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Could a temp-to-permanent hiring process keep bad apples from ruining your staff?

March 10, 2015

Filed under: Practice Management,Staffing Issues — admin @ 3:22 pm

When you hire someone for a position in a law firm, the interview process is daunting from both sides of the desk. You want to make the perfect hire, and the candidate wants to land the job.

But there are many factors that could make the job/candidate a poor fit. Perhaps the new hire discovers the position isn’t what she thought. Or maybe his personality doesn’t fit with your firm’s culture. It’s a costly error to hire someone and then have to build a case to fire that person.

What if you proposed a trial run in a temp-to-permanent work arrangement?

It’s a trend gaining a foothold with smaller firms and businesses across the country. However, there are several factors to consider before adopting this hiring method, which doesn’t work for every office.

What if the candidate has a job? Assuming the work wouldn’t violate their current firm’s rules, can they take a week off to work with you? Perhaps work nights and weekends on a project?

To make it worth the candidate’s time, they should be paid a reasonable contract fee.

How much time do you invest? Do you need a week, a month or milestone goals to vet the candidate?

A Microsoft Business blog by Joanna L. Krotz, offers this advice on temporary-to-permanent options: If your instincts about the potential hire are strong, give the person the job as a probationary hire. Usually, state law dictates how long these periods may last, but it’s usually 90 days.

In a recent New York Times report, CEO Jon Bischke discussed how well the process works at his 20-person company, Entelo, a recruiting software company in California.

He said more than a dozen people of 30 who agreed to the trial run were hired. For those who didn’t get the job, it was a matter of the fit wasn’t right for the candidate, he said. For others, “Let’s just say that had we hired them, we probably would have had to fire them.”

Could this approach work for you? It takes some planning, but in the long run, it might save your practice from making a bad investment.

For additional guidance, I recommend “Hire Slow, Fire Fast,” a must-read for every practice for assistance in hiring the right members, forging the winning team and managing it effectively. The book provides dozens of forms including applications, tests, surveys and checklists to help you build your dream team.

Four Cornerstones to Creating a Competitive Advantage as a Law Firm

February 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:05 pm

Most attorneys want to build a competitive advantage for their practice. However, if you don’t have the ability to master four cornerstones, it won’t happen.

It is similar to being a race car driver: If one of your four tires is flat, you can push the pedal all you want but the car will just spin in circles. A lot of lawyers have four flat tires in their practice.

In my experience, these are the four cornerstones to building a competitive advantage.

  1. Time Management. Your time management skills might be good, if not great, right now. But as your firm grows, you need to shift things. Your focus changes as your staff increases. You spend more time managing other people, processes and strategies. You are doing a lot less yourself. To make this work, your personal time management skills need to change. What worked at one level of growth, does not work at the next level. You need to constantly improve your time management and personal focus skills.
  2. Cash Flow and Profitability. Most lawyers under estimate the impact of financial strategies on your practice. For example, learning how to create a pricing context in your services can radically change your practice. Just like time management, your ability to run your practice from a financial perspective will cause quicker growth in your practice.
  3. A Great Team. Most lawyers are happy if their staff will just show up on time 80 percent of the week. Occasionally, we see lawyers build championship teams in their law firms. Those firms with amazing teams have such a competitive advantage in the market place just because of the way their teams operate. The firm may not need amazing pricing strategies, just great people.
  4. Marketing. If you have a steady flow of great clients, your confidence and revenues will always rise. If you only market periodically, then you will have inconsistent cash flow. Consistent marketers generate consistent cash flow. If you market consistently and well, your cash flow will be consistent and grow. As you market, or fail to, there goes your cash flow.

If you want to have a competitive advantage, you don’t have to do anything overly innovative. You just need to implement and consistently improve on these four cornerstones.

Webinar: 7 Traps that Stop Attorneys from Growing Revenue

February 5, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:11 am

One thing that really frustrates me as a coach is seeing otherwise great lawyers step into easily avoidable traps that keep them from growing a practice and revenue.

These traps are right in front of you. They’re pretty big and noisy. And yet, so many attorneys keep walking right into them.

Are you up for a challenge? I hope so.

Next week, I’m co-hosting a free webinar with fellow Atticus Practice Advisor David Phelps.

Our presentation, “7 Traps that Stop Attorneys from Growing Revenue,” will be held Thursday, Feb. 12, at 4pm EST.

One of our goals as coaches is to help attorneys like you avoid these missteps and to motivate you to take up the Atticus 2015 Challenge to Double Your Revenue™.

Avoiding these traps means implementing some very simple – but crucial – strategies for change. We’ll outline these strategies and offer our experience on how to best implement them in your practice through direct action.

For me, the two best things that could happen if you attend this webinar are that you’ll find the information we share valuable to your practice and that you are left excited and enthused about what’s next.

If you attend the webinar and accept our challenge, we’ll offer you a special gift that we’ll announce during the broadcast. It’s a good one, so be sure to attend.

To register, click here.

Lawyers and New Year Resolutions

January 9, 2015

Filed under: Enjoying Life,Lawyer Coaching,Stress Management,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:02 pm

I recently read an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about the best way to make your New Year’s resolutions stick. It got me to thinking about why so many lawyers struggle with their goals and what keeps them from making progress.

The article quoted an expert in cognitive behavior therapy who explained the benefits of a buddy system and why vague goals fail.

I believe lawyers must have an accountability system for implementing resolutions and goals. It is absolutely crucial to achieving them. If you don’t have someone or something holding you accountable to taking steps to achieve the goals you set forth, you are almost certain to fail. This includes goals for your practice and personal life.

The first accountability system every lawyer should start with is a time and focus management system. I won’t waste time with making recommendations on which one to use. There are several great software and cloud-based options for attorneys that are easily found with a simple search engine query. However, you will want something that allows you to block out a weekly or monthly template for times you should work on production, marketing, client appointments and projects. Don’t let your schedule or your focus be at the mercy of someone calling the office with “a quick question.”

The second accountability system you need is flesh and bone. If you don’t have a one-on-one coach or practice advisor working with you on attaining your goals, then consider joining a group coaching workshop. If neither of those things are possible for you because of constraints on time or money, then I encourage you to find a peer you would feel comfortable asking to talk with you on a weekly or monthly basis.

Ask this friend or colleague if he or she would be willing to hold you accountable to the things you’ve said you’re going to do. If you’re like most lawyers I’ve met, you’ll need this person to follow up with you on how you’re doing with your plan, so give him or her 100 percent permission to call you out on your excuses. Because you’ll make excuses. You know you will. They’ll be pretty lame ones, too.

“Oh gosh. Things are so busy right now. I haven’t had any time to do anything with this plan.”

“My staff has (insert scapegoat excuse) and that has really taken up my time.”

“One of my clients has (insert excuse), and I haven’t been able to focus on anything else.”

“Between everything going on at the office and what’s been happening at home, I couldn’t work on this.”

Another reason people fail to keep annual resolutions is because they’re making commitments to do something really big that they’ve been putting off. But the problem, according to the article, is that these “big” things are really hard to accomplish – “otherwise we would have done them already.”

Big goals sound impressive, but they’re often too much for us to take regular action on without a compelling reason – like say impending death. Nothing will make a person stick to a healthy diet or keep exercising like suffering a recent health scare. Resolutions without a “sticky” factor also are doomed.

There’s also the “no choice” category of resolutions, the article said. There are some new habits we employ without any struggle because we don’t give ourselves a choice. For some of us, these can be things like paying your bills as soon as they arrive in the mail or always wearing a bike helmet when you go riding. If you never give yourself the option to waver from this kind of habit, you don’t struggle to keep it.

For attorneys, I recommend a good place to start with a “no choice” resolution is only answering emails and returning phone calls at a specific hour during the workday – not as they come in, in between meetings, and definitely not on the weekends.

In closing: Have an accountability system. Tackle attainable goals. Give yourself no choice but to follow through with good habits.

I hope this has helped you. I’d love to hear what you’re using that has helped you make good on your New Year’s resolutions – or even your quarterly or annual goals.

Lawyers: What do you offer so pricing isn’t an issue

December 12, 2014

Filed under: Client Issues,Money,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:32 am

In any industry, regardless of what services or products you sell, pricing (or value) is always an issue. It can be a significant buying barrier when an uneducated customer attempts to make a value conscious decision when hiring for a professional service. By default, they shop by price.

Lawyers see this consistently when dealing with unsophisticated prospects. If a prospect is unsure what he’s looking for and can’t assess an attorney’s expertise and experience, he does what all consumers do: goes right to the bottom line and asks the price or your hourly rate.

The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to be outraged. In my experience, when most lawyers that are asked how their hourly rates in comparison to a competitor’s hourly rates, they are surprised or shocked. My advice is to be ready for this question. How can you help educate the prospect to understand the differences in what your practice offers over the competitor?

I saw a wonderful article in The Wall Street Journal: “Small Toy Shops Play Up the Perks.” It’s really interesting to me because it points out that over the past ten years about 40 to 50 percent of the nation’s small independent retail toy stores closed. When four major competitors control 75 percent of all toy sales, independent store owners have to think differently if they want to stay in business. They will never beat the four major players on price. Never, ever. It’s not going to happen.

So how can lawyers win in a game that’s often driven by pricing?

The article shares multiple strategies. In particular, the writer did a great job showing how personal customer service matters. It sounds like way too simple of a strategy, but some customers really are more inclined to pay a premium for better customer service.

Of course, most lawyers I’ve met would say they already offer extraordinary customer service. Their staff always answers the phone – it never goes to voice mail. The lawyer returns calls and emails promptly. And their clients are treated with the utmost respect.

Those efforts are not extraordinary, folks. They should be the bare minimum. What are you doing beyond that?

Read the article and then try to come up with just one way to improve your customer service so that pricing would not be an obstacle for prospective clients. What could that be?

Let me know what you come up with.

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