Christopher T. Anderson has authored numerous articles and speaks on a wide range of topics, including law firm management,...
Christopher Anderson has helped thousands of lawyers work toward greater success in their firms. In this Episode of On Balance, hosts Rob Mathis and Laurin Thomas talk to Chris about the four sessions he presented at the State Bar of Michigan’s NEXT Conference 2018, all centered around law firm owner freedom. Highlighting each session, Chris discusses his expertise in impactful business planning, wise uses of time, smart money decisions, and rockstar salesmanship: all ways to help lawyers learn how to take their businesses to new levels of success.
Christopher Anderson is a law firm business expert and Headmaster of Million Dollar Solo Lawyer Preparatory Academy.
State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast
State Bar of Michigan NEXT Conference 2018: Session Highlights with Christopher Anderson
Intro: Welcome to State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance Podcast, where we talk about practice management and lawyer wellness for a thriving law practice with your hosts JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent, here on Legal Talk Network.
Take it away, ladies.
Robert Mathis: Hello and welcome to another edition of the State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance Podcast on Legal Talk Network. I am with Laurin Thomas. I am Robert Mathis from the State Bar of Michigan and we are sitting in today for your regular hosts JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent.
We are live from the State Bar of Michigan’s NEXT Conference 2018 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and joining me today I have Christopher Anderson.
Christopher, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Christopher Anderson: I would be happy to, yeah. My name is Christopher Anderson, as you have just already covered. I am the President and Headmaster of the Million Dollar Solo Lawyers Club Preparatory Academy, which is a business that helps lawyers who already achieved some level of success in their business to achieve law firm owner freedom, and we gave some talks today talking about that.
But we help to bring them to a place of law firm owner freedom where they are able to step away from their law firm for periods of time and have their law firm continue to succeed.
Robert Mathis: So you had been very busy today.
Christopher Anderson: I have indeed.
Robert Mathis: You have had lots of sessions, so we are going to go from lightning round to instant value.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, excellent.
Laurin Thomas: Okay, so the first session I understand that you did for us today was Marketing and Making your Law Firm Business Work for You, can you tell us about that?
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, absolutely, and the instant value that we really tried to bring there is that law firm — the law firm business that these law firm owners, and we have lots and lots of law firm owners here at the Conference, are supposed to be able to bring them what they have decided they want in terms of the finances they need to live life the way they want to live it, in terms of time that they want to spend in their business, but time they want to get back to do other things outside their law firm that are important to them, and finally, the professional success that they are seeking.
And what we covered in that course was talking to them about defining those things clearly, because most lawyers haven’t thought about them and just really clearly defining in detail, not just sort of like some people say, well, I want a million dollars. Nonsense, what does a million dollars do for you or what does $789,236 do for you and to make your life the life that you want to live? And how much time do you need to do the things you want to do?
And then most of all, why did you become a lawyer? What are you trying to achieve with your law firm? What are your personal values that you are trying to express through your business, and how to achieve those?
We then talked about how to write a business plan that will move your law firm to achieving those things quickly, and then we talked about how to hold yourself accountable or how to have someone else hold you accountable, to executing on that plan week after week and month after month to get the results that you want.
Robert Mathis: Now, the second session was ‘Time Management is for Suckers: Convert Your Time Into Wealth’; I love that title, do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, I do. So I am just going to fade back a little bit to the business working for you. So we talked about the strategies, right, the business planning and the understanding of the goals of your law firm are two of them. The other one is about marketing and understanding how many leads you need to have. A lot of people get into the marketing game and say, well, I just want more leads and the marketing vendors will sell them more leads. You want more leads because more is better, right? And it’s about defining how many you need, and then of course, how you are going to convert them into actual clients.
The Time Management is for Suckers is true because it’s one of the strategies that helps you again make your law firm work for you. The fact is that time is finite. I have 168 hours in a week, so do you, so does Laurin, and so does everybody, we all have 168 hours a week and so does every lawyer, so managing that is foolishness. You can’t get more by managing it, you can only decide how you are going to use each and every one of those hours.
So it’s not time management, it’s time decisions, what am I going to do with every hour that I have got? Am I going to do high value stuff or low value stuff? And the fact of the matter is that I used to be with LexisNexis, we did a study that single shareholder lawyers are spending 40% or more of their time doing things that are of low value in their law firm; answering the phone when they don’t have an appointment to speak to them, opening their own email, bookkeeping, managing — ordering office supplies and a lot of other stuff that is not bringing their law firm value.
I think the one key take away from that talk is the axiom that I have really been pushing as far as it comes to doing better with choosing high value tasks in your time and that is this, that whatever you are doing right now in your law firm, the most value that you can bring to the business is the least amount you could pay someone else to do that thing competently.
So if you answer the phone when you don’t know who is calling, you are a receptionist and the most value you can bring to your law firm is $15 an hour, and so if you are doing that 10 hours a week instead of when you are taking $15 an hour instead of $250 an hour, you are basically giving away $235 an hour of your stakeholders, of your children, of your spouse’s, and of your time and money to inefficient practices. And just changing that in a law firm can make all the difference between not getting the results you want and getting them in spades.
Laurin Thomas: So, Christopher, when I was in law school I had a friend who swore that as soon as he passed the Bar he would instantly make $100,000 a year. I am sure he could have benefited from the next program that you did, which was called ‘Moneyball for Lawyers-Managing by the Numbers to Get Major League Results’.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, so, ‘Moneyball’ is a movie, I think it’s 2011, I suppose it’s about seven-years-old, but it’s a great book first off, and the movie was pretty good, but the book is also fantastic. But it talks about how the management of a baseball team changed where this baseball team I think had a budget of $40 million, this is as compared to the average Major League Baseball team’s budget of $115 million and teams like the Yankees were many multiples of that and where they were able to instead of just doing the same old nonsense, just like a lot of law firm owners were doing the same old nonsense of talking about why the economy is bad or why it’s hard to do business in their town or lots of other reasons why their businesses don’t work, they focused on the numbers of what they needed to have happen to make it work.
And so this team on $40 million was able to get to the championships and play against the top paid teams in the country by watching the numbers, by hiring on the numbers, and by deciding on the results that they wanted out of the resources that they had available. And so taking those lessons from ‘Moneyball’ and teaching lawyers what numbers are the key ones to focus on and what ones are not was the thrust of that.
And so, someone coming right out of law school may not be able to make $100,000 on day one, but they sure as heck can make it by day 365, and following these exact same metrics we help lawyers all the time go from 0 to $250,000 in 12 months as a matter of course, so it’s certainly possible, but you have to be focused on the numbers.
Robert Mathis: So you are going to tell your friend to call Christopher.
Christopher Anderson: He should.
Laurin Thomas: I will absolutely do that.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, it’s never too late. One of my favorite success stories is a lawyer who started working with me at 82-years-old, had been making basically the same amount of money for over 40 years and needed to do something different in order to be able to retire in three years then, and we helped him to change his business enough so that he could sell it. So, yeah, never too young, never too old.
Robert Mathis: And finally, the fourth session of the day was How to Sell Like a Rock Star: Selling Done Right is the Most Ethical Thing We Do for Prospective Clients.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, so I really like teaching about sales and it sort of was a great culmination to the day, because it’s one of the other strategies to help your law firm work for you.
Lawyers are very sales averse, and I think it’s particularly because we have law firms and people know we have law firms. Even more than most people we experience being sold to a lot, and I distinguish that from the way that we teach how to Sell Like a Rock Star and there’s a reason I will explain in a minute why I call it “Sell Like a Rock Star”, but what we teach is how to sell for your client. Sales is a service that we do for our prospects, it is not something we do to them, and it’s a complete mindset shift.
The reason we call it Sell Like a Rock Star, well, first of all, I don’t call it like Sell Like a Lawyer because most lawyers are really bad at it, so I don’t want lawyers to sell like a lawyer, I want them to sell like a rock star. But the reason I chose that is because I don’t want them to think about sales as coming from someone they traditionally think about sales coming from.
And so rock star I think is a great example. There’s a rock star standing on the stage singing at a large audience or a small audience, they are selling, they are selling every minute they are up there, because they are trying to get audience members to like them, to continue to buy their stuff, to buy into their brand and who they are and to continue to be part of the tribe that they are building and that is selling. And nobody that goes to a rock concert feels sold to, other than maybe by the merchandisers outside, but not by the people on stage. And that’s what I am encouraging the lawyers to do.
So what we talk about is the most important thing about selling for your clients is to go through a process where you understand their problem or sometimes their opportunity, but their problem in three distinct ways and to help them understand it, because quite honestly most of our clients are not sophisticated buyers with legal services, so we help them understand it in three distinct ways.
Those three ways are to understand how their problem is affecting their money. You have been sued, your spouse has filed for divorce, you have been arrested for DUI or whatever, it’s probably having some impact on your money and to understand thoroughly from the lawyer’s perspective, asking all the questions that you need to understand to understand it, but also asking more questions with our experience as a lawyer to help the prospective client understand the things they don’t even know about they are having. Like you have got a DUI, did you know your insurance, do you know all these other — the fines that are going to happen, do you know all the things that are going to result and how I can help mitigate those for you?
The second leg to help them understand is how it’s going to affect their time. So a lot of times when you have a legal issue, it’s going to be affecting not just your money, but also your time, and again, the lawyer can help these unsophisticated clients or client prospects who aren’t — just haven’t had any opportunity to buy legal services a whole lot in their life and wish they didn’t now and to help them understand what the impact on their time is going to be from their situation and how again the lawyer can help to change that.
And then the third one is their reputation, the reputation in their community, the reputation with their family and most importantly the reputation with themselves, and how this is impacting that aspect of their lives and again so that the lawyer can understand it, but also so that the prospective client can understand that.
And you take those three aspects and it could be one, two or three, and I will tell you something, if someone has got a legal problem that doesn’t touch those three, they won’t buy legal services, because nobody ever actually wants to buy legal services, they want to buy a solution to their problem or an ability to get their opportunity seized and capitalized on.
Then you take that information and then you paint alternative visions of the prospective client’s future. We have got three products here, you can buy our gold or silver or our bronze package, and this is how your future will look if you buy one of these.
You could also go with cheap lawyer down the street and here are the options that you might get or what will happen with your future if you do that, you could work this problem by yourself and here is what’s going to happen with your future or you could ignore it and this is what’s going to happen. And what this does is it establishes clearly in the client’s mind the difference between let’s say just doing it yourself versus having the law firm help you with it, and the difference between those two things clearly now establishes a value in the client’s mind of the legal services.
And then if you can establish that that value that you are going to provide is greater than the fee you are going to charge, the decision to hire becomes very easy for the client and understanding these three vectors of the client’s problem really helps the client to understand their problem better, helps you to understand the problem better and will raise your conversion rate.
And why we call it selling for the client is if they don’t buy, if they decide not to work with you, they still come away from this conversation much better off than they entered it. They have a clearer understanding of where they are, where they want to go and they can feel like they have been heard and that their decision that they make to hire or not to hire was fully informed and in their best interests, and so that’s why we call it selling for your clients and it’s something that I would like to see more lawyers adopt.
But meanwhile, the clients I work with that do adopt are able to outsell others because very few people are still doing this. I mean I think it’s a really great way to help educate as a way of sales.
Rob Mathis: So we have been through your four sessions pretty quickly, is there anything else that you would like to add that we didn’t ask or you didn’t touch upon?
Christopher Anderson: Not specifically about the sessions, but I think of the sessions in total and my experience here at the State Bar, the lawyers that I have been speaking to on the tradeshow floor as well as in my sessions really seem to be hearing some of these types of materials for the first time. And I would love to continue to see more of this kind of thing be given CLE credit in a lot of states and also be taught more in law schools. And it’s one of the things I am advocating for is to help lawyers really get some of these underpinnings before they hang a shingle, before — like some of these people I am talking to have been out there 10, 12, 15, 20 years not getting back from their law firms a good return on the investment they are putting in of their time and of their energy.
I mean it was shocking to me to see that the median take-home income for solo lawyers in the United States, this is about two or three years ago, the median take-home was $49,100.
I saw another article that said the average gross revenues for the solo shareholders is between $78,000 and $82,000, basically flat or under what it’s been since the 70s. Meanwhile, large law firm compensation has continued to go up and up and up. And the truth is it just doesn’t have to be that way. So following some of these strategies that I have been talking about I think it would be the liberation of a lot of law firms.
And the last thing I would like to say about that, because to me this is the key, liberating these lawyers to do better in business would enable them to serve more people and there is a big gap, and I was just really impressed, I was looking at some of the materials on the floor and there is this Modest Means Project. And that’s a pet project of mine is that there are a bunch of people out there who think they can’t afford legal services and then there is a bunch of lawyers who say there is not enough work out there and there is a solution between those two and part of that solution is running your business like a business and we would be able to serve a lot more people and keep a lot of lawyers a lot happier. That’s what I am after.
Laurin Thomas: So I would be happy to plug the Modest Means Program because I manage the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service and the Modest Means Program is a part of the Lawyer Referral Service Program. Right now our program is only family law and bankruptcy, but we are in the process of expanding that, because at the State Bar we understand that there is a need, an unmet need, and so that’s where we are trying to go with that, so thank you.
Christopher Anderson: No, it’s my pleasure and anything I could do to help the lawyers that are in it understand how they can deliver those services for Modest Means at a profit to them, I would be more than happy to help with.
Laurin Thomas: I will keep that in mind.
Christopher Anderson: All right, great.
Rob Mathis: So Christopher, before we close out, I have one last question.
Christopher Anderson: Yeah.
Rob Mathis: If our listeners would like to follow up, how can they contact you?
Christopher Anderson: Great. Well, certainly they can follow my podcast on the Legal Talk Network, which is called The Un-Billable Hour. We have got a lot in the can already; all the previous episodes are available.
They can also reach me on LinkedIn at Christopher T. Anderson and on Twitter at @LawFirmBusiness.
Rob Mathis: All right. Well, that’s all the time we have for this program. Thank you Christopher for being here today. Thank you Laurin Thomas from the State Bar of Michigan.
I also want to thank our listeners for tuning in. If you liked what you heard today, please rate us in Apple Podcasts.
I am Robert Mathis from the State Bar of Michigan. We will see you next time for another episode of the State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance Podcast on Legal Talk Network.
Outro: Thank you for listening to the State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast, brought to you by the State Bar of Michigan and produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network.
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