I really, really enjoy social media because I get to be social without doing those things that feel all network-y. Because I’ve never considered myself very good at those things (though I can’t really define what those things are), and I generally don’t recall enjoying those things much.
But, the cold, hard reality is that you can’t build a law practice (or any kind of professional services business, for that matter) solely online. Blog your heart out (even following my advice here and here), have the best website *ever*, master all things Facebook-Twitter-Google+? Not enough.
You have to be a honest-to-goodness, in-the-flesh, real person that is capable of meeting people, talking with them, and CONNECTING. And some of these things must be done offline.
And because I am decidedly not the queen of such things (and actually want to learn a bit myself), I’ve gathered some resources. For both of us!
To kick off: Lee Rosen’s Networking 101. Lee’s blog Divorce Discourse is a treasure trove of great advice about all things related to running/marketing/surviving a small law practice. He’s packed tons of great networking advice into this single e-book. You can grab it here.
[Full disclosure: Lee sent a complimentary copy of the book to me. I read it, think it’s great stuff, and decided to share it. I got the book free, but that’s it. Lee alone shall enjoy the millions netted from the book’s sales.]
And (actually thanks to a reminder via Twitter from Lee) here are a couple of great blog posts on the subject from the blog The Art of Manliness:
And don’t let the blog’s (ridiculous?) name fool you, as it’s actually a source of some great advice for us girls, too. (I’ve often shared this blog’s post on writing email that will get a response - you may want to check it out, too.)
And finally, to tap into a resource for women: check out this brief but very practical post on networking tips for women entrepreneurs published by Inc. Although, clearly these tips apply to everyone — not just women.
Do you have a few dozen holiday parties on your schedule next month? Well, then now’s the perfect time to brush up on networking skills with these resources and be ready to meet, connect and follow-up like a pro.
I’m going to do the same. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I write (or have written or attempt to write) blog posts for a number of different blogs, most of which I’ve developed. And through these processes of development, I’ve identified that thing that really should happen first. When this thing happens, it’s a clear indicator that the blog will be a good one. (Now, I don’t guarantee success or a huge following or really anything — just that by some standard, it will be a good blog.)
That thing? Identifying your purpose for writing the blog in the first place.
I think the purpose has a few moving parts. At least the following three.
First, there’s the person writing the blog. Who are you? What makes you tick? Personally, professionally? What sense of you do you want to convey via the blog? I’m certain all of this really matters because blogging is personal. It’s a direct connection to your readers, and it’s a chance to communicate in an [appropriately] intimate way.
So, you need to think about yourself as the writer of the blog, and what it is about you that’s going to be integral to what you’re writing.
For example: ‘I’m an estate planning attorney. Helping my clients put together a meaningful plan — and the genuine gratitude clients express when this comes together — motivates me like nothing else. I do what I do because I love the personal connection and the chance to help folks through a process that can be difficult at worst and simply isn’t a happy thought at best. We’re dealing with planning for our mortality, after all. What I bring to the way I practice? A genuine empathy and personal connection that I want each and every client to feel. Without this, I can’t develop the trust I need to do the best work for a client. I’ve also been in the shoes of many of my clients, when I’ve had to deal with my own family’s situations — and this necessarily affects the kind of counselor I am.
Next, there’s the essence of your blog’s content. This is your content purpose. What do you want to write about? Why? How are you going to do it in a compelling way? Why should anyone care?
You don’t not write because someone else is writing about the same thing. You write it differently, better, more compellingly, with more interest, or passion, or whatever it is that you have that will make someone want to read what you’re writing instead of what the others are writing.
For example: ‘I follow other blogs that touch on topics like Medicaid planning but frankly, they’re not well-written. They don’t connect to the average person who gets lost in the minutiae of the regulations. I want to translate the minutiae in a way that’s meaningful to a general audience — so that readers understand how the minutiae really work, in their lives.’
Then, there’s the audience for your blog. Perhaps this is the driving purpose. Although I want to believe that there will always be an audience for really good writing, I’m also practical. You’re not writing a professional blog just for fun (although if you answer all of these questions honestly, it should be fun). You’re writing it to achieve some professional goals — which should be tied into at least some of the answers to these questions.
For example: ‘I want to reach folks (and their families) who are struggling with how to manage long-term care and end-of-life planning. I want to find a way to connect with this audience as they search for answers to their questions.’
Being thoughtful as you answer this triad of queries — the person (who you are), the content (what you’re writing), and the audience (who you’re writing for) — creates a strong foundation for your blog. By exploring these queries and thus knowing your purpose before you start, you’re much more likely to meet your professional goals in blogging.
We’ll talk next time about goals, as these go hand-in-hand with determining the purpose of your blog. The process isn’t really linear. It’s more confluent.
[I know that a non-linear approach is very uncomfortable for most legal minds, but I ask that you bear with me. Please and thank you.]
Note: The example blurbs I offer above are really nothing more than a quick brain dump from my own head. This is where you start. You start by freely answering the questions in an imperfect way, to get the thoughts out of your head on onto paper (or a screen) so you can start shifting, chipping away, organizing and prioritizing. Get it out of your head to figure it out. This is STEP 1.
I’m in a state of digital overload. I desperately need to thin out the number of feeds in my RSS reader. I’m embarrassed to admit the actual number of unread items.
And I also need to organize my various ebooks. Some for Kindle, some are iBooks. Some are in more arcane formats. I need access, from anywhere, to anything.
I’ve just stumbled across a couple of solutions. (fingers crossed.)
The first: Calibre. This nifty piece of software converts ebook formats, one from another to another, and back again. So I can get everything into my Kindle.
SEND TO KINDLE
Amazingly, I’ve never done this. But I’m using Send to Kindle now. (Amazing because I love to clip things from the ‘net and send them other places. How have I missed this?)
I save a lot (perhaps too many) online posts and articles to read later. And I really prefer to read on my Kindle - easier on the eyes, easier at the beach (this is important). Now I can send that interesting but long article from the Atlantic to my Kindle. To read (sooner than) later.
The goal with both Calibre and Kindle - to be more judicious in what I save to read later, while simultaneously putting it in exactly the right place to read it when I can.
I’ll keep you posted on whether these two new little tricks will assist me in making a dent in my digital overload …
I’ve been obsessed with infographics for a while now. And I resist becoming obsessed with Pinterest, as I don’t need another internet rabbit hole. But I’ve decided the two MUST meet.
At the moment I’m favoring all things related to brands, content curation, creation, and social marketing. Since I’m busy launching iLex, and all.
But I reserve the right to pin infographics about other stuff, too. Good stuff only, I promise. Interested in infographics? I welcome follows. And I’d love to know about what you’re pinning, too.
After 15 years of practice, and doing lots of different things in my practice, I’ve concluded that clients most often look to me to lead them - out of a mess, into a fair transaction, away from a bad partner. The client wants me to solve a problem, avoid a problem, make a plan, get rid of a plan. The common element? The client is waiting to see how I’m going to lead her through the matter at hand.
I don’t think we lawyers give this role much thought. At least not at a fundamental level. We should.
These Ten Principles of of Servant Leadership apply - each and every one - to how we interact with our clients.
- Commitment to the Growth of People
- Building Community
Read the article. Consider each element. Think about how you can better serve your clients. As their servant leader.
I'm thrilled to be hosting a workshop on October 3, 2013 with members of the L.A.W. Solo and Small Firm group (Marion Griffin Chapter) about all things inspired web and content for lawyers.
We’re meeting at the law office of my fellow Vandy alum (and IP/entertainment lawyer extraordinaire) Amy Everhart.
SafeMonk for enterprise gives businesses the ability to manage multiple Dropbox users through encrypted folders and more. Features of note: REMOTE KILL (revoke keys by user or share, rendering the data in question useless to the revoked user) and COMPLIANCE REPORTING (essentially an audit trail of use and activity).
I’m liking SafeMonk so far and this addition to the company’s offerings makes it a viable option for offices with multiple Dropbox users.
Pricing (per the SafeMonk website):
The viability of using cloud storage for confidential and privileged data is a topic of constant discussion and debate. Encryption is an obvious way to address this issue. And SafeMonk sure does make it easy.
I use Insightly to manage client projects and track prospective/new clients. It integrates beautifully with Google Apps, making management of pretty much everything easy. So I’m already a big fan.
And now I’m a bigger one, with the integration of Evernote into the Insightly platform. Cue chorus of angels!
This is a big deal because I collect and organize all of my research via Evernote. With Google Scholar and Evernote, I am a research maven. [Blog post forthcoming on why this combo is so fantastic.]
And now that I can instantly link Evernote research notes with a client project? I truly have everything I need at my fingertips, instantly.
The key to successful practice (project) management is (in my humble opinion) the design and implementation of process wherever possible. Streamline how you work and everything about your work gets better.
Insightly was already doing a tremendous job at helping me streamline, through calendar and task integration with Google, my beloved pipelines and activity sets, and the ability to instantly track and share project status via my computer or phone.
Evernote integration streamlines yet another part of my workflow, giving me instant access to everything relevant to a client matter. (Did I mention already that I hear angels singing?)
If your workflow and process aren’t already perfection, then I suggest you check out Insightly. And if you’re AREN’T already using Evernote, well … give me a buzz. Tell me about what your work is and how you do it. And I’ll tell you how Evernote can help. I’ll need 5 minutes, tops.
-Cat | email@example.com
Post number one in a series of undetermined length.
I put it out there that I was going to do a series of posts about blogging. Why has it taken me so long to launch the series? Because I haven’t had [made?] the time to spend on writing this first post.
Which epiphany has actually inspired this first post.
What you need to know first about blogging: to do it well (not even really well, just pretty well) — you must spend the necessary time. To develop your thoughts, do the research, write, revise, write, revise again. Hopefully you get an editor’s input in there somewhere.
Even if you consider yourself a good (really good) writer, creating a well-crafted post that other people want to read simply takes time. And for posts written by lawyers, my guess is that it may take even a bit more time.
Why? Let me explain.
First, you’re likely to be writing about something legal. Which in and of itself infers research. Into the cases, or statutes, or whatever it is that forms the topic of your post. This requires that you both do the research and then make what you discover in the research accessible to your audience.
This is likely harder and more time-consuming than you think. Because your audience (probably) isn’t an appellate panel. It’s normal people who don’t want to read legalese. In fact, one of the reasons they choose to read your blog? Because it doesn’t sound like a lawyer wrote it.
Second, the first version can always be (vastly) improved upon. I still fight this one because after I’ve poured my heart and soul into something (yes, even a little blog post), I really want to just set it free. I don’t want to keep fussing over it. But the fussing part? It’s really, really important.
Write a post. Put it down. Come back to it. A day or more days later. Read it, revise it. Put it down again. This practice will improve your writing immensely, and your end product will reflect the effort. You’ll be crafting words on a digital page that others want to read. Which of course is the entire point of blogging in the first place.
Third, your unique voice takes time to develop. As with anything else on the web, your writing will stand out based on what differentiates it from the rest of the noise out there. If your blog looks and reads like every other blog out there on your given topic, then chances are few are going to notice it, and even fewer will care. My apologies for the bluntness, but this is true. So accept it and figure out what’s going to make your blog stand out.
Discover (or create) your differentiating factor(s), then work this/these into every post you write. Is it your pithy tone? Your out-of-the-ordinary word choice? Your ability to take complicated ideas and convey them in a way that creates a visual image for the reader? I know bloggers who do all of these things. And these are some of the reasons I go back to what they write.
You can, of course, share short posts, but my sense is that if you’re only giving little tastes, you won’t develop much of an appetite among your readers. You need to offer content of more substance, even if sprinkled with short pieces.
I like things in threes, so will stop here. As with most everything else in life, you’ll get out of blogging what you put into it. Start by deciding if you have (and want to have) the time to devote to it, then commit to taking the time it requires to do it well.
I have a secret mission to rid the world of bad law blogs. So start blogging and send me a link so I can celebrate your victory over bad blogging. You can reach me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.