, and other lawyers

As part of your ongoing marketing or relationship building efforts share your successes with clients, referrals and other lawyers. Letting them know about the outstanding settlement or your largest or most complex transaction to date does a number of things:

  1. it helps you stay in touch so the relationship grows (don't forget to find out what they are up to);
  2. they get to find out more about your practice in a practical way;
  3. they get to know you better; and
  4. you get to feel good about yourself and savor the experience.

Enjoy your successes!

Tip #25

Listen Empathetically

Take time to listen in an empathetic, nonjudgmental, deep way to your clients, staff and other lawyers. What do they really mean behind their words? Notice that when you are worried or thinking about something else you are not giving the speaker the attention they deserve. Learn to remove your judgment or opinion from your listening.

Tip #24

Create a Plan

Make a practice development plan. Write down what you want to achieve in your practice. Keep it simple, specific, measurable and realistic. Include ways you will accomplish your plan goals. If you don't write down what you want you may end up with what you don't want. Review your plan with others to have them help you stay on track.

What do you want to achieve in the next three months, six months, year, and years? Write it down.

Tip #23

Be passionate about your work

If you are passionate about your work you will increase your enjoyment, attract quality clients, and reduce stress.

Where does your passion or energy coming from?

Tip #22

Be the best you can be

Do your work extremely well. What skills, if any, do you need to improve to be the best you can be? i.e.: Communication, negotiation, organization, trial skills, writing, getting results, delegation, or general competence. Decide one thing that you can do better and work on improving that so that you can be the best you can be. That will help you increase your satisfaction in your practice.

Tip #21

Consider your limiting beliefs

Take some time to think about your beliefs regarding your practice that limit or stop you from achieving more. If you stop and really think them through you may realize that you can do what you have not been doing. Expand your comfort zone.

The following are some common practice limiting beliefs:

  • "That is not professional."
  • "It is easier to do this myself.
  • "I can't ask for favors."
  • "They might say no."
  • "I don't want to brag."
  • "I don't know how."

Tip #20

Get comfortable with self-promotion

People who thrive in business are the ones who naturally market themselves to the right people in the right way. Self-marketing does not have to be an onerous process if your marketing components are designed based on who you are. Know Yourself
  • What are your values?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • How do you operate?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Tip #19

Ramp up your delegation ability!

One of the ways to successfully work less and earn more in your practice is to have others do whatever they can do to help with the workload. Delegate everything you can delegate so that you can concentrate on being the best lawyer for your clients delivering services that only you can deliver.

Tip #18

Determine the clients you want to attract as future clients.

You need to know what you want in order to go and get it. So deciding what kind of clients you want in your practice is a crucial step in having the clients you want to show up. Figure out who and what they are by looking at the kinds of clients you all ready work with. What do you like about he ones you like? What don't you like about the ones you don't like? Who are they, what do they do? How are they to work with? Then notice how they came into your practice. Then come up with a plan to create more of the clients you like to show up?

Tip #17

Savor your celebrations!

Take time to enjoy and savor your practice celebrations or successes! Slow down and resist moving on to the next matter. Relish the feeling of accomplishment. Celebrate with your client as well as on your own.

The benefits of savoring successes include 1) enjoying your practice more, 2) slowing the pace of your practice down, 3) having your client appreciate what you really accomplished, and 4) taking time to reflect on the experience so you can learn and grow from your experience.

Tip #16

Find something to laugh about at least once a day! :)

Laughter is great medicine and will help you deal with the stresses of your practice.

Law Practice Tips 1 - 15 can now be found at Irene's blog.