Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good Cases for YOU....and 27 Ways to Get All Kinds of New Legal Business

Roll up your sleeves, pull up a chair, pay homage to your personal muse, or do whatever you do when you embark on something new and important......Today is a two for one day. First, we will get started on How to Get Good Cases for YOU. Today will be part 1 of that. I may wax a little philosophical with this, I may go for some "zen in the law". Don't be intimidated. Don't dismiss this part and think....."I'll wait for the REAL stuff". I will tell you how to actually get the good cases for YOU, but I want you on my team first. Oh, and please don't skip to the bottom for the "27 Ways", which are not there to get the good cases for YOU. Those are there to show you how easy it is to "get business". I don't want your goal to be "getting business", I want you to know you CAN do that, it's easy. I want you to tackle the more challenging.....Getting Good Business for YOU.

Why am I capitalizing YOU? Because I wish somebody would have pointed out to ME that this was a better way to approach law practice than "27 ways". First, you have permission to envision. Envision your practice as successful. What kinds of cases are you working on? How much money are you making? Where are you being quoted? Who are your clients? Who is working for you? What kinds of cases are you turning down? Where are you going on vacation?

Hmmm, another hokey goal setting talk? Well, do you want to be successful? Or are you "hoping" to be successful. Which is more likely to actually have you DO real things towards that end? In the limited time we all have, the decisions we make each hour, each day, over how to use our time are directly controlled by how strongly we envision.

I capitalize YOU because I want you to permit yourself to envision a successful law practice, in detail. Why? Because I want you to take the steps to make it happen, and this will involve making certain decisions and acting on them. For YOU, nobody else. And to do this you have to value YOU. It's sort of a private thing. I'll respect your privacy. Have the conversations with yourself if necessary. Have them with someone you trust. Have them with me if you wish, I'll keep it confidential. The thing is, do not fear exploring what YOU want.

Phew, this is getting heavy. I will talk more about it tomorrow, and we will look at specific decisions that will move us toward our visions.

That got me a little tired, so to take a break, and for a goof........I give you 27 Ways to Get All Kinds of Legal Business......

1. Mail announcements to an expansive list of friends, relatives and acquaintances.

2. Join the referral panel of every local bar association.

3. Sign up for the 18-B panel (court appointed misdemeanor cases)

4. Take the seminars for Court Evaluator, Referee, and Guardian ad Litem appointments.

5. Work part-time as an Administrative Law Judge. At the very least you will get good blog material by doing this http://nylaw2law.blogspot.com/search/label/ALJ%20at%20PVB

6. Make yourself known to local real estate brokers.

7. Get to know various accountants, and refer them clients. Trust me, they will refer you business.

8. Refer clients to all kinds of professionals and tradespeople, and follow up.

9. Answer ads in the Law Journal for part-time and project work.

10. Place ads in the Law Journal offering specific services.

11. Sign up with lawyer temp agencies.

12. Place ads in local newspapers.

13. Place ads in out of State Bar journals, especially nearby States. I hit a few home runs with this one.

14. Let other lawyers know you are available in "conflict situations".....Quik story.....a month into my practice, a lawyer in my suite asked me to represent the other side of a business transaction. His client had a "drapery and upholstery" business. My client was the "upholsterer" and was buying that part of the business. When I looked at the contract it seemed kind of unfair. My new client said what foreign born clients always say "What do you think Mr. Barry?" I said the contract seemed kind of unfair, and he said "I think that too, but I want to buy the business, can you fix it?" So I negotiated a better deal, and the referring lawyer was kind of mad at me. At the closing he whispered to me, "Your client will never cut it, he'll pay some of the notes and go out of business" Three years later, after he paid the notes, I was his lawyer when he bought the drapery business too.

15. Do per diem work (court assignments for other attorneys). People make a living just doing THIS.

16. Do a pro-bono case because you want to. It's just good karma, and invariably the client refers you other paying clients.

17. Be accommodating to people who approach you in court. I'm amazed when lawyers blow off people who approach them in court. One more quik story - I was once coming out of Housing Court when an old lady approached me and said "Mister, is this where I make a case against my Landlord?" Rather than just say "yeah", I said "What kind of case?". She said, "I fell down the steps because he doesn't clean the garbage, and I broke my arm." I said, "This is Housing Court, but it's more for rent problems, your case would be in a different court, and you would need a lawyer for a case like that." "Are you a lawyer?"......Bottom line, case was settled for $30,000. Be nice to people who approach you in Court.

18. Be especially alert in Court's where clients tend to approach you. If you are already in Criminal Court, or Housing, or Family, or Small Claims, potential clients will approach. Be prepared.

19. Participate in things you enjoy, having nothing to do with law. Notice I don't say...."go to bar association meetings, or chamber of commerce, or political clubs". Those are full of lawyers. I played softball with a bunch of guys from Felicia's cousin's lodge in Brooklyn, where nobody was a lawyer, or even knew a lawyer. I did not join the team to get business, I wanted to play ball and be friendly with cousin Al, which I did. I also got all kinds of new business. As an aside, our catcher was in "funeral director school". If his beeper went off during the game, we all took our hats off.

20. Pay attention to "ethnic community leaders".....and not necessarily your own ethnic community. What I mean is, if you happen to get a client from a close-knit ethnic community, and the client is somewhat educated, chances are people will trust his referrals. Those referrals will come to you, IF you are paying attention.

21. Pay attention to how you answer the question "what do you do?". If you do a lot of things, don't say "general practice". Size the questioner up, and take an educated guess at what the most appropriate response would be.

22. Accept credit cards. Many lawyers don't, there are times when you being one who does, gets the business.

23. Participate in a pre-paid legal plan. I met some of the worst clients ever by doing this, but hey, you WILL get business.

24. Teach a paralegal class. I did this, it was fun. I hired the smartest student in the class, who was one of the best clerks I ever had. She worked for me while in law school, and she has been a successful attorney for many years. I also got a few small cases from other students.

25. Take speaking engagements......anywhere. I always got new business after speaking at senior centers or the library. You make a call or two with a suggested topic, and you are in.

26. If you are in a law suite, or a building with a lot of lawyers, introduce yourself to every lawyer and tell them you are available for per diem work, or referrals of cases.

27. Be yourself. It's not as stressful as the alternatives.

Tomorrow....back to good business for YOU.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Let's Get Some (Good) Business

Yesterday I set forth the basic premise that any business involves 3 steps....getting the business, doing the work, and dealing with finances. I promised that today we would "get us some business".

Where does new law business come from? I can (and will) give you at least 27 places it comes from, but first I want to ask a better question. Where does GOOD law business come from and how can you make it come to YOU? Isn't it worth asking, what would be the best type of new business for YOU?

For those who are cost conscious, there's something nice about asking what YOUR good business would be. The nice thing is asking this question "doesn't cost nuthin'".......'cept maybe some time and some thought. Which leads to a "new business tip"

TIP: If you are not willing to spend some time and thought on what kind of cases you want in your new business......keep sending out those resumes till you get a job.....opening a practice is not for you. Does that seem a bit harsh? Let me assure you of something.....I promise you can get plenty of law business, plenty of new clients and new cases....it's really easy. But if you load up your plate with bad business you will have big problems doing the work, and bigger problems with your finances. And when that happens, you will also not spend QUALITY time getting new good business. You will be in that vicious cycle of "crappy cases, tons of work, small money.....crappy cases, tons of work, small money". This is called "typical general practice". And, uh, I didn't read about this in a book!

My point is, things might end up this way, it is a way to live, and a living can be made, BUT....
this is not the only way to go about it. A little forethought could have you marketing for GOOD cases and get you on the way to a successful, rewarding practice, for much more money.

What do I mean by GOOD cases for YOU? Here are a few characteristics:

1. You either know the area of law really well, or are willing to learn it. Put another way, you have a passion for it, or could acquire passion.
2. You could see yourself referring to yourself as a ".......... lawyer" and be proud of it.
3. You enjoy talking about this type of case, hearing about this type of case, and reading about this type of case.
4. You could see yourself writing a letter to other lawyers suggesting they refer you this type of case, and see yourself as being respected by other lawyers for your knowledge of this type of case, and that thought feels good. If you could not see doing this now, you would want to know enough to be able to do it in the future. (which in fact you WILL do)

Tomorrow....how to get GOOD cases for YOU, and

27 ways to get all kinds of new law business (because no matter what I say about marketing for GOOD business for YOU....people still want 27 ways to get all kinds of new law business). I will tell you at least 27 basic ways to get new law business, even though, it will be like when I walk Dovie and he pees on a fire hydrant, and I have to say to him "That's old school". He always looks at me as if to say, "Yeah, but I still like to do it sometimes".....so 27 ways it will be, old school or not.

Hasta maƱana.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Law Practice (and other business) Fundamentals

Due to deep seated psychological reasons, which years of therapy have not remotely approached addressing, I have always had it in my mind that I could not draw, paint, or do anything remotely "artistic". It's got something to do with my mother being an artist, and worrying too much about what other people would think about my artistic efforts. And yes, Dr. Freud, I know I married an artist, just to keep you amused.

However......once, in preparation for giving a talk on "Building a Law Practice", I made a little illustration. This is the only known work of its kind, created by my very hand.....

If I do not explain the meaning of this relic, I fear it may be later discovered and subject to mis-interpretation. The drawing is called "Law Practice Fundamentals". A law practice, or ANY business, is based on THREE basic things:

1. Getting the business.

2. Doing the work.

3. Managing the finances.

If a law practice (or ANY business) is having "problems", the source is often one (sometimes more than one) of these issues. GM is screwed on all three, and in my view, their Chapter 11 filing is inevitable, but that's another post. Most new law practices are initially challenged with Item #1. I maintain this is easily overcome, and will then present the challenges of #'s 2&3.

Maybe this approach is overly simplistic, but breaking it down to these basics gives you a place to start. It also takes what can appear to be a broad question (How do I start or improve a law practice?), and targets areas for further concentration.

Tomorrow, let's get us some business.....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

25 Random Things....

I'm not big on fads, but I was intrigued when I got a "25 Random Things About Me" from a friend on Facebook. I thought it was a challenging exercise, so I did it. I know that sometimes it’s sent “chain letter style”, with encouragement to the recipients to write one. I did not send it that way on Facebook, and I would not post it that way on my blog. However, considering that some of my blog readers know me a bit, and some not so much, here it is......

25. I have a passport, but have never had to use it.

24. My father had a sister who was 26 years older than him, who died at age 17 as a nurse in World War I, nine years before he was born.

23. I can drive a stick shift car, and drove my Bug back and forth from Texas....twice.

22. When I was in high school I had mono, and missed three months of my senior year.

21. During college I worked two summers loading and unloading trucks at a leather warehouse on Spring Street in Soho.

20. In Forest Hills Little League, they used to have a system where boys could be "drafted" by a "major league" team (up to age 12). Each team had points they used to draft, and once you were drafted, if you made the "majors", you were that teams property. You could be drafted as young as age 9. When I was 11 and my brother Brian was 9, we were drafted as a "brother package" for the then record number of points. I was told the record stood for many years. Brian was a fantastic player. By the time he was 12, his team ("Breakstone") went undefeated and won the championship.

19. I decided to go to Stony Brook after reading a book called "The Underground Guide to the College of Your Choice". In that book, Stony Brook was described as "a freaky campus where the dorms are like brothels".

18. The first concert I ever went to was....The New Riders of the Purple Sage. It was at Queens College, I went with my friend Ronnie.

17. In the late 60's, for two straight seasons I went to every Jet home game at Shea Stadium.....by SNEAKING IN.

16. I played the string bass in the Junior High School orchestra. I even took lessons in the summer, but stopped when other kids in summer school stole my money.....RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY DAD!!!!! (who had just dropped me off)

17. I played roller hockey as a kid, and can still roller skate pretty well.

16. All my life I was really skinny, and now my whole family gets on my case for being fat.

15. I love country music.

14. When I opened my own practice right out of law school, I felt like I was faking being a lawyer. That feeling finally left about a month ago.

13. So far I've survived a heart attack, cancer, and had some other "challenges" in my life. I was once shocked when someone said I've had some bad luck. IT HAD NEVER OCCURRED TO ME!!!

12. I'm really good at solving other people's unsolvable problems. This skill does not pay as well as it should.

11. I'm writing a novel. Am I getting ahead of myself by knowing who will play the leads in the movie?

10. Fate is real. In 2006 I had been diagnosed with throat cancer. The day I found out, a white dove came and sat on our air conditioner. It didn't move for 36 hours. The second day we saw some neighbors walking their dog, with a second little white dog we had never seen before. We found out they had the little guy in "foster care" after he had been abandoned at Kennedy airport. We had been talking about getting a dog, and I wanted to show the family (and myself) that I expected to stick around. I looked at the white dove on the windowsill and said, "I think we are SUPPOSED to adopt that dog". We named him "Dov". Dov has meant more to our family than words could capture. Fate is real.

9. My mother was born in Berlin, Germany in 1932, and came to the U.S. in 1938. I've known a lot of people in my life, and I realize I'm prejudiced, but.....greatest person I have ever known....by far.

8. Back in the late 80's, I represented country music star K.T. Oslin in a civil case where her dog bit the ear off her vet's assistant. She was unknown prior to this time, and became famous during the case. After we won, not only did I get paid, I got to see her at Carnegie Hall, with Clint Black as her opening act.

7. I am not a religious person, but maintaining the continuity of Judaism strikes me as important. We sent Rebecca to Solomon Schechter School for grades K-8, hoping she would feel a part of something worth continuing. I think this succeeded. We had a secondary reason for sending her there....to make friends and become part of a community. In this, we succeeded beyond our expectations.

6. My brother (Brian) is a harness racing trainer. He drove over 300 winning races as a driver, but no longer drives due to an injury. He started for the Forest Hills High School basketball team (that's a pretty high level of play), and also pitched, caught and played shortstop for the baseball team. That stuff is all cool, but even cooler is that you would be hard pressed to ever meet a nicer, more decent person.

5. My birthday is the same as the year I was born 1/9/57.

4. When Emilie was about 4 years old, we went to the "Option Institute" for assistance in addressing her "issues". We gained a different world view, and were able to do an 8 hour a day home school program for her, with 25 recruited volunteers who we trained and supervised, for a year and a half. Sometimes when I think about it, I still can't believe we did that.

3. On December 27, 1999 (approximately, but who can remember such things?) I was featured in an article on the front page of the New York Law Journal, where I was called "The King of Queens".

2. One of the greatest joys in my life is reading my daughter Rebecca's writing, and talking to her about anything and everything.

1. Life is a series of decisions, large and small. In my freshman year of college, I lost my keys in the laundry room and some funky chick from upstairs found them. I decided to take the advice of my hallmate Joe Norbury (a 23 year old freshman Marine veteran), and asked the funky chick out. I have now been on a 34 year date that gets better every day......with the love of my life.