Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More Flutter on Twitter

OK folks, here we go again. I am going to ask the question, "what is all the fuss about twitter?" I still am not sold on idea that we all must tweet or our professional practices will die. This is the same mantra that I heard from Yellow Pages sales people for years. Are we sure twitter is not just another online toy?

For those of you who follow this blog with any regularity, you know that I am a big fan of Duct Tape Marketing boss John Jantsch. In an article posted on his blog John makes some hard observations about the real value of twitter.
Today I’m going to take on a topic that may not be altogether popular in some social media circles, but it’s a message that small business owners need to wrestle with.

Like me, you are probably sick of hearing about twitter like it’s the next coming of Sidd Finch. Social media experts will have you believe that if your business is not on twitter for hours each day, then you don’t exist.

Here’s my take, I use twitter to meet a handful of objectives, I try to write about it in practical ways, I enjoy some of the interaction, get some nice insights, get decent return on the time I spend, but it’s not for everyone, not right now at least, and here’s why.

While the odd restaurant or coffee shop may be grabbing some headlines because of their tweeting strategy, most small businesses have far greater pressing foundational needs when it comes to the limited time and resources they can allocate to marketing.

Do not bother with twitter or Facebook or any other social networking tools right now unless:

* You have perfected a simple point of differentiation that a narrow market truly values and gets
* You have a killer white paper that clearly demonstrates your 7 steps to blah, blah, blah expertise
* You have built relationships with 5 journalists that routinely call you for quotes and tips
* You are presenting workshops, seminars and web conferences based on white paper above
* You have a roster of strategic partners that you automatically refer and who refer you
* Your web site/blog is chock full of education based content, articles and tutorials
* You have a fully scripted/automated lead conversion process that you can measure
* You have a marketing action plan and action step calendar that is focused on marketing objectives

I know the fun is in the new thing of the moment, but spending your precious time on something like twitter is likely a giant waste of time for your business if you have not build the foundation that can tap social networks as outposts for your marketing hub.

Now, to some this message may actually be refreshing, so let me throw a little cold water. I am not saying that social networks are on their own waste of time as an essential marketing activity, far from it. My real message is that social networks, including twitter are growing in importance for small business, but hold little value to the business that has not built a strong marketing foundation.

This message gets confused when people see social media gurus, some with thousands of followers and nothing but time on their hands to tweet all day, stand up and condemn those not yet in the twitter fold as somehow strangely out of touch. Here’s your test - follow the tweets and see if you find any cattle before you succumb to this line of thinking. Some of the largest advocates of social media have no real foundation, no return on their tweets, and little business, other than the occasional speaking gig at a social media lovefest - and that should be your warning to keep your eye on the real prize - your business objectives.
Please click here for John's original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Need To Buy Expensive Stationery

My first laser printer was a big Hewlett Packard, purchased roughly ten to fifteen years ago. From that day forward I eliminated pre-printed stationery. Now every piece of printed paper in our office comes from our laser printers, including our letterhead. We implemented this practice for costs savings, and convenience, and we have never looked back. Other lawyers have similar stories. The ever eloquent Ernest Svenson on his PDF For Lawyers blog explains his transition.

Letterhead When I started my solo practice 3 years ago I faced the usual smorgasbord of choices, among them was the question of law firm stationery. Having lived through the disruption of Katrina, I had decided that everything I did from then forward would be as simple and efficient as possible. The nomadic life I lived after Katrina caused me to become hyper-aware about how many office procedures are relics of the industrial era. Office stationery is one of those relics.

Pre-printed letterhead was necessary before high-quality laser printers became affordable and widely used. Any small business is going to have a laser printer, probably even one that prints in color. Even most ink-jet printers are capable of printing high-quality text, which most people would not regard as cheap or unprofessional.

True, having your letterhead appear on high-quality stock paper is nice. But is it worth the trade-off in decreased inefficiency? If you want to move towards a paperless workflow you need to consider all of the small inefficiency leaks. Pre-printed letterhead is a systemic issue, and one that creates many bottlenecks. And, of course, it also adds cost.

Think about it. If you have pre-printed letterhead, then you need to have a special tray in every printer that will be used to print outgoing letters. Or, worse, you'll have to insert the letterhead before each print job that requires it. This means that you'll have mistakes that will require reprinting, or you'll have problems when the printer runs out of letterhead paper.

If you digitize your letterhead then you dispense with the need for having 'special paper' as well as the need to make sure that each printer is stocked with that special paper. All you'd have to do is call up the form document that has your 'letterhead' already included and then create your letter and print it out. If you are sending the letter by email as a PDF then you don't need pre-printed letterhead anyway. And, frankly, the digital letterhead will probably look a lot better in PDF form.

So, you're now convinced that you need to digitize your letterhead. How do you do it?

Creating your digital letterhead is as easy as using your word processor to layout a document with header and footer information that reflects something similar to what your current letterhead looks like. If you don't know enough about word processing to do this then find someone in your office who does. The process might take an hour or so the first time; you'll get caught up in tinkering and tweaking things, which is fine. But in the end, no matter how long it takes, you'll have a great looking letterhead that is stored digitally in your computer.

You'll be free of the hassle of having to order, stock and re-provision special letterhead. You'll save time and money, and increase the efficiency of your practice in a small, but very important, way. Remember, we're now living in the information age, not the industrial age.
Please click here for Ernie's original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You Need Practice Management Software!

I have used practice management software for years. In my particular case the program is Amicus Attorney. I would not say the relationship I have with the program is perfect (see rants and venting elsewhere in this blog). On the whole though, the pluses for outweigh the minuses, and I consider the software a can't live without.

On his Does It Compute blog John Heckman also gives his thumb-up to practice management software. Here is what John has to say.

Practice Management: A Day in the Life

Think of a Practice Management program as a giant Redweld. For each client or matter, there are folders for documents, contact addresses, emails, memos to file, phone slips, Internet research, etc. But instead of having to hunt for it (hint: It will be at the bottom of the large pile in the corner of the attorney’s office), you just check the computer, and there it is! Practice Management programs store electronically in one place everything that you normally store on paper in the client file. At the core of any practice management system is the matter (or engagement, case, or whatever you call it). Unlike Outlook, which is individual-central (all emails are listed as to or from a specific individual), these systems are matter-centric. By putting all the emails, documents, phone calls, appointments, notes, todos, time records, Internet research, etc. in one electronic place, everyone who works on the case has access to them, instead of having them dispersed who knows where. Clients tell me that their practice management system can reduce the number of times they have to find and consult a physical file by up to 70%. So let’s look at:

A Day In the Life...

You open your practice management software when you get into the office. Up pops a list of your appointments, to dos, phone messages, new emails, and the reminders of court dates, filings, statutes of limitations, etc. (A leading cause of malpractice suits is missing deadlines). Already you feel more in control.
No sooner do you settle in than you get a phone call. The prospect you spoke with yesterday wants to retain you. You (or a paralegal or assistant) do a conflict check which does not turn up any conflicts based on the information in the software (so you don’t have to waste a half a day checking to see if anybody else knows of any conflicts). You open the new matter. You add the contact information for various parties (except that the opposing attorney is somebody you have already dealt with, so he is already in your rolodex – you will never have to retype that information). You associate the contacts with the matter: the client, opposing counsel, various parties, depending on the type of case.
You call the new client back to set up a meeting. The Phone timer starts, accurately recording the amount of time you spend. You check everybody else’s calendar to make sure they are free, then set up a meeting for next Tuesday and enter the time and date in the Calendar module – together with adding your Paralegal to the appointment (which will show up on his calendar too) and reserving the Rear Conference Room (which also is controlled by the calendar – so you can always see the status of the conference room from your computer). While you are on the phone, the program’s internal Instant Messaging application pops up with a note from your secretary saying that another client is in the waiting room. You IM back that you will be right there, then stop the Phone timer and click another button to make a time entry for the phone call.
You need a retainer letter for the client, so from your word processor, you access the practice management program’s templates and create your basic retainer, complete with all the client information you already entered (no need to retype it). You then check over the draft, make changes and save the final letter and associate it with the matter.
You assign a task to your secretary to create the other documents needed when a file is opened. While you were working on this letter, you get a phone call on a different matter. You switch timers to the other matter, record the call and make a quick time entry before getting back to your letter.
You then create a “note” on the engagement – an electronic memo to file, which is also related to the matter.
Later that day, the client emails you that the address information was incomplete. You start a timer for dealing with the email, and complete the address information (which is now available, corrected, for everyone). You save the email to the PM system, associating it with the client. You again stop the timer and make a time entry.
Meanwhile, you need to do some internet research for the case. You find the sources you want on the web and – guess what – save those to the matter as well, so that you can click on the web address and go back to the page without having to hunt for it again.
You need to make a check list of things to do for this new client. You go through the outline for this type of case, and delegate various tasks to your assistant, paralegal, etc. You create chains of linked events so that you can track court deadlines, Statute of Limitations, etc.
At the end of the day, you go into your time entries, edit them and post them to your time and billing software. You notice in passing that whereas you recollect being on the phone for 10 minutes with the client, the timer information shows that you were actually on the phone for a half an hour – that’s an additional 20 minutes you would not have billed otherwise.
While you are working, your contact list and calendar is synchronized with Outlook and your PDA/Blackberry/iPhone, etc. When you leave the office, it is up to date, so you always have a current contact list and calendar with you.
The next morning you come in and what to check the status of the case. You open the file, and note that your assistant and finished 2 of the 3 initial tasks you assigned, and is half done with the last one. You review the appointment, phone call and emails for the engagement. You realize you have saved at least 10 minutes in the process of creating this matter.
Wow! you say to yourself. If I save 12 minutes a day, that’s an hour a week, times 50 weeks a year at my billing rate of $250 an hour, that’s $12,500 a year. And I billed an extra 20 minutes for that phone call that I would not otherwise have remembered. Another hour a week billing additional time for things I would almost certainly otherwise have forgotten, that’s another $12,500 a year in actual additional billings (hard cash)! How come it took me so long to buy this software? Think of all the money I was throwing away when I didn’t have it!!

Please click here for John's original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do you know when you've succeeded?

In his Law Biz Blog, consultant Ed Poll reminds us of the value educating our clients and reminding them of the importance of our services. Repeatedly self-selling our representation to our clients.
How many of our clients don’t realize or appreciate the success we bring to the table for them? What have you done to educate them about the process of your representation? I was fighting myself because I had never been in Red Rock Canyon before. Most of your clients have never been involved in the judicial process before. And even sophisticated clients with previous involvement don't truly appreciate what lies ahead. What have you done to show them a preview of what’s to come? What have you done to make their journey easier? What have you done to shine a flashlight on the road in front of them?

When you shine the flashlight, and they still agree to move forward, the likelihood is that they will pay you your full fee without question and promptly in accordance with your engagement agreement.
Please click here for Ed's entire article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Doing the Cell Phone Shuffle - The Prodigal Son Returns To T-Mobile and BlackBerry

For years I was a BlackBerry user on T-Mobile. Out of boredom, and looking for faster internet browsing on my device, I switched to Sprint, and to a $299 HTC Touch Pro Windows Mobile phone. This proved to be a mistake on three counts. First, the HTC phone was a nuisance. The slide out keyboard would suffer the slightest jiggle, and the screen would switch from portrait to landscape, or the screen would freeze. Also, the touchscreen was frustratingly non-responsive. Second, the Windows Mobile operating system proved sluggish and unstable. Third, the customer support at Sprint was absolutely, positively awful. Offshored to India and the Philippines, there were language problems, and flat-out lack of knowledge about services and products. To top it all off I learned that the phone Sprint had sold me had no international capability, which was in direct conflict with what the original online sales rep had advised.

My frustration with Sprint compelled me to search out another provider. My lesson learned was $299 wasted on a phone, and an early termination fee.

Who did I pick to replace Sprint? AT&T. Why? Because I believed the ads about blazing 3G speed, and because of its reputation for international service. I signed up, and bought an impressive $199 Samsung, Windows Mobile based smartphone. What did I learn? Well, first the customer support was to my satisfaction. U.S. based, which eliminated the language issues, and fluent in the product. The problems? This time there were four of them. First, I had to use customer support a lot! Come to learn, my house sits in an AT&T dead zone. Didn't matter if I had a 3G phone, or an old kid's walkie talkie, without reception the phone was no good. Second, the wi-fi on the phone would not work. Thus, a totally non-functioning feature that could have helped me to deal with my residential dead zone. Support never could fix it. Third, even though my home and office are located in areas the AT&T advertises as fully 3G, that proved to be false. Roughly 80% of the time I would get a signal meter indicating coverage other than 3G. Fourth, Windows Mobile. Two phones with this operating system, two hair puling, frustrating experiences. WM is just plain old dog slow. Takes forever to boot-up. Takes forever to switch between applications. Even with 3G coverage, takes forever to send, transmit, and process data.

My frustration with AT&T compelled me to search out another provider. My lesson learned was $199 wasted on a phone, and an early termination fee.

So where am I now? Right back with T-Mobile. This time though, I have the $199 BlackBerry Curve 8900. So far, so great! Had a couple of set-up issues that were handled by the outstanding and ever courteous support folks. Data speed is faster than anything I ever got with either of the Windows Mobile phones. I have coverage at my house and my office. Wi-fi has been a dream. And I know from past experience that when I travel out of the U.S. I will have excellent service and coverage.

T-Mobile and BlackBerry, I am sorry I left you. Thank you for welcoming me back....

Friday, March 20, 2009

Acrobat Upgrade Announced

In case you have not heard Adobe has recently released Version 9.1 of Acrobat. Use the Check for Updates button under the Help bar of your program to install the update.

Click here to read about the improvements.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SPU Faculty Announcement

John E. Harding to teach a course about family law at Solo Practice University™.

Faculty @ SPU

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Divorce Cases Are Going To Trial

A wise family law lawyer once told me "the best divorce lawyers are the ones that are not going to court." That makes perfect sense. Lawyers get paid by the hour. Nothing consumes more of a lawyers time than a court appearance. Any court proceeding is a terribly inefficient use of time. There is substantial preparation required, and then there is an abundance of idle time waiting around for your case to be called. Remember too, divorce court is a court of equity. King Solomon reigns. There will not be one winner and one loser. For the litigants family law court is an exercise in universal suffering. The big reason for going to court in a family law case is because of that ten to twenty percent unpredictability factor. Sometimes we don't know what the judge will do and we have to roll the dice.

More and more people, clients, journalists are asking me: "Is this tough economy adding to your business?" The answer is yes and no. No, the number of new clients walking through the door has not gone up. Yes, the level of conflict in my cases has gone way up, and that means the "average" cost of a divorce has gone way up. Given that time is money, and I am spending more time on most cases, you could say yes business has gone up. That is assuming every one of my clients can pay their bill!

Before we go any further, let me throw in an important caveat. In family law there are trials, and then are intermediate hearings. Trial is at the end of the line. The big Perry Mason, OJ Simpson moment where a stream of witnesses take the stand, and the participants find themselves in court day after day. Generally, there is only one full-blown trial in a divorce case. However, it takes a while to get that trial date. There is preliminary work to be done in a case before it is ready for trial. It is not uncommon for sixteen, eighteen, twenty-four, thirty-six months to go by before trial. That is a lot of time! To deal with that lag procedures are available for temporary (some courts use the term "interlocutory") court orders. For example, temporary court orders for child custody, child support, spousal support, use of the home, etc. In this article I am talking about the trial (and an increase in the number of cases going to trial).

In days gone by, people were more inclined to compromise, and cases were easier to settle. You got your temporary orders, took them as an indication of what would likely happen at trial, and then settled your case. Statistically, anywhere from ninety to ninety-five percent of divorce cases settled without a full-blown trial. In my practice that number is coming way, way down. I would estimate that twenty-five to thirty-five percent of my cases are now going to trial. That is a huge statistical jump! In an average year I would have one or two trials (to go along with 100, 200 temporary hearings). In the last five months I have had five trials! That isn't just a statistical tremor, it is an outright, building toppling earthquake!

I attribute the jump to the economy. People are desperate and looking for fixes in the worst of places, for example in divorce court. There is no extra money to soften the blow of a compromise settlement. There is no equity in the family residence to complete a buy-out of the other spouses interest, to pay off the debts, to create down payment money for two replacement homes. People are losing there jobs so that they cannot "agree" to pay support like they might have in the past. People cannot find jobs, compelling them to ask for spousal support or more child support than they might have in the past. In short, they are looking to the divorce courts to fill their coffers with money that the bad economy has taken away.

From a different angle, money is more valuable today. By that I mean people are more desperate these days to hold on to what they do have, then to part with it in a compromise settlement. They are not willing to share because they don't believe they can afford to share.

Therein lies the irony. These husbands and wives are spending good money to go after bad. Desperate times lead to desperate measures, and that is what we are seeing in family law cases. The ability to compromise is muted these days by the financial hardships the bad economy has created. The bottom line though, is that more cases are going to trial.

Incidentally, please don't blame the lawyers! We didn't create the bad economy, are we are not necessarily profiting from it. If a person cannot pay their mortgage, can they pay their lawyer? Good lawyers educate their clients to the value of settlement, but the clients have to listen. In times of extreme financial distress the client's ability to hear is affected. It is a good bet that many of the family law lawyers that are going to court are not getting paid, or not getting paid completely. Ask the average family law lawyer where her receivables are compared to five years ago and I bet she will say they are much higher.

Is there a real solution? Maybe not. There is no magic pill to be swallowed so that the bad economy will go away. We cannot snap our fingers and make money magically appear. For the near future, it looks like we will be grabbing our briefcases and heading off to trial.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

7 Ways to Have Character (and show it) on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social networking site. One of the first geared at business people and professional networking, which sets it apart from the more social sites such as facebook and myspace. I have a LinkedIn account. I check it once in a while. I guess it plays into the mantra that "you can't have too much exposure." Then again, I cannot track a single, real, paying client to my LinkedIn account. Other lawyers I know tell a much different story. My friends who practice in the worlds of corporate transactions, and corporate litigation tell me that they have seen tangible, revenue generating, client development sourced back to their LinkedIn accounts. That's good news, and inspires me to perhaps spend a bit more time floating around within LinkedIn. Motivation is great. An actual plan is even better. Snap! Scott Allen drops in on ducttapemarketing.com with a guest post re LinkedIn. A good read! Here it is:

I have a LinkedIn profile.The best way to increase the number of referrals you receive is to increase your worthiness of receiving them. Part of that has to do with your competence, i.e., how well do you know your stuff? All other things being equal, people prefer to work with experts, not amateurs. But that’s obviously beyond the scope of a single blog post to cover!

The other part of it is your character. Are you someone that people in your network not only know, but also like and trust? Do your friends and associates trust you to treat the people they refer to you well? Show and grow your character, and you’ll receive more referrals.

Character isn’t just what you are, it’s what you do. There is little that rings more hollow than for someone to say, in one form or another, that they are a person of “high character” — honest, a hard worker, helpful, easy-going, etc. — and then have their actions be inconsistent with that. Furthermore, one of the best ways to build stronger relationships is by helping people actually accomplish their goals.

In The Virtual Handshake, we introduced the idea of “Seven Keys to a Powerful Network”, one of which is your character:

Character: Your integrity, clarity of motives, consistency of behavior, openness, discretion, and trustworthiness. This is driven by the reality and the appearance: the real content of your Character, and what each Acquaintance thinks of your Character.

We also point out that:

As an absolute rule, credibility - your Character and your Competence - must underlie your network. A massive network will not aid you if you are selling an inferior product or trying to get a job for which you are unqualified. In fact, a big network will rapidly become a liability, as too many people will be aware of the inferior goods you are peddling. No matter how much your friends like you, they will not recommend you for a job if they see that you are consistently unethical, tardy, sloppy, or otherwise unprofessional.

There’s a line from an old church song that I remember from my childhood: “If your light’s under a bushel, it’s lost something kind of crucial.” If you are a person of character, you need to show that, and LinkedIn is a great opportunity to do that. Here are seven ways that you can actually demonstrate your character on LinkedIn, rather than just talk about it.

1. Answer questions well. Don’t just rattle off a quick opinion - put some thought into it. Provide some additional resources. Refer people to an appropriate expert from within your network. Most of the questions on LinkedIn Answers are from people actually trying to solve a problem or accomplish something, not just looking for something to talk about. What better way to be of service than to actually help someone accomplish something?

2. Add value to introduction requests. If you buy into the idea that LinkedIn is designed for “trusted referrals”, then you need to participate in that. A trusted referral isn’t just, “Joe meet Sally, Sally meet Joe.” A trusted referral adds context to the introduction which will help the two people get off to a good start. How do you know this person? How can you recommend them in the context of their request?

3. Make good recommendations. Don’t just wait for people to recommend you and then reciprocate - be proactive. Go through your network. Who among them do you feel strongly about that you could give a good recommendation to for their profile? When you add someone new, do you know them well enough to go ahead and recommend them? Also, recommendations on your own profile are a great way to show your own reputation, and the best way to ask for an endorsement is to give one. And don’t write empty, generic recommendations; write good ones.

4. Respond in a timely manner. Forward introduction requests right away. The rest, get to as quickly as you can. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty slow in responding to invitations and to introduction requests for me if they are just general “I’d like to meet you” requests. It’s not that I think they aren’t important — I’m just plain busy, and I place my existing clients, business associates and family in front of new networking contacts. But forwarding requests I almost always handle within 24 hours, 2 days at the most.

5. Help your contacts learn how to use LinkedIn effectively. Most people don’t have a clue how to get beyond the basics of a simple profile with their last couple of jobs and connecting with a few colleagues they keep up with. Help them! Go through your contacts list and see which people have less than 10 connections. Drop them an e-mail asking them if there’s anything you can do to help them make better use of the system. Refer them to this blog and the LinkedIn-related Yahoo Groups. Doing so not only helps them, it also helps you and all of your network if more people become actively engaged.

6. Be proactive. One of LinkedIn’s shortcomings is that it doesn’t have a mechanism for proactively introducing two people that you know. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it for that. For example, let’s say you meet somebody new and they’re looking to meet people with an interest in, say, process management. Now, even though you know your contacts fairly well, you may not be able to remember (or even know) which of them have a background in process management, and I’m betting that’s not in your contact management system either. But it is in LinkedIn. Search your network. Find the matches. Copy their profile URLs and send them to the new person you met and tell them you’d be happy to make an introduction. Or say someone you know posts on a mailing list or forum that they’re looking for someone to fill a certain position. Search your LinkedIn network and send them the list of people in your first and second degree and tell them you’d be glad to introduce the ones they’re interested in talking to. Great networking is proactive, not just reactive.

7. Use LinkedIn to enhance face-to-face networking. You can use LinkedIn to fill out a business trip, meet fellow travelers in your network, help you break the ice at a meeting or research a prospective client so you can communicate with them more effectively. Every one of these things helps show that you have a genuine interest in other people and are willing to make the time to develop those relationships.

Think of your character as being like a muscle… if it doesn’t get enough exercise, it will atrophy. So go give your character a workout at the LinkedIn gym!
Please click here for the original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More Bad News For The Yellow Pages

A while back I posted my though on yellow pages advertising. I shared my opinion that they are bunk. Not worth the money that you pay for them. Well it seems that I am not alone in this opinion. In fact, I am in pretty good company. Law marketing expert Larry Bodine has his own criticisms the yellow pages. More specifically Larry writes that legal consumers should not be turning to the yellow pages to find a lawyer.
I found the following on the lawyerahead blog. I've long held the view that the Yellow Pages are a waste of money for lawyers -- it just attracts bottom-feeders, illiterates and shoppers. This piece points out that the yellow pages are also bad for the client.

Open the Yellow Pages and you’ll find page after page after page of legal advertisements. They are generally categorized by ’specialty,’ but all of them seem to be specialists in multiple areas of the law. The sheer number of ads is astonishing.

“Well, here’s a nice advertisement. Big letters, toll-free phone number, a nice picture of a classy office and a distinguished gentleman.” Guess what? You’ve just figured out which law firm is good at advertising. You have, in effect, selected the best ad writer, not the best lawyer for your circumstances. And pages of ads, all offering the same ‘free consultation’ doesn’t help either.

You shouldn’t choose a lawyer like you would choose a plumber. Rather, finding a lawyer to take on your case is more like finding a doctor to treat your illness. You are going to develop a long-term relationship with your attorney – a relationship built on trust and communication. The Yellow Pages will not help you here. In fact, they can hurt you.

  • The advertisements will not tell you how much a lawyer charges.
  • They will not tell you who pays the law firm if you lose your case. Did you know that you might be responsible for paying the attorney fees if your case doesn’t result in a collection?
  • What about expenses related to investigating and pursuing your case? Who pays for those?

All of these questions and more can only be answered in person. You will need more than a phone call, you will need to interview a few lawyers to find one that you trust to handle your matter. Someone you can be confident in and a firm you can rely on.

Put the Yellow Pages away. Take some time to investigate both your type of case and local attorneys on the Internet. [Google is the only directly to bother with.]

Remember, what you want is someone who can guide you through the legal minefield, someone with expertise and someone you trust who you can communicate well with. Leave the Yellow Pages for when you need lawn service or snow removal.

Please click here for Larry's original thoughts.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Business cards should be a marketing tool!

A great article comes to us from Jared Correia at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program blog. Jared extols the virtues of bright, lively (dare we say "exciting") business cards as an essential tool in your marketing arsenal.
Just because you’re an attorney, and you’re supposed to be staid and measured at all times, it doesn’t mean that you have to take pains to fit the stereotype, at least not all of the time. Do something creative to celebrate Dr. Seussbirthday: see if you can’t make your business card pop, or, at least, hop on pop.

Your business card’s probably black and white, right? That’s so Web 1.5. Alright, maybe you’ve splashed some color. Even so, I’d bet that your business card, while working well enough for you thank you very much, might not be working so well enough for your potential clients and referral sources; at the very least, I bet it could be working better. Think back to when you were creative, before law school beat it out of you . . . or, if you can’t think that far back, just talk to someone you know with an art or marketing background. In a market as tight as the one we are presently burdened with, it becomes the little things that separate out service providers. The uniquely professional presentation exemplified in your business card may be the difference between gaining a client, or taking an aspirin. The last thing you want is to have a cockamamie business card. Below are twenty ways to make sure that you never do:

1. Picture This. Put your photo on your business card. (Unless you look like this dude.) It’s not just for real estate agents anymore. And, it will create an immediate response on the part of the receiver of your card, who is unused to seeing an attorney’s photo on a business card. It will be the first thing that your contact will mention to you; and, they will mention it as they look back up at you, in order to affirm your look, thereby creating a second reference point. It is at this point that you will tell your contact that you’re not trying to sell their house, nor are you trying to sell them a vacuum cleaner. It’s a decent icebreaker; and, through the offering of your business card, you have created a first impression that will not soon be forgotten.

2. Technicolor. There is nothing more boring than a black and white business card. You might as well just move there. Add some bold colors to get noticed. You might think color may be prohibitively expensive; but, if you use digital print, you can save money over the application of specialty colors. And make sure to shop around for printers. There are deals to be had everywhere in this economy; you just need to do your due diligence, meaning you can’t settle.

3. Both Sides Now. You know, the business card does have a back. Yet, almost no one uses it. But, what if you did? You could get a lot more information on your card. And, if you point out to the folks that you hand your business card to that you have information on the back, they’ll take a look there; and, you won’t need to hope for their stumbling to find it, in a place they wouldn’t normally look. They’ll be impressed when they turn your card over, and they see something there. You’ll look damn clever.

4. It’s like a Little Paper Computer that Fits in Your Pocket! The prevalance of social networking is apparent to anyone accessing electricity at this point. Deviate from the traditional business card contact profile. Give your audience ways to find you online, so that they can access a little piece of you whenever they need to. In addition to phone, fax and email, include your website, your Blog, your Twitter account information, your LinkedIn page, your Facebook page, whatever you find most relevant. Be careful not too include so much that you clutter; but, do give a nifty sampling. Maybe throw this information on the back of the card. Merge your social networking and your personal, face-to-face networking. Integrate your professional image.

5. Don’t Miss Manners. Since we’re talking about the spillover of the world of social networking onto the printed paper, it will be wise to observe netiquette when creating the design of your business card. Keep in mind that the vast majority of people work on computers all day along, and are used to the norms established through the uses of those machines. So, when you’re designing your business card, don’t use ALL CAPS for your contact information. It’s loud and comes off as silent shouting. Use white space to enhance readability. Pay attention to your layout. Be certain before you send--Don’t sign off on a final proof until it is exactly the way you want it. Otherwise, you’ll be handing out that glaring mistake 1,000 times before you can fix it.

6. DVDo. If you’re one of these people who loves to have the newest gadgets, iPhone applications, Kindle version, what have you, do I have the gadget for you. Did you know that you could create a business card that is also a DVD? That’s right. But, “that’s crazy,” you say. Nay. A Google search for “dvd business cards” will yield just a shade under 43 million results. Volume purchases will reduce your price per unit, as with any purchasing endeavor. Although you don’t want to abandon paper business cards completely (the DVD cards would eat up scanners; plus, the fancier designs don’t fit well into the standard rolodex), and may only want to use the DVD business card in special circumstances, there is something to be said for being able to hand someone a business card that they can pop into their computer when they get home so that they can watch you deliver your elevator speech, or present your latest YouTube channel video posting. Who knows, they may even pass it along to their friends, as an example of something fairly fantastic that you can do to make your business card a living document. So, live a little.

7. From Blah-g to Blawg. As far as I know, there’s no rule that says that you are only allowed one business card; but, most people only have one. Why not have a separate business card, just for your Blawg. In addition to allowing you the freedom to try out some new, and perhaps unusual, card designs, it piques peoples’ curiosities, and will drive traffic to your Blawg. I cannot tell a lie, though; I stole this idea from Adobe’s Rick Borstein, who has a separate business card for his Blawg.

8. Go Lo. Need a logo design for your card? Wanna set your prices? Want lots of options? Try CrowdSPRING.com. At CrowdSPRING, you set the project parameters, and graphic designers will send along proposals, from which you will choose your new logo. If you’re on a budget, CrowdSPRING is a great way to get an eye-catching logo at the price you want. You’ll have full ownership of your chosen design, to boot.

9. All Bent Out of Shape. If you’re pulling your business card out of your shirt pocket, along with some collected lint, a dime and a leaking pen, you can be noticed for better things. Don’t hand people worn, bent or otherwise disfigured business cards. It looks unprofessional. It informs the recipient, as well, that there are things that you just can’t take care of, perhaps their case or their referral. To save yourself from such embarrassment, and potential professional damage, buy a business card holder, which you can get cheaply. I keep mine tucked neatly behind my wallet. It never bothers me. Before I go anywhere, I will check to make sure that I have filled the holder to capacity. If you create the habit for yourself, you will never be caught short, and forced to tell an interested party, “Well, I don’t have any cards right now . . .”

10. Hanker for a Hunka Cheese? I know. You really love your dog. That’s cool. Your business card is not the place to share the fact. And, I know. You were really proud of that hole-in-one you hit a couple years back. It was great. All your friends were jealous. Your DVD business card is not where you drop the footage of the event. Resist the urge to be cheesy. (Lord knows I have trouble in that wise; perhaps that’s why I no longer practice.) Be bold in color choice and formatting and information inclusions. Don’t put a picture of a bear riding a unicycle on your card, no matter how cool it might seem at the time. Make a professional presentation in order to be treated as a professional person. Sell your service first. You can always show pictures of the kids later.

I had originally intended to do 20 Tips for business cards (Get it? “Carded” . . . Under 21); but, I ran out of ideas. Here are five more of someone else’s. Fifteen is as far as this goes.

And, I am certainly disappointed, as well, that my musical interlude quotient has been dangerously low in this post. So, please enjoy a pair of unlikely duos: Phil Collins ripping it up with Eric Clapton and Neil Young and Waylon Jennings slow rollin’ low, country-style.
Please click here for the original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Monday, March 9, 2009

How Lawyers Use The Web To Network

From ChicagoLawyerMagazine.com we get a great article on lawyer networking via the web:
In a given day, a lawyer can keep in touch with her biggest client, her college daughter, and her best friend without leaving the office, sending an e-mail, or picking up the phone.

The world of networking has expanded dramatically as lawyers connect with their colleagues, friends and clients via online social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Legal OnRamp.

”I think it’s safe to say that with the hours we’re working these days there really isn’t as much time for the two-martini lunches, and for physically getting out and seeing people as perhaps we were able to do 15 or 20 years ago,” said Michael Waters, a 30-year-old Vedder Price associate who uses LinkedIn. ”As a result, this is perhaps a more efficient way to keep track of people and allow people to keep track of you — and at least maintain some sort of social contact with people.”

Online social networking sites are websites that allow people to connect with each other and share information. Each person creates a profile that, depending on the site, will include career and/or personal information.

They invite people to connect to their profile so they, in turn, can learn about those people’s families, personal histories, careers, and pastimes. This creates a network of people who can communicate with each other through the website by writing messages to each other, joining online groups, and sharing real-time information.

Lawyers can create a network that’s much larger than anything they would get from attending a cocktail party or making a few phone calls.

Some firms are slow to embrace these networking sites, while others have Facebook and LinkedIn online groups that allow them to connect with others.

The blog ”3 Geeks and a Law Blog” reported in October 2008 that 35 firms out of the top 100 created LinkedIn groups. For example, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom had 839 members in its LinkedIn group, and Baker & McKenzie had 278, according to the blog.

Some lawyers and experts say a generational gap exists within law firms because younger generations grew up connecting through these sites, while many older lawyers do not appreciate this new form of networking.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s December 2008 tracking study, 35 percent of American adult Internet users ages 18 and older have a profile on an online social networking site, four times as many as three years ago.

Fifty-seven percent of online adults ages 25 to 34 have a profile on a social networking site; while 30 percent of online adults ages 35 to 44, 19 percent of online 45- to 54-year-olds, and 10 percent of online adults, ages 55 to 64, have profiles on these sites.
Good Stuff! Please click here for the rest of the article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Google Maps Law Schools

Here's something fun. There is a Google Map of all the ABA approved law schools in the U.S. Click here for a visit.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Off-site software versus install your own

SaaS stands for "software as a service." The idea is that you pay a vendor to access its software over the internet, rather than installing and maintaining the software on your own computer. A great idea, but one I wrestle with when I see the high monthly access fees.

From myshingle.com Carolyn Elefant sheds light on SaaS:

So, how many of you maintain a law library in your practice? You know, the digests and volumes of caselaw and annotated statutory codes with the annual pocket parts that always slip out and of course, those loose-leaf reporters where you need to unscrew the metal binder clasp with a coin, then fumble around to slip dozens of flimsy sheets off of the metal stem and insert the updated replacements.

Probably not many. My guess is that rather than buy all of those books and own them outright without any further costs (except de minimis updating fees), instead, you fork out anywhere between $30 and $300/month for commercial legal research services so that you can access a library online. But horrors! Doesn't that mean that over a lifetime of use, you'll wind up paying far more for legal research - thousands and thousands of dollars - than you would if you invested in a good set of law books?

Seriously, few of us flinch at the cost of commercialized legal research and willingly pay more on on an ongoing basis for its convenience and ease of use. So why then, are so many lawyers and technology experts so quick to dismiss software as a service (SaaS) practice management tools because they believe that the ongoing subscription fees cost more in the long run than a one time investment in a desktop based practice management tool that the user owns outright after purchase?

Some may argue that my comparison isn't fair because computerized research tools offer added functionality, notably, the ability to run searches that casebooks and statutes don't entirely replicate (unless you remember how to use those digests from legal research in law school). But SaaS tools offer added functionality which well justifies the ongoing fees. As Larry Port at Rocketmatter pointed out, SaaS systems are simple enough to use that lawyers can replace costly IT support, a point echoed in this ABA piece. Systems like Clio, which offers a client portal feature spares lawyers several hours a week fielding client requests for updates by enabling clients access their files themselves. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that SaaS systems can eliminate the importance of (if not entirely need for) physical office space by making it easier for lawyers to run a practice completely online (as with VLOTech) or to work in a multi-person practice with each lawyer or virtual assistant in accessing common client matters and administrivia through the SaaS programs, but working from separate locations, including home.

Simply comparing the cost of SaaS versus desktop tools isn't accurate because from a pure cost perspective, a $600 deskbased practice management tool will beat out a $50/month SaaS tool by year two. The better metric is the cost of the SaaS tool versus the deskbased practice management tool plus the cost of IT support and extra billable hours responding to client requests and even the cost of office rent. Lawyers are already adept at making this type of externalities-based comparison when it comes to legal research tools. There's no reason why they should evaluate practice management systems any differently.

Click here for the original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Colliding Channel Marketing

I am a big fan of John Jantsch. Below is his article on colliding channel marketing. What is it? It is the cumulative effect of blogs, twitter, and everything else we do. John get it, and he explains it! The graphic really brings home the message. All by itself a twitter presence, or a blog may not provide a return that you can sink your teeth into. By the cumulative benefit does! Here is what John has to say.

Smart marketers are plunging headlong into social media and extending their brands and ecosystems to boldly go where no brand has ever gone before. The digital landscape is exciting, it’s where the buzz seems to be, but the true catalyst of growth and change, I believe resides in the place where your digital and analog worlds collide.

In other words, when you can build a network by conversing with seemingly like minded individuals on your blog and then turn one or more of those individuals into strategic alliances built on a burgeoning relationship of truse, and finally, get a chance to introduce that person to a good customer over lunch, well that’s what I call the ultimate cross channel experience.

colliding ecosystems

To me, twitter is not simply another extended world to manage, it’s an opportunity to initiate community based on ideas instead of geography or industry and then potentially explore ways to move members of that community into other exciting and profitable relationships.

I had a brief conversation on this subject over the weekend with David Armano, author of a great blog called Logic+Emotion. David creates incredibly effective illustrations of ideas and concepts. Visual thinkers will love his work. - Spend some time with this set of illustrations.

What I’m really talking about here of course is integration of marketing messages, campaigns, opportunities and channels, but I think the ability to do this in planned, impactful, and scalable ways has increased dramatically through the addition of social media. But, not to the total exclusion of the conference, chamber social or MeetUp.

Bottom line: we need to think intentionally about the ways to use online to create richer offline opportunities.

Click here for his original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

New Tool For Twitter

Found a neat new twitter tool today. Twitter Karma logs into your twitter account and then shows thumbnails of all the people that your are following, or that are following you. And all on one page. Quite handy to remind you of all your twitter friends.

Check it out for yourself by clicking here.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Can a Netbook REPLACE Your Workhorse Laptop?

Netbook computers the latest portable computing technology. They are mini versions of laptops. Little itty bitty computers. Ross Kodner is a lawyer and technology consultant. Ross is in the process of applying his own smell test to netbooks, and writing about it on his Technolawyer SmallLaw Column. Let's follow Ross on his adventure:
You’ve all seen me write about my netbook experiences, from my very first Asus EEE PC 701 to its successor 1000H to my current Lenovo Ideapad S10. In my October Technolawyer SmallLaw column, I talked about how my 2.5 decade long uest for the “perfect laptop” was finally realized - carrying TWO laptops - my dedicated Thinkpad T61 workhorse (now upgraded BTW to a total of 750 Gb of internal drive space!) and the Asus 1000H i used for a few months.

But now I’m gradually rethinking this. I’ve now traveled a full week away from the mothership WITHOUT my Thinkpad. Instead, I’m traveling with my 2.2 pound Lenovo Ideapad S10 and a tiny, super-light Buffalo 320 gb USB drive with ALL my documents, PSTs and other data files on it. So . . . the verdict is . . . haven’t missed my full-size Thinkpad one-bit. The Intel Atom N270 brain in these little wonders continues to impress me. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel every bit as zippy when 3 or 4 big apps are open as does my Intel Core 2 Duo T9500 equipped Thinkpad. And that miraculous ability to start up and shut down in what feels like a quarter of the time my big iron takes.

Could a $379 netbook be someone’s sole machine? Docked in the office via a universal port replicator (i.e. from Targus with VGA support), connected to a full-size display, keyboard and mouse? At first, the thought never occured to me . . . but now I’m rethinking everything . . . more on this as my thoughts and experiences accumulate, but I think you can see the conclusion I’m likely heading towards.

I’m betting my Thinkpad T61 and 13″ Aluminum Macbook have been pretty lonely this week.
Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Marketing Is An Investment

This statement is proof positive,is it not, that most lawyers and law firms are bad, bad, bad at investing. Most open their doors, take out a yellow book ad or something, and bemoan the bad times. They are not out pounding, pounding, pounding the pavement, making contact, getting in front of people, and generally making themselves known.

First, most lawyers and law firm are looking during these hard times to cut back on their marketing expenses. Second, most assume that marketing takes a lot of money. Both concepts means they just do not get it.Chart You should take advantage of this fact....

Whether it is time or money, however, it is in times like these that lawyers and law firms need to increase their marketing. This investment will pay off dearly in the future, especially after the economy recovers.

Let us face facts. Especially in the area of networking or relationship marketing, it is sometimes hard to pry referral sources away from those they have been use to helping out with their referrals. Economic downturns tend to turn these relationships on their heads. It is hard to break these relationships during good time when everyone is fat and sassy. When everyone is having a bad time that attorney someone or some company refers to is just not that good, or just not that dependable, or just not that reliable, or there just needs to be change. . . .

Remember, marketing is the process of accretion. It works gradually to buildup growth. So, the more consistently you invest time and/or money, the better will be your long-term return.

Please click here for the rest of Chuck Newton's thought provoking article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Solo nets Supreme Court win!

I know this has nothing to do with technology, but I think it is pretty cool. Andrew Simpson is a sole practitioner in the U.S. Virgin Is...