The Importance of Following Up

Today’s post is inspired by Ben Schorr, technologist and senior content developer with Microsoft, who has “been in this business long enough to remember when Al Gore invented the Internet.”

Being the all-around smart guy that he is, Ben recently posted:

Follow-up is one of the most important skills you can have in business.

Ben couldn’t be more right, and let me tell you why.

Clients

When is the last time you checked in with your clients? Asked how they are faring? Provided them with a status update?

Nothing is more aggravating to clients (and more damaging to client relations) than failing to follow-up. Avoid this trap by establishing an office system that reminds you to reach out and make contact.  It can be as simple as a tickler system or reminder app. Consider the advantages of interactive web portals that offer clients 24/7 access and apps like Zipwhip that let you send scheduled texts and auto-replies to clients.  Are phones overwhelming you? Worried about missing client calls? Start using Call Ruby. (Discounts are available to Multnomah Bar Association members.)

Tasks and Deadlines

Always create follow-up reminders for all outstanding to-dos and deadlines – particularly those that require action from someone else.

  • Include everything to ensure you get what you need to complete tasks on time and avoid a potential malpractice claim.
  • Include everyone who owes you information, documents, or an undertaking. Clients, co-counsel, opposing counsel, associates, staff, medical providers, investigators, and process servers are the tip of the iceberg.

Staff

Staff also deserve follow-up. Brief weekly meetings can cover a lot of ground: staff workloads, pending projects, your schedule, and responding to staff questions. For tips on working with and delegating to staff, see Revisiting Smart Delegation.

Finances

It’s been almost 7 years since I penned Accounts Receivable Do Not Improve Like Fine Wine, but the advice has not changed. You simply must follow-up on your finances:

Marketing and Business Goals

Follow-up is key when it comes to goal setting. Start by quantifying what you want to achieve, then be accountable (that’s the follow-up part). Whether it’s a business plan or a marketing plan, you are only cheating yourself if you don’t take the time to measure your results.

I’ve written extensively about marketing this year and prior years, both incidentally and deliberately.  If you’re looking for social media tips, resources for market research, how to calculate your marketing costs per case – you’ll find those posts here.  Use the Search feature at the top of my blog or under Categories choose “Marketing.” Whatever you do: follow-up!

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

I Don’t Want to Create a Business Plan!

I get it.  I really do.  They involve work and you’re busy.  And if you’re not trying to sell someone on why they should give you money to start or grow your law practice, why would you bother?

Because, my friends, every once in a while you should be selfish and do something for yourself.

client-meeting-cropped

Six Good Reasons Why Every Lawyer Can Benefit from a Business Plan

Everyone can benefit from the business planning process, especially startups.  But existing businesses need a vision too.  Creating a business plan will give you:

  • Clarity about what you want to do
  • Control over your own fate
  • A strategy for staying organized and on track
  • Accountability
  • A way to measure and monitor your progress
  • A path to help you move forward

For associates in law firms, creating an annual business plan is the only way to build a successful strategy for bringing in business – something all associates are expected to do sooner or later.

For partners, annual business planning is likely to be more about reflection: now that I’m an experienced lawyer with a book of business at XYZ Law Firm what do I want to do? If the answer is: make a lateral move, creating a business plan will likely be required.  If the answer is: something else entirely, then time spent reflecting and planning will help you ferret that out.

Why Lawyers Don’t Write Business Plans

Aside from the obvious excuse that creating a business plan is time consuming, you may also perceive it as too difficult.

But there is an even better reason not to write a business plan.  If you don’t put specific goals and objectives on paper you can’t fail.

Here’s What You’re Really Missing Out On

The problem with avoiding failure is that you also set yourself up not to succeed. And you miss out on the other benefits that go along with creating a business plan.

Create a Direction and Lower Your Stress

When you know what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there (the specific objectives included in your plan), it lowers your stress level. There is no more floundering or misdirection.  Having a plan means you’re back in control.

Doing What You Want to Do For People You Want to Work For Means Reduced Exposure to Liability and Ethics Complaints

There’s a huge difference between practicing door law because you’ve always done it versus purposefully choosing a niche.

The door law route exposes you to greater risk of malpractice claims and ethics complaints.  Keeping up with a few areas of law is hard enough.  Trying to keep up with five or ten is bordering on ridiculous.

Imagine instead that you are working in one area, or a handful of areas, that you know well or can master.  With a focus, you can target clients deliberately and work for a client base that you truly want to represent.

You’ll Also See Gains in Efficiency, Money, and Resources

You are a resource.  Your staff is a resource.  Spend your resources on meaningful, designed goals.  This is what creates efficiency.  And with efficiency you can’t help but save money.  Or at a minimum, experience a better return on your investment.  You know it, you can see it, you can measure it.

Business Plan Checklist and Resources

If I’ve convinced you, contact me.  I’m happy to send along my business plan checklist and a list of resources for creating a plan.  Do what you want to do.  I am.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

How to Succeed in Practice

Succeeding in practice requires momentum, courage, and hard work.  No one knows
that better than a solo practitioner or small firm lawyer.Motivation1

Whether you’re starting out, retooling, or want to make a change, consider this sage advice from Ann Guinn, one of the presenters at the Oregon State Bar Solo & Small Firm Conference.  She may just motivate you to get moving!

All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis

Postscript

For related content with a greater focus on the financial side of practice see this post on Storify.

 

Running a Successful Law Practice

What does it take to run a successful law practice?  Sound financial management?  A detailed marketing plan?  Absolutely!  And if you want tips in these or related areas, see the links at the end of this post.

But for the law school class of 2012, this may not be the first concern that comes to mind.  For many the real question is: “How do I stay out of trouble?”

The answer?  Get organized!  Establish effective office systems and learn the ins and outs of handling client funds, managing deadlines, and tracking conflicts:

For more tips, see these posts:

Financial Management

Marketing, Networking, and Client Relations

Organization

Staffing

Technology

Some Other Favorites

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis

How to Write a Mission Statement in 30 Minutes or Less

Two years ago I spoke at the King County Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Bootcamp.  It was a red-letter day because I had the great fortune to hear counselor and mediator Joe Shaub.  Joe had tons of great advice, not the least of which was this simple, but effective exercise for writing a professional mission statement in 30 minutes or less:

Part One (10 Minutes)

Rank the values listed below on a scale of 1 to 4:
1 not important, 2 important, 3 very important, 4 extremely important.

  • Achievement
  • Ambition
  • Adventure
  • Affection
  • Beauty
  • Broadmindedness
  • Cheerfulness
  • Cleanliness
  • Competence
  • Competitiveness
  • Comfortable Life
  • Cooperation
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Discipline
  • Economic Security
  • Equality
  • Exciting Life
  • Fame
  • Family Happiness
  • Family Security
  • Forgiveness
  • Freedom
  • Friendship
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • Helpfulness
  • Inner Harmony
  • Integrity
  • Involvement
  • Intellectual
  • Logic
  • Loving
  • Loyalty
  • Mature Love
  • National Security
  • Order
  • Peace
  • Personal Development
  • Pleasure
  • Polite
  • Power
  • Recognition
  • Religion
  • Responsible
  • Salvation
  • Self-Respect
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

Part Two (5 Minutes)

Identify the values you ranked as very (3) or extremely (4) important.  Make a list of each (very important values grouped together; extremely important values grouped together).

Values ranked as 4 – Extremely Important:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

(Continue on another page if needed).

Values ranked as 3 – Very Important:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

(Continue on another page if needed).

Part Three (10 Minutes – Allow 2 Minutes Per Question)

Next, complete the following five statements.  Write down the first thought that comes to mind.

1.  What I always dreamed of being or doing was:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

2.  My three or more greatest gifts or talents are:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

3.  The things I feel quite passionate about are:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

4.  The most satisfying moment in my professional/educational life so far was when:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

(Continue on another page if needed).

5.  What made that moment personally satisfying to me was:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

(Continue on another page if needed).

Part Four (Allow 5 Minutes)

Using the answers from Part Three, complete the following sentence:

My mission is to apply my gifts (which are                                        ,                               , and                                                                )* in advancing that which I deeply value (                                                           ,                                               , and                                                    )** in the service of                                                                  .***

* See your answers to Part Three, item 2.

**See your answers to Part Three, item 3.

***Consider all the values you listed as extremely important from Part Two.  Also consider persons or groups you deeply desire to serve and/or causes or ideals you deeply wish to advance.

It doesn’t get much easier than that!