Use a hiring plan to hire your next law practice associate

Target hiring well

If it’s time to make your next or first hire for a law practice associate create a hiring plan that will help you avoid making any of the following ten hiring mistakes. If you worry about making a mistake hiring your next associate take time to think about and plan your next hire.

Avoid these Law Practice Associate Hiring Mistakes  

Here are 10 hiring mistakes you can plan to avoid so you can successfully grow your law practice.

  • Hiring the first person that comes along.  Hiring Mistake #1.

Be more selective. Even if it takes longer and is more work.

  • Not having a clear idea of what you need in your next hire.  Mistake #2.

Have a complete idea of the job description and caliber of person you wish to hire.

  • Not having a clear idea of the skills set that the new hire really needs to meet your objectives. Mistake #3.

Include the skills in your job description after thinking through what you plan to delegate to them.

  • Not asking questions that will really reveal the true self and skills of the potential candidate.  Mistake #4.

Have prepared questions that are intended to help you reveal the true self of the candidate.

  • Giving up when you feel you keep hiring the wrong the person and decide not to hire anyone else. Mistake #5.

Don’t give up, just improve your hiring plan by figuring out what you should do differently to find the right person.

  • Assuming that if the candidate is expensive they must be good. Mistake #6.

Money is not a good indicator of a person’s skills or fit.

  • After hiring the candidate, not giving enough, or any, mentoring or guidance to help the new hire succeed. Mistake #7.

Have your hiring plan include how you will provide the training and guidance the candidate will need to succeed.

  • Not investing the time necessary to ensure a good hiring decision. Hiring Mistake #8.

Plan the time to do this well.

  • Relying on others to find the new hire. Mistake #9.

You need to take part in the process if you want a good fit .

  • Waiting until your workload reaches such an extreme level that you don’t have time to hire properly resulting in making all or most of the above mistakes. Mistake #10.

Have a strategic plan in place that includes what practice benchmarks you need to reach to start the hiring process.

To avoid the mistakes have a hiring plan that addresses each of the above.

If you would like coaching on how to hire your next associate, please contact me , Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach to see how I can assist you.


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Turn Potential Clients into Actual Clients: How to Close


Questions Lawyers can ask to help Turn Potential Clients into Actual Clients.

Use questions to help you connect.

Use questions to help you connect.

I did a presentation for the King County Bar Association Solo and Small Firm section last Wednesday, March 11 on How to Close the Sale. It was a lot of fun! I really enjoyed the group as they asked good questions and really got into the subject.

I provided a handout with closing questions to help them come up with scripts to move potential clients to the next stage so I thought I would post the questions on my  law practice management blog.  Here you go:


Closing Questions:

• What do you think?
• How does this sound to you?
• Does this make sense?
• How do this fit with your budget expectations?
• Is this something you want to do?
• Would you like me to get started on that right away?
• Would you like to take the engagement letter home and review it before you sign it?
• Would you like me to get started on Monday? – When you know the client has decided to go ahead you have them say yes to a more minor point.
• Please bring your check book to the consultation.
• How soon would you like me to start on this?
• Now that we’ve agreed to the terms of our engagement will you sign the engagement letter?
• In order for me to help you with your upcoming hearing will you sign the engagement letter today so I can get started right away?
• What if you only have me do x hours on your behalf now and then we can see what else you would like me to do for you?
• Which of these solutions would you like to proceed with? (Give them a limited choice.)
• When would you like me to get the first set of documents to you?
• Do you think my firm can meet your needs?
• Do you think my firm can help you with this?
• Is there any reason we shouldn’t get started today?
• What haven’t I covered that you would like to know?
• Are you ready to get started?
• Is my proposal what you were looking for?
• Would you like to schedule an appointment?

If you want help in your law practice closing more interactions with potential clients give me, Irene Leonard, Lawyer Business coach a call at 206.723.9900.  Cheers



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Life Balance for Lawyers is Achievable with a Plan

Life Balance For Lawyers Seems Elusive

Live Life: BalanceIn this high-speed world of schedules, commitments, stress, and demands on your time and energy, work life-balance for lawyers seems elusive.  Balance is comparing the needs and wants of your professional life with your personal and family life and making decisions as to how to juggle the competing interests.

Balance isn’t a static place, it’s dynamic, as the balance point is always changing. The positive news is that you can reach a balance point when you have a plan.

Some days, weeks, or even months you can accept the high pace necessary to serve your clients, but then you need to carve out a slower less frenetic pace in order to achieve the balance you need to sustain yourself and avoid “burnout”.

Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Along the path to achieving balance it’s important to realize that balance is personal; what might be a balanced practice to you is likely to be completely different from the lawyer in the next office.

Being in balance requires consistent, conscious thought about the choices or decisions you make at any given time.  When you say yes to something what are you saying no to?  And vise versa?  Being in balance requires that your actions be in alignment with your values and what’s important to you.  Saying yes to what’s most important and no to what’s still important is really challenging.

Complete these five exercises to help you come up with a plan to achieve balance:

  1. What do you want? What is the image of your life being in balance.
  2. Determine clear, realistic goals with a meaningful time line.
  3. What’s important to you? What are your values? What will help you say no?
  4. What time management skills do you need to incorporate to help you achieve the balanced life you desire.
  5. What will motivate you to implement necessary behavioral changes?

If you would like to achieve live and work balance, please call me, Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach at 206.723.9900 206.723.9900  to see how I can assist you.

See my website for further information about my coaching style and services.

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Be Proactive in your law practice business – Work with a professional coach!

What’s a good way to be proactive in your law practice?

Be Proactive

Be Proactive

Working one-on-one with a business coach or consultant is one of the best ways to make strategic changes in your law practice. Lawyers are accused of being slow to change. If you are one of those stop being slow to change. Spend time planning and strategizing what you want for your law practice. Think in terms of planning the next one, three, five, and ten years. Work with someone that can help you come up with new ideas and help you implement them.

Jennifer Smith, in Law Firms, Market Pressure and Change: How Soon is Now? states that law firms are a reactive bunch. They only change when outside pressures force them to make changes. It’s disappointing that lawyers are so creative in coming up with amazing solutions for their clients, but as a group don’t seem to be as creative or forward thinking facing the business challenges of their profession.

It’s ironic that with so many lawyers being slow to change, that my business Coaching For Lawyers is based on finding and attracting those lawyers that are open, want to change, and are excited to work with someone to help them achieve their professional goals.

I find it surprising how many lawyers I meet at Continuing Legal Education classes or networking events (just happened this past Thursday) that still haven’t even heard of the concept of working one-on-one with a business or professional coach. I’m also disappointed how resistant and un-open these same lawyers are to the concept of working with someone to assist them in growing their practice. I just don’t get it. What’s wrong with making it easier to succeed in your law practice?

I’ve worked continuously with a professional coach since 1997. One of the first things I did when I discovered that such a resource existed, was hire a coach. I’ve worked with over six different coaches one-on-one since my first coach. I hire a professional coach to help me pay attention, plan, and make the kinds of the changes I need to be successful and especially proactive in my business.

This was especially true in the early years of my coaching lawyers practice when there was so much marketing I needed to do in order to succeed at this much unknown profession. Fortunately I’ve meet and worked with a lot of amazing lawyers that are not slow to change.

If you would like to make changes in the business of your law practice, please call me, Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach at 206.723.9900 to see how I can assist you.

See my website for further information about my coaching style and services.

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New Client Meeting Checklist

Be Efficient by using a Checklist for New Client Meetings

Client Meeting Check List

Client Meeting Check List

I’m not sure where I got the original content for this New Client Meeting Checklist. I believe from the Law Society of British Columbia.  I know I’ve added items over time as I’ve worked with my clients. I thought I would share it with you to help you have efficient first meetings with your new clients. Following a list like this will  ensure you go over everything you need to without having to rely on your memory.

Use this list as the basis to create your own practice specific New Client Meeting or any Client Meeting Checklist.

New Client Meeting Checklist

  •   Check for conflicts in advance of the meeting
  •  Introduce yourself and staff.
  •  Confirm the cost of the initial meeting
  •  Check for urgency or risk. – Identify imminent deadlines and steps required to meet them.
  •  Confirm you are meeting with the client and not someone talking on the client’s behalf.
  •  Review intake questionnaire with client – have your client complete a questionnaire prior to the initial meeting to use as the basis of your initial meeting.
  •  Verify client questionnaire information – full name, occupation, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, social security number. Birthdate and place of birth. Information that relates to type of legal matter they have come to see you about.
  •  Verify client’s identity – take a copy of their driver’s license.
  •  Take a picture of client.
  •  Confirm the need to keep your discuss confidential to maintain confidentiality
  •  Confirm client brought relevant documentation – financial information, agreements, etc.
  •  Request additional documents.
  •  Confirm that although you are taking notes you are listening.
  •  Use open ended questions to determine client’s objectives, concerns, and questions they have.
  •  Listen
  •  Discuss the options.
  •  Provide general legal information and preliminary advice.
  •  Recommend next steps to take in the short term and advise what further information, documents, and research you need before you can give your final opinion or recommendations.
  •  Explain what you plan to do, use of outside experts if any, timing, and costs, etc.
  •  Discuss legal costs, hourly rate, flat fee, alternative fee arrangements, advance fee deposit, etc.
  •  Explain all the costs that might be involved including what could increase the costs.
  •  Use a flow chart to help explain the process
  •  Advise the client how you calculate your fees, how you expect to be paid, and when. Cover the kind of other charges and expenses the client can expect.
  •  Review the terms of your written engagement letter.
  •  Obtain instructions from client.
  •  Confirm next steps for the client and you.
  •  Explain your file retention policy.
  •  Give them your contact information including your business card.
  •  Give clients a binder and memory stick with folder and sub folders your client can use to retain all the information and documents you send them
  •  After your meeting dictate or type any hand written notes embellishing your notes with additional information you remember
  •  Scan your notes to the client file

If you would like coaching on how to have an efficient client meetings, please contact me , Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach to see how I can assist you.

See my main website for more information about me and my services.

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5 Effective Business Communication Skills for Lawyers

 Effective Communication for Lawyers

the power of communicationsLawyers spend the majority of their time communicating – writing emails, briefs, letters, agreements, talking, negotiating, running or attending meetings, training,  – the list goes on.

Here are five skills to help you communicate well in your law practice:

  1. Be clear and concise, using specific examples, recommendations, statements, and observations. Get rid of all the unnecessary legalese.
  2. Use follow-up open ended questions to make sure your communicated idea was understood as you meant it to be understood.
  3. Listen respectfully and attentively being open to what you might hear and learn. This is especially important when you think you know the answer.  It’s amazing what surprising information you can learn when you don’t let your assumptions or judgment get in the way.  Information that can make the critical difference to solving the problem or getting agreement.
  4. Prepare an agenda for all meetings and follow it so that you cover what needs to be covered succinctly and efficiently.  If you follow a well thought out agenda you won’t waste your client’s time and money. Prepare an agenda for all your meetings whether in person or telephone.  Ensure the meeting’s agenda content is consistent with your client’s Legal Strategic Plan. The client’s Legal Strategic Plan is the plan you created or designed to solve your client’s legal matter.
  5. Choose the right time for your intended communication.  Timing of a difficult conversation or delivery of an email can make an important difference to the outcome.

If you would like coaching on how to communicate more effectively, please contact me , Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach to see how I can assist you.

Posted in Business Plan, Client relationships, Delegation, Law Practice Management, Marketing, Networking, Staff Management | Tagged | Leave a comment

Improve Law Practice Cash Flow: Face your money fears

Lawyers Who Are Afraid to Ask for Money get into Trouble


Improve Cash Flow

Improve Cash Flow

Many lawyers are reluctant to ask their clients for money and talk about their fees.

I’m working with a new client who has a substantial outstanding receivable problem because he doesn’t like to ask his clients for money.  His goal for this year is to get his current receivables substantially reduced and not increase the total.

He’s reluctant to talk about his fees and how much money his representation may cost his clients.  He’s afraid they might not hire him when they find out how much it’s likely to cost.

The thing is, in order to get paid and improve your cash flow you need to be willing and able to talk about your fees with your client especially if it means they don’t hire you. Better you don’t get paid before you do any work than after you do the work.

In order to achieve his goal my client has agree to face his fears and work on getting comfortable asking his clients for money before work starts and while he is working for them. He appreciates he won’t get comfortable asking for money overnight and is giving himself time to keep improving and having the awkward conversations.  We brainstormed different scripts for him to use that are making these conversations easier than he thought.

Six reasons why you should talk about fees with your clients

Here are six good reasons why it’s important for you to overcome any difficulties or fears you have in asking your clients for money:

  1. You’ll get paid.
  2. You’ll keep control of your receivables.
  3. You’ll educate your clients as to the true cost of their legal matter before their in too deep. This will help the client make better decisions concerning the matter.
  4. You’ll learn a lot about your client.  If your clients is reluctant to pay up front, how likely do you think he or she will be to pay you once the work is done?
  5. Your clients will trust you.  When you’re upfront and honest about what you’re going to cost and your invoices mirror that you instill trust.
  6. You model how you handle negotiations by how you handle these conversations with your client. Being comfortable talking about this subject is proof of your abilities and strength of character.

Feel the Fear… and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers is a great classic that can help you work through your fears around asking for money.  The title really says it all, just do it anyway despite your fear.

If you would like coaching on how to ask your clients for money, please contact me , Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach to see how I can assist you.

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Successful Email Habits

Successful Email Habits

Successful Email Habits

It’s a New Year and time to follow email habits that will make the management of your email easier and more efficient.  Email is one of my biggest challenges.  I always get more email than I can reasonably handle every day.  Here are some habits that I work at maintaining.  When I follow these I am in much more control and feel so much better.

Email Habit #1: Be disciplined about email review.

Review your inbox for new emails regularly but not constantly. Set aside fixed times in your day to read email. Let clients know your email policy.

Email Habit #2: Don’t respond to every message.

Many are just informative, so read and file or delete as necessary.

Email Habit #3: Keep your emails short.

Reply promptly and keep your emails short and to the point. You’ll likely get short and to the point emails in return.

Keeping your emails short doesn’t mean deleting the chain of email replies that preceded your response. The recipient should always have access to this background information in order to consider your message in context. Change your email preferences in your software program if previous messages are automatically deleted.

Email Habit #4: File, flag, delete.

After you have responded to emails that require attention, use rules to avoid leaving emails sitting idly in your inbox. When an email pertains to an ongoing matter or conversation, file it in an appropriate folder. If it’s not something you’ll need delete it.

You can also use different colored “flags” to remind yourself that certain emails still require action. For example, red flags could be used to indicate messages that require additional follow-up on your part.

It’s helpful to keep your inbox as close to empty as possible. If left to accumulate daily, your email inbox can quickly become a graveyard where important information gets buried. Repeat the filing, flagging, and deleting—or whatever archiving system you prefer—throughout the day.

Email Habit #5: Send less to receive less.

One way to reduce email volume is to send fewer emails yourself. Assume for every five emails you send, you receive three in response. Pause before you decide to “Send.” If there’s a 60 percent response rate—even if those responses are just a quick comment or thank you—you’re facing more self-induced clutter and time lost processing it.

Email Habit #6: Opt out.

Opt out of various vendor and organization email updates to reduce your email volume. Once upon a time, you subscribed to these newsletters and announcements because their content interested you, but if the information is no longer of value or the volume has become overwhelming, unsubscribe. At the very least use “rules” to have informational emails filed automatically in folders that you can read when you have more time.

Email Habit #7: Always respond to client emails first! When you do a good job at the first six habits it will be easier to put your client’s emails first.

If you would like coaching on how to manage your time more effectively, please contact me , Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach to see how I can assist you.

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Improve your Cash flow: Get clients to pay by enforcing interest payments.


Improve cash flow

Improve cash flow

  Motivate your clients to pay you on time

Do you have clients that don’t pay on time? Do you also not charge interest on your outstanding accounts? If you don’t enforce penalties for late payments or charge interest on your outstanding accounts, you should start. These practices encourage clients to pay their bills on time.

I’ve worked with many lawyers over the years that had the slow paying client problem when I began working with them.

By enforcing the payment of interest on late payments you motivate your clients to pay you sooner rather than later thereby improving your cash flow.

It’s also a best business practice to charge interest on outstanding accounts.

When you don’t charge interest, you become your clients’ no-interest lender. Naturally, they will choose to pay those accounts that have interest owing before they pay your account.

What does it mean to be a no-interest lender? If your client doesn’t pay you after receiving their bill, you have just become a lender.

Give your clients an incentive to pay by making them aware of and enforcing your late payment policies.

First, specify with sufficient detail your late-payment policies including interest in your engagement letter. You should personally review all the payment terms with every new client. Your invoice should also state your payment penalties.

Enforce Payment Penalty Policies

Next, enforce those policies when necessary. Some of my attorney clients have what I call “limiting beliefs” when it comes to enforcing the payment of interest on their invoices. Such limiting beliefs include thinking it’s too much trouble to charge interest. It’s not, if you have systems and procedures in place and you follow  through on using them.

Once you start charging interest, it becomes easy—especially when clients start paying you sooner. You’ll end up with clients that pay promptly or be earning money on the outstanding accounts at an amount that makes it worth your while to wait for your client to pay you.

If you would like coaching on how to overcome your limiting beliefs when it comes to charging your clients interest, please contact me , Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach to see how I can assist you.

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Smile: It’s a great networking tool

Smiling is an easy, effective way to positively influence people

With all the networking events during this time of year, remember that your best networking tool is your smile.

Cat Smiling

Cat Smiling

Your smile helps start, nurture, and lock in the like and trust quotient of people needing to know, like and trust you before they hire or refer you.

My smile opened the door to a new job

My first corporate job was working as a bank teller for the Bank of Montreal in the heart of Vancouver’s financial district. I got that job because I smiled at the right person.

It was late spring of the year I started law school (I hadn’t been accepted yet.) and I was on my way to have lunch with Linda, my sister-in-law, who worked at the bank’s Vancouver head office.  On my way down the hall to her office I smiled at a professionally dressed woman as I walked by her.  I’d never meet the woman before, I was just feeling good about meeting Linda and having lunch with her and I shared my pleasure through my smile.

Well, later that afternoon Linda excitedly called me and to let me know that woman was a mucky muck in Human Resources for the bank and wanted to hire me.  All because I smiled at her. She actually said something like – “Who is that girl? I want her greeting our customers.”  

I went in for an interview and was hired as a teller.  I enjoyed smiling at people and serving the bank’s customers that summer.  It turned out to only be a summer job because I got accepted to the University of British Columbia’s Law School that summer.

Here are some great quotes about why we should smile:

 Today, give a stranger one of your smiles.  It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.  ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.  ~George Eliot

 A smile is a powerful weapon; you can even break ice with it.  ~Author Unknown

 Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.  ~Janet Lane

If you would like coaching on how to improve your networking abilities, please contact me , Irene Leonard, Business Lawyer Coach to see how I can assist you.

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