Scott Limmer

 21 minutes

In this episode, Scott and Oscar talk about why lawyers need to keep a positive outlook and a high energy level particularly when meeting clients for the first time. Personal insights from Scott and Oscar along with specific pointers are discussed for how to develop the right attitude to bring in business and develop your practice. Key Points include –

1. Knowing you do good work and that you can provide value

2. Planning for the initial client meeting

3. Associate with positive like-thinking people

4. Remember law is flexible – you can learn and develop a new practice area if your old one is not producing enough revenue


Episode transcript

INTRO:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice, two lawyers, a podcast, and a plan to help any solo or small firm, hosted by Scott Limmer and Oscar Michelen.

SCOTT:                      Hi everybody, this is Scott.

OSCAR:                      Hi and this is Oscar. Welcome back to Reboot Your Law Practice. Today, we’re kind of taking off our lawyer hats going a little bit into life coach mode here, talking about the importance of having the right mindset. We’ve spent the last couple of podcasts talking about networking, getting yourself ready for networking, getting your social media presence ready for networking, but all of that will result in hopefully people contacting you, calling you, generating some clients, and you’ve got to be kind of ready, in the right place in your mind to develop your practice forward from there. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that, what should we be thinking about, how can we get into that place, into that space where we can freely build our practice by being confident in it.

SCOTT:                      You know, a lot of it starts, Oscar, with self-esteem. A lot of it is feeling confident in yourself, in your abilities in being able to go out in networking situations, in court situations, in any situation, and feeling confident about yourself and being able to discuss what you do with people. I’ve said this before, I didn’t believe that people could actually change the way they think. I had a practice that was built on advertising. I sat back and let the cases come. I didn’t worry about my networking and my personal self, and I probably didn’t have as much self confidence as I could have.

OSCAR:                      Yeah, and you know, the thing to remember and most of the attorneys, by the way, who contact us and spoken to us are good lawyers. So that’s where you accomplish your first come forwarding – you’re practicing in an area that you know. You’re practicing in an area that you’re comfortable with, that you want to go pursue, and that you’re going to be able to provide the value that we talked about in the prior podcasts because that’s important. That’s always going to be the source of your confidence. What we want you to start thinking about is also being confident in your ability to be a business man or woman, and a business person and someone who is going to be able to develop a practice, someone who is going to take care of the clients and nurture the clients, and that will be able to succeed. You’ve got to believe in that. You’ve got to put that forward, and you got to keep that energy up and that spirit up when you’re meeting people and when you’re meeting clients. It’s very important.

SCOTT:                      Again, it’s easier said than done. How do you do that? How do you get self confidence where you didn’t have self confidence before? Where do you get the ability to go to a networking event and just talk to someone and lose the fear that you might have had before, or maybe you thought, again, you thought this whole networking thing is nonsense. How do you get out of that mindset? My belief is you just, you know, it’s like anything. You have to make that decision. You have to say, “I am going to get to this level. I am going to believe in myself but I’m going to push forward and change the way I do things. You have to actively – it’s not just going to happen. It’s not going to happen from reading a book. Hopefully it will happen from listening to this podcast. Hopefully we will give you a push but you have to look at yourself overall and don’t say, “I’m not that guy. I can’t do it.” Just do it. Just go out, just try it.

OSCAR:                      It’s going to take a couple of different tries until you get yourself comfortable with it if you haven’t done it before and it hasn’t been something that you’ve done.

SCOTT:                      It’s going to scare the hell out of you. It’s scary.

OSCAR:                      Yeah, sure because first of all, you’re also relying on yourself to generate your own income and that is in and of itself, a scary proposition when, you know, “No one else is going to do this for me. I have to go do it myself.” There are lots of places that you can go if you want to get self-help in promotion, in sales, marketing, confidence, self-esteem, we don’t recommend really anyone over the other. I believe you can do it pretty much on your own by practice, by finding the value in doing that and saying, “This is what I need to get done.” It’s the same way if you’ve got a heart condition. You’ve got to take salt out of your diet. No one likes to do that but you got to do that because you don’t want to suffer a heart attack. This is what’s going to take to get your business going. One of the ways that I think you could do that again is by planning these conversations ahead of time, what are you going to say in the initial client meeting about yourself, about your firm, about your past successes, how you can get this person the help they need.

Nothing you do, when you’re trying to build this practice now from the beginning, nothing you do can really be that random. You have to take it the kind of way that I might take, let’s say, a trial, which is “prepare”. Always be thinking and always be ready for that next step. Okay, a client is coming in, it’s this kind of a case, make sure you’ve done the research, you’ve done the homework. You know how you’re going to segue into things that you’ve done, that you can give examples to. You’re going to want to give that client something concrete they could take within the first few minutes of that meeting. So they say, “I’m in the right place and I’m with the right lawyer.” It takes thought to say, “What is it that I’m going to give value right away in that initial contact, whether it’s a client, a referral partner, or whatever?”

SCOTT:                      One of the more important thing that I’ve learned over the years, Oscar, is definitely, to have a good mindset, to have a solid mindset about what you want to do, you want to associate yourself with positive people. If you’re going to associate yourself with negative people who are going to complain, bitch, and moan about everything, about how bad the practice of law is, about how bad they are doing, about how unfair it is that there are so many lawyers and all these things, you’re not going to get anywhere. You’re not going to get anywhere at all. You need to deal with positive people. I’ll give you an example. When I was in the DA’s Office years ago when I started, there’s a lot of negativity. It was a government job. A lot of people complained. They didn’t get go to trial enough and they didn’t like the supervisors, and I kind of fell right into that. It was easier to complain about other people than for me to maybe search out the mentor that I needed to learn what I needed to learn in the DA’s Office.

OSCAR:                      Yeah. I’m glad you brought this up because yesterday, I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles Trial and Adjustment Bureau, a fatality hearing.

SCOTT:                      Oh.

OSCAR:                      The client killed somebody while she was driving and then the DMV has this hearing to take your license. So there’s this special room where they do those hearings but it’s also the same place where they file traffic tickets, and there’s a room for the traffic guys, these lawyers.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      They live there, right?

SCOTT:                      But they are scurrying around the hallways.

OSCAR:                      And I just watched for a little bit and you could see, there were a couple of guys there who were miserable. They looked like mole rats. They are walking around gray, sad, and I ran into a friend of mine who I’ve known since Middle School. He is who I refer all my traffic stuff to.

SCOTT:                      Okay.

OSCAR:                      And if you ever talk to this guy as I had many times, he is the happiest son of a bitch in the world. He joked about, “Look, we have a real lawyer here,” when I came in. He’ll introduce to these guys and he loves his practice. He’s in a suit and in sneakers. He’s there every day, very successful, well into over $100,000 a year, I’m sure.

SCOTT:                      That’s his office. That’s where he goes every day and he makes the best out of it.

OSCAR:                      That’s it. What he said to me, “I didn’t know I was going to end up here but I fell into this, and I love it. I help these guys. A lot of them are cab drivers. They need their license to get to work.” He said, “I’m done by 12, 1 o’clock because we don’t have any afternoon sessions. I go home and I start the next day the same thing, and this is a great way to practice. You know what, I don’t care what people think of me as a lawyer. I don’t care that I’m only doing traffic.” He said lots of his stuff comes from people referring him. They all want to come down here and he said something that, the reason why I spoke to him, when you mentioned it was, he introduced me to a mutual friend of his who was there also, very sharply dressed guy. He had shoes on. My friend had sneakers. They were both sharply dressed because I said to him, “Well look at these guys.” He said, “I don’t talk to those guys. Those guys hate their lives. They are miserable because I have one friend here, let me introduce you to him,” and he brought this guy out and they had the same attitude.

This guy says, “Look, you know what, again, I thought I’d be a different type of lawyer but this was where the work was. I developed a skill for it. I got business and I’m happy in the fact that I’ve got business.” That’s something that I think makes so much sense. It’s so applicable and I really didn’t think about it until you mentioned it at the DA’s Office too, you could have that same thing. “Oh my God. I’m nothing but a traffic lawyer. I didn’t get to argue before the US Supreme Court.” Hey, you know what, then find value in the work. You’re still helping people. You’re still practicing law. My joke, my standard line with some of my law students and with these guys I mentioned last night was, I said, “Yeah, are we on a coal car? Are we in a coal mine? You’re in a suit. You’re getting a nice lunch. You’re getting a nice meal. You’re helping people and you’re done with your day. At the end of the day, you have a nice amount of money and you move on to the next date. There’s nothing wrong with that. Find the value in it, have the confidence to build a practice, and just be happy with the work that you get, and develop your practice that way.

SCOTT:                      I think the word that goes along with mindset is obviously “perspective”. You have two guys here who are at the DMV. They are working hard. They are doing the right thing. They are making themselves money and in their mind realize that it’s a fine job. They make money. They support their family. They are not in a coal mine, and it’s a good way to live when you really think about it. Look at everybody else in the world. Compare it to how other people live in the world.

OSCAR:                      Exactly right.

SCOTT:                      It’s a great existence.

OSCAR:                      Like the guy said, “I’m still getting paid to argue. I’m getting paid to cross examine police officers all day. I win some, I lose some. I settle some, and the clients are happy.”

SCOTT:                      You make a couple of bucks and you’re good to go.

OSCAR:                      They are making a very decent living. I could tell just by the number of clients that they have that particular day, the sheer volume of it, you know.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      And also because a lot of them were cab drivers. So they’ve got cab fleets referring their drivers who might be close to losing their licenses or whatever.

SCOTT:                      So you’re a guy. So let’s look at his mindset. He enjoys what he does, makes some money, looks to try to get referrals from other people that he meets down there, and he’s working his area of the world the best that he can. He’s motivated, he’s a go getter, and he’s trying to do something.

OSCAR:                      And he built himself up into that because neither him nor his buddy started up by saying, “Oh, I’m going to be a traffic lawyer.”

SCOTT:                      Of course.

OSCAR:                      The niche fell into them. They needed to form a practice that would work and he stayed authentic in the sense too that’s true to himself is, this is what I’m going to do. So he’s advertising. His social media website, everything is geared towards that. He’s not going to go out and start looking for murder cases and rape cases. That’s not what he does. It’s not what he could do. You walk past his office, which is not far from the DMV, he’s got a traffic light, a working traffic light in the window. So this is it. He’s taking on the mantle and he’s living a good life. So you’ve got to try and do that yourself in whatever your practice is and get the satisfaction out of becoming successful.

SCOTT:                      Let’s go back. Let’s talk about these other guys. Let’s talk about the other guys at DMV who are attorneys and they are hating their lives. When I look at guys like that, I think of people who are stuck. They don’t know what else to do. They have been doing this for so long and they are like, “Hey, I’m 55 years old. I can’t change. I’m not going to learn another law. I’m stuck here and I’m going to be miserable.” I’d love the chance to talk to those guys because I’d love to say to them, “Hey listen, it doesn’t matter what age you are. Start now. Everything begins now. What do you want to do? Where do you want to be in two years and figure out the mindset that you need to have so you can change and move towards some sort of goal?

OSCAR:                      Right. For example, again, referring to this friend of mine, he gets an occasional DWI that he’ll handle. He’ll get an occasional driving-related criminal case. He’ll get an occasional personal injury case because it arises out of the area that he knows, but the main reason is that his clients like him because it’s what we were talking about. He’s exuding back to the client that he likes what he does, wants to be successful. He takes it very seriously. That’s where we go back to adding the value is he doesn’t like, “Oh, he’s just another ticket.” I was listening to him because I had to wait for my judge. He was late. Every case, it sounded like this was the first time he was dealing with this issue with this guy. He was up, up, lot of energy, saying, “Wait, what happened? You have to get pictures. I’m going to postpone it. So you back and get pictures.” You would think he was trying a murder case.

SCOTT:                      We all fall into a rut sometimes and we all get to be that guy that maybe complains sometimes and doesn’t care, but imagine you’re at this DMV. You are at the DMV, you don’t have to imagine, but anyone listening, imagine that you’re at the DMV and you see a guy. He’s up, he’s got energy. He’s fighting for his client. He’s well dressed. He’s personable. Even if he loses, you might even get his card. He might say, “Hey, I want to use you. I want to refer you to someone else.” We all know these cranky old guys who are in court and they talk to themselves and they bitch and they moan. “No one is going to refer me a case.” Well, why would anybody refer these guys a case? Why would anybody refer a guy a case who is going to bitch, moan, and complain, and not make the experience as palatable as possible?

OSCAR:                      Right. Let’s understand something else that’s important. That’s one of the beautiful things about law which is that it’s pliable enough that you could learn something new, adapt what you know, the skills to a new area if the area that you’re in doesn’t work, and more importantly like you said, it’s never too late. Again, if you’ve chosen construction your whole life, when your body breaks down at age 55, you’re in a tough spot.

SCOTT:                      Yes.

OSCAR:                      If you have been doing labor, there is a clock ticking on how long you can do that for. Not so with law. If you’re 50, you’ve got 20 years still that you could add to a new practice. You’ll be 70. I’ve seen lawyers practicing into their 80s so there’s always time to develop a practice. It’s never too late.

SCOTT:                      We’re going to talk about this in future podcasts. We’re going to talk about planning and goals, and setting things out, but you can’t look at it as “Hey, I want to start practicing civil litigation. Let’s say it’s me. I want to start practicing civil litigation. I don’t really know anything about civil litigation. I have practiced criminal law my whole life. If I try to imagine myself as a civil litigator tomorrow with a bunch of cases, it’s going to overwhelm my brain. I’m not even going to be able to. I can’t do that. But if I sit, say to myself, and have the mindset that, “Hey, in one year, I want to have two cases and I want to have gone to five different networking events and two CLEs to learn about civil litigation.”

OSCAR:                      Right. Maybe second sit a case, find a lawyer I can follow for a week or so for free to learn the business.

SCOTT:                      Right. Maybe in two years, maybe I’ll have the beginnings of a decent civil litigation practice, maybe if I work at it and I try hard, but if you don’t have the mindset that you could do it, you’ll never going to do it.

OSCAR:                      And it goes back to the business plan that we spoke about earlier. All of these issues end up being related. So these mindset goals that Scott talked about or incorporated into your business plan, “By x date, I want to have the website up and running. By this date, I want to have my cards. By this date, I want to be at my first networking event. By this date, I want to be at my second networking event. By this date, I should have had my first client arising out of these last things that I did.” Start that way and make them shorter goals. They will eventually lead to that but at every step of the way, you have to have this positive outlook. You have to have confidence, and you have to exude that when you’re meeting the clients, the network referring partners, whoever it might be, always having that forward.

SCOTT:                      Listen, we know the type of people that are listening to us. There are the type of people that are listening to us and saying, “I get that. I can do this. This is my kind of thing. I’m going to get a good mindset and I’m going to redevote myself to whatever type of practice I want to but I’m going to do that.” Then there are the people, I know you are listening and you’re saying, “I can’t do this. It’s not me. I can’t change.” I am telling you. I’m begging you to believe me based on my own experience that anybody can change, anybody. When you have a mindset and you think a certain way for 45 years of your life, you think it could never be changed and that’s who you are. I’m telling you, it’s not.” There is no reason that by reading, by learning, by talking to other people that you can really see that you can shift the way you think about things, shift your perceptions, your expectations, your thought process, and you can be something that maybe you thought you couldn’t.

OSCAR:                      Well, like you did on Special Education.

SCOTT:                      I didn’t know anything about it.

OSCAR:                      Right and you decided that was an area you want to go into and it took you some time to develop it, but because you were excited about it, you have the energy, you devoted the time to it.

SCOTT:                      It has been a process. I started dabbling in it five, six years ago and it’s taking incremental steps to the point where two weeks ago, I gave my first live presentation to about 10 or 15 people. It’s not something I ever, ever thought I could have done, not something I thought I’d ever be comfortable doing but I figured out what steps I needed to get to that point and I did it. It was a process and it’s still a process. I’m not some great special education attorney with tons of cases. I’m networking. I’m trying to get business. I’m speaking. I’m writing blogs. I’m doing whatever I can to learn more, meet more people, and get more acclimated to the practice.

OSCAR:                      And as you do that, that’s going to exude back out to the client. You made a self fulfilling prophecy.

SCOTT:                      Exactly. It feeds off of each other.

OSCAR:                      So let’s keep that in mind. We’re going to be talking later on about how to drive a referral partner, get referral business. We’re going to be talking about solidifying your website, your social media presence, but this week, we want you to think about this, how can I get my confidence up? How can I start developing things that I want to say to the clients at new client meetings that show that they are in the right place with the right lawyer? How can I segue into conversations that will generate me business and be positive in that fashion? Again remember, you are bright enough to become a lawyer, get through law school, pass the bar. This can be done. You can do this.

For Reboot Your Law Practice, this is Oscar. You can reach me at Oscar@LawReboot.com.

SCOTT:                      And this is Scott. You can reach me at Scott@LawReboot.com. I’m also going to give you our phone number which is 516-900-4842. Please feel free to leave any comments, any questions, or any show ideas. We also wouldn’t mind if you left us a review at iTunes. That’s always very helpful for us and we will talk to you next week. Thanks.

OUTRO:                     This has been Reboot Your Law Practice with Oscar Michelen and Scott Limmer.

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