All Our Practice Tips
From Wallflower to Active Participant on Social Media
I’ve noticed lawyers pop into LinkedIn or Twitter once in a blue moon and then completely disappear.
If that’s you and you’d like to figure out how to enjoy some of the benefit others have found on social media, here are a few tips to get you started:
- You need a strategy. Define your target audience, point of different and purpose for your engagement, so you’re not scratching your head wondering what to do everytime you log in at LinkedIn.
- Don’t waste your time on sites that aren’t aligned with your goals. The fastest way to get turned off social media marketing is to build in activities that don’t go anywhere. Be selective about participating where your target market is more likely to be found. Determine ideal timing and frequency to reach your readers. And get yourself started with a base of connections that are likely to share, like and comment on your posts. Do the same for them.
- You will need to form new habits. Jumping into social media in a bigger way doesn’t mean you have to set aside a day a week just for posting! What you really need is to form a new habit that aligns with your day. When you check your email in the morning, take a quick look at your LinkedIn feed, bookmark an article to read later on and post a comment when you get to it. Set email notifications for only your highest priority groups or sites. That way you’ll minimize interruptions, but you’ll be able to respond when something catches your eye.
It’s a lot of pressure to figure out how to be quick, witty and charming several times a day… especially if it’s restricted to coffee breaks from phone calls, meetings, court appearances and other day-to-day activities as a lawyer.
Doing some of this foundational work will minimize decisions you have to make about where to spend your time and what type of engagement to focus on. Those changes alone can turn the social media black box into a manageable and transparent process. More importantly, they will help drive results.
For more reading on social media marketing, see the following posts on SlawTips:
Also see the following infographic on Bekhor Management’s website:
– Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
Oscar or Felix? What Does Your Desk Say About You?
♫ Their habits, I confess
None can guess with the couple…♫
Lyrics and music by Sammy Cahn and Neal Hefti.
Look at your desk and office. Whose office does yours resemble? Oscar Madison’s or Felix Unger’s? Is your desk neat and tidy or more a hodgepodge of piles of paper, old coffee cups and files stacked everywhere with food wrappers interspersed? Of course The Odd Couple accented the extreme personal differences between Oscar, who is perhaps the world’s most famous slob and Felix, the extreme clean freak, as a way to create an underlying comedic friction as the backdrop for the show.
But according to George Rains, your desk says a lot about you and your work habits. George states that there are at least 3 reasons to keep a clean work space:
#1 A clean work space projects a Professional and Personal Image
#2 Your office reflects on the image of your firm
#3 A clean office can help maintain personal health
George is not alone in advocating for a clean and tidy workspace. Pat Heydlauff states:
According to the National Association of Professional Organizations, paper clutter is the No. 1 problem for most businesses. Studies show the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing concentration and creative thinking.
Renae Nicole states that a clean workspace reflects on the overall morale of the organization. A clean and tidy desk reflects on how someone views their job. She also reinforces that a chaotic workspace can hinder efficiency.
So look at your desk and office. Are you more like Felix or Oscar? Fortunately it isn’t too late – salvation is at hand – all of us can aspire to better habits – starting today!
(if you want to take a short online test to see if you are more Felix or Oscar, click here).
On Change, Planning and Professional Practice
Death, taxes and change.
Reputedly, these are among life’s inevitabilities. And while there is probably very little we can do about death and taxes, change is something we truly can manage.
A central theme of many of my Practice Tips posts has been the importance of planning for law firms and other professional practices. By occasionally stepping back from the demands of our day-to-day dealings and deadlines, we can gain the benefit of a longer view, think about objectives, and develop strategies and routines to meet our short and longer term goals.
There will be many changes along the way, from the day we first hang a shingle, through to the maturity phase of our practices, and the ultimate decision that may come sooner – or later – than we think to wind down, transition to retirement, plan for succession or otherwise expand or contract our professional horizons.
Throughout our careers, there will probably be more than a few office addresses, important collaborators or partners, key clients, irreplaceable staff members, and memorable cases and projects There will also be revolutions in technology, drastic changes to the substantive law, regular shifts in the economy and continuing evolution of our marketplace and our regulatory environment.
Not to mention, a few curveballs.
Things don’t generally remain static in professional practice. Opportunities, setbacks and new challenges will virtually always come our way.
There will be lessons learned and pages turned, if you will.
It would be naive to believe all of these changes can be planned for. Some changes will be thrown upon us, unexpected, sudden and even unwelcome. That’s life, I suppose.
Nonetheless, much of this inevitable change can be managed and directed, if not wholly controlled. And our professional paths and our career successes may well be defined by how we navigate these changes.
Obviously, the future can’t be fully predicted or controlled, but with careful planning, a professional practice can definitely be guided in the right direction more often than not.
Begin by identifying objectives, challenges and issues. Get input from others. Be concrete about goals. Break objectives down into their components and target small, readily achievable milestones. Speak regularly with your partners, associates, staff, accountants, life partners, practice management experts and any other trusted sounding boards. Make lists, check them twice. Always leave space in your calendar to regularly assess where you are and work on your practice and professional goaks.
The topics of discussion will likely change through the phases and life cycle of every practice, but once established, the habit and art of planning can be a majar contributor to handling change and moving our career arcs forward.
Garry J. Wise, Toronto
Know Nothing, Network Well
When you go to a conference and network with a diverse group of lawyers it isn’t necessarily obvious what you should do to prepare. The typical advice is to get a primer on recent headlines within the industry, or at the very least with local happenings. While this is good advice to start up a conversation, the tip I want to give today is that it’s possible to network well and make a memorable mark by “knowing nothing”.
The trick is to take a deep interest in people you seek to make a connection with. What are their hobbies? What are their greatest loves? Explore them – everybody loves to talk about what they love the most, what makes them tick. Taking a real interest in someone makes them feel important and will make them remember you. This advice was given to me by a mentor who handed me a book I now constantly recommend in turn – Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People.
What if you know nothing about the hobbies or the loves? Is your conversation partner an avid fan of golf, but you don’t know the difference between par and a putter? No problem. Ask what it is about golf (or whatever the topic is) that makes it so beloved. Perhaps it’s spending time outside in a luscious green space. Or it’s the opportunity to spend several hours with companions thinking of nothing but hitting the next ball, living in the moment. Or it’s the eternal competition with oneself. The deeper the exploration, the more abstract the reason, the better your chances are of meeting them on the same ground.
Similarly, winning beauty contests is not necessarily a matter of peacocking – showing how great and wonderful you and your firm is. It may instead be a matter of listening to your clients and understanding what their real needs are. In my days as a new lawyer I would meet new clients and assume they wanted to hear about their rights. I’d lecture on about the law and legal rights, preening on about my knowledge of the law. Not surprisingly, I did not win many beauty contests. But when I changed gears and made the meeting a real conversation with questions like “what’s your greatest concern?” and “what do you want me to do for you?” I began to win clients over.
So if you’re not up on the latest in hockey, don’t despair. You can network well without knowing the latest headlines, sports or hobbies. The key is to listen and to take an interest in others.
-Ian Hu, Toronto.
Productivity+: Turn Off Notifications and Stop Distractions
When I speak to lawyers about improving productivity, some of the best feedback I receive is how to stop distractions. Research has shown that every time a person is interrupted from a task, it takes some 20 minutes to return to it. Each interruption costs productivity and, if you bill by the hour, you lose the chance to docket “0.3”. Here are some common distractions and what you can do about it.
Turn off cell phone notifications
Every cell phone beep pulls you out of the task you’re working on. If you are in the office, chances are the notification is not work-related. Depending on your phone, you can turn off notifications globally or by adjusting the settings in the app. Facebook and Twitter are common culprits – there are notifications for virtually any activity that occurs on your account – new messages directly to you, messages that are liked or shared, and messages that have a new comment. If your cell phone chimes every time you receive an email, that can be a huge distraction as well. Turn them all off.
We use our phones constantly. A 2015 Deloitte study found that people check their phones 46 times a day. Make a conscious choice to avoid looking at the phone while you are working on tasks. When you’re done, take a break and go ahead and do a few fun things. Depending on your level of focus, a starting point would be to take a break every 45 minutes – about the average time a person can concentrate on a task before losing effectiveness.
And turn off email notifications
The biggest temptation on your work computer is to check email. Email can be highly productive – giving instructions, receiving updates, and communicating with clients and staff are all important tasks. But if you’re immersed in a factum or a letter to counsel, a ping from your email is an unwelcome distraction. Turn off email notifications – while Windows 8 and older you can turn off notifications in Outlook, in the new Windows 10 notifications are system-wide (click on this link at howtogeek.com for a helpful how-to) – and work in peace.
Colleagues dropping by
A friendly workplace is great to have for a number of reasons, but one of the potential pitfalls is colleagues may drop by your office to chat about baseball and interrupt your work process. While you don’t want to close your door all the time and be the office hermit, it’s okay to shut out the world when you’re deep into a memo. If you are in an open space and the constant noise bothers you, consider headphones or earplugs to help you focus and indicate you don’t want to be disturbed.
We are not multitaskers
Very few of us can multitask well. Study after study shows that using a cell phone while driving is the equivalent of drunk driving. Trying to email instructions to staff, type out a factum, and text your friend at the same time is a recipe for disaster. With the mind trying to do everything at once, nothing gets the attention it deserves. Focus on doing one thing at a time.
Prevent distractions so you get the most out of your work day. With the task lists growing by the minute, the urge may be to do a bunch of tasks at once, but the best way to juggle is likely by doing each task one at a time, uninterrupted.
Ian Hu, Toronto.
10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Email
- Slow Down.The point is to use email to increase productivity, not be the fastest to respond. Common courtesy is to respond within 24 hours.
- Be Professional.Yes, that joke your buddy sent you last night was a hoot, but you should never forward such communications to business contacts.
- Protect Your Friends. When sending a message to a group, do not disclose your recipient’s email addresses. Use the “bcc” (blind carbon copy) field for multiple addresses and place your own email address in the “To” field.
- Do Not Use “Forward to All” and “Reply to All” Functions.I have witnessed embarrassing moments of others (and recall my own painful “oops”) when messages intended only for the original sender, are, in fact, sent to everyone who may have been cc’d or even bcc’d on the original message or post. Best not to use either button at all. Ever.
- Do A Final Full Read of Each Email.With each email, always read through your message from start to finish before hitting “Send”. This last reading is crucial in catching any missing information or attachments and allows you to get a full understanding of the “tone” of your message.
- Formatting Counts.Every email message should contain proper formatting, punctuation, grammar and have a signature containing your name, email address and telephone number.
- Don’t Send Large Files.Sending large attachments may cause some inboxes to reach their size limit. If this happens, the recipient must log in and download or delete your message in order to receive any further emails from any source – almost guaranteeing they will not think kindly of you from that point forward. Use a service such as www.SendThisFile.com to transfer large files.
- Be Polite.Do not type in CAPITALS as it is considered shouting.
- Be Clear.Do not use acronyms or cryptic shorthand in your messages. Not only will the recipient not understand your message, it may make the recipient feel “stupid” for not being able to figure it out! Each message should contain enough information for the recipient to understand what you need or what they need to do in response to your communication.
- Leave The Subject Line Alone.When replying to messages, especially to groups and list servs, do not change the subject line. Many email applications allow a sort by subject, giving subscribers the ability to follow a particular discussion “thread”.
866-848-2195 x101 email@example.com
11 Reasons Why Your Law Firm Should Have an Annual Retreat
A law firm retreat is an opportunity to bring together those most invested in the future of the firm, to discuss just that… the future of the firm.
Yes, it’s true, some firms treat it as a perk, a mini-vacation if you will. But don’t let that cloud your assessment of the true potential of a retreat.
For law firms that take the time to do it right – pre-planning, professional facilitation and action planning – a retreat can be absolutely invaluable. The clarity and insight that comes out of that single meeting can drive the firm’s plan for the rest of the year.
But a single retreat can’t drive the plan for the rest of the life of the firm. That’s why it’s a good idea to make it an annual event.
If you’re convinced, read no further.
For everyone else, here are 11 good reasons for your law firm to commit to an annual retreat:
- Because having an annual retreat creates habits – the good kind – around planning and taking action
- Because a law firm’s challenges – financial, strategic, lifestyle – change over time
- Because an annual commitment builds accountability into the process, by keeping everyone up on the status of last year’s goals and action plan
- Because the pre-planning step gives you a chance to look at the big picture – what has gone right, what needs work…
- Because your goals evolve and so must your plans if they are to support you
- Because the marketplace, including your competition and your clients, changes… sometimes rapidly
- Because the actual makeup of the firm transforms over time, namely its people
- Because there’s never a time when you can’t make things better, whether the firm is in growth mode or just holding fast
- Because inertia around certain key decisions is often more easily overcome with discussion
- Because high level priorities require dialogue and agreement for any organized action planning to follow
- Because, however close you are to your firm’s day-to-day operations, there are always surprises that emerge in the pre-planning process
And beyond all the common sense, good business reasons listed above, there’s also the value of anything that gives your key stakeholders a real bounce in their step.
That’s particularly true if there’s opportunity for a ripple effect on the morale of the rest of the firm.
For more on law firm retreats, see these previous posts on SlawTips:
Also, see Toronto Marketing Blog for how to make the most of your retreat:
–Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
Join Team Tile to Secure Your Smartphone
In 2008, I attended a talk by the late (great) Eddie Greenspan, Q.C. at the Law Courts Inn. His topic was digital security, in particular public CCTV, email, and smartphones, especially those with recording devices. He despised all three. Public CCTV, because of the invasion of privacy by the state (I can get behind that to a certain extent). Email, because it meant he received so much more communication that it took ages for his assistant to print and for him to scrawl shorthand replies for her to type. Smartphones were especially problematic in his view. He suggested that a lawyer who lost a Blackberry should, without question, be cited for professional misconduct and suspended. He was totally serious.
Of course, digital data security is a serious matter. Every digital security expert will tell you that it will happen (although it might not be you, it will be someone else). Mr. Greenspan was right about the importance of maintaining digital security. But, he was not particularly well-versed in the possible security measures present.
There is a lot of effort devoted to password protection and data encryption. Both are fundamental measures. Being able to remotely “wipe” a device is also a crucial part of any security plan. But, there is not much said about physically locating lost devices.
For my Apple devices, I use its “Find my iPhone” app, which lets me track, locate, and wipe my devices so long as they are turned on.
One particular security measure I have adopted is the Tile for devices or things that do not have GPS capability built in. I first used it for my keys, but some people even use it for their dog.
The Tile is a tiny little square – a bit smaller than a book of paper matches (1.45”x1.45”x0.24”). It has a little hole for things like keychains. It connects to a smartphone or tablet through the device’s Bluetooth connection and is used through a user-friendly, proprietary app. If I want to find my phone, then I double-tap the button the tile and my phone will play a sound. To find the Tile itself, I use the app to make the Tile play a sound. I can link several Tiles to my phone, each with a description and photo of the item it is attached to. I currently have keys, a barrister’s bag, and a laptop bag with Tiles linked to my phone.
Although range is limited to Bluetooth range (about 30 feet in practice), it is effectively extended by the Tile “community”. If I lose a Tile and it’s beyond Bluetooth range, then I am immediately alerted to its location when another Tile user’s device with the app comes within Bluetooth range of my Tile. I can then use my app to go to the Tile’s location and, when within Bluetooth range, make it play a sound.
I have not tested it, but here’s some anecdotal information. This morning, when I opened my Tile app to write this piece, I was advised that there were 1,124 Tile users in downtown Vancouver. Yesterday, I was sent a congratulatory message because my app had helped another user find his or her Tile. Our paralegal was running an errand and I sent her away with my tile. About 30 minutes later, I received a notification that my Tile had been found.
She returned within Bluetooth range of my phone.
It’s certainly not perfect, but at $69.99 for a 4-pack of tiles, it can’t do any harm. At least you’ll find your keys (or your dog) faster. If you do lose something precious, then it gives you an extraordinarily better chance of finding it.
Emails and Client Expectations
Tsunami, blizzard, avalanche, flood, plague. There are many ways to describe the volume of emails that hit your Inbox every day. One aspect of the problem that is created by the flood is managing the clients’ expectations. Intellectually they might appreciate that you have more than one client and are busy but, intuitively, they expect a reply to their emails almost immediately. Here is one way to provide that reply and yet maintain the right to manage your own priorities in a meaningful way.
You know how to create a Signature in your email app – and it does not have to be just your name and address. Create this Signature:
I will have to take a look at this and get back to you in the next few days. If there is some urgency that I have overlooked, please let me know.
Once you add a Dear X, away it goes. The client is happy – you read his email! You are happy – you can reply substantively later, without rushing, and avoid putting what might be a low priority task ahead of something that is Urgent and Important. All it took was a couple of key strokes to send that Signature.
Of course, having given yourself time to reply, you must reply. Make sure you have a system in place to ensure that gets done. I like the 4D system: Do, Defer, Delegate, Dump. Take a look at a great article by Sheila Blackford in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin archives entitled Managing your Email.
-Barney (Bjorn) Christianson
How to Ask for Referrals – Part II
Last week, in ‘How to Ask for Referrals – Part I,’ we heard from lawyers and accountants. This week, we will hear from consultants.
FROM THE CONSULTANTS:
Mark Federman, Ph.D
Federman – Reengagement Realized
Asking for a referral is, by definition, all about me. It’s something I want to benefit my business. A more effective ask would be to turn this around, and offer a benefit to the potential referrer first. Using your great probing and listening skills, determine what interests the other person. What problems do they have for which you might be able to offer a solution? What opportunities do they see for which you can offer an advantageous approach? By freely suggesting a new way to perceive their challenge that draws on your key business skills, you set yourself up to ask the obvious follow-on question: Who else do you know who might be facing the same, or similar situation that might also benefit from my approach? Voila! Instant, natural, and painless referral.
In general, when we feel comfortable with a client, in a casual conversation when the vibe seemed right, we might mention that we would always appreciate referrals.
We also meet with our clients’ accountants to present what we do, with the sole purpose of trying to create excitement so they will refer us to others who would benefit from our services.
I will add that one method that has consistently worked well in my own consulting practice is maintaining visibility. I have received referrals after sharing information, ideas and insights that added value to my network at speaking engagements, on my blog, LinkedIn, Twitter or by way of my newsletter. This includes referrals from people I didn’t know, but who were somehow connected to my professional network!
For more on generating referrals, see this previous post on SlawTips:
Also, see Toronto Marketing Blog for generating the type of referrals that fit your practice:
–Sandra Bekhor, Toronto