Do You Know Where Your Best Clients Come From?

Do you know where your best clients are coming from? Do you keep track, or are you just relying on your memory? Do you know how many of your inquiries or initial consultations became paying clients last year? If you’re like many of the solo and small firm lawyers I talk to, your answer to these questions is probably no.

Watch the video, or read below on to find out more.

I was talking to a client last week about his marketing. We were trying to build a profile of his best clients and referral sources. But when I asked him was who his best referral sources were and how are his best clients coming to him, he didn’t know. He had a couple of ideas, but no hard data to check them against.

If you don’t keep track of how clients are coming to you, how do you know what’s working? How do you know whether your marketing and business development resources are being expended the right way? How do you know whether you need to change something in your marketing to attract more clients who are the right fit for your practice or to change your intake and initial consultation process to get more of those potential clients to become actual clients?

The answer is that you probably don’t.

This is some of the most important data you have in your practice, so if you haven’t been keeping track up until now, it’s time to start. It doesn’t have to be complicated – it could be as simple as setting up an Excel spreadsheet.

You’ll want to track:

  • The name of the potential client;
  • The date of each contact with the client;
  • The method of each contact (phone, email, etc.);
  • How the client came to you (be specific – if a client saw a presentation or seminar you gave, which one was it? If they found you on the internet, did they find your website, your blog, or through an attorney directory? Who referred them to you? Did they click through a link from your email newsletter?)
  • If the client comes for an initial consultation, note the date of the consultation.
  • If the potential client becomes a client, keep track of the date that they did so, the fee they’re being charged, and the specific problem they needed you to address.

Review this information regularly to determine which referral sources are most effective and to help you follow up with potential clients. The spreadsheet can help you focus on your best referral sources, improve your referrals from other sources, and keep in touch with potential clients that haven’t yet become paying clients. It can also help you understand your sales cycle better so that you can plan better and improve cash flow.

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Using Color to Manage Your Outlook Calendar and Email

Are you a visual person? If so, today’s productivity tip is for you!

Color coding important appointments and email messages in Outlook to help you manage your calendar and that mountain of email messages we all receive every day. Watch the video, or scroll down to read more.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at my calendar or my email inbox, it can be a little overwhelming. It can be easy to miss important messages when you’re scrolling through your inbox. And looking at a sea of appointments in Outlook can be daunting. Using color makes that easier for me.

One way to use color is to create categories in Outlook. This is the way I color-code items on my calendar so that I can see at a glance what I have coming up that day, that week, or that month. For example, I color code all of my client appointments as green, marketing activities as purple, personal items like doctor’s appointments or family events are pink, administrative activities for my business as blue, speaking engagements as yellow, and so on. I can look at my calendar for the week and see right away how many client appointments I have coming up or whether I’ve set aside any time for marketing.

You can use categories for email messages as well, but I find that the category tags aren’t as obvious when I’m scrolling through my inbox. Instead, I use conditional formatting for email messages to assign a different color to messages I want to stand out or ensure that they get my attention.

If you want some tips on using color in Outlook, download my Using Color in Outlook PDF below. Or contact me to see how I can help you to use Outlook more effectively.

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Review Your Client List to Improve Your Law Practice

Do you have the wrong clients in your law practice?

Watch the video below to see what you should do if you have the wrong clients in your law practice, and keep reading for more detail.

Do you have the wrong clients in your law practice?

It’s the start of the second quarter of 2021 as I record this video, so it’s a good time to take stock of your practice and your 2021 goals and to see whether you’re making progress and what you can do in this quarter to keep them going or to get back on the right track if you’ve been derailed a bit.

Clients drive your practice. Reviewing your client list is one of the best things you can do to help your practice , but few lawyers I know do a regular review of their client list to evaluate the strength of that client or case.

We’re all familiar with the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. That rule applies to clients as well – 80% of your effort will be expended on 20% of your clients, and 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your clients. In other words, more clients isn’t always better. It’s better to have fewer quality, high-value clients or cases, than more lower-value cases or clients.

This quarter, I’m going to challenge you to pull out that client list and rate your clients either A, B, C, or D clients. A clients are your best clients, with your best cases; B clients are good clients with good cases; C clients are just so-so – they may be difficult to work with or have lower-value cases, and D clients are not only difficult to work with, but they have the most difficult or low-value cases in your practice.

Some characteristics you might consider include:

  • How cooperative the client is
  • What the value of the client’s case is
  • How likely it is that you will collect your fee on the case
  • Who referred the client to you – was it a great referral source, or a source that usually refers lower-value clients or matters?

If you’ve already identified some other characteristics of your best clients, you might add those into your calculation, or substitute them out for some of the ones above. For example, if collectability isn’t a problem for you because you collect fees up front, you may want to substitute something else, such as length of time you anticipate the case will last. But keep this as uncomplicated as possible; don’t add too many categories.

As you go through this exercise, think about whether those low-value clients, – especially your D clients – really belong in your practice at all. Are they distracting you from your best clients and sucking up all of your time and energy? Is their case really worth the fee? Are they likely to pay you? If not, it may be time to fire them.

Once you’ve cleaned up your existing client list, don’t stop there. Put some systems into place to periodically re-evaluate your client list to see if anything has changed, and to stop those bad clients from coming into your practice in the first place.

Ready to fire some of those “D” clients but not sure how to go about doing it? Watch for my next video! If you want to get started getting better clients right away, get a copy of my Ideal Client Workbook on the Products page.

Hear more about managing your client list by listening to this episode of the Legal Visionaries Podcast where I talk about it with Mary Vandenack.

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Are You a Good Multi-tasker?

Actually, there’s no such thing as multi-tasking. Author Dave Crenshaw, in his book, The Myth of Multi-tasking, says that (with very few exceptions) you really can’t perform two separate tasks at the same time. What you are really doing when you think you’re “multi-tasking” is switchtasking – you’re rapidly switching back and forth between two tasks.

The problem is that our brains aren’t really set up for switchtasking. And although you may think that your multi-tasking saves you time, in reality, switchtasking costs you time, money and relationships.

Studies have shown that when you switch from one task to another, it increases the time it takes for you to complete the original task by as much as 25%. When that happens repeatedly, it’s a real hit to your productivity.

And have you ever tried to send an email when talking on the phone to a client? What happens? Either you stop paying attention to the conversation and miss what your client is saying, or you make mistakes in the email. You may need to force the client to repeat themselves, re-send the email, or send a second email to correct the mistakes you made in the first one. Or you find out later that you missed something important that the client said on the call. Either way, you’ve made a poor impression on someone – whether the person on the phone or the recipient of the email. If that happens repeatedly, it could cost you business.

The exception to this switchtasking-multi-tasking rule is that you may be able to perform two activities simultaneously if at least one of those activities doesn’t require much brainpower or concentrated thought. So if you want to fold your laundry while watching television or listen to a podcast while you’re running on the treadmill, be my guest.

But if you want to be more productive – and more effective – in your business day, focus on one task at a time. For some strategies to help you do just that, download my “Stop Switchtasking” PDF guide below.

Overwhelmed? Focus on Just One Thing

Between pandemics, and elections and riots and crazy ice storms, there’s a lot to be stressed about these days, and it can be hard to get in a productive mood and stay focused.

I’ve been doing a series of videos on motivation, and how to pull yourself out of a funk if you’re just not feeling motivated. But sometimes, even the tips and tricks I’ve been sharing with you don’t work. Or something very unexpected comes up that derails all of the plans you’ve made, and it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall.

I had something like that happen to me this week – I have been trying to juggle a bunch of projects with deadlines so I can go out of town at the end of this month, and one of them came crashing down last night. As a result, my entire plan went out the window.

When something like that happens to me, I take it as a signal that it’s time to slow down to speed up.

What do I mean by that? Sometimes the busier we are, the harder it is to see what is really important.

Stress can become a vicious cycle. As the work piles up, we get more stressed and overwhelmed. And the more overwhelmed we get, the more difficult it is to focus, or to get anything done.

That may be exactly the right time to take a break, take a deep breath, and focus on just one thing. Ask yourself, “What is the single most important thing I need to do right now?” It might be calling a client to let them know that the work will be late. Or it might be organizing all of the projects on your desk so that you can see what needs to be done. Or maybe it’s identifying someone who can help you get through your list and delegating some tasks to them. It might be deciding what to say “no” to.

Identifying just the one thing that is most important in the moment, it can free you from thinking about all of the other projects or tasks on your list.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a step back and focusing just on the one most important thing you can do today to move toward your goals.

Want more productivity hacks? Check out these videos:

Are Free Consultations a Waste of Time?

Do You Have Problem Clients? Maybe Your Free Consultation is to blame.

Are you wasting your time offering free consultations?

I’m Allison Shields Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices. I can’t tell you how many lawyers I’ve worked with who complain constantly about what my friend Nina calls PITA (pain in the a**) clients who won’t listen to their advice, don’t pay their bills or are otherwise a drain on their practice.

The first place I look when one of my clients complains about their clients is at their client selection process – how are they deciding which clients are right for their practice? Sometimes just a small tweak to their initial consultation and their client selection process is all it takes to weed bad clients almost entirely out of their practice.

One of the biggest culprits I’ve found is the free consultation.

Free consultations are ubiquitous in the legal world, but sometimes, they do more harm than good. By offering a free consultation, you’re telling a potential client right from the outset that your time and advice isn’t valuable. It encourages clients who are hyper-focused on price and simply looking for the cheapest solution or just want to pick your brain without paying for it.

Too often, lawyers provide great value at the initial consultation, but don’t get paid for it. Some of those who take advantage of the free consult will walk away and never hire the lawyer. Not only does the lawyer not get paid for the wisdom they’ve imparted during the meeting, but it also may prevent the lawyer from taking another client down the road because of a conflict. The hours spent in free consultations are taking you away from your paying clients and causing frustration for people who have no intention of paying or cannot pay

 That’s bad, but it isn’t the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is the bad client who actually retains you after the free consultation and then argues about every bill you send them.

What should you do instead? Charge a fee for your initial consultation. You can charge a discounted rate or even credit the entire consultation fee back to any client who actually retains you.

Find out how I can help you improve your initial consultations and your intake process – contact me at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com.

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Get Motivated in 15 Minutes or Less

What do you do when you need to get something done, but you’re just not feeling it?

Hi, I’m Allison Shields Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices.

In my last video, I suggested that you shouldn’t wait until you’re feeling motivated before tackling a task or project you need to get done. The first step is just showing up – you might be surprised at what happens. Take action first and motivation will follow. (Watch that video here)

Today I want to talk about three more ways to get things done when you’re just not feeling it.

Take a walk.

Sitting at a computer or at your desk most of the day may seem like the best way to get things done, but it’s probably not. And most of us are spending even more time sitting now that courts are shut down and in-person meetings aren’t taking place – there’s even fewer reasons to leave your office than ever.

But sitting too long not only isn’t good for your body – it isn’t good for your brain either. If you’re not feeling motivated to tackle a task or project, try getting some exercise.

Take a 15-minute walk or do some yoga or stretches. Some of my best ideas come when I’m taking a walk or right after a workout.

Phone a friend.

Two heads are often better than one. Seek out a friend, family member, or colleague to talk about the project you want to accomplish. Sometimes just talking about it with another person is enough to get you motivated, or to spark an idea.

Maybe you’ll realize that the task or project isn’t so daunting after all, or you’ll just grow tired of hearing yourself talk about it and just get on with it. Or maybe your friend will have a suggestion that leads to a breakthrough.

Set a 15-minute timer.

The Pomodoro Technique, which I talked about in detail in a previous video, is a great technique to use if you’re feeling stuck or un-motivated.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and work only on the task you’ve been avoiding until the timer goes off. Then you’re free to quit and work on something else – at least you’ll have gotten started on that task.

But you may be surprised to learn that once you’ve gotten started, you’re motivated to continue.

How do you motivate yourself when you’re just not feeling it? Let me know in the comments!

Again, I’m Allison Shields Johs from Legal Ease Consulting, and if you want more tips like this, subscribe to my free newsletter, or see more productivity videos and articles:

Can a Tomato Make You More Productive?

Can a tomato make you more productive?

Hi, I’m Allison Shields Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices.

I don’t know about you, but lately I seem to be having a very difficult time focusing and accomplishing what I want to accomplish. I’ve worked from home for many years, but lately I seem to get distracted more easily. Perhaps it’s the pandemic and all of the anxieties that have gone along with it. Or perhaps it’s just Zoom fatigue. Who knows? But whatever the reason, I’m finding I have to fall back on some tips and tricks to help me get things done, and today I’d like to share one of those with you.

That’s where the tomato comes in.

The tip I’d like to talk about today is called the “Pomodoro” technique – pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. The pomodoro technique was developed by an Italian, and it was named after a timer that looks like a tomato.

Here’s how it works:

First, you decide on the task you want to get done. Then you set a timer for a specific interval of time – traditionally 25 minutes – and you work on the task without any interruption at all for that interval. Once the timer goes off, you can stop and take a 5-minute break. Each interval represents one pomodoro.

In the traditional pomodoro method, you would do four consecutive pomodoros, and then take a longer 15-30 minute break.

If you complete the task while the timer is still ticking, you can use the additional time in the pomodoro to review your work or plan tasks for your next pomodoro. Of course, there are all sorts of variations of this technique, and you might choose to make your pomodoros 60, or even 90 minutes long.

But whatever variation you choose, using this system helps you to focus on the task at hand for a long enough period of time to accomplish something significant, but it is a short enough time that you won’t allow yourself to become distracted. Since you have a break every 25 minutes, you can address anything urgent that might come up in the interim.

For lawyers billing by the hour, using the pomodoro technique is also helpful for ensuring that you are billing your time contemporaneously with the work being performed. But even if you aren’t billing by the hour, using the pomodoro technique is useful for improving your ability to estimate how long it takes you to complete certain tasks, which can help your overall time management.

For me, just the idea of blocking out a discrete segment of time with no distractions has proved useful for moving me forward toward my goals, so I hope it will be useful for you, too.

Again, I’m Allison Shields Johs, from Legal Ease Consulting, wishing you a productive day – and now, since it’s lunchtime, I think I’m going to make myself a BLT!

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3 Ways Video Can Help Your Law Practice

Are you still not using video in your law practice? Here are three easy ways to incorporate video into your law practice.

Marketing
The first one is marketing. And it’s probably the most obvious.

People do business with people they know like, and trust. But these days, we’re not getting to spend too much time with people. We can’t go to big events, and we’re not doing in-person networking. For many of us, we’re not even seeing our family and friends, so it’s that much harder to get the word out and to meet new people. It’s all virtual.

That means video is now more than ever, a really important tool for you to help people get to know you. When they watch a video. It’s like talking to you; they feel like they know you before they even pick up the phone or send you an email.

Answer Clients’ Frequently Asked Questions
The second way that you can use video in your law practice is by answering clients’ frequently asked questions.

I often talk to my clients about putting frequently asked questions on their website for potential clients. But the same thing is true for your existing clients.

You’ve probably answered the same questions over and over from clients – and it’s time-consuming. If you create a video library to answer clients frequently asked questions, you can send them there first and free up some more time for you to do important client work. It’s a great reference tool for them.

Onboarding and Training New Employees
The third way to use video is to onboard and train new employees.

A lot of my solo and small firm lawyers tell me that it’s really time-consuming to train. And they often don’t want to hire somebody because they don’t have the time to spend training – they need help.

If you create training videos or videos that explain what your firm does, how you do things, and who your clients are, and give them training on the specific ways that you do things differently than other firms might, you only have to create the vidoes once. That takes some of the burden of training off of you. And it also creates a place that your employees can go back to for reference if they have questions or if they’re not sure how to do something.

I’m sure you can come up with even more ways that you can use video in your practice. Video doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming to produce. For example, I’m creating this video on a Videosocials call. (I highly recommend Videosocials – if you decide to try them out, let them know I sent you!)

Want more tips about how I can help your practice? Contact me – or watch more of my videos:

Strategic Planning with the EASE Method

When I recorded this video, we were on the quick slide down to the end of the year, and now we’re already almost 3 weeks into January. Either way, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year is a time when many of us might be thinking about planning for the year ahead. Many of the solos and small firm lawyers I know don’t do much in the way of strategic planning because they either just don’t take the time to do it, or they think it’s too complicated.

But it doesn’t have to be complicated if you use my EASE method of strategic planning.

The four steps in the EASE method of strategic planning will make your planning a breeze:

  • Envision
  • Analyze
  • Strategize, and
  • Evaluate

Envision the Result You Want

This is the first step in the EASE method – Envision what you want the end result to be. This can be as large as what your firm core values will be, or as small as a goal to increase referrals.

Analyze Where You Are Now

The next step in creating a plan is to Analyze your current situation. Take stock of where you are. This is an important part of your strategic plan – if you don’t know where you are now, you won’t know where you need to go.

So if we take our small goal of increasing referrals, you first have to take a look at your referrals now:

  • Who are your referral sources?
  • Are you getting referrals for the kind of work you want to do?
  • Where are your best clients coming from?
  • How many referrals do you receive a month?

Strategize How You’ll Get To Your Vision From Where You Are Now

After you’ve taken stock of your current position, it’s time to Strategize. Take your vision or goals and identify objectives and benchmarks that will help you reach those goals. Create action plans with specific deadlines for completion. The action plans break down your objectives into discrete steps, so that you can move toward those goals.

Getting back to our referrals example, one objective might be to improve relationships with good referral sources.

You might

  • Create a schedule for referral communications with definite dates
  • Contact three referral sources per month and schedule coffee, lunch, etc.

Evaluate and Revise

Finally, our last E in the Ease method is Evaluate and revise the plan. Planning is an ongoing process. Do your goals still make sense as time goes on? Are you meeting your objectives? Why or why not? What do you need to change about the plan?

With the EASE method: Envision, Analyze, Strategize, and Evaluate, you can develop a working strategic plan to help you reach your goals in 2020.

I’m Allison Shields from Legal EASE Consulting, wishing you happy holidays and much success in your planning for the new year!

Managing Staff Interruptions

Hi, I’m Allison Shields, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers attract the right clients, increase their productivity, and improve their bottom line.

As a practicing lawyer, one of the problems I observed with the lawyers around me, and still observe today with my clients and my lawyer friends is that when they finally got some time in the office to actually catch up on paperwork, or respond to phone calls or emails, they got even less done than they did when they were out of the office, whether that was in court, at a closing, a deposition o a client meeting.

And why does that happen? Well, it happens because when they were in the office, they were constantly being interrupted. There are lots of interruptions, but the one we’re going to talk about today is staff interruptions.

You know what I’m talking about – you’re in your office, finally trying to get some work done, and there’s a line of people outside your door waiting to speak to you, or your assistant is constantly bombarding you with questions all day long. This happens because your staff feels insecure – they have no idea when they’re going to see you again or when you’ll be available to speak with them, and so when they see you, they just grab you.

One way to avoid this is by setting regular meetings with the staff and people in your office that you work most closely with. But the key to this is to be consistent, because the point is to reduce their insecurity. You’ll want to give them a definite time when they know that they’ll be able to get their questions answered, or to speak with you.

I recommend that you set a regular schedule of meetings with those people. So for example, maybe that’s meeting with your assistant every day at 4 pm, and the associate that you work most closely with once a week on Tuesday morning, and maybe your billing person once a month to talk about billing and collections issues on the first Monday of the month. This way, they know when they can get to you, and they’ll collect all of their questions to ask you at once.

My clients who have implemented this have found not only that it has drastically reduced interruptions during the day, but it has also increased the productivity of their entire team, and it has allowed them to anticipate problems before they arise.

What are your challenges with staff or other interruptions? Leave me a comment below.

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Overwhelmed? Try This Calendar Hack

If you feel overwhelmed from the moment you arrive at work until the moment you leave, perhaps you’re not using one of the best – and easiest to use – tools effectively. And that tool is your calendar.

In this video, I talk about how you can use your calendar not just to record when work is due, but also to find the time to do the work.

Want more productivity tips? Check these out:

How NOT to Use Email

Email is a fantastic tool – but it isn’t the right tool for every job. Email is especially poor for scheduling meetings, particularly meetings for more than two people. Use a dedicated scheduling tool instead. Learn more in the video below.

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Use QuickParts to Streamline Your Workload

My latest video talks about how you can use Quick Parts in Word or Outlook to help streamline your workload. Instead of reinventing the wheel all of the time, create a Quick Part for frequently asked questions, email responses, or other repetitive copy.

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Automate Your Email Inbox

Why waste time sorting through your email inbox to find the most relevant messages when you can set up your email program to do it for you?

This is the latest in our series of tips about handling your email more effectively. In the previous two videos, we talked about eliminating email as a source of distraction throughout your day and using the triage method to handle email when you do look at your inbox.

In this next installment in the series, I discuss ways you can set up your inbox to automate the process of sorting your email so you can concentrate on the emails that are the most important to your practice.