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Author: Steve Riley

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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...

Fall is here and it’s time to begin implementing your law firm’s holiday marketing plan. Wait, though. You do have a holiday marketing plan, right? If you do, great! Let me know what you plan to do and the results you’re shooting for this year. I’d love to compare ideas. But if you don’t, then I’ve got some great tips below to get you started. Committing to creating your firm’s holiday marketing plan goes a long way to strengthen your law firm’s referral network and grow your practice. In doing so, you can enjoy the season and strengthen your business relationships. This isn’t about buying the biggest and most audacious gifts to stand out from the crowd. It’s more about acknowledging your practice’s top referral sources and strengthening those relationships. I have heard ideas that range from law firm owners dressed as Santa Claus delivering gifts to throwing parties with eggnog and snacks. It’s all about what you feel is the best way to say thank you. Here are some ideas to help you enjoy the holidays while building relationships for the year ahead: You may feel like you don’t have enough time to do some or any holiday marketing. If you have someone you can...

If you’re like most attorneys, at the end of a long day at the office, all you want to do is get home to your family and relax. You want to take it easy, especially at the end of a long week. All too often, however, you can’t relax. There are dishes in the sink, dirty clothes that need washing, and a carpet that looks like it hasn’t seen a vacuum in weeks. After a long day at work, you still have a long day ahead of you at home. As a law firm owner, you’ve hired and trained staff for key positions that keep your practice humming — from a receptionist to a client intake specialist, from a paralegal to a team leader for document drafting. There’s one position you might not have considered, however, that could really increase your productivity at work and the amount of quality time you spend with your family: a domestic assistant. I know what you’re thinking: There’s no way I can afford to hire someone to help manage my household errands and projects. I say there’s no way you can’t afford to hire a domestic assistant. Doing so will free up time for you to be...

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...

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...

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...

Running, running, running — a marathon at a sprinter's pace. All year, you've been focused on growing your practice, providing superior service for clients, and increasing profits. Whirlwind days turned into weeks, which turned into months. I encourage you to take stock of your past year by examining the big takeaways from your victories — and from your losses. But let's not rest on our laurels, okay? Because before the holidays get underway, you should set aside at least a little time for planning on how to make next year your best year ever. In fact, the first thing you can do is sign up for my upcoming webinar (Dec. 4) called "3 Things You Should Do NOW to Give Your Law Firm a Head Start in the New Year". Next, start thinking about the biggest three victories or accomplishments your firm had this year. It could be anything that brought value to your practice. Maybe it was a big court victory that brought in a ton of revenue. Maybe it was a new associate who invigorated the staff. Maybe it was a new referral source who consistently sent "A" clients to your firm. Whatever it is, take a moment to write them down. Next,...

As we watched Hurricane Michael devastate Florida’s Gulf Coast region this autumn, it reminded us that it's critical that your practice has an emergency action plan in case disaster strikes. A hurricane at least gives you time to prepare for when it hits, but other disasters — natural, terrorism-related, technological, medical — move faster, leaving no time to prepare on the fly. Your law firm needs a plan in place before a disaster strikes, and you need a strategy for how to deal with the fallout after a disaster leaves destruction in its wake. Before the storm There are real risks to not having a plan. If you or a lead attorney in your firm is incapacitated, it creates a leadership vacuum. Who is in charge to make critical decisions? Without a written protocol, your staff is left wondering, "What do we do now?" And clients may suffer from a loss of their personal information and case files. In devising an emergency action plan, a place to start is by brainstorming the worst-case scenarios. Imagining the worst thing that could happen will help your office devise a strategy to deal with the disaster. What happens if a fire breaks out that can’t be contained?...