Ed discusses the most important factors of starting a solo firm.
Dr. Oz, the popular television medic, recently said that high blood pressure is the "silent killer." Stress, he said, is one of the major causes of high blood pressure.
Lawyers I talk with almost universally tell me about the stress under which they labor. Because of this, I am on the lookout for ways that my advice about improving the lawyer's operations may also have the impact of reducing his/her stress level. Thus, I am always viewing the practice from a holistic perspective, addressing revenue improvement, operations changes that impact profit, and stress reduction that improves both the professional and personal life of the lawyer. Just knowing that you now have an accountability partner (me as the coach) goes a long way to reduce the stress. For the first time, you really have someone to talk with who can be objective and with whom you can show vulnerability.
In the February 13th edition of the L.A. Times, an article featured a lawyer who clearly is a workaholic. But, she has a marvelous and somewhat unusual perspective of her workload. As the headline says, "stress can hinge on attitudes about work." In other words, if you love what you're doing, it's not work; if it's not work, you may be exhausted at the end of the day, but you won't be stressed out and unable to cope with your environment. Clearly, this lawyer enjoys what she does. Of course, the feature article didn't hurt her publicity efforts either.
With this article, came a new word or label, at least for me: "engaged workaholic." Said differently, if you are engaged with what you're doing, if you love what you do, then it's not "work." It's play ... and how can you get too stressed when you're playing.
Or, as my father used to say about his work, "... This is my hobby. This is what I love to do."
My hope for you (and therefore your clients) is that you love what you do ... and enthusiastically show your clients how to successfully address the challenges they bring to you.
There is much talk about how competitive the legal market has become. And this reminds me of an old Chinese proverb: “He who doesn't turn runs far. “
In track and field events, the coach tells you to look at the tape in front of you, not who is behind you. Likewise, in running your law practice, do the best you can, focus on your skills (and improve them), on the efficiency and cost of delivering your legal services (use technology to improve your efficiency) ... and, of course, on your clients and their needs (and wants). Then, you will have given it (your profession) your best shot.
John Wooden said, “The scoreboard? Championships? A sales quota? The bottom line? As goals, predictions, hopes, or dreams to be sealed up (in an envelope) and filed away, fine. But, as a day to day preoccupation they’re a waste of time, stealing attention and effort from the present and squandering it on the future. You control the former, not the latter.
“An organization - a team - that’s always looking up at the scoreboard will find a worthy opponent stealing the ball right out from under you....” Coach seldom scouted the opposition, focusing instead on what needed to be done to improve his team and prepare them to be the best they could be.
How do we get from here to there? Jim Collins, in his Good to Great, describes CEOs with many different styles, but all successfully leading their companies to the pinnacles of success. How do we do that for ourselves? Is wanting something enough? Is the intention to be great, to be successful, to be rich enough? Is imagining or visualizing the "there" enough?
I suspect not. First, we must identify where we are. Then we must honestly address what our current state or condition is. And finally, we must develop new approaches to deal with the troubling challenges we face. As Dr. Phil might say, in the popular vernacular, "How's this working for you?" And if what you're doing now isn't working for you, you've got to change your pattern, your actions ... and not merely wanting the change. You've first got to think it through and, then as my coach, Alan Weiss, might say, develop the "Resolve" to change.
Are you in a good employment situation, do you have a good law firm partnership, do you have the kind and number of clients you want? If not, what are you going to do to make the change you want? One approach might be to engage a coach to provide you with meaningful feedback.
From time to time, we will have a guest on our blog. This is something new for LawBiz Blog and we hope you find value in the expertise of those who will join us on occasion.
This week, Erik M. Pelton with Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC is our guest blogger.
Creating and managing a successful solo or small firm is no easy task. But given the tools available today, it is easier than ever. And more and more clients today appreciate and even seek the personal relationships provided by boutique firms. Here are ten keys areas which every small or solo firm can master to propel it to greater success, growth and profit.Continue Reading...
Our travels have taken us over 8,000 miles thus far. We finally turned the corner in Cleveland and have begun our trek back west. Today, we left Chicago for Madison and will go to Minneapolis and Omaha before boogeying back home. We will likely have traveled more than 11,000 by the time of our return.
Despite the diversity of our geography and of our people, I have found that lawyers are facing the same issues irrespective of whether they are in small communities or larger cities, in solo practice or in major law firms, in general practice or in a specialty boutique. Are there differences? Yes, but I like to view it in terms of nuances rather than differences. In other words, the "differences" are smaller in nature than many contend.
Oh, I know, we all think we're different. We all think we're special and face special circumstances. My experiences in both industry and in law tells me different, that all commercial enterprises, whether professional or trade, have the same basic characteristics. In other words, we all have to get the business (marketing), do the work (production) and get paid (finance). Each of us excel in certain areas and need guidance and support in others.
My travels has renewed my energy to coach and to produce more material (audio and electronic) that will guide lawyers to improve their connection with their clients. Though our trip has not yet concluded, it's never to early to thank those many lawyers who've attended our programs and been generous with their comments of support. I look forward to continuing our work together.
I've talked about internships for lawyers. We've discussed articling in Canada. And now I find out that the State of Georgia has a mandatory mentoring program for brand new lawyers. Perhaps we're not so far away from the internship process. On the other hand, since Georgia has been working this path for quite a few years and others have yet to follow, perhaps it's still a pipe dream that even the current recession won't make happen at either the law school or Bar level. It may still take the combination of law firms and client demands to create an effective post-law school education program for learning how to become a lawyer.
I competed in two events at the Senior Olympics held this week in Los Angeles. I previously reported my results. I've been thinking further about the process of the competition and came up with ideas about how the competition relates to my life, and the lives of many people in our profession. Below is how I see the Senior Olympics on the one hand and how they are a metaphor in real life. If you have other events in your life that you care to share, please write me.Continue Reading...
I was coaching a client today. She pulled at my heart strings by telling me the problems she is having with several of her clients who owe her money, big sums of money.
One of the clients paid her $37,000 two weeks ago and already owes her another $27,000. After complaining about some of the services and getting a $5,000 reduction in billing, he has not yet committed to a date certain for payment of this amount. Oh, yes, you guessed part of it. "The check went out last week."
Should she continue working for this client? My advice was to review your file to make sure it's clean and not susceptible of negligence claims, make one last effort to collect by telling the client he has to pay what is owed within 7 days or you will file a motion to withdraw because the client has not honored his agreement commitments, and then be sure you are far enough away from trial to have sucha motion granted.
Bottom line, however, while you are taking care of your client, you must take care of yourself! If, while focusing attention on the client's issues, you ignore your own billings and accounts receivable, you will lose the respect of the client, you will not get paid the full amount owed to you, and you will not get more referrals from this client. Lawyer Beware!
My frustration level has been exceeded! How about yours? Have you had dealings with vendors who fail to respond to your reasonable inquiries and requests? Have you had appointments (doctors and lawyers are the stereotypical examples) that have kept you waiting beyond the stated appointment time?
If you're a lawyer or other professional reading this, think about how your clients feel in conducting their business with you. Read on for nuances of this issue.Continue Reading...
Marshall Goldsmith, who coaches more than 50 of the top 100 CEOs of corporate America, commented on several psychological observations that I found interesting:
- What we do at home, we do at the office, and vice versa. In other words, if we are unkind to our colleagues, our staff and our adversaries, we're probably exhibiting to same behavior to our spouses and our children.
- Among the annoying habits that can hold successful people back is winning too much. Generally, we're successful because we're competitive. Being competitive, we win. But, we don't know when to stop. We even compete on who is to select the restaurant to go to for dinner.
- Successful people often add too much value. In other words, we add something to another person's idea. Instead of saying "thank you" and being quiet, we say that is a great idea, but it would be better if you add x, y, or z. He says that the quality of the idea may go up by 5%, but the participation will go way down ... because it now is no longer the other person's idea. We have stolen the other person's investment in the process.
- Destructive comments prevents forward progress. Avoid the use of the words, "no," "but" and "however." These words discount the value of the other person and their ideas. By merely saying "thank you," we can create, maintain and retain our team with significantly greater results for all involved.
- Leadership is a contact sport! Studies show that where the leader followed-up, there was greatest improvement.
- What got you here, won't get you there. Those competitive attributes that got you to the leader's position are different than the attributes of a successful leader. You must alter your skill set in order to succeed in your new position.
- Income fluctuations
- Managing the practice
- Lack of help in the practice
- Isolation from other attorneys
- Inability to discuss ideas with colleagues
For more on this subject, see today's edition of Lawyers Weekly Massachusetts, Coach's Column.
In this time of year when football is the dominant sport of interest, Tom Brady, New England Patriot quarterback, and winner of three Super Bowls, and Most Valuable Player in two of them, makes an interesting disclosure about the coaching process. Continue Reading...
Phyllis Weiss Haserot, a well-known marketing consultant, wrote in the March 2006 edition of "The Lawyers Competitive Edge," as follows:
"Coaching is the cornerstone of professional development which provides the ultimate benefit. It is personalized teaching that expands awareness, brings clarity, develops new habits that achieve growth, and fosters self-motivation. Studies show that coaching after training increases the value (return on investment) by four times(!), integrating and sustaining newly learned skills. Good ongoing coaching is missing in most firms and needs to be 'the next big thing.'"
March 19, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LawBiz Coaching Summit to be Offered to MN Attorneys
Question: How do we get all the attorneys in the firm to buy-in and participate in creating both a firm plan and individual plans?
Answer: Generally, in my experience, successful planning is caused by an emphasis on the process from the top. The primary rainmakers of the firm, the management and managing partner all must be in concert: Planning is important and needs to be done by everyone in the firm.
Start with small projects, perhaps even individual coaching, to experience success with the process. Then, everyone will buy into the process.
A more forceful approach would be to determine compensation bonuses/rewards on the basis of plan development (a realistic and aggressive plan merits more compensation) and achievement of plan goals. Failure to achieve goals, however, should not be punished without consideration of the reasons for not achieving the goals: Personal illness, change of business conditions of clients, hard work but unrealistic goals, etc.
John Wooden, famed UCLA basketball coach says: "Failure to plan is planning to fail." It's better to know where one wants to go in his/her career. There, then, is a greater likelihood of achieving the goals.
Favre, who trained with a strength and conditioning coach in the offseason for the first time, completed 9 of 10 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown Thursday night, the Packers first game of 2005, in the Green Bay Packers' 10-7 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Reported by ESPN, 8/12/05
As with all other activities, sports, business and even law practice, Coaching is a valuable aid to success! More folks are seeing this in their own business lives.
"... whereas coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming much more widely used in supporting top producers. In fact, in a 2004 survey by Right Management Consultants (Philadelphia), 86 percent of companies said they used coaching to sharpen the skills of individuals who have been identified as future organizational leaders."
The Harvard Business Review has an interesting article about "executive coaching." The principles apply to coaching lawyers as well.Continue Reading...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Society for Advancement of Consulting firstname.lastname@example.org 800/825-6153
Board Approval Awarded to Edward Poll, Principal, LawBiz Management Co., 800-837-5880.
Society for Advancement of Consulting
Announces Board Approval Designation
Edward Poll Cited for Excellence
SAC is an international association of solo practitioners who must provide validated proof of their high performance in consulting; successfully completed client engagements; testimonials from client executives; achieve a high level of professional income over a prolonged period; have worked with a minimum of 25 clients; and who adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. The members interact as an international community to better the profession and their own techniques.
Board Approvals in specialties require at least a year as a full professional member of SAC. Fewer than two per month are currently granted.
Edward Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC, is a coach, consultant, author and speaker. Helping lawyers develop loyal clients, Ed coaches lawyers to be more effective, efficient and profitable. Also known as "Your Practical Guide to Profit," Ed guides lawyers to expand client market share and increase repeat business with less stress.
Most professionals who bill by the hour focus on their hourly rate ... to get it as high as possible. What they forget is that the client who may contribute either a lower hourly rate or a smaller total revenue contribution is still a
The question was asked of me today: I can't get a job and am forced to start my own practice sooner than I expected. I'm working out of my own home. How do I start?
The least expensive way to grow a law firm from "ground zero" is to do what you are doing, working out of the house and seeking sub-contract work from government entities and other attorneys. When you do this, negotiate the best arrangement you can for adminstrative tasks to be performed by the contractor, items such as their office staff taking your dictated material or rough drafts of computer-entered typing to complete the document preparation for your final review and submission to your contractor; if an office is needed, if an office is needed, your contractor providing one to you; same with telephone, and other requirements. This keeps your overhead to an absolution minimum.
Also, be sure to create a marketing plan for yourself which will describe how you plan to market yourself to other lawyers to get sub-contract work; then how you will extend your efforts to get "private" clients to know of you; and then how to expand beyond that into a full-blown office environment, traditional practice of your own.
Once the revenue starts flowing, be sure to set aside as much as you can, using only a minimum amount for living expenses. The savings then can be used to do what is needed when you are ready to start out on your own in an office environment, such as purchasing needed technology, paying rent and investing in the growth of your accounts receivable during your first few months.
This is just the beginning. You will have many adventures in your future. You may want to visit our web site again, to see practical resources available to help you grow your practice from the home-based practice to a traditional practice, as well as how to create a business plan for your future.
And, when you're ready, our coaching has helped many lawyers increase their revenue by five and six figures! Consider this when you are ready to invest in yourself and your future.
On this date, in 1975, my most important mentor died unexpectedly and suddenly. My father. He was just shy of 66 years of age, very vibrant, very active in the business world, and far too young to leave this earth.
His teachings still resonate with me. In fact, I still feel his presence whenever I have a question or am unsure how to approach a challenge. Sometimes I hear him answer; other times, I use his principles and teachings to come to my own conclusion.
There have been a few other mentors in my life, some of whom haven't even realized they were acting in that capacity for me. One of them was a good friend who taught me how to look at real estate investments, and how to live a full life, who died at 94. He had more than one career, each one successful. He stayed active in his life's work right to the end of his life.
Another mentor was an extended family member who taught me, vicariously, how to stay involved with one's extended family, and the beauty and value of that ... and the huge and fabulous impact on the children and grandchildren who receive the loving and kindness of such a man.
And so, for you who are reading this at this time of year, I urge you to reconsider your priorities, not necessarily change them. Merely reconsidering them and focusing your energy for next year on those things that are important to you, both personally and professionally, will enable you to achieve ever greater successes.
Best wishes for a safe and healthy holiday season! And may you experience your greatest wishes for 2005! Thank you for being with me in spirit at this time of my life.
In our LawBiz Managing Partners Roundtable, we have been discussing for several years the phenomenon of mentoring, a practice prevalent for many years in smaller firms. As law firms have increased in size, and as pressures continue to mount to increase billable hours, there is no time left for the old-fashioned mentoring.
Yet, new associates do not advance without the benefits of mentoring as we knew it. Law firms are experiencing the negative impact of the absence of effective mentoring. Associates are leaving the firms in droves, some going to other firms, some going in-house and some leaving the practice altogether.
First, managing partners are beginning to say that they know mentoring doesn't work ... and can't be mandated. The relationship must be between two consenting adults ... the older and the younger lawyers.
Second, managing partners are beginning to say that the newer lawyer must seek out his/her own mentor from among the firms' elders who are willing to make the contribution. Once done on a voluntary basis, the process will work.
This latter function is, today, being performed by law practice management coaches who understand the industry, the profession, the way law firms generally operate, and can provide guidance in a myriad of ways.