How to Ditch That Unprofessional Email Address

BW Pick of Week Ditch that Gmail AddressLawyers, you really do need a professional email address, and it’s not @gmail.com or @yahoo.com. You are in a profession where appearance matters. Advertising your email address on business cards, websites, and LinkedIn profiles with @gmail.com is not professional and sends a message that you do not know how to get your email configured to use the firm’s domain name. First impressions matter, and if I was looking at that business card, I would already have a bad impression.

The other case is that you have a business card with no website and an @gmail.com email address. As a consumer, that would really stop me in my tracks. No website and a @gmail.com account, and I am supposed to trust you with my legal matters?

So how do you ditch that unprofessional @gmail or @yahoo email address?

There are two ways to accomplish this:

  1. Either you do not already have a domain and maybe no website, or
  2. You have a domain name but are still using @gmail.com.

This article will walk you through the first scenario.

The term domain refers to the section of your email address that is between the @ and the .com (or .org, .net.) For example, in peggy@peggylawfirm.com, “peggylawfirm” is the domain. The steps below will show you how I set this up using the tools in Google. You can also use GoDaddy or other services, but Google is so simple it’s hard to pass up. This took me all of about 15 minutes to do.

The first thing you have to do is actually get a domain name.

1.      Get a domain name from Google Apps for business: cost ≈$10/mn.

Go to the website www.google.com/a or the below website shown.

You will now start your journey to creating a firm domain name and email address.

Google will ask you for information about you and your business. This is a good thing in today’s world of online searches and marketing.

The screen to the left is what will appear. You will enter your current email address, whether it is @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, or @aol.com. I used my Gmail address. I should disclose I am not a law firm, and “Peggy Law Firm” is for illustration only.

You need a phone number because Google sometimes sends text messages as a way to verify accounts. It also prevents you from getting locked out of your account (and I speak from experience).

The next screen is where you indicate whether you have an existing domain (our article in the next issue) or if you want to create/buy a domain. That’s the option you want to take. So enter the domain name you want to use and Google will see if it is available. You will notice that you can change the extension from .com to .org or .net, which also changes the price.

Proceed by creating a password and writing this down. You have a few more steps to go, so do not trust your memory. If you forget this, it makes this process much longer.

After the account has been setup, you will need to pay for it.

This is a yearly amount. You can set it up to auto renew, set the domain as unlisted, and verify you read the terms of service.

After entering payment information, you will see that your domain is being setup. Take note: it will take about 10 minutes for the domain to get verified. You cannot set up or access your new email until this has been completed. So sit tight or take a coffee break. Until your domain has been verified, you will not be able to use Gmail or other Google Apps services like Calendar or Google Drive.

Also note: you get a 30-day free trial for Google Apps, which, for our purposes, is Gmail and Calendars. You can set up your billing or wait until later. Google will not forget that you did not pay.

Activate Services

If you select the box labeled “Users,” you can select “Google Apps” and activate services. If your account has not been verified yet, the Calendar, Contacts, Drive, and Gmail boxes will not be enabled for activation. Once your account has been verified, you can check these boxes.

Once the account has been activated, retrieve that password and sign into your new firm-branded email account. I would send a test email to your new email address just to verify you are in business!

This account you just set up is the Admin account for your Google service. You can easily add additional users and email addresses at an extra cost of $5/each. This is handy if you want to use aninfo@peggylawfirm.com email address on your soon-to-be new website.

Below is a default view of your new email service through Google. From here, you can set up signatures, change views, and set up folders (Google calls these labels). The Gear button on the right-hand side contains the view and settings function.

I hope these steps help you get your new branded email set up.

By Peggy Gruenke, Law Firm Practice Management Consultant, Clio Gold Certified Consultant, Rocket Matter Certified Expert

This article won the BlawgWorld Pick of the Week award. The editors of BlawgWorld, a free weekly email newsletter for lawyers and law firm administrators, give this award to one article every week that they feel is a must-read for this audience.
Originally published in GPSolo eReport is a monthly electronic newsletter of the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division that combines elements of Solo, The Buzz, GPSolo Technology eReport, and GPSolo Law Trends & News. Its purpose is to to put clear, comprehensive, cohesive, useful, and timely information into the hands of Division members

Back to Basics: 20 Tips to empower your practice

Back to basicsBy Peggy Gruenke and Alan Klevan

There is so much talk about technology in law firms, Alan and I  thought we’d take a step back and focus on some basics skills to improve your practice. Your turbocharged office should NOT be solely turbocharged with technology. So here you go.

Write a simple business plan – for you, not the bank or a potential business partner.

The goal is for you as a business owner to see the big picture and understand exactly who you are, why you’re unique, and who you are equipped to serve. Creating it will help you answer questions like “Do I have a profitable business?” or “Am I making money?” or “Am I spending too much?” or “How can I get more clients?”

Build a budget.

Without a budget you are flying blind. Create some basic financial spreadsheets that help you keep an eye on where you are spending money and how much money is coming in. If clients are paying but bank account remains low, it may be a sign to look more closely at your monthly expenses and cash flow. (Link to my article Mid Year Financial Checkup) Don’t get bogged down in details. It is paralyzing. Starting today, add a column for current month and start entering your expenses and money received. This document will evolve over the months, but at least you now have a place to keep an eye on your business.

Know how much money you need to make each month in order to keep the doors open.

You should know this number by heart. If you don’t know this number, go back to #2 and build your budget. It should be written down where you can see it every day. Put it on your wall or on your computer screen. Put a picture of your family or next vacation spot next to it. Then, everyday write down how much money came in and keep a running total so you can see how close you are to reaching your monthly “need to collect” number. This number is your “monthly nut.” Any amount over that number is your money to take home. Continue reading

Holiday season and networking opportunities

Nov 24, 2014 | Peggy Gruenke | Law Practice Management Adviser

A fresh look at the upcoming holiday season: You never know where your next client will come from.

During the upcoming holiday season, you may not enjoy going to that holiday party in the neighborhood or to the family get-together. You may even dread it. But in actuality, this is perfect time to get ahead. November and December are a slow time of year for doing business. But they are a great time of the year to do some business development.

With all the holiday parties, events, and family visits, the holiday season provides some of the best networking opportunities of the entire year. So make sure you have a stack of business cards on hand. You may even want to make sure you have a logoed sweater or polo shirt to wear while attending some of these events. If you approach this time of year with the right mindset and accept the fact that business will be slow, all these holiday parties are the prime time to make fresh connections to start the New Year off on the right foot.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare for these opportunities.

  • Remove the word “networking” from your vocabulary. Think of these events and parties as relationship-building opportunities. You never know where your next client will come from, so be sure everyone you meet knows what you do. And don’t introduce yourself with the first words out of your mouth being “I am a lawyer . . .” Most people have preconceived notions about lawyers that may be less than favorable. So avoid any negative reactions and find a new way to introduce yourself. Such as “I help people recover losses related to a recent injury.” Or, “My business helps small business owners get started.”
  • Make it about others. Listen more than you talk and, as you listen, find clues to remember what you discussed and the person’s name. People generally like talking about themselves, their job, and family. By listening, maybe you will be able to introduce people to other people. People appreciate it when you do the networking for them, and they like to know someone who is connected. Be content listening and soak it all in.
  • Talk about something other than business. In building relationships, which is what networking is all about, you want to get to know people on a personal level, as well as a professional level. Take advantage of the holidays to relax and socialize and get to know people a little better. Think of a few questions you can ask to get the conversation going:
    • “Who else do you know at this event?”
    • “How do you know the host/hostess?”
    • “What has been the highlight of your year?”
    • “What plans do you have for next year?”
    • “What kind of business are you in?”
    • “What kinds of clients are you looking for these days?”
    • (Be prepared to answer these questions as well!)
  • Follow-up with people you met who you think could be potential referral sources or a potential client. Connect with them on LinkedIn and send them a note card asking for an opportunity to meet after the holidays.

Lastly, while you are sitting around over the long weekends, not attending any holiday events, use this downtime to cleanup your contact database, learn more about how to use LinkedIn for a business development tool, or think about what tool you are going to add to your marketing efforts in 2015.

Peggy Gruenke is owner of LegalBizSuccess, a company whose mission is to help solo and small-firm lawyers build better businesses. Peggy is active in the ABA GPSolo Division, where she heads the technology committee and is vice-chair of the national conference committee. Follow her on Twitter @PeggyGruenke.

Lawyers, do you have a game plan for your business?

Nicole at NAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have a daughter that for the last 16 years has been in the equestrian world of show jumping. My husband and I have great respect for her ability to enter the show ring always having a plan for how she will ride the course. In show jumping, your goal is to complete the designed course, which consists of a number of jumps or obstacles, in the fastest time, staying on course and without knocking down any rails. It requires a clear vision, a plan, and a strategy with the ability to execute and adjust when things go awry and still complete the course. Before she goes into the ring to compete, she has evaluated the competition, the course and the best path to ride. Simply put: she and her horse have a game plan.

So how well are you doing with your plan to grow and manage your law practice?

Whether a solo, an associate or a partner within a firm, you have to always have that mindset of being a business owner. A partner today may be a solo tomorrow. To grow your business, you have to focus on how to get business, deliver services, get paid and make money. This focus leads to developing clarity around what you do and how you ride the course.

While most lawyers want to have more business and grow, it is amazing how many I talk to that have not taken the time to develop even a simple business plan. As a result, the business is without a focused direction or clear strategy. And businesses without clarity about what they do, will not be as successful as a business with a game plan. Just like a rider going into the show ring without a vision and strategy will most likely fail at completing the course.

So, much like our daughter preparing for the show ring, the answer to questions like “How can I get more clients?” or “How can I find better clients?” or “Am I profitable?” begin with having a game plan. In the business world, these components are cleverly disguised as a business plan. Do you have one? A great business plan is not some pie-in-the-sky document full of impressive prose. A business plan can be as simple as a one-page document outlining the actions you will take to be successful. The key is does it provide clarity and serve as a guide for future actions and decisions.

You see, the trouble with most business plans and the reason people don’t want to create one is they are often written for someone else – a banker, an investor, or a potential partner. Instead, I say write it for yourself. It’s your chance to think through the challenges you are facing and commit to a plan of action. Form doesn’t matter.

This short article is not here to tell you how to write a business plan, but instead, to get you thinking about how clear or unclear your own business strategy may be. Maybe the end result will be that you decide to develop a game plan to help guide your business on a course for growth.

Whether just starting out or if you have been practicing for a few years, why write down your game plan? Continue reading

The Evolution of Online Marketing for Lawyers: Don’t Get Left Behind

Death of Yellow pagesIn 1886, Reuben H. Donnelley created the first official Yellow Pages directory, which grew into the advertising giant of the last generation that lawyers have been part of for years. Ask your niece/nephew about the Yellow Pages and see what reaction you get: the 10-year-old won’t even know what it is and the 20-year-old will say they don’t use it. Your future and current clients are actively searching the Internet for legal services — and they are searching on their mobile devices.

One area where technology is probably having the most dramatic affect, but rarely mentioned in the same breath with legal technology, is the marketing of your law firm to potential clients and referral sources. It’s called online marketing and it is still a young industry growing rapidly.

The source of this growth in online marketing is tied to the exponential growth of the Internet with the introduction of high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi, the increased number of Internet users with fewer barriers to entrance, the invention and use of mobile devices with connectivity, and 24/7 access to information. All of this has brought a whole new meaning to and focus on networking, building relationships, and marketing legal services.

Whether or not you personally use these tools in your daily routine, you should realize the extent to which technology and the Internet have a grip on every aspect of your clients’ (and future clients’) lives. If you are not already doing so, now is the time to ask how you can get started implementing online marketing tools to help grow your business.

Remember, your online presence is the new first impression and you will be building your online brand and reputation. It is also a process that takes months to build and even years to see the fruits of your labor, just like traditional marketing.

Before going online

  1. Invest in some professional headshots and photos showing a little personality. These photos will be used in multiple places across the Internet.
  2. Get a logo designed and develop your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) — your tagline. How will people remember you when they visit your website or online profile?

Getting started online

  1. Build your LinkedIn personal profile and firm profile. If you already have one, get it critiqued by someone who knows LinkedIn profile strategy and techniques. Why start here? For a few reasons.
    • You will have a professional profile to direct people to while developing your website.
    • Developing a great LinkedIn profile will get you focused on creating content for your website, identifying your competitive advantage.
  1. Create and claim your Google for Business page, so your firm will show up on Google Maps and Google can start recognizing your law firm as a legitimate business. You will need to complete this step so you can add a Google Map to your website. Add a link to your Google Business page on your LinkedIn profile.
  1. Now let’s talk about creating your website. There are many good resources available for solos and small firm lawyers to create a website that won’t break the bank. With the options available (Avvo websites and JurisPage are two great options), you should be able to get a nice website for $1,200–3,000 and get it built rather quickly. A few lessons learned:
    • Keep it simple. You only need to focus on developing a few core pages for your website. You can always add more.
    • Own your domain and keep it simple to remember and enter.
    • Own your content.
    • Do not rely on someone else to write all of your content. Be part of this process. It will help you get clear about what you do and how you do it.
    • Use good-quality images that you purchased or use your own images.
    • Build your website on a platform you have the ability to easily administer and update, like WordPress.

In summary, don’t view this online marketing as a one-time exercise like a printed brochure. The beauty of this platform is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You can change it as you evolve your business and as you learn more yourself.

Written by Peggy Gruenke and published at the Washington State Bar Association Blog.

Are you going to be left behind?

Lawyers, Why Do You Need a Online Presence?

Because you don’t want to be left behind. People no longer reach for the Yellow Pages when they need a lawyer. They rely on friends and the internet. And if they use a friend, they then search the internet to look you up. So if you don’t have an online presence, you are probably leaving money on the table.

Social media or social networking should be a part of every lawyer’s marketing and business development plan. When a lawyer sits down to talk to me about his practice and how to get more clients, the discussion always includes a social media plan with the end goal being to leverage his/her online presence to build more relationships with referral sources and potential clients that then convert into new business.  It’s an even playing field no matter your age, type of practice, location or size of firm. If you have not started building your r online network, it’s not too late to start.

A well designed business development plan should include a social media component that moves you from hanging out on the sidelines to actually playing in the game. The sidelines are a great place to observe and plan for how you are going to participate and interact on social media but eventually you have to join the game. You have to determine what your level of participation will be, what platforms you will use and how you will interact with your new online community. The great thing about this game is that you are in control of your own success, limited only by your own schedule, effort and time. It’s quite powerful and the fun part is seeing your online connections become in-person connections.

Peggy Gruenke, Owner/Consultant LegalBizSuccess

Specializing in Law Firm Practice Management  and Business Development solo and small firm attorneys. Peggy can be found on Twitter @PeggyGruenkeLinkedIn and at www.legalbizsuccess.com.  (513) 315-5750

Lawyers: Managing Your Online Presence and Directories

Tagul - Gorgeous tag cloudsOne of the wonderful things about the internet and social media is that it’s a great way to create and build an online presence without the investment of a lot of money. It can be time consuming but managing your time can be much less expensive than managing a marketing budget.  A powerful tool for accomplishing this creation and growth of your internet presence are directory listings.

Directory listings, are in short, like an online version of the yellow pages but much more powerful with the addition of profiles, links, video and reviews. There are hundreds of them and deciding which ones you want to be listed in can be overwhelming.  For example: Avvo, InfoUSA, Google+ Local, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, Lawyers.com, MerchantCircle.com, Yelp.com, plus many more. I see many lawyers with incomplete profiles on a number of directories. Why do you have to worry about these online directories?

Directories have risen to a level of importance  because Google moved its local search returns to its main page with the introduction of Google+ Local (formally Google Places). How Google determines which local business listings should be on the first page of Google’s search results depends a great deal on directory listings. So if you are in 5, 10, 15 or more directory listings, you are going to look good to Google’s ranking algorithm. And having reviews with your listing makes you even more popular in Google’s eyes.

While you want to be in many directories, deciding which ones to be in and entering and managing the data can be time consuming. Plus, doing it wrong can ruin your online presence. You will want to make sure you do not have duplicate or incorrect listings and you want to use keywords in each directory. Here is more information about online directories
 in an article by the folks at Get Noticed Get Found.

If you would like help creating and managing your online directories, adhering to the ethical rules, please give me a call. I can provide this service to you at  nominal one-time charge. I am also available to do in-house CLE on the  “Your Social Media Presence – Adhering to Ethics Rules While Being Social.”

Peggy Gruenke, Owner/Consultant LegalBizSuccess

Specializing in Law Firm Practice Management  and Business Development solo and small firm attorneys. Peggy can be found on Twitter @PeggyGruenkeLinkedIn and at www.legalbizsuccess.com.  (5130 315-5750

 

Part 2: More Favorite Products from 2013 ABA TechShow

checkmark-fb (1)While I’m still digesting all the great new products, there were a few vendors making announcements about new products, features and integrations. So here is a summary of some of their announcements. And then there’s the ever popular LegalTypist – home to the SuperPass for TechShow. Plan on going to 2014 TechShow and save $150 with the SuperPass – only available through LegalTypist.

Legal Typist

LegalTypist – Your legal virtual assistant and legal transcription service for firms of all sizes, but fills a great need for the solo/small firm attorney. And one exciting thing for me was I actually got to meet Ms. LegalTypist – Andrea Cannavina. Until TechShow, for me, just a friendly and engaging Tweeter.  Andrea has created a product for law firms of all sizes – a scalable digital workflow accessible from any telephone or internet connection that is as easy for the staff to use as it is on the firm to implement. Try it for free – you just may free yourself up to do more tweeting with Andrea.

clio_certified_consultant_125x125Clio announced 2 new integrations with Xero and NetDocuments. After 5 years in business providing small firms an affordable solution, this opens the door for Clio to be ready for larger law firms. NetDocuments is a popular document management system for mid to large size firms. A cloud-based document management system, every time you open or save a document, you now have the option to be doing it with NetDocuments. So this integration gives larger firms, not using DropBox or Box, a reason to look closer at Clio for their practice management solution. Xero is a cloud-based accounting package that many had never heard of until Clio announced its integration. For current clients using QuickBooks, a conversion guide is available.

bookmark side mentor horizontal (1)Building upon a well recognized brand in the legal community, Rocket Matter announced at TechShow it’s new comprehensive Internet marketing platform – RocketX1. Rocket X1 consolidates online marketing services offered by multiple agencies, eliminating the need to individually hire separate expertise – it’s a one-stop shop approach. The feature I was most impressed was  the systems in place to measure progress and ROI:  checklists, deadlines, analytics, and milestones to keep the firm on track.  The cost, well it’s not cheap but it is comparable to what other vendors might charge and RocketX1 customers  get a website, a blog, SEO optimization, PR, graphic design, strategic consulting and more in a single package. Still in beta, results won’t be out for a few months.

Hope you find the time to check out these products and see how you can use them in your practice. Free demos are always available. And if I may add a shameless plug – I am now certified in both Clio and RocketMatter. So consider contacting me for more information about these 2 great cloud based law practice management solutions.

Peggy Gruenke, LawBizCOO

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LinkedIn Tips for Lawyers #1: Specialties, Summary, Skills Expertise Sections

Samll LinkedIn_logo_1Have you taken the time to really look at your LinkedIn Profile after all the changes LinkedIn phased in during 2012? Did you notice that your Specialties Section is missing from your LinkedIn Profile?  Did you notice that if you had a Specialties Section defined in your old profile that LinkedIn has added it to the bottom of your Summary Section.

In 2012, LinkedIn decided to phase out the Specialties Section in favor of the Skills & Expertise Section. For lawyers, I think this is actually good news because of the ethical pitfalls around using the words “Specialized” or “Specialties” on any site where you advertise yourself as an attorney. According to the ABA Model Rule 7.4, claiming yourself as a specialist requires special certification by an approved, accredited authority.

Under Rule 7.4 (e) of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney must not state or imply in any communication that they are a specialist, certified or specialized in a particular field of law, unless:

    • The lawyer or law firm has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by the Supreme Court Commission on Certification of Attorneys as Specialists; and
    • The communication clearly identifies the name of the certifying organization.

When LinkedIn added the Skills and Experience Section, it built your section based on keywords in your Summary and Specialties Sections. If you had a Specialties Section in your profile at the time LinkedIn converted your Profile to the new format, it left the heading Specialties in the bottom of your Profile Summary. If you were cautious when you first built your profile and did not include that section, then you will not see the heading Specialties in your Summary Section.

My suggestion is to check your Summary Section. If you see Specialties listed at the bottom of your Summary, replace this word with Practice Areas. If you are a Certified Specialist, then list it as such following the guidelines of Rule 7.4.

Specialties Section left over in Summary Section.

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Other things you may not know:

  • From time to time, LinkedIn pulls keywords from other sections of your LinkedIn Profile and asks if you’d like to add them to your Skills & Expertise Section.
  • Other people can add a Skill to your profile.
  • LinkedIn changed how they calculate a complete profile by incorporating the addition of 3 skills as a requisite for a complete profile.

Thanks for your interest and comments. Next post will be about how to remove or hide Skills you have been endorsed for but don’t think you are qualified to list on your profile.

Peggy Gruenke | www.lawbizcoo.com | Helping Lawyers Succeed | Like me on Facebook 

Thinking About Blogging – Just do it and here is some advice from successful bloggers

I started blogging about 6 months ago and have tried to maintain a consistent schedule with meaningful topics.  What I have learned is that it takes passion, time, commitment and a bit of creative thinking to come up with relevant topics.  I also witnessed the power of blogging for building your community. It does work. Blogging is habit forming and as with any habit, they are easy to break once you get out of the cycle. So I am guilty of breaking my blogging habit and need to get back on track.

So for today’s post, I am going to share with you a great article by Ernie Svenson who wrote the book Blogging in One Hour for Lawyers. Ernie has been running a great series called “Five Questions for a Law Blogger“.  He asks some successful bloggers five questions. Read here and get your blogging mojo started or back on track: Fascinating Insight From Successful Bloggers.

Enjoy!

Peggy Gruenke On Twitter @peggygruenke On LinkedIn  and my Blog LawBizCOO