Category Archives: Inspiration

Richard St. John’s 8 Secrets of Success

“An Apostrophe Is the Difference Between…”


via Lifehacker

The lesson here is attention to detail matters.

I’ve seen some pretty bad motions, briefs, and even website content written by lawyers over the years.  Surprisingly, many of them come from more “seasoned” attorneys.  One possible explanation could be that they’re too comfortable and letting their standards drop or that they’re letting associates or paralegals do their work without checking.  If you’re a new or solo attorney, one way to stand out, to your clients, other attorneys or in court, is to pay attention to details.

Spell check your work.  Grammar check your work.  Proofread your work.  Details.

The Will to Act

“The training is nothing.  Will is everything.  The will to act.”

I had the honor last week of presenting with some great speakers and marketing gurus for attorneys in the country.  It was sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association and LOMAP and is available for free On-Demand if you are a MBA member.

My talk was towards the end of the program, where many a wiser speakers in marketing already came before me and spoke.  They talked about social media, referral marketing, SEO and the like.  I didn’t feel the need to repeat what they said but I did spend about 5 minutes telling the room everything that I do marketing my firm.

Why give away all my secrets?

Well, it’s because it’s not really a secret.  Knowledge is no longer as powerful as it once was before the age of the Internet and Google.   Almost everything that you need to know about the topics that the speakers were there to talk about, you can find more information about online.  It is not a secret.

So why were they there?  More importantly, why isn’t every lawyer marketing to their fullest potential and why are there lawyers in practice still struggling after many years?  It’s simple – The will to act.

The ideas for marketing yourself and your law firm are surprisingly simple.  The execution is hard work.  It is not that we don’t know what to do, or at least where to find out the ideas.  We drop the ball because we’re either too lazy to do the hard work or we’re too discouraged.

Laziness is easy to cure.  You just need to get off your butt and do it.  Being too discouraged is a bit harder to remedy.  How do you tell yourself to do better; motivate yourself; inspire yourself?

The problem often is in your attitude.  If you pay attention to people who fail, it usually starts with their attitude, which leads to their thoughts and words, which leads to their action (or inaction).  Those who fail can usually find any excuse to fail.  Once you believe you will fail, it is not hard to make it happen.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  But if you believe that you can succeed, you are no longer wasting your time thinking about excuses for why you cannot, but instead open your mind to the possibility of how you can.

So the next time you start to catch yourself thinking or saying “I can’t because…”, instead think or ask yourself, “How can I…?”

Motivational Video for New Solo Attorneys

So you’re hanging a shingle – now what? (PODCAST)

I had the pleasure of talking with Attorney Kyle Guelcher on his new podcast show on the Legal Talk Network.  His new show is called New Solo and he’s going to be interviewing guests that will be able to speak about being a new solo or giving advice to new solos and how to practice law.

A Survey of Small Firm Salary

This post is courtesy of Above the Law

Above the Law took a poll recently to determine what small and solo lawyers make in terms of salary.  There’s a lot of information and it’s hardly scientific but it still provides a good yardstick in which to measure growth.

This graph says it best:

Also in the post, it boils down all the numbers and deletes the top earners to get an average salary of $175,000/year as a small/solo practitioner.

There are many ways to take these numbers but we should take them with a grain of salt.  Attorney salary will differ depending on practice areas, geographic location, years in practice, client base, etc.  Bottom line: if you make more than the average as stated by Above the Law – great!  If you make less – don’t be discouraged.

Old Fashion Resources for Starting a Law Firm

…By old fashion, I mean traditional paper books.  When I started my law practice 3 years ago, I didn’t read real books to learn the how-tos – I used the internet and listservs and forums to get the information I need.  However, there are those that like a book in hand.  Here are two of the leading books on the topic of starting a law firm and how to succeed.

Carolyn Elefant’s book “Solo by Choice: How to be the lawyer you always wanted to be” is cited often as the modern Foonberg (next on the list) book.  I’ve had the pleasure of having her donate a copy to me for the Mass Bar and I read through it.  It is very informative, of course – but what surprises me is that she lays out more than one road to success.  That makes sense because not every lawyer wants to build a large firm and multi-million dollar corporate book of business.  There should be different options for different types of lawyers.

Next is the classic Jay Foonberg “How to Start & Build a Law Practice”, which has been a staple since the first edition back in the ’70s.  I admit that I do not have this book and I’ve never read it.  However, it’s been highly recommended and so I recommend it to you as a good physical resource for starting a law practice.

Even though there are lots of other books you can get on places such as Amazon that “teaches” you how to build a law practice, these two are the best.  However, don’t limit yourself to only those resources that teach lawyers.  Building a law practice is not so different from building a lot of other types of businesses, so take inspiration from other businesses.  Here are other non-legal books I recommend:

Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” teaches how to build relationships and how to network.

Henry Beckwith talks about “Selling the Invisible” – services, not products off a shelf.

Robert Kiyosaki’s claim to fame book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is a great read.  Though some has criticized his marketing strategies after the hit book and his over-reliance on real estate investment, learning the fundamentals of how to build wealth is still valuable in and of itself.

John Grisham – in his own words – Started Out Solo

There are a million reason why we start out solo and then a million roads we can take to reach success.  Some people’s success is a profitable firm and a family to go home to.  Some people’s success is growing beyond a solo.  Then there’s John Grisham’s success, which turned out to be a novelist.

This is his story.

Boxers, Briefs and Books

Life – Directions

[via Holstee Manifesto]

How to Answer “How old are you?” When Clients Ask

I’m 28 years old.  When I started my law firm, I was 25 years old.  Not only was I very green behind the ears, I could’ve passed for an 18 year old.  For some people, I suppose that’s a blessing but for an attorney just starting out and desperately trying to get business, it’s a curse.

Many times when I meet a client in person, I was asked, “You look young.  How old are you?”  In fact, I still get asked that question today, but a lot less often (I’ll tell you why later).  When I was first asked this question, I was at a loss for words.  A million things ran through my head: Do I actually tell them how old I am?  They’re gonna think that 25 is way too young.  These people have kids older than me!

What I eventually came to realize is that I shouldn’t be afraid to tell them how old I am.  And if I do my job right from the start, they’ll ask less about how old I am.  What I ultimately realized was that they don’t really care how old I am.  What they really want to know is “Do you have the necessary skill and experience to handle my case?”  But instead of asking that question which could be rude and embarrassing to the client to ask, they ask me how old I am instead and they use my age as a yardstick to gauge my level of expertise.

The reason why 3 years later, I get a lot less first-time clients asking me about  my age is because I’ve developed a system of extensive and lengthy intake before I actually meet with the client in person.  We talk about their case and the law and the fees all before they come into the office to see me for the first time.  So that by the time they actually come in, they’re ready to sign on with me with retainer check in hand.  Because of this extensive intake, most of them no longer is suspicious whether or not I have the level of expertise to help them with their case because I’ve already shown them my grasp of the law during the intake process.  And because they no longer worry about my skills and experience, they don’t need to ask me about  my age.

I still get a few “How old are you?” questions from clients sometimes but the tone is entirely different now.  They ask it as a point of making conversation and not something that hinges on whether or not they’ll engage my firm.  I also have no reservations about telling them proudly that I’m 28 years old and yes I own my own small firm with associate and support staff.

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