In this episode’s discussions around the Community Table:
Our first question turned into a collaborative discussion around the Community Table with input from several other lawyers. How does a longtime attorney with her own firm finally shake things up, turn operations over to someone else, and focus on strategy and the practice of law? It’s hard to let go of control, even with a consultant pitching in.
How do you market when money is tight, cash flow is low, and you need more dollars in the door? Start by knowing your practice. What’s the underlying issue, what kind of ship are you leading? From there you can spot opportunities and focus on revenue and marketing.
Thinking of making a pivot or expanding from your current area of practice to boost revenue? Consider what you enjoy doing and think about what areas of the law generate consistent, timely cash flow.
Special thanks to our
sponsors , , , and .
Male Speaker: The Un-Billable Hour Community Table where real lawyers from all around the country with real issues they are dealing with right now meet together virtually to present their questions to Christopher T. Anderson, lawyer and law firm management consultant. New questions every episode and none of it scripted. The real conversations happen here. In our first segment, a lawyer is seeking to transfer more of her firm tasks to her operations manager.
Female Speaker: I’m doing this for 40 years, but I’m in my own firm for 27. I’m the owner, the only partner. I have 15 employees and so I see that I’m involved in every aspect of the business. We have four departments, the legal, the marketing, the administrative and the financial and at the beginning of the year I said, “You know what? I can’t do it all.” I have people would have been with me forever. I have great office manager, great financial guy, some great attorneys, somebody who’s my intake person forever. So we have a great solid team. Of course there are always other people coming and going and so I said, “How can I not be so involved?”
So I said to my finance guy who’s really detail-oriented and great, “Do me a favor, why you take over operations?” We don’t even know what that means. What is it means to be like director of operations? Let’s give everyone metrics, key performance indicators. You know, you talk about Gino Wickman ‘Traction’ EOS. Let’s come up with four projects a quarter and you’d be in charge of all of them and make sure they get done, oversee everybody. But to be honest with you, we’re past the first quarter and I see I’m still very involved in the marketing and everything. How can I remove myself being a visionary and put more accountability on my office manager, my operations person? What should this operations person be doing, I guess that’s bottom line?
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay, cool. I guess the follow-up questions I would ask, I think I know the answer, but the follow-up questions I would ask is, “So do you get to help you with that?”
Female Speaker: What is that even mean? Nobody. I mean, I just said.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right. I knew the answer, so what you did was you just basically said “Alakazoo! Alakazam!” You’re chief operating officer or director of operations, or whatever you told them. But in business, one thing you can usually count on is people will do what they know. People will do what’s in their comfort zone, so you give them a new title, they’re just going to keep doing what they did. And they might tweak it a little bit, they might try to venture in this area, but as soon as they hit an area of discomfort, they will stop because they don’t know the role and they don’t have anybody to help them understand the role. They have nobody to model what that looks like and what success looks like. So it will lead to great frustration, by the way that includes you, right? Because you don’t know.
Female Speaker: Yes.
Christopher T. Anderson: How to not be involved in all those things. You don’t know how to find a lane in stick to it and really niche what you do for the business down to in a fewer level. So if it’s traction is the model you want, then you should be working with somebody who can help your team implement traction. It’s not overnight. Like people that have implement traction, like by the time they’re self-sufficient in traction, it’s usually a year and then they oftentimes keep the traction consultant on a kind of — that consultant or another consultant on a low level, to kind of check in on them, make sure they’re staying the course. The easiest analogy for me it would be just like you saying, “You know I’m not feeling very fit. I want to be able to run a marathon, so I just going to go out there and run.” And what’s going to happen is you going to injured yourself, right? And you’re not going to run the marathon because you going to get injured and you’re going to be right back, you’re going to be worse off than where you were as opposed to getting a running coach, getting someone, or to get you started to set up a program for you.
Once you gotten started and then they make sure your form is good and then you’re not running in a way that’s going to hurt yourself, and you’ve got the program set and the coach can back off a bit and kind of let you go, and then check in with you from time to time to make sure you’re making progress according to metrics that you all agreed on. This is the same thing in a business, you need someone to help you because this is a big change. I mean you just said that, I didn’t write down the number of years, but you just said you’d been doing this way for a long, long time, you all have muscle memory. You all have a way of doing things that is going to be your go-to. And as much you really, like you read ‘Traction’ or one of the other books and you just said, “I’m going to really do it” coming up for air by the way, great book I’m getting through right now and bringing to my team. As long as you or it’s come up there. As long as you — everything is fine, you’ll make some progress.
And then as soon as there’s puts a stress on the business because you get too much work in the door, or something bad happens or something great happens but there’s stress on the business, you will devolve back to your habits in a heartbeat because it’s what you know and so it’s what you’ll do. And so, the likelihood of you bootstrapping yourself into these kind of huge change in a way you run your business. By the way applaud you for trying. I mean, I think it’s just really fantastic because you do — in order to grow, you do need to make that change, it’s very unlikely to happen without somebody dedicating themselves to the process, the change process.
Female Speaker: So I am now finally running on EOS, but like I said it took about nine months. I hired an EOS fractional integrator. Yeah, there’s an implementer and an integrator and just be mindful. They are two very, very different things. So I hired a fractional integrator that not only taught us how to implement EOS but worked us through the system with the limited executive team I had at the time because this is me and my executive assistant quite frankly. She helped me do all the things, get my goals, the quarterly, the rocks, she taught me the system it’s like installing the operating system and then help me find my current legal administrator who is now also now learning EOS. So she can take it over and we’ve scaled back the EOS. The whole point of the EOS integrator is to work themselves out of a job.
Christopher T. Anderson: Mm-hmm.
Female Speaker: So we are at the point now.
Christopher T. Anderson: But not overnight.
Female Speaker: No, nine months. We’re nine months in. She’s now at the point of just hanging out in the backdrop twice a month just for a maintenance check-ins. But it was rough, it was good. But it was not easy.
Female Speaker: And what are the benefits? What are the benefits now that you’re involved with the EOS?
Female Speaker: I just think more clarity. We have set meetings. There’s consistency. There’s clarity about what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, what are focus is, short like — you know weekly, daily, monthly, quarterly, yearly targets, KPIs, our core values are spread all throughout the law firm and themed through everything we do. So it gave a really nice — and we update them, we all update them quarterly. We just had a quarterly meeting yesterday, quarterly, six months, yearly. There’s a plan, there’s a big plan with milestones to go after.
Female Speaker: I love that thank you.
Female Speake: You can reach out to me offline, it’s really hard to explain until you get it.
Female Speaker: Yeah, put your information in the chatbox so I have it, thank you.
Female Speaker: Sure.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and for that like obviously, ‘Traction’ a great book to read. Another good book to read is and I’m going to forget the name of the book, ‘Fireproof’. I think ‘Fireproof.’
Female Speaker: Yeah I’ve seen that. Yeah.
Christopher T. Anderson: By Mike Morse. Anyway he was on The Un-Billable Hour a while back, but he’s great guy. I just remember his text. I remember his phone number is 555-MIKEWINS or 888-MIKEWINS which is feeling smart. He’s a marketing genius. But he went ‘Traction’ in a big way and his book is all about how he did that. He’s another guy who actually consults on it. So he doesn’t have much consulting background, so wherever it’s worth, I haven’t work with them, I can’t vouch for him, but I can vouch that he’s a nice guy.
Female Speaker: Wait, and I see Jen has been working with SMB, Bill Hauser and Andy Stickel whatever the name his.
Female Speaker: Yeah, I just started with them and let me tell you, they are absolutely powerhouses just like you said. They’ve already started bringing in organized culture, the KPIs. They’re doing a lot of the done for you part of it, where they’re setting up the Google side. They’re setting up the social media side. They’re setting up the ads. They just want log ins. They just want log ins for you so they can turn key it and they just start running it, and all the sudden you started getting business, and it starts coming in, and then they want to make sure that when you have business coming in that you’re trained to actually make those hits on your intake convert, and they specialized in converting. So they specializing getting a flood of clients to you and then they specialize and train, it would convert.
Christopher T. Anderson: And one thing I will caution everybody because I see this happens so much especially like at ABA TECHSHOW or the local state bar small law firm stuff as people would say, “I just I worked with SMB” and by the way, SMB, they’re good folks, they do a good job, but they’re not for everybody. Each group, there’s so many, is good for a particular kind of firm during a particular part of their lifecycle. There’s no consultant you’ll work with. That’s good for you forever. You know just as you grow; the people that will help you get from where you are to the next level are always different people, and the other good ones are the once who are recognized that and say, “You know, I’ve helped you this far. Now, I recommend X, Y, or Z to help you on the next step and not try to pretend that they can stay on the journey with you forever because it’s just not true.”
Otherwise, they wouldn’t be good, right? Because they get good because they focus on that part of a journey. SMB like what Jenna was just saying, really amazing. Like they take it over your marketing and bringing in result. And then they’re pretty good at helping you with the intake stuff. But then when you fix all that, you’ll break other parts of your business that they’re not particularly good at and you need to bring in other people to help with that.
Rainmaker Institute is another place that can really help with that kind of stuff and there’s others. They’re not the top of my head. I always hesitate on these calls to recommend and I think I hope everybody’s noticed, I haven’t actually recommended anybody. I’ve said names of people I know, but I need to know more about your business in order to really pair you with who you need. But I think if traction is what floats your boat, then working on getting an EOS integrator would be a good way to start.
Female Speaker: Right. I’ll just make one more comment. So what I did at the beginning of this year is I hired a young girl out of business school to be maybe the implementer to handle all the–.
Christopher T. Anderson: Why?
Female Speaker: Well, because I figured she would handle all the projects that we want to accomplish in this office.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay. I have a 16-year-old son. He could come do it for you, too.
Female Speaker: There you go. Exactly.
Christopher T. Anderson: No.
Female Speaker: No.
Christopher T. Anderson: You need someone who’s been there, done that 100 times. This is not someone from business. They don’t teach this in business school. The business school teaches you how to talk business.
Female Speaker: I thought she would take things off my plate because I always have.
Christopher T. Anderson: I’m sure she will and then she’ll run them her way with her inexperience and create more chaos in your business.
Female Speaker: Yeah, maybe.
Christopher T. Anderson: A business school person would be a great person to work alongside an integrator and learn. That would be cool because they’re a sponge, right? They can take it all in and then really run with it.
Female Speaker: But technology savvy and unbelievable whatever I’ve asked her to do. So, I’ll give you one idea of what I wanted to do. We have already written out all the processes and procedures in my office and I asked her to find software and upload it. And she went around to every department, figured out, got them to write down everything that they do, and now it’s all searchable. You want to know on your first day of the job what forms you have to fill out, you type it in and it all pops up. That was her first major project.
Christopher T. Anderson: And that’s valuable. That’s valuable.
Female Speaker: Very valuable and impressive that she did it in — I gave her an incentive. I’ll give you a bonus if you do it by X date and it was done immediately.
Christopher T. Anderson: And my son could come in and make you guys pizza. He’s really good at it.
Advertiser: LAWCLERK’s nationwide network of talented freelance lawyers is trusted by thousands of law firms. Solo attorneys and firms can get help with project-based work and also ongoing work via a subscription. Sign up is free, and there are no monthly fees. You only pay when you delegate work. Plus, LAWCLERK has a new app for your mobile device to help you manage the work you’ve delegated while you’re on the go. Be sure to use referral code Un-Billable when you sign up at lawclerk.legal.
Advertiser: There’s a point when you realize you can’t do it all, but hiring is hard or maybe you don’t need a full-time person. Belay can help. Belay has helped busy attorneys accomplish more and juggle less for over a decade. Today, Belay is giving Un-Billable Hour listeners their resource five reasons why leaders choose a virtual assistant over an in-house assistant. Changing how you hire could save your sanity and bottom line. Text law, that’s L-A-W to 55123 for BELAY’s free resource. Get out of the administrative weeds and back to growing your law firm with BELAY.
Christopher T. Anderson: In our next two segments, a lawyer wants to know how to grow and market her firm when cash flow is tight.
Female Speaker: I’m kind of all over the place. How do you market when you don’t have any money? I’m coming off of the year with $700,000 a year, best year being in business five years. I’m in a huge cash crunch. At this point, I’m doing everything that I need to do as far as guys call me, following up with those who didn’t sign. But I don’t feel like things are ever going to change at this point and I know it’s a mindset thing but I really need to market and how do I do that when I don’t have the funds to do so?
Christopher T. Anderson: Yup. What is your business?
Female Speaker: Oh, I’m sorry. I practice Social Security disability which is contingent. Cases don’t pay until 12 to 18 months down the road.
And I practice personal injury seven, eight months if we settle. And I hired an attorney in January last year to handle a criminal defense practice. Didn’t really make the money that we thought we were going to make with it last year and still not doing very well this year. And I don’t know how to convey the importance of getting the cash in the door and converting and I think that’s an issue. We have a sales conversion issue. I just hired an intake person who started last week. I got to get her up to speed. She is a remote employee from Argentina. So I guess marketing and sales conversion because at one point we had the leads which we’re not converting them. And since we’ve been on this call, I’ve been looking at my lead spreadsheet to see where we are not converting and it’s criminal we’re not converting.
Christopher T. Anderson: So, you’re working in like your primary businesses because like you just said, you just started or have tried to start the criminal thing going which is smart in a sense because your other two businesses have negative cash conversion cycles. Cash conversion cycle for those of you who don’t know is how much time between the time you spend the money on marketing and production and the time you get the money. And so, like you said SSDI that can be 18 months.
Female Speaker: Right. So, everybody I’m signing now, way down the road.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. And so, that’s a tough place to dig out from. And then PI, yeah, you might get some couple of quick licks but probably your average is like you said about 9 months to 12 months to funding depending on what you’re doing in PI. And then you brought in criminal which is like cash on the barrel head so that balances it out nicely. But if you’re not converting on that, then it’s not helping. So I could give you lots of ideas to help you with the SSDI and the PI but that’s not going to help you, they’ll bury you.
Female Speaker: Yeah.
Christopher T. Anderson: Because if you sell a bunch of SSDI, who’s going to do the work?
Female Speaker: Well, I have one attorney now. I had two attorneys, one I fired.
Christopher T. Anderson: So the point being is the answer to the question is people that you’ll have to pay for a year–
Female Speaker: Yes.
Christopher T. Anderson: –before you see any money. So if you’re in a cash crunch now, that is not where to focus. If you’re serious about criminal, that’s where to focus and you’ve got to get Argentina off the line. That’s not going to happen.
Female Speaker: Okay, let me tell you this about the criminal. So it’s my business but my associates, she is not passionate about criminal anymore and doesn’t want to handle criminal. She just wants to focus on the PI.
Christopher T. Anderson: So that’s fine, she can focus on the PI and you will pay her when that pays, right? If she wants to focus on the PI, let her learn what PI is all about. No money until there is and then it’s great because it’s a great practice and can be very lucrative, very profitable, just not in the first nine months. So you’re not in a position to grow her into the PI practice unless you’ve got someone leaving and if she doesn’t want to do what she came in for, then there might not be much there. So like, listen, I’m not telling you to do criminal. So first of all, you got to decide whether you want to do it. If you do, then I’ve got ideas on how to market and get it going but it does not include –Argentina can be like I pick up the phone and I make sure I get them to you like it could just be like sort of a phone direction person but they’re not going to close.
Female Speaker: Okay.
Christopher T. Anderson: Criminal. What do you think the shelf life of a criminal prospect is from the moment they call you?
Female Speaker: A day?
Christopher T. Anderson: No, about 45 minutes.
Female Speaker: About 45 minutes.
Christopher T. Anderson: If you don’t close them in 45 minutes, they’re gone.
Female Speaker: They’re gone. Yeah, just like PI.
Christopher T. Anderson: PI is a little bit easier. They’re almost three to four hours. And depending on the size of it like if it’s a major PI, it’s longer, lesser, smaller. But criminal, they pick a day they are going to hire someone. They started dialing. You’re lucky they reached you. When they don’t sign with you, they’re going to continue dialing until they do. That’s the nature of the beast. So, your whole intake system around criminal has to be a very different system than around some other stuff. You know, with SSDI, you can do a nurture sequence. You can really teach them along the way. You get them signed up like that’s a slower burn. PI a little bit shorter, you need to get them some stuff. You need to get them believing that you get settlements and that you can put money in their pocket. You have the better part of a day to do that.
Criminal, you got to get them on the phone with someone who’s going to tell them that things are going to be okay and depending on your personality, I was a prosecutor, right? So, what did I do when I first went into private practice? I did criminal, of course. That’s what I knew and I worked with a guy and he could do what I couldn’t do because he would just sit across the table from a prospect and just go–
“Son, you got a world of hurt. And if you don’t get this fixed right now, it’s not going to go well for you.” And like money would just jump out of the guy’s pockets and get done. You got to be able to have that conversations like to instill urgency, to make sure the auctions are clear and to close that sale on that first call. Boom, got to be done. And of course if it’s white-collar crime or a serious felony, that you’d get a little bit longer because they’re going to do more due diligence but for your bread and butter, it’s got to happen fast. But the first thing for you is you have to decide whether that’s what you want to do.
Adriana Linares: Let me tell you about Angela, the practice manager in Kansas City. Her litigation firm had multiple systems that didn’t talk to each other. Before, she spent her day helping attorneys and staff move client info from the intake system to their practice in court systems. With Lawmatics, she can easily sync matter details between multiple systems and she has a dependable support team she can call for help Angela isn’t left being the default IT person anymore. Lawmatics integrates with Clio, Smokeball, Rocket Matter and now, MyCase, all with friendly tech support. Get a Lawmatics demo today to sync between systems more easily. Lawmatics.com
Conrad Saam: Hey Gyi, what’s up?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Just having some lunch, Conrad.
Conrad Saam: Hey Gyi, do you see that billboard out there?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Oh, you mean that guy out there in the gray suit?
Conrad Saam: Yeah, the gray suit guy.
Gyi Tsalakis: There’s all those beautiful, rich, leatherbound books in the background?
Conrad Saam: That is exactly the one. That’s JD McGuffing at Law, he’ll fight for you! I bet you, he has got so many years of experience. Like, decades and decades and I bet Gyi, I bet he even went to a law school.
Male: Are you a lawyer? Do you suffer from dull marketing and a lack of positioning in the cry of legal marketplace? Sit down with Gyi and Conrad for Lunch Hour Legal Marketing on the Legal Talk Network. Available, wherever podcasts are found.
Female Speaker: I know a little bit about estate planning. I’m a clerk for a probate court judge. I had the software whereas we can plug any information, spins out reels and trusts and things of that nature. So, I’ve thought about pivoting to that but then again, I don’t have the market for that. So, in the event the associate decides to go elsewhere who practices criminal, I can handle the estate planning.
Christopher T. Anderson: Mm-hmm. Real estate place is a good cash on the barrel head practice. Like you said, it does take — you would need to get some marketing but there are relatively low dollar ways to market in that business. But the first thing you have to do is decide what, right? Neither you nor I should spend a whole lot of time figuring out how until you figure out what.
Female Speaker: And then what bothers me is because I’m spread so thin, you know, which everything. It’s like I hire people to do things and things are not getting done, so, I’m always interjecting myself back in business. When I fired the Social Security attorney last week. Luckily, I have my own — I used to work with Social Security so, now, my own boss is my legal assistant. So, he’s able to — you know, 36 years of Social Security knowledge. He’s able to answer those questions but he can’t go to the hearing for me. There are a lot of other things that I must do. So, it’s like I’m spread so thin trying to grow the business, but also trying to keep clients satisfied and even keep staff satisfied. And, that is frustrating because like you said you know, I hired her to do one thing and now, I’m getting the slack like, I don’t want to do this anymore. And I feel like that is why we are not converting(ph).
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, I mean, I think the reaction just needs to be I’m really sorry to hear that and you know, that’ll definitely provide you with a good reference. It just,– you just, you’re not in a place where you can carry a whole lot on your back right now. You need people who are producing and it sounds like, I mean, you’re basically self-admitting it. You’ve got a track record of not insisting on accountability in your business and that people pick up on that really, really quickly. And so, I mean for me, like if I’m jumping in and I’m trying to help you turn this ship around, by the way, another good book. Probably really appropriate for you right now, “Turn This Ship Around”. I would jump in and say, first of all, let’s just decide what we’re going to do. I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s criminal. I don’t care if it’s state planning. I don’t care if it’s family law. I don’t care if it’s something else. Let’s just figure it out. And those are all cash businesses that are good as it balanced the SSDI and the PI. Then once we decide, then we do the what?
You know, I don’t know if you’re using or looking for state planning or if you’re using wealth council or the other one — I forgot what the other one’s called — yeah, there’s two major providers.
Female Speaker: National Network something or national something network?
Christopher T. Anderson: No.
Female Speaker: Aliquots, Aliquots.
Christopher T. Anderson: Don’t do Aliquots. But there’s another one that like wealth council. There’s like two major competitors that provide all the forms and they — both of them have like canned marketing that you can do. You know, one of the reasons this is kind of cool, is you can do low budget. You can just go to seminars. You can just go talk to people about state planning and do seminars. You can close 50%, 60% of a room by putting on a seminar that’s going to cost you, you know, $120 in box lunches. And you can get a business fast doing stuff like that. And it’s all, like they’ll give it to you. Like, all packaged up and ready to go. You know, criminal, I found criminal really easy to get business in and very little money. You know, first way, as a young lawyer, I just went to every judge in the circuit that I was willing to go to and just appoint my cases. And then I’ll be at court, and people would see what I did in court and then I’ll get cash cases, real cases. And that you know, tell the judges, thank you, no more appointed cases please. And yeah, they would say you could spin it up that way. You know, you could hire young associates who could start doing that for you. Yeah, there’s inexpensive ways to get any business started up but you first have to ask which one and then we could go do that. Now, I don’t think — I know we’re at the end of time here so, I don’t think I helped you that far, but I hope I gave you some — a place to start the thinking in, and you know, feel free to reach out. I’d be glad to kind of talk to you a little bit more about it, okay?
Female Speaker: Thank you.
Christopher T. Anderson: Thank you all so very much for joining the The Un-Billable Hour Community Table. We are back here every month, third Thursday at 3:00 Eastern. Thank you all so very much and don’t forget to also check out on The Un-Billable Hour. We have some couple of really amazing guests in the next couple shows — fantastic shows so, take and listen in the Un-Billable Hour on the Legal Talk Network. You all take care.