Atticus Law Firm and Attorney Coaching Workshops

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Unless you’re independently wealthy and focus exclusively on pro bono legal work (in which case, congratulations!), you’re working to make a difference in your clients’ lives and make a profit while doing so. A profit, not just a living. Taking profit from your practice shouldn’t be treated as a bonus, it should be part of your operating principles. At Atticus, we teach our clients to take 35 percent of total revenues off the top as profit, with the remaining 65 percent for everything else, including your market-rate salary. Pay yourself a salary that reflects the work you do, no matter whether that’s $75,000 or $500,000. You pay your staff and associates (if any) a good wage, and you have to take one, too. That 35 percent before expenses is more time with family and friends, more and longer vacations, more satisfaction from the work you’ve chosen. To get there, you might need to break old habits and adopt new ones. As a solo or small practice attorney, you’re responsible for nearly everything that goes on in your firm — but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. In fact, trying to do too much can stunt your growth and profits by taking time...

Many of my coaching clients who are confident in their hourly rates are concerned about ways of determining profitability for their fixed price, or flat fee, services. They want to know how to reach a profit margin that will make them the kind of money they need to be successful. Profitability is a term that is thrown around in business settings, but people often use the word without knowing what it really means. In order to define it, let’s first talk about what profitability is not. Fair Price When I talk about profitability, I’m not talking about what you or anyone else thinks is a fair price. “Fair” is a relative term, and everyone has his or her own idea of what that means. Whose idea of “fair” are we talking about? Fair to you? To the client? Is there some sliding scale of “fair” out there? Of course not. Client Wish Profitability also has nothing to do with what the client would wish to pay. Most people are looking for ways to save money. But you are not in the business of providing the cheapest, bargain priced, clearance rack service. You are in the business of providing excellent service. And excellence costs money. If...

I am often asked by solo and small law firm attorneys if I can recommend a case management software system. They want to know: Should it be cloud-based or server-based? Which one is best? The least expensive? Which one will my staff not hate? Is there one that will do my work for me? Which one will sync with my smartphone, tablet, car, and brain? In my practice, I switched five times over 20 years to five different systems for several different reasons. Requirements In the end, I really don’t think it matters which one you choose provided that it does four critical things for you: Link your emails to the appropriate electronic case matter. If you receive an email relating a case, with one mouse button click the case management software needs to save the email into the client file so you can track what went where and when. This must be simple and fast. For example, I talked to four partners at a small firm that was using Outlook. Their “system” to save an email was to print it out (seriously!) and then put it into the client’s paper file. (I am still nauseated by this example. I could send both of...

Referral marketing is a numbers game. If you’re used to keeping your referral base data in your memory, it’s likely you’ve seen its limitations. You probably can recall facts about your clients and referral sources when you visit face to face, but you can’t perform from memory many advanced marketing functions. Contact management software allows you to perform high-level functions easier, faster and in greater numbers. You can track historical data on referral sources and other marketing contacts, generate reports on services performed and future needs identified, and inform clients and referral sources of future events in your office. Research software that is a good fit for your existing storage and record-keeping systems. These can be industry-specific and vary to individual preferences. Mailings You can track mailings to specific groups of existing and past clients for cross-selling and upgrading purposes. Target groups of clients in your database who fit the criteria for other services, such as a small business owner client who needs estate planning and asset protection. Tracking mailings also allow you to see how many referrals have been generated by existing clients over the years. You can track the follow-ups to each referral, such as a thank-you card or phone call. Database features Database features determine...

By Michael Hammond & Mark Powers Effective time management brings better clients, more profits "I don’t have the time. I’m swamped here at work. I’m telling you, I have no time to contact referral sources — let alone meet with one — I have to be in the office." Congratulations. You’re the hero, indispensable. Where's that getting you? Are nights and weekends free? Do you have the best clients? Are profits up? Probably not. But you can change your firm’s trajectory, have more time off, better clients and higher profits. All it takes is getting a handle on your time and making time for referral-based marketing. (You’re probably thinking, Easier said than done. But it’s not, really. We can help.) Even if you’re the best lawyer you know, all of that technical skill and professional expertise means nothing without good clients who need your services. Keeping your practice viable depends on your ability to generate a steady stream of new business. Client development is one of the highest and best uses of your time, and to be effective at referral-based marketing, you need to practice effective time management. Shift your mindset Here at Atticus, we’ve heard all the excuses. You’re too busy. You’re struggling to keep the lights on. You just don’t have the energy. When it comes...

If you want your solo or small practice to grow and thrive — and who doesn't? — there's no magical elixir to get you where you want to be. It takes some effort on your part, and perhaps a new way of thinking about your firm, but the formula for success can be yours. If you're stuck in a pay-the-rent mode, taking in any client who will pay a bill so you can keep the lights on, you’re on a path to burnout. You work late each night and on the weekends, running yourself ragged just to keep your firm afloat. You have no time for friends or family, a seldom-seen ghost in your own household. The clients you get? They're all pretty marginal — at best — right? To turn your practice around, you need to focus on the "A" and "B" clients and divest yourself from the "C" and "D" clients. The latter monopolize your time, have unreasonable demands and as often as not they don't pay on time or at all. They're vampires, sucking the life blood from your firm. When you focus on obtaining and keeping "A" and "B" clients — but especially "A" — your practice will be...

A good staff is the backbone of any successful law firm, and the difference between a good staff and a poor one can make or break your practice. But a good staff doesn’t happen by accident. From vetting to hiring, from training to empowerment, a good staff is built carefully with people who embrace your values and vision. When you finally have your optimal team in place, your office runs smoothly, efficiently and, we hope, profitably. A good staff, especially one that's been intact for a considerable amount of time, combines unique strengths from its members. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. A study in Harvard Business Review found "familiarity was a better predictor of performance than the individual experience of team members or project managers." Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt; it breeds competency. That said, however, turnover is the one universal truth among any workplace or organization — your law firm included. The challenge is to keep your team as intact as possible, and here’s where incentives play a part. A good, competitive salary is a must. People want to feel like they’re valued, and often they equate that to the dollars on their paychecks. But beyond salary are...

Busy attorneys find it greatly difficult to find enough time to handle the scheduling and logistics of marketing lunches, meetings, and other social events. They're too distracted by constant interruptions, difficult staffing issues and demanding clients, and so they don't take (or make) the time to do what they need to. Many attorneys can be quite good at marketing when they inadvertently find themselves in the right situations but getting there on purpose is the issue I’m addressing here. In general, most attorneys aren't very good at the initiation phase of marketing. Getting started is essential. Without someone to initiate and organize these steps, most marketing efforts never get off the ground. If you aren’t successful in setting up lunches, dinners, and meetings with referral sources, then your client development efforts are going to be haphazard. If you’re not meeting with the right people, then you're relying on happenstance to promote your practice. Instead, I'd like suggest a more proactive approach. Enter the Marketing Assistant When one of our coaching clients had difficulty marketing his firm, he sought help. It came in the form of student majoring in marketing at a local junior college. Although his new assistant had little real-world working experience, the attorney immediately noticed the...

We held our second annual SUMMIT last week, and it was an incredible success. Over 200 of our attorney clients and their law firm staff members attended this unique event. They represent the best of the best in the legal industry and in their respective practice areas. Each of the SUMMIT's three days carried a specific theme. The theme for Day 1 was Inspiration with Keynote speakers Dr. Jeffry Life, John Morgan of Morgan and Morgan, and singer-songwriter Mandy Harvey. Their presentations inspired people in the room to commit to making changes in their lives to become healthier and have the courage to take calculated risks. Mandy's presentation really instilled that a positive attitude and "tethering" yourself to the right people can make all the difference in your life and your practice. Day 2 was themed for Innovation. Eleven Dominate Your Market™ presenters spoke about innovations they implemented in their personal lives and law firms that brought them success and happiness. Kimberly Lee kicked off the day talking about her "Not Yet" projects, a concept learned after reading Mindset by Carol Dweck in the Dominate Your Market™ program. Each quarter since reading Dweck's book, Kimberly set a goal of learning something new....

The first rule of marketing is to never, ever, ever stop marketing. The second rule of marketing is to never, ever, ever stop marketing. Now is a good time to kick-start your law firm's marketing plans to make next year your best year ever. To get started, focus on the first three months of next year. Here are three questions that, when answered honestly, can help direct your firm to get a quick start: What one thing can you do in the first quarter to get your marketing moving forward? What's one thing that scares you, but you know if you did it that it would be a big marketing boost? What's one thing that would give you and your team the most marketing confidence? How you answer these questions will be different for you than for different firms and, unless you just completely drop the ball, there are really no wrong answers. Anything that gets you moving, that motivates you, is worthwhile. With that in mind, let's look at your referral marketing — because referral marketing is one of the least expensive and most productive marketing activities in which you can engage. You need a systematic process for building relationships with key referral...