Lawyers: Get Ready for the End of Year Sprint
September 10, 2014
How are you approaching the end of the year? Yes, we haven’t even reached Halloween, but it’s not too early to decide how you will maximize your time and efforts during the last few months of 2014.
If you’ve been following me for very long, you’ve likely heard me talk about a strategy I call the End of the Year Sprint™. I addressed it last year in my blog, and I’m revisiting the topic because it’s a yearly habit you should be doing to grow your practice. You’ll have to forgive me if some of this advice seems like a rehash; frankly, it is. But I believe this is an important annual process lawyers should complete, and so I am hoping you’ll forgive the repetition.
There is an actual worksheet I’ve created using that title, but this exercise— once you understand it — can actually be done quite easily on a large sheet of blank paper that you’ve divided into four quadrants.
Before I explain the exercise, let’s dig a little deeper into how lawyers typically approach the end of the year. In my experience, there are the two ways they handle it:
The Worst Way
- The end of year sneaks up on you like a mugger and clobbers you.
- You are and your team are distracted by the holidays.
- Cash flow is inconsistent.
- Suddenly January is here, and you are surprised to see it.
The Best Way
- You see the end of the year like a finish line and sprint to it with intensity.
- You sprint with focus and clarity to drive great results.
- You create a contest or game with your team.
- You maximize your cash flow.
- You start setting up 2015 to be the best year ever.
If the “best” way makes sense to you, then here is how I suggest you approach the sprint:
Budget one full hour on this week’s calendar for you to do this exercise. At that time, take out a large sheet of blank paper. (An 11×17 sheet works best, but you can improvise by taping together two standard letter-sized sheets.) Position it horizontally and draw a large cross dividing the sheet into four quadrants.
Label your four quadrants with these headings and follow the instructions:
- Cash Flow – To maximize your cash flow, list your best financial opportunities for the rest of the year and put together a quick written plan on how to get them accomplished. Rank your highest dollar cases first.
- Marketing – Identify your top five marketing opportunities that will happen before the end of the year and draft a plan on how to get the most out of your marketing efforts.
- Projects – Identify your three most important projects you want to complete before year end. If possible, assign a project manager to help you complete them by year end.
- Next Year – Answer these questions to set up strategic planning for 2015.
- What would it take for 2015 to be the best year ever?
- What would you have to do now to start the ground work for 2015?
- What support would you need for 2015 to be the best ever? (Do you need to plan a firm retreat? Hire a coach? Join a quarterly group program?)
Filling out these four steps, while not replacing the power of a live workshop, can at least give you the sense of how to set up and do an End of Year Sprint in your own practice.
Doubling Your Revenue is a Competitive Advantage
August 13, 2014
What would it mean to the growth of your practice if you innovated your way into doubling your revenue? Significantly more revenue would certainly give your law firm a competitive advantage over the other players in your market.
For more than 15 years, I’ve coached attorneys one-on-one and in group workshops. One of the most powerful programs I have developed in that time has been the Double Your Revenue™ workshop. In the past, I led this program about twice a year to groups of 10-30 attorneys, each seeking to create a plan to dramatically grow their practices (and profits) without doubling their workloads.
Several other projects have prevented me from teaching this workshop for a couple years, and I’ve really missed doing it. Traditionally, the workshop took two days to complete and attendance cost nearly $1,500 per attorney. That proved an obstacle for some attorneys who wanted to attend but couldn’t take two or more days away from the office.
The big news: Together with my partners at Atticus, we are “un-retiring” the Double Your Revenue™ workshop! The new version will now last just one day. And, the price will be even more affordable – likely less than $1,000 per attorney. The exact tuition fee hasn’t been set because we are still making final negotiations on a hotel contract.
Atticus is looking to host two separate classes for this workshop in Dallas, Texas. We’re capping enrollment at 15 attorneys per session. The first workshop is set for Thursday Nov. 13. When the first session’s enrollment fills, we’ll open up registration for the second session – set for Friday Nov. 14.
Atticus hasn’t yet opened up enrollment for these two dates to the public, but that will happen soon.
In this message, I’m providing coaching clients, former workshop attendees and followers of my blog and newsletter the very first information about how to enroll in this workshop at a reduced cost. When enrollment opens to the public, it will be offered at a higher retail price than the level I’m talking to you about now. And so, I am asking you to clear these dates on your calendar and let me know if I can expect to see you.
I’ll be teaching these sessions with Atticus co-founder Mark Powers. If you consider having both of us as instructors better than just one of us, then you should understand that this will be the only Double Your Revenue™ workshop that we will teach together, side-by-side.
I know this workshop has changed lives. One attorney saw such good results that he enrolled two more times, returning every few years after continuing to double his revenue.
The Double Your Revenue Workshop™ addresses every phase of the professional’s practice, utilizing a variety of unique strategies, including:
- The Practice Comfort Trap™ – This concept allows you to distinguish what invisible barriers freeze practices in place and identify the blind spots that prevent growth.
- The Brainstorming Sprints – This breakthrough process helps you create 60 to 80 ideas you can use toward doubling your revenue.
- The Virtual Board™ – This practical exercise allows participants to test their plan by sharing it with a virtual Board of Directors of other participants.
- The 90-Day Growth Accelerator™ – This strategy empowers you and your support team to stay focused on immediate growth for the critical first 90 days after the workshop.
At the end of the session, participants will have a written, step-by-step plan that will allow them to implement the best and most effective ideas they generated at the program.
If you want to Double Your Revenue™ and have a competitive advantage, act NOW and follow up with me. If you are unhappy with the program, after attending the session and implementing our strategies, we offer a complete money back guarantee.
Lawyers: Don’t Let Technology Steal Your Clients
April 7, 2014
Look, I’m no Henny Penny. But it is true that I’ve been warning any lawyers that will listen how recent changes in technology are encroaching on legal services they provide to clients. For more than a few years, I’ve been talking about this issue in group workshops and one-one-one conversations with my coaching clients. Technology is a major game changer.
Those of you that have seen my presentation on “5 Predictions About the Future and 10 Strategies to Grow Your Practice,” know that I am pounding lawyers to really think about protecting their futures.
Now is the time to ask yourself: “In 10 years, what will my practice look like?”
A recent CNN story, “Here Come the Robot Lawyers,” only further highlights the competitive pressure advances in technology are bringing down on attorneys.
Technology isn’t just picking up services like drafting basic legal documents. It’s also wiping out entry level positions once considered the classic “apprentice” roles to learn the business. Those positions are vanishing, and I’m hearing about it firsthand.
I met a young lawyer who received his law degree a little more than a year ago. For months, he searched for a position at a firm, but he ended up opening a solo practice because he could not find a decent entry level job.
Learning how to research, write, and prepare legal documents in the real world of practicing law — as opposed to talking about it in a classroom — is a critical learning path for young lawyers in entry level law firm jobs. I’m not sure how future lawyers can learn these skills as well as we did after all the entry level jobs disappear.
This issue opens up many interesting questions for us as practitioners. What does this mean to us as owners of law firms? How can we use technology to cement our role in the market? How do we use it to increase value to our referral sources and clients?
If you have not seen the CNN article, check it out. Those of you that are enrolled in the Atticus quarterly workshops, the Practice Growth Program and Dominate Your Market, know firsthand that practice management consultants like myself are encouraging you to look upstream and deal with these coming trends now.
If you don’t do anything, you might as well expect to be replaced by a robot attorney.
Your Exit Strategy Starts Today, Not Tomorrow.
March 17, 2014
The greatest challenge in planning an exit strategy from your law practice is that most lawyers don’t think about working today to make their practice more valuable tomorrow.
They put off thinking through how to make the practice valuable to a buyer. I have looked at this from many different viewpoints, including: selling my practice, looking to buy another practice, negotiating to have lateral partners merge, and examining what is the “real” street value of a practice versus the appraised value.
There are three key things to consider working on today that will increase the value of your practice tomorrow.
- Your case management system. There is tremendous value in an updated, thought out, and organized case management system. If you can email all of your clients to announce a merger, a marketing program, a workshop, or a law change, then you are on the right path. If you are thinking, “That is a really neat idea, but I would never do that,” then you may be on the wrong path to making your practice valuable.
- Your team. How dependent is the law firm on you? In my experience, the more dependent the firm is on your presence, the less valuable your firm will be to a buyer. The more your team can move work out the door without your intimate involvement, then the more valuable the firm will be.
- Your marketing. Do you have an annual marketing calendar? How many great referral sources do you have that you can transfer to a buyer? 100? 10? Or just 2? The more you can help a buyer transfer those referral relationships the more valuable your practice will be.
Potential buyers will be looking to answer three questions in assessing your firm’s value:
Can I run it efficiently? (case management)
Can I get work out the door profitably? (a good team)
What are my marketing resources and can they drive work in the door? (marketing calendar and referrals)
In my experience, lawyers should be working on these key issues with daily improvements to make their practices more valuable when they exit.
Lawyers: Hire a staff that shares your values
February 11, 2014
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This article is part of a series to help busy lawyers recruit, train and manage a great team. If you have suggestions or questions, please contact me.
Law school taught us how to argue a point effectively, research court precedents and write compelling court petitions, but it didn’t offer most of us any actual business training — chiefly, how to hire and train employees for the law firms we would one day own or manage.
One of the biggest traps we can fall into as business owners is hiring staff members in a panic.
The following scenario might sound familiar:
A key staff member either quits unexpectedly or must be fired by you or your office manager. The crucial work this person did daily is going to pile up quickly. Most of it cannot be parsed out to other staff members. Clients will be phoning soon asking for progress reports. Important court filing deadlines are looming. And, of course, you have no viable candidates to replace this person because you haven’t been actively recruiting in preparation for staff turnover.
This is usually when many lawyers will quickly throw up a Craigslist ad full of high expectations for minimal pay. They sift through a barrage of emailed replies from desperate job seekers and proceed to interview and hire the first person who listed any work experience in a law firm.
Fast forward a few months or a couple years. Rinse, repeat. It’s a vicious cycle. I want to help you avoid this. To collect and keep a great team for your great practice, you need a foundation of values and skills to build upon.
First, let’s define what I mean by values. These are a person’s — or a firm’s — principles or standards of behavior, the internal compass about what’s good, right and important.
A fundamental value that many firms and individuals follow is The Golden Rule, — treating others as you would like to be treated.
When I set out to build a great team, I evaluate candidates on values such as integrity, accountability, work ethic and being a positive thinker. But, of course, because every team member is different and brings a different compass to the table, frustrations are bound to arise.
As the owner or managing partner of a law firm, you can deal with myriad problems, or frustrations, on a daily basis. These might include:
- My staff doesn’t show up on time. This directly eats away at productivity and profitability.
- They don’t listen. Communication isn’t just talking — it’s listening intently so there is no doubt about what is required.
- They don’t care about their work. If they don’t care, it will show, and the firm will suffer in the long run.
- They have no work ethic. If they’re on Facebook half the time, how are they going to meet deadlines?
- They don’t help each other. You can’t build a successful team without teamwork.
Note the distinction I’m making here. These aren’t problems with an employees’ skills, these are all related to an individual’s values.
To avoid these common frustrations, you must lay out what’s important to you and the firm. Clarify what really matters and educate your team about it. When that’s done, periodically grade your team to see who gets it — and who doesn’t.
Of course, great values alone won’t build a great team and a great practice. You need people with great skills, too.
Skills are, simply, the ability to do a task well, or expertise in a certain aspect of work. Some examples of skills I need in my great team are:
- Customer service. At the most basic level, we have to meet customers’ needs to be successful.
- Software expertise. Simply knowing how to use Microsoft Word is not an advanced skill. In today’s business environment, proficient use of standard office programs is expected. Test applicants on those programs. For expertise, I look for applicants with experience using CRM (customer relationship management) systems, document drafting software and writing spreadsheet formulas.
- Accounting accuracy. This is how we keep score.
- Drafting documents. I want staff members that can draw up documents, always making sure they double check their work against my notes.
The best thing about skills is that they can be trained. I can take a worker with great values and train her with the skills I need to build my great team.
Next time, we’ll talk about how you, as the owner or managing partner, can be a great part of your team.
I hope this information was useful to you, and if you have a specific case or a question, don’t hesitate to contact me.