If you haven’t read David Allen’s book: Getting Things Done, I recommend you read it. One of my former partners gave me the book in 2005 and I have probably given it to over 100 lawyers. It is also the most popular book on my reading list.

One thing you will learn reading the book is to create a “next action” list. Get some ideas from reading: How is a Next Action List Different from a To Do List? and reading: Why ‘What’s the Next Action’ is the Most Important Question.

Let me give real life examples:

  • What is your next action to prepare your plan for the 2d quarter this year?
  • Suppose you want to connect with people you met at a conference last week, what is your next action?
  • Suppose you want to make a presentation to an industry group, what is your next action?
  • Suppose you just posted a blog you think includes valuable information, what is your next action?
  • Suppose you just gave a presentation that was well received, what is your next action?
  • Suppose you just had lunch with a college classmate who is working with a company you would like to represent, what is your next action?
  • Suppose you just gave a pitch to a potential client, what is your next action?
  • Suppose you just successfully finished a matter for a client, what is your next action?

I saw this Tony Robbins quote recently:

The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.

Doesn’t this quote also apply to the quality of your law practice? It certainly did apply to my law practice. How about yours?

How can you best create a quality relationship with a client? I say:

  1. Learn as much as you can about their business and them personally.
  2. Make and keep promises.
  3. Help their businesses succeed in ways that have nothing to do with law.
  4. Get to know them, their families, their staff.
  5. Spend time together in person.
  6. When you are together, listen, really listen.

Whew!  An exhausted nation finally witnessed an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff. As reported in From NASCAR to rum, 10 weird parts of the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, we, or I should say special interests, got even more than we thought. Even though  the Dow rose 308 points on Wednesday, Moody’s wasn’t impressed. Moody’s Anticipates Further US Fiscal Action Following “Fiscal Cliff” Deal.

Has your law firm thought about what will happen in the next 90 days? How will your clients and how will your practice be impacted if the debt ceiling is not increased? Will the impact be any different if it is increased and spending cuts are put in place? Will the impact be any different if it is increased and no spending cuts are put in place?

After considering the next 90 days, does your law firm look beyond the current year? Do you? I always looked ahead and asked myself what my law practice would be like in the future. Consider looking ahead to what your law practice will be like at the end of President Obama’s second term.

What will happen to your clients’ business and your firm’s practice if at the end of President Obama’s second term our nation’s debt exceeds $20 Trillion, and God forbid, interests rates go up? If the interest rate is just 4%, interest on the debt will be a substantial part of the federal budget.

From The Weekly Standard

For those of you who think the debt will not rise to $20 Trillion, I invite you to read New York Times opinion writer Paul Krugman’sThat Terrible Trillion to support your point of view. He argues:

Right now, given reasonable estimates of likely future growth and inflation, we would have a stable or declining ratio of debt to G.D.P. even if we had a $400 billion deficit. You can argue that we should do better; but if the question is whether current deficits are sustainable, you should take $400 billion off the table right away.

If you want a different perspective, read Forbes: President Obama’s Legacy: $20 Trillion in Debt for 2016 Victor, citing the CBO’s projection:

If Obama gets his full wish list and avoids the fiscal cliff, the CBO’s alternate fiscal policy projections yield a cumulated 2013-2017 budget deficit of $4.5 trillion. In this case, the second Obama administration will run annual deficits of almost a trillion dollars a year.

Suppose for the moment that the debt does reach $20 Trillion during President Obama’s second term, what area of law practice will prosper? What areas of law practice will decline? I recently read: Senate ‘Cliff’ Deal Would Push Debt to $20 Trillion by 2017. Here were some predictions:

  • But Wall Street analysts say interest-rates could spike if world economies improve or if they worry that U.S. politicians and taxpayers are unable or unwilling to pay the interest payments.
  • If interest rates reach five percent, taxpayers’ annual interest-costs would reach $1 trillion per year, or one third of the federal government’ 2012 tax revenues.

What will be the hot practice areas in 2017? What areas of law will take a hit? What will be the impact on your clients’s business?

It is Black Friday, which started in some stores before midnight. I feel for the employees who worked all through the night after their Thanksgiving dinner with family.

Since most lawyers are not thinking about work today I thought I would share more of my travel ideas. Nancy and I have two favorite travel websites.The first is Luxury Link. We like it because there are packages. We use the Auctions and typically bid whatever is the minimum. We have won auctions for a hotel in Rome, luxury resorts in the US, Canada and Mexico.

On Monday I wrote about Hotel Villa Rolandi, where we stayed as part of a 3 day package we won the auction on Luxury Link. I am not sure we would have ever learned about this wonderful hotel had we not found it on Luxury Link. It is available again today on Luxury Link. If I had a New York trip planned in January, I would likely bid on The Benjamin 2-night package, which is available for $359. I like the Benjamin and would likely stay there anyway.

Our second is Vacation Rentals By Owner. We especially like it when we go to Hawaii, but we have also used the site to find homes in the mainland US and Mexico. 

When we go to Oahu, we do not want to stay on Waikiki. We prefer to stay on the north shore and our favorite town there is Haleiwa. Here are the current rentals available there. The first listing is a 3-bedroom that can be rented for $285 a night.

Our favorite island is The Big Island of Hawaii. We have rented houses and condos there frequently. When we want the beach we look at Man Lani. When being on or close to the beach is less important (most of the time), we rent luxury homes in the Kohala Ranch area. Our very favorite rental is The Best Ocean Views, Heated Pool, Private Tennis Court, although we have never used the tennis courts . Nancy took the sunset photo above from the deck of this wonderful house.

If by chance you have a trip planned to the Island of Hawaii, you are welcome to ask me questions and take a look at my own little Travel Ideas for Island of Hawaii, I share with friends.

So, happy shopping today and I hope your holiday season is blessed.

It is Thanksgiving week in the US, so I doubt many lawyers are focusing on client development. So, I decided to focus on more personal things.

Nancy and I are enjoying a few days on a wonderful island Isla Mujeres and staying at a small awesome hotel Villa Rolandi.  The island is small enough that you can rent a golf cart and go around the entire island.

When we landed in Cancun yesterday we were met at the airport and taken to the dock where the hotel boat met us.

Twenty minutes later we were greeted at the hotel dock by Victor, a young man who spent his elementary school years in Corpus Christi and speaks perfect English. Victor recommended restaurants and places we should see while we are here.

Our room is beautiful. Our deck has a hot tub which we tried last night. There are three swimming pools below us and we can see the Cancun skyline.

If Villa Rolandi interests you, don’t just take my word for it, check out the reviews on Trip Advisor. I have rarely seen a hotel with such a high percentage of excellent reviews.

A few years ago a lawyer I coached who met Nancy asked me:

What is the secret to being married for (now) 42 years?

For me it is very simple, I think of Nancy, and hopefully treat her, like I did when we fell in love. I do my best to never take her for granted. I like to say to her: “This is high romance.”

Believe me having lived together for 42 years, we know each other really well. There is nothing really new. We could easily just take each other for granted. But, when I feel like I am still romancing her, I get a gleam in my eye and think about how fortunate I am.

I am not the first writer to compare client relationship building  to romance. Many writers see parallels. If you are like me, you love to romance new clients and are ecstatic when you land a new client. But, to retain an important client, you must never take that client for granted. I avoided that by always treating my existing clients like I was still romancing them.

You should treat your existing clients like you did when you wanted them to become a client. Think about those clients now and go visit them on your nickel.

I recently gave a presentation to the Recruiting Administrators of Dallas (RADS), which is a NALP city group. As is my custom, prior to speaking I asked members to send me questions they wanted to make sure I address.One member sent several questions. Here are her questions and my answers:

Q. In your experience, have you found standardized professional development curricula beneficial? In particular regarding programming for first years (e.g. legal research and writing workshops).

A. I have never favored standardized professional development curricula to be the best, but the two areas you mentioned lend themselves to standardized curricula.

Q. What are your thoughts on surveying incoming first year associates prior to their arrival to find out what programs are of interest/importance to them?

A. First year associates are not equipped to know what kind of programs are of interest/importance to them. I read that Steve Jobs and Apple never surveyed customers about new products because they believed the customers could not envision an iPhone or iPad. I believe the same is true for first year lawyers.

Q. If you think a survey would be advantageous, do you think personalizing curricula would be a worthwhile endeavor?

A. Personalizing is always helpful. When you personalize it, they take greater responsibility and feel they have more control.

Q. Have you found general programs (i.e. soft skills – business development, leadership, firm economics, etc.) helpful, and how would you rate the usefulness of these programs compared to, for example, practice area-specific programs (e.g. “Career Milestones for Construction Lawyers”)?

A. Soft skills are absolutely essential. You likely have heard it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. If an associate bills 2000 hours a year in a practice area they may over 5 years become an expert. But, being a lawyer is as much about people skills, speaking etc. Where are they getting their 10,000 hours for that skill? I have written about this:

I would do both because as I said to be successful a lawyer needs practice area skills capital and people skills capital.

Q. How can we add more value for our Junior Associates?

A. First, they need to know what it takes to be successful in your firm. Then, help them develop the right habits and execute to be successful. They will develop habits early in their career. It is important those habits are ones that will lead them in the right direction. That begins with creating a career development plan for each year that includes written goals.have a plan, implement the plan and create. Finally, create interactive programs that teach your junior associates the people skills they will need to build trust based relationships with clients.

I want you to share my presentation slides and my Legal Recruiters Presentation Handout materials with recruiters and professional development professionals. If you are involved with a NALP City Group or a PDC chapter please share the slides and handout with your members.

 

 

What does it take to get hired by a business client? First, it depends on the type of work. For most work, it will depend on whether your potential client knows, likes and trusts you.

In group coaching sessions on getting hired, I share with the lawyers that I believe about 10% of legal work is “bet the company.” Clients will hire the best-known “go to” lawyer to handle that work. At the other end, I believe about 30% of legal work is commodity work. Clients will hire the lawyer who is willing to do that work for the lowest price.Finally, I believe at least 60% of legal work is neither bet the company or commodity work. Clients will hire lawyers they like and trust and with whom they feel some connection.

 

 

How can you position yourself to have the best opportunity to be hired by clients for that work? First, you have to be a capable lawyer. But, that will not be enough. You need to also be likable. As you may know, Tim Sanders wrote a book: The Likeability Factor. I read it more than once when it was first published. Tim Sanders Identifies four things you can work on to increase your “L” factor:

  • Friendliness
  • Relevance
  • Empathy
  • Realness (Authenticity)

I invite you to read the book to get a more detailed description of each idea. Then decide:

  1. What can you do to be more friendly in the eyes of your clients and referral sources? Here is one clue from the book: 55% of the like/dislike cues people give are visual, mostly facial, 38% are tone of voice.
  2. What can you do to be more relevant? Here is my clue: Understand your client’s industry and business so your legal work is done in the context of your client’s business objectives.
  3. How can you become more empathetic? This one takes some real work. You have to pay attention to more than what is being said.
  4. What does it mean to be real? It begins with knowing who you really are and what you really value.

If you are interested, share with me your ideas on becoming more likable.

I am starting coaching a group of partners today. I will ask them and I will ask you: Do you have goals? That is likely not  the most appropriate question because we all have goals. Perhaps better questions might be:

  • Can you identify your goals?
  • Are your goals written?

Why should you write (type) your goals and commit them to paper? The easy answer is because scientific studies tell us that people who commit their goals to paper are far more likely to persist and stick with it to achieve them.

According to Dr. David Kohl, professor emeritus at my alma mater, Virginia Tech:

  • 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals.
  • 16% do have goals but don’t write them down.
  • Less than 4% write down their goals and fewer than 1% review them on an ongoing basis.

Read: Are you part of the 1%? I have always created written goals. Early in my career I wrote them on legal paper, folded the paper and carried it in my inside suit pocket. I frequently reviewed what I had written. So, I guess I fit into the 1%.

I have been reading Charles Duhigg’s book: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. In the book he writes about a study done on patients who had hip surgery and their recovery. Since I am getting my hip replaced on December 13, I read with great interest.

Duhigg describes a 1992 British study involving lower-class elderly patients – averaging 68-years-old – who were recovering from recent hip or knee replacement surgery. A psychologist was examining ways to increase the patients’ willpower to keep up with the arduous rehabilitation process. Patients were given a booklet with their rehab schedule. In the back were 13 blank pages one for each week of rehab with instructions and: “My goals for this week are_____.” Those patients who filled in the blanks with detailed plans for each week were back walking twice as fast as those who had not.

You can read more in this blog about the book: Small habit-forming advice, via “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg .

I wanted to find other studies supporting the importance of written goals. I did a Google search and found: Goals Research Summary. Here is a visual depiction from the summary:

As you can see from the visual, those who did best included those with written goals, those who shared their goals with a friend, and those who sent written reports each week to their friend. This undoubtedly sounds very familiar to those of you who have participated in my coaching program. Each time we meet in person, you create written goals, you share those with me and you keep me up to date on your progress.

There are many reasons to participate in client development coaching. One of the most important is accountability

I have never been to Weight Watchers, but I have always been a big fan. Years ago, I watched my mother and aunt participate and lose weight. So, I know that If I ever join, I will lose weight. As you will see, I found books on Amazon about the program and with recipes. On the Weight Watchers website, read Why it Works and you will see that among other things, you get a plan that will fit you and you create a customized fitness goal. Next, read Ten Things to Know About Weight Watchers Meetings and check out what you get at the meetings:

At Weight Watchers meetings you’ll learn to follow the PointsPlus® program. You’ll get guidance, strategies and tips, plus:

  • A Leader who has lost weight with Weight Watchers
  • A supportive and caring environment
  • Helpful tools, guides, books, recipes
  • Our 3-step PowerStart program will help set you up for success
  • You can subscribe to eTools, for tips and tools between meetings

If you create a client development coaching group in your firm, create the same kind of accountability. No one wants to let the group down and no one wants to report he has done no client development activities between meetings.