it’s all in the presentation.

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I’m going to assume that you know the law. You know what you need to know, to perform the legal work that your clients need you to perform. You, and likely many hundreds — if not thousands — of other lawyers who could also serve your clients.

So why does a client choose you, and not one of the other hundreds or thousands?

It’s all in the presentation.

I know, I’ve probably lost you at this point. Didn’t take long. Because we lawyers spend little if any time thinking about this.

And by this, I mean all of the little things that make the difference for clients. You’re a superlawyer? Well, so are a lot of other lawyers. You’ve been doing this for X [insert impressive number of] years? Ditto. You have a high Avvo or Martindale Hubbell rating? Again, ditto.

None of these things set you apart. Now, they might appeal to another attorney who’s looking for someone to refer a client to, but to your ideal potential client? Not so much.

This is why someone hires YOU instead of another attorney: HOW YOU PRESENT YOURSELF.

So, how do you present yourself? What is the first impression of a potential client who …

visits your website?

calls your office?

sends you an email?

meets you at a networking event?

asks for your card?

has an initial consultation in your office?

You have one and only one opportunity to make a great first impression.

Spend some time answering the above questions. Really think about how you present to the people who you most want to work with. What can you do to present well to these folks?

I’d love to know what you come up with. And I’ll be sharing a few thoughts of my own in the next post …

on receiving criticism.

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Criticism sucks. Would you agree? In my experience, most folks do. It’s not particularly fun or enjoyable. It’s perceived as negative. It makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s tough on our tender lawyer egos.

So we avoid it. Both accepting it and giving it (at least effectively).

But it’s also an incredibly effective communication and personal growth tool. You ignore this power at your own peril.

Following up on yesterday’s brief post, I’m interested in exploring criticism precisely because it is both so important and so avoided.

The power lies in our ability to transform the negative feelings criticism elicits into positive results. Perhaps not easy, but definitely not impossible.

An inspiration? This article suggests we look to the Japanese martial art Aikido, which has a single goal: defend yourself and simultaneously protect your attacker from injury. A practitioner of Aikido does something amazing when faced with an attack: he incorporates its energy and momentum and redirects it. Without hurting the attacker.

Sounds like a crazy-effective communication technique, doesn’t it? Yes!

Here’s how it works: when you’re “attacked” with criticism (from your boss, co-worker, a client, your spouse, etc.), have the presence of mind to defend yourself without harming the underlying relationship with the criticizing party. Then, look for (and at) the underlying truth in the criticism, and not just how it’s being delivered. Learn from this.

Try these four steps:

1. Determine the purpose of the criticism. If constructive, then move on to step 2. If destructive (intended solely to focus on your shortcomings and very clearly violating this rule of criticism), IGNORE.

2. Analyze the validity of the criticism. Really wrap your mind around what is being said to you. Is there anything there that’s valid and that you should adopt?

3. Define the corrective action (if needed): If purpose and validity considerations warrant, then figure out how to correct and just do it. As importantly, if you’ve concluded that no corrective action is needed, then explain this (and why) to the criticizing party.

4. Learn from the critique. Think about what you learned through the corrective action and consider this an additional tool for being a better lawyer, spouse, parent, friend. Learn from it, as it probably will apply in future situations.

[Go here for the source of these suggestions, as well as some additional tips. Such as: don’t waste time getting angry, especially if the criticism is a negative personal attack. MOVE ON.]

Giving effective criticism is as much an art as receiving it. Stay tuned for more on that topic.

links i like.

It’s the day of love. And opportunity. To express thanks and gratitude.

As I’ve written before, you can set yourself apart by showing some love at a less-expected time of year.

This weeks’ links center on this theme: ways to show gratitude (and not) to clients, referral sources, employees — and in the way you conduct your business year-round.

The links:

Let’s start with what not to do — whenever you’re gifting.

Some frugal (yet still festive) business gifts that share the love. My favorite on this list? Making it personal.

How to keep your clients in love with your service?

Even lawyers can make clients fall in love with their business. Right?

Saying thank you is important. My favorite on this list: pick up the phone and make a call. Simply to say thank you.

Consider that gratitude is a business strategy. Not opportunistic holiday BS.

And while we’re on the topic, here are five ways to cultivate gratitude in the workplace.

links i like.

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Pretend it’s Friday. This week’s links? Words of wisdom from Seth. I think we think these ideas don’t apply to us. They do.

The links:

Accuracy, resiliency, and denial – where are you on this spectrum? No doubt we lawyers are guilty of making the two mistakes. I really hope you read and embrace this.

Who are your clients? This is gold, people.

Is your practice worth talking about? If not, then why bother?

Are you building gradually, to avoid the surprise of suddenly?

Could the point be more spot-on?

When you define the category, when the category is you and you alone, your marketing issues tend to disappear. This scares the hell out of most lawyers. Think of the advantage this affords those who are not afraid. Hmmm …

What works? A query significantly more important than what’s new.

Reading really good stuff is a really good way to keep moving forward. Add these books to the top of your reading list.