links I like.

The complete guide to structuring your ideal work day. Really good advice here.

Use video on your website? This tool redesigns the interface to match your site’s design. Use it. The Youtube interface isn’t pretty.

Considering cloud storage? Dropbox and OneDrive compared.

Already using Dropbox? Use selective sync to save space on your hard drive.

Use this extension to annotate attachments right in Gmail. Without downloading.

Remember the mix tape? Go here and make one. Listen to it. Share. Guaranteed to improve your mood.

In the market for a new laptop? Check out this interactive shopping guide “map.”

Need to learn a new skill or develop a habit? Try the pomodoro technique using Persevy.

And if you don’t know what the pomodoro technique is (or why you should care), then go here.

If you don’t like networking, you may be doing it wrong. The goal? Make friends, not simply contacts.

Links I like is a semi-regular Friday feature on Inspired Law Blog, and like all other posts, is written by Caitlin (Cat) Moon, a consultant and coach to lawyers and other driven people who want to design inspired ways to work.

a better question.

I’m an unabashed fan of mentoring and connecting. I build time for both into my schedule. And I urge others to, as well. Based on my constant experience that mentoring is as rich an experience for the mentor as mentee, if you put your heart into it. And you simply never know where connecting with others will lead — it’s often somewhere not really obvious, but surprisingly good.

So I’m facing a bit of a conundrum at the moment. Because I keep coming across people who ask a single question when faced with a mentoring or connecting opportunity. The question: WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

The first time I encountered this question, I wrote it off as specific to that person, that situation.

The second time, I pondered …

Most recently, I was pretty much smacked in the face with it. A person I admire and respect professionally said: “I don’t respond to attempts at connecting or networking unless it benefits me.” This person went on to elaborate that if the benefit appeared to be one-way, favoring the other person, then the connection was ignored.

I suppressed the urge to ask some rhetorical questions of this person. The person is a professional. In a position to “connect” with a lot of people. Perhaps this person truly is just too busy to deal with such connections that don’t have an obvious benefit.

But if everyone is following this path, then I fear the undoing of a culture that should be encouraged rather than destroyed. A culture of helping those who are following in our footsteps. This is especially so in the legal profession, where well-developed mentoring programs are scarce, even in larger firms. They’re nonexistent for most of the attorneys who most need them – solos and those in small firms.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a mentoring relationship. And for the past few years, I’ve been on the giving end. I can’t imagine how I would’ve gotten through some pretty sticky situations but for the generosity of others who were willing to share their time and wisdom. And the words of thanks I’ve received from mentees makes it clear that I’ve made a tremendous difference for them, even if only by taking five minutes to offer an opinion.

Our time is precious and limited. But we’re not so precious — and let’s not be so limited — to seek connections only when there’s a tangible benefit to be had.

If you’re too busy or view your time as too important, then I must suggest that your priorities and time management skills may be a bit askew.

Let’s try this question instead: “How can I help?”

make a great first impression.

I started this little series of posts here. My inspiration was a recent opportunity to help someone essentially recreate a practice. From soup to nuts.

When faced with this blank slate, we started by strategizing about the first impression this person could make, through all the channels presented to a lawyer on a daily basis: website, calls to the office, email communication, interaction at networking opportunities, sharing a business card, conducting an initial consultation … and there are many, many more that deserve consideration. But I’ll start with these.

WEBSITE

This topic deserves a series of posts in its own right, but here are the obvious basics of making a good first impression on your website: Use professional images, not snapshots and not old pictures or ones that don’t look like you. Write your bio like a story, not like your Martindale-Hubbell bio. Yuck. And if you’re not a good story writer, then hire someone to write it for you. And don’t just talk about yourself — find a way to offer information to site visitors, whether through FAQs, blog posts, white papers or even ebooks. Finally, keep your target audience in mind as you design all aspects of your site. Your target audience is likely not other lawyers (at least not primarily). So don’t think like a lawyer when you create your site.

INCOMING CALLS

Not every practice requires a live person taking calls. But some do — especially in practice areas where clients have a perceived need to talk to someone (anyone) right at that moment. Criminal and domestic clients come to mind. If this describes your practice, keep in mind that you’re possibly losing potential clients if incoming calls aren’t handled well.

A person in crisis wants to talk to another person, and be given a clear expectation of what’s going to happen next. This is the first impression you should be giving, if your practice areas encompass crisis situations. Why? Because this will give potential clients a genuine reason to trust you, which makes it more likely they will hire you.

How to do this? You can hire staff to handle it in your office. Work with them to identify how various types of calls will be handled, even creating scripts (of sorts) for different situations, and nail down how you can make sure clients now what to expect going forward. By this I mean making sure the person taking calls clearly communicates to callers when follow-up communication will happen, e.g. “Attorney Smith will return your call within X hours.” The call taker can make this statement with confidence because you’ve already worked out the expectations to be set.

In lieu of hiring a person to sit in your office, you also can consider a service such as Ruby Receptionists — their staff can be trained to manage calls just as your own staff member would. If the thought of managing another person (or paying a full-time salary) discourages you, then you really should check out Ruby.

EMAIL COMMUNICATION

Yet another topic deserving of its own series of posts. The nutshell version: First, if you haven’t already done it, think through exactly how you’re going to handle initial contacts via email. Your website no doubt has an email contact form (or at least an email address), so you’re inviting people to contact you this way. So how do you respond? How do you make the right initial impression in this response?

I can’t answer these questions for you because they depend entirely on your practice and goals — but I can tell you that taking the time to think through an email policy, especially for initial contacts, is time well-spent.

Also, treat email communication as you would any other professional communication. Choose your words with care, remember that email can’t convey tone (or humor, often), and thoughtfully consider what information you share via email. Sometimes you need to pick up the phone (or meet in person), instead of hitting “send.” This may be especially so when responding to initial contact from a potential client.

Communication is the lynchpin of any successful attorney-client relationship. It’s so easy to do it right, and how you handle both incoming calls and email communication sets the stage for what clients can expect going forward with your office.

In the next post, I’ll share some thoughts on networking, business cards, and conducting an initial consultation …

it’s all in the presentation.

image

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 …