What to Do If You Don’t Have a Website?

Forty percent of small firms don’t have a website, according to Lisa Pansini at LegalProductivity.com.

Okay, maybe you’re among them. Or, maybe your site is so bad that you feel like you don’t have a website.

If you’re ready to create a site, then I’d encourage you to check out the platform now hosting Divorce Discourse.

Our New Host

A few weeks ago, after a minor disaster with our host, we migrated the site to the Rainmaker Platform. I’ve wanted to move for quite some time to simplify my life and eliminate technical hassles.

The site was up and running in about 20 minutes. We selected a template and migrated the old content over to the new site, and we were good to go.

Rainmaker was built by former lawyer Brian Clark (of Copyblogger fame). The guy has been at the forefront of all this stuff for a long time. He knows the business.

I’ll talk more about Rainmaker in future articles and explain how it’s great for mobile, e-commerce, security, podcasts, membership site services, etc.

For now, however, I’ll just emphasize that it’s simple, easy, and functional. You can get something going and feel secure, knowing it’ll have the power you need when you decide to take it up a notch (or a bunch of notches).

How Easy Is It?

For a small investment, you’ll have a site up and running quickly and easily. You’ll have the capacity to enter the dashboard and make changes and see them go live immediately. You’ll have a choice of a bunch of premade designs, and you’ll look like a pro from the first moment.

You won’t need to hire a designer to do anything fancy. You can use Rainmaker right away without even talking to a designer. I haven’t paid anyone a penny to make Divorce Discourse work.

The platform is built on WordPress, but it’s a simplified version of the product. Simple to the user, but incredibly powerful behind the scenes. You can truly do this yourself.

Sign up, add these 3 essential elements, and hit “Publish.”

Try Rainmaker with a two-week free trial. I did, and now I’m here to stay.

Are Your Clients Satisfied With Your Work?

Are your clients happy with you? Are they likely to refer? You need to know.

That’s why we’ve been using the Net Promoter System to survey our clients for many years.

We ask them one question:

On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend our firm to a friend or colleague?

We survey every single client at the close of the matter. We’ve done thousands of surveys. We track the results month after month, and we break it down by office and by attorney.

Our surveys are done by phone. We don’t mess with e-mail or automated systems. We call each client one by one and get an answer. If we have trouble reaching any clients, we keep trying until we reach them. In the rare event that we can’t hunt them down, we assume they would have scored us as a 0.

Once we have the scores, we use this system for calculating the results. It’s easy.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) isn’t a perfect predictor of your success. There’s endless debate about whether it’s a reliable indicator. However, it’s simple, easy, and, for us, a good predictor of future revenue.

Avoid getting bogged down in the debate around doing your survey “right.” Do something—anything—that gets you feedback from real live clients. Be certain that’s it’s happening in a regular, systematic way so that every client is providing input.

I consulted for a law firm considering surveying its clients. I suggested the one-question survey. The debate started. The forces of “one question” took on the evil forces of “we need more questions so we know what the clients really think.” The evil forces won, and the result was that no survey was ever agreed on, so the survey idea was killed. That’s a pretty common scenario in law firms: inaction.

NPS isn’t perfect. But it’s simple, and it gets things done. It gets you feedback, and it opens the door to improvement. If you’re not getting client feedback from every single client, it’s time to start.

Will You Make the Changes Required to Grow?

Tears well up in my eyes sometimes at my workshops (by the way, there’s one in Las Vegas coming up in April).

It happened at one of my recent events.

One Lawyer’s Plight

As we went around the table and the group members introduced themselves, an attendee talked about how overwhelmed he felt. He explained that he didn’t have the time to do everything he needed to do. He came to the workshop to find a solution.

That didn’t make me feel like I was going to cry. I’ve heard the overwhelmed story before. It comes up at most every workshop. It’s not uncommon for attendees to express the frustration they experience when the task list gets longer than the day has hours.

Later in the morning, he talked about his need to charge more. He feels like he can’t afford help. He sees getting some administrative assistance as the way to get back to seeing his wife and young kids, but he doesn’t have the money to pay someone to help him dig out.

That didn’t make me feel like I was going to cry either.

By early afternoon, he was talking again. He explained that other lawyers, some of whom were right down the street, could get clients to pay more. He couldn’t understand why their clients would pay more for them than they would for him. He knew he was as good as or better than those other lawyers. Why could they get paid well when he couldn’t?

I could hear the frustration. I could hear the anger. I could hear how overwhelmed he was in his voice as it started to tremble.

That’s when I felt the tears well up.

Change Is Emotional

He was wound up. His emotion took him outside of his usual facade. In that moment, he was willing to be open and vulnerable, and he told us that he was afraid.

  • He’s afraid of what’s happening to his revenues.
  • He’s afraid of what’s happening with the cases he can’t attend to properly.
  • He’s afraid of what’s about to happen to his reputation if he can’t keep juggling all the balls.

But, more than all that, he’s afraid of what he needs to do to improve his practice. He’s afraid to change things. He’s afraid to take the risk of doing things differently. He’s afraid of losing what he has even though he sees it slipping away.

I swallowed hard, maintained my composure, and watched as the group came to the rescue.

Responding to Fear

They supported him, prodded him, and challenged him to come to terms with the fear. They put fear on the table, acknowledged that they all felt it themselves, and encouraged him to accept that change is scary and that he could do what needed doing even if the fear didn’t go away.

They were an amazing group. They had a powerful impact on one another. They helped one another accept the fear and know they could work with it as they moved forward. It was impressive.

What’s that guy going to do? Is he going to make the changes he needs to make?

I don’t know. I’m not sure. My gut is that he’s in a painful place, and the pain of not changing has reached the point where it’s scarier to maintain the status quo than it is to change. My sense is that he’s ready to make a change. I hope he can pull it off.

My reaction to this stuff surprises me sometimes. Thinking about him being in pain makes me tear up now. But thinking about him making the changes he needs to make does too.

How Do I Collect My Fee?

Lawyers are plagued by unpaid fees. Everybody complains, and everybody has a system for addressing it.

  • One lawyer sends invoices weekly.
  • Another lawyer has an amazing virtual assistant who calls clients and beats money out of them.
  • A third lawyer is diligent about reminding clients to replenish their trust account balance.
  • One lawyer I know runs credit checks.
  • A lawyer down the block has the client sign a consent order to withdraw and keeps it on file.

The approaches are limited only by the creativity of the lawyers involved.

And yet, these lawyers are still complaining about unpaid fees.

These systems overcomplicate the situation. The solution is simple. You don’t need to come up with a fancy approach to this problem.

The Solution to Unpaid Fees

Here’s the deal: if you want to avoid uncollected fees, then you need to collect the fee in advance. That’s it. Feel free to stop reading now, because I’m just going to elaborate on that point.

Some things get paid before, and some things get paid after. It’s normal.

  • Restaurant meals get paid after. Airplane tickets get paid before. It’s normal.
  • Doctor visits used to get paid after. Now they usually get paid before. It’s normal.
  • Rent gets paid before. Mortgages get paid before. Accountants get paid after. It’s normal.

What’s normal for a lawyer? There isn’t a normal. You get to define it. Some lawyers get paid before, and some lawyers get paid after.

If you want to be a lawyer with no unpaid invoices, then you need to be paid before.

Simple, right?

When you explain it to your new clients at the initial consultation, they’ll hear you and understand you. They’ll prove that they understood when they hand you a credit card, check, or a big pile of cash. Alternatively, they’ll thank you and explain that they aren’t going to hire you.

Either way, you won’t end up with an outstanding receivable.

What Are Your Excuses?

But, you say, if I make them pay in advance, they won’t hire me. You’re right. Some of them won’t hire you.

Those people who won’t hire you are also the most likely fee collection problems. You’re probably better off not having them hire you.

But, you say, I don’t know how much to have them pay in advance. You’re probably right. But, I promise that whatever you’ve been doing isn’t sufficient, so you need to increase it substantially. You also need to start paying attention, and you probably need some help being sure your trust account gets replenished before you do the work if it’s a protracted matter.

But, you say, they don’t have the funds to pay an increased amount. You’re right again. Some of them won’t have the cash. They need to put your fee on a credit card.

But, you say, they don’t have available credit. You’re right, and you don’t want to be the source of more credit. Trust that the credit card company has a reason for extending only so much credit to your client. Trust that it is a better judge of creditworthiness than you. Leave it to the experts.

But, you say, you’re really good at collecting your outstanding receivables. Good. If you’re really good at collections and you don’t mind the added cost and effort, then you’re not complaining. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

Podcast: Resources, Networking and Apps

This week’s podcast mentions Start Up Stash. It’s about more than startups. You’ll find all kinds of products, services and resources for growing your firm. You’ll also find reference to 5 Common Misconceptions that Make You Bad at Networking from Fast Company.
Jason Calacanis wrote a great article, If you want to come in first, aim for second, that might cause you to rethink your need to be unique.
Overlap is a new app for scheduling meetings. It does things in ways that haven’t been done by the existing applications in the space, and Verizon Caller Name ID is offered for $3 a month. Who knew?