Category: Resources

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Don’t Let Your Referral Sources Dry Up

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  by Sheila Blackford   ©2009   It is very important not to let your referral sources dry up. Referrals dry up when you lose contact, so you should stay in consistent contact. Put together a list of your referral sources and adopt of regular program of contact.

Do you have a written list of your referral sources? Do you categorize your referral sources? You might find it helpful to do so.

Here’s how you might do it:
1. You have your top very important sources of referrals – these are your A list. These are the people who can and do send you good clients.
2. You have other referral sources who only occasionally refer new business to you and these are your B list.
3. Then you have others who are potential sources of referrals but have not yet referred– these are your C list.

The idea is to definitely stay connected with your A list so they don’t drift away, and connected with your B list so they don’t drift away, and connected with your C list so even they don’t drift away. You might come to conclude that a C list person is an A list person your gradually lost contact with or a B list person you ignored. If you don’t stay in touch, your connection begins to weaken. “Where has the time gone?”

Why not call them every 30 days, mail to them every 60 days, and see them every 90 days? I usually encourage the lawyers I work with to do Marketing Breakfasts. Take a different referral source to breakfast once a week or even twice a week. Breakfast is incredibly affordable. Put it into your marketing budget. Best of all, people can usually find time in their week to meet for breakfast at 7 a.m. where trying to find a mutual lunch time free on the calendar can push contacts to back burners.

Collect names of good breakfast spots in the areas close to where your referral sources work or live. Notate some favorite spots on your referral source’s contact card in your Outlook or Rolodex. Lawyers who have adopted this idea tell me that these marketing breakfasts are looked forward to and appreciated by them and their breakfast guest.

Do your referral sources know all the services you provide and the various types of cases you can handle? Do they know you are open to take new clients? It’s nice to be known as busy; it’s nicer to be known as accepting new clients. Consider making a list of services and types of cases you can handle on your letterhead and mailing it with a cover letter that says you welcome new clients and are always grateful for their confidence in referring new clients to you.

Do you know all your referral sources? Some prospective clients let you know who referred them to you. Consider tracking where your new clients come from with a simple question on your new client intake form: “Why did you choose our office?” If you are in need of a new client intake form, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The PLF has a sample New Client Information form that can be downloaded — and customized– in Word or WordPerfect in the File Management – New Client Information category of Practice Aids and Forms. All the practice aids and forms can be found at the PLF website under Loss Prevention.

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t let your referral sources dry up.

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Getting Control of Email Glut on a Monday Morning/Afternoon

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   by Sheila Blackford   ©2009   Had a -first-thing-Monday-morning appointment in Portland, Oregon. Rain-swollen streets made me look forward to getting into my dry office in Tigard. Until I fired up my computer and saw 399 unread emails waiting for me. Email glut on gray Monday morning is especially dreary. I know that a big chunck of the email to be reviewed isn’t timely, concise, or directed. Getting control of email glut is a priority. Luckily, I read a good book over the weekend, “The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your Email Before it Manages You,” by Mike Song, Vicki Halsey and Tim Burress. It’s an easy read, much like the “One Minute Manager” series by Ken Blanchard I read in the 80’s.

There are compelling reasons to get control over email glut. The book early on walks you through a math exercise. I share my results with you. I hope you do the math exercise with your own numbers to get “Getting Control of Email Glut” moved up on your priority list.

First, you want to look at your email in box and out box to come up with average daily number of emails processed.
Second, you want to multiply this by the number of annual work days, say 240, to get the total number of emails.
Third, you want to estimate the average amount of time spent on a single email, say 2 minutes, and multiply by number of emails to get total minutes spent processing emails.
Fourth, you want to divide total minutes by 60 to get total hours.
Fifth, you want to divide total hours by 8 to get total work days spent processing emails.

1. Average Number of Daily Emails: 200

2. Total Number of Emails in Year: 48000 (daily emails times 240 –or work days in year)

3. Total Time in Minutes to Process Yearly Emails: 96000 (Total number emails times 2 min or average time to process 1 email)

4. Total Hours Spent a Year Processing Emails: 1600 (Total number minutes divided by 60 equals hours spent)

5. Total 8-hour Work Days Devoted to Processing Emails: 200 (Total Hours divided by 8 hours equals workdays spent) 200 work days? 40 weeks? No wonder we eat lunch while processing email, process email from home in the evenings and weekends, drag laptops on vacations, sneak peaks at iPhones, Blackberrys, and Palm Pres.

The premise behind the “Hamster Revolution” is straight-forward – reduce email volume, improve email quality, and coach others to send you email that is actionable. If you want a preview of the book, the company responsible for Hamster Revolutions, Info Excellence, provides a free look at chapters one through three on the tool section of their website.

How to reduce email volume? Well, a big start is to resist the urge to hit “Reply All” or needless “CC.” We all have joined at least one listserv which means we’ve seen the overuse of “Reply All” and likely have contributed to that overuse. At least once, right? But it certainly adds up, and now that you know how much time it adds up to for yourself, you’ll reconsider your busy colleagues before causing their email time meters to rocket into the email glut statosphere. Reducing the volume you send out reduces the volume you get back. Simple but true.

How to improve email quality? Think about your emails. Starting with the “Subject Line,” do you make it clear what your email’s topic is and more importantly, what you want the recipient to do? Is the body of your email message clear and concise, using bullets to help process items of information? Can your email’s reader quickly figure out what you are requesting or directing or confirming?

I am reminded of an ABA CLE I attended addressing what in house counsel need from their outside law firms. An in house counsel panelist said she would not read email messages beyond what appeared in her message screen. She couldn’t afford to take the time to scroll down. If you couldn’t inform her within that window, then you didn’t get to work with her.

Because lawyers are focused on clients, it is easy to take a client-focus approach to our outgoing email messages by thinking of our email recipients, who we’d like to be our email readers. Else why hit the “Send?”

For more ideas on taming your in box, see my article, “The E-mail Blizzard: Tips for taming your inbox,” in the Bar Bulletin April 2009.


Cell phones – when is a smart phone too smart??

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   by Sheila Blackford   ©2009   I went to Saint Maarten with the ABA LPM section last week. I took my cell phone, a nice little LG Chocolate from Verizon. I turned it off because I didn’t want to spend international rates. But I happily snapped pictures to bring back. The day that I had reserved to be “my day” was Saturday. I signed up for a trail ride along the beach that would culminate in a “dip” in the ocean with the horses! What a horse fix! It was just me and the trail guide at Lucky Stables. He took a picture of me on my horse. I took a picture of a big Iguana. That was the last picture. The dip was a bit deeper than I thought and my cell phone soaked in the wonderful warm Caribbean waters which are very, very salty. No rescue on that battery!

Today I have a Blackberry Tour. Wow! It’s a very smart phone. I need to read the “Tips, Hints, and Shortcuts” so I can figure out all the smart things it promises to do like let me access my email at the PLF wherever I am and the VZ Navigator which will enable my phone to become a GPS device so I can find my way to lawyer offices all around Oregon. I did find the Sudoku game which came in handy while waiting for an appointment. Hope to get everything set up so it’s worth the monthly charges! Guess I am glad my less smart phone drowned, but I’d have liked to see that Iguana picture! I could’ve uploaded for you. I’ll be taking better care of my Blackberry.

Should you ever get your phone wet, take out the battery immediately. Some even advise drying the battery compartment and the battery with a hair blow-dryer turned on low. However, salt water is highly corrosive to electronics. Buy a cell phone dry pack at REI. I’ll be heading over there after work!



JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  by Sheila Blackford   ©2009   “Do you have any marketing tips?” is a frequent question. Marketing is more than advertising. There are many great resources for getting marketing tips.

The ABA Law Practice Management Section webZine called Law Practice Today is a popular resource. The current issue for October 2009 is “Lost in the Crowd? Marketing Strategies You Can Use.” I had a good time writing a article for the popular “Ask Your PMA” column that is a monthly feature: “Marketing Tune-Up to Keep Business Coming.” Who would think that inspiration could come from a visit to the oral surgeon? I won’t spoil the article for you – read it yourself. You might want to remember that you can subscribe the Law Practice Today webzine without being a member of the Law Practice Management Section or even the ABA.

For that matter, you can go ahead and become a subscriber to the Law Practice Magazine even if you are not a member of the ABA LPM. Of course, if you’re a member, you get other benefits. The current issue of Law Practice Magazine is also on the theme of advertising: “Differentiate! The Law Firm Marketing Strategies Issue.” I may be biased, I am on the Law Practice Magazine Board. But then, I wanted to be on the board because I love the magazine!