Who are the Right Clients for your Practice?

I get strange and puzzled looks when I talk with lawyers about “ideal clients”. 

So many think the “ideal client” is an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms. Like jumbo shrimp, small crowds, or clearly confused. That’s why it is so fun to see the transformation when they finally see the path to having good clients, great clients – and even ideal ones.

Why does it matter?

In today’s market people (and companies) are not hiring generalists. They want a specialist who has solved the problem they have for other people before. Besides, it’s not possible, credible, or fun to try to be everything to everyone. And it is not necessary.

When you identify your ideal client you will be able to:

  • Connect viscerally with your people at a deep level – where they make decisions.
  • Invest your time effectively – with a much higher return on investment (ROI).
  • Create exceptional experiences for your clients – which is fun for both of you.
  • Do work that you really enjoy – for people you like to work with and who pay you.

That’s worth doing, right? Now you need to know the first step to actually identify those kinds of people (or organizations).

How would you describe your ideal client?

I hear some pretty common themes when I ask my clients to suspend their disbelief and describe an ideal client.  They want clients who:

  • Value the work they do
  • Pay their bills on time
  • Communicate effectively, and listen to the advice they give
  • Respond in a timely way, with the information you need
  • Tell the whole truth, and avoid surprises.
  • Are easy to work with
  • Can accept when things don’t go exactly as they want
  • Will make decisions as logically as possible.
  • Will introduce you to other ideal clients.

What else is on your list for an ideal client?  Take a moment and write it down.  When you’re done, get another page and describe your clients from hell. Now you’ve got a list of what you want, and what you don’t want. It’s time for the most important step – who are they.

Who has been an ideal client for you so far?

Most lawyers have had at least a few clients who they can think of as ideal, or nearly ideal. 

That’s the next assignment I give to my clients: Think back through the last three years of clients and write down the names of the ones you think might have been good, great, or even ideal. I ask them to do this first from memory – without looking at their client list. These are the ones that probably came to mind when they were doing the first part of the exercise.  And then to do it again with the list.  Then we do the same for the not-so-ideal clients.

My clients are really smart and successful professionals. And they can struggle with these exercises because they haven’t done them before, or they haven’t gone deep enough. That’s where having an experienced guide really helps save time – and get a better result.

As a result, once the work is done, they have a list of both characteristics and names to represent them – and we’re off to the races to define their avatar, the problems they solve, and a roadmap to the practice they really want.

If you’d like to know more about how to do this, and How to Grow Your Income by 20% in 2021 check out our Free Training. We’ll be live on January 14th at Noon Eastern, and a replay will be available!  Click Here to Register (or get a copy of the replay)





Doug BrownWho are the Right Clients for your Practice?
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What if “more clients” isn’t what you need most?

What if finding “more What if “more clients” isn’t your golden ticket?

Many lawyers tell themselves “If I only had more clients my life would be better. I’d be making more money. And when I make more money, I’ll have the time I need, and I can have a better life”. 

If your focus is just “more clients” then the answer is maybe, maybe not.

If you want to grow and make a profit, you need more of the right clients. Growing a profitable business requires the right clients – not just any clients.

And that’s where many lawyers fail.

You see, “doing marketing” to get new clients and generate revenue is simply a means to an end. And that end should be making a profit – not just accumulating clients. Yes, you need top-line revenue. And you have to pay attention to expenses as well. If you’re losing money on your clients then more clients aren’t the answer.

I still remember where I was when one of our new sales reps was trying to convince the VP of my division to agree to pricing for a customer. The VP, Harry, asked him this question:   “Wait a minute. Do you mean you want us to lose money on each transaction, and make it up in volume?”  The salesperson was silent for a moment. Knowing something was wrong. And then he got it.

Business is about profit. The law business is the same way. More clients, without more profit, is not the answer.  It was that way when I started working with a new attorney-client, Peter.

Peter believed that if he got more clients he’d have more money to take home at the end of the year. He focused tons of time and resources to get more clients. And he was successful – to a point. Sadly, he didn’t have more money to take home at the end of the year. He wondered, “What went wrong”

It’s a pretty common mistake. He took all kinds of different clients – really whoever had a legal problem who could pay. He spent a lot of money to get those clients. And even more money to pay the expenses to do the work because he was always shifting gears – he never had enough of one kind of work to allow him to get efficient.  Sure, he had a very diverse general practice. He loved the variety that came with it. But he wasn’t making enough money.

To make matters worse, because he wasn’t selective about his clients, he had significant collection problems. The clients didn’t pay what they agreed to pay when they agreed to pay it. He had to write off fees or chase clients for payment – which cost more money.

Once the problem was clear, he did the work necessary to fix the problem and bring his practice around.

Don’t fall into the trap that Peter did – assuming that more clients would translate into more money and more profits. There is much more to running a profitable business. And that’s what the law is these days – a business. And that’s ok.  

Once you know the rules of the game – and how to run the plays – you can play to win. Having the right team around you, and a coach to guide you makes the process so much easier.

If you’re ready to play to win – and you’d like to know exactly what that looks like for your practice then we should talk. Click here to find out what you can do to get started


Doug BrownWhat if “more clients” isn’t what you need most?
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How to Start Building the Practice You Really Want

Will this be the year that you stop tolerating and build the practice that you really want?

Aren’t you tired of feeling like a juggler at the circus— desperately working to keep all the objects in sequence in the air, without hurting yourself or someone else in the process? 

You are not alone. 

Success today requires simultaneous management of many swords and other potential implements of destruction: overhead, retention, engagement, finding and keeping staff and associates, managing the books, ordering supplies, and being active community contributors. 

You must find and manage clients to exceed their high expectations, doing more for less, and always with a smile. You must keep courts happy, writing briefs, meeting deadlines, and managing discovery, while wading through a sea of emails, text messages, notifications, and alerts. 

Don’t forget the CLE requirements, getting the bills out on time, and getting paid – all while working that pesky problem that keeps you up at night. We haven’t even gotten to your blood pressure, the gym membership that expired (again), or the dog that barks at you like a stranger. 

Are you living the life you imagined when you decided to attend law school? Are you where you planned to be? Is there a little voice in your head whispering thoughts like “What if you could have it all? If you only had more time, if you only had more money, if you only had more fun clients to work with”, then you could spend time with your family, take the trips that you want, and live the life of your dreams.

What if that voice is right? How would it feel if you could have it all? 

The truth is, you can take control of your practice and your life —even in this out-of-control world. You can have your workflow smoothly over the inevitable speed bumps with grace and style. And you can have time for yourself, and your family—and your dog will know who you are. 

Taking Control of Change 

Change is as certain as death and taxes. You can choose to initiate the change you desire. 

Or, you can react to change and let it control you. The simple choice is to be the change agent.  The first step is taking control.

Luckily, we lawyers are great problem solvers. And, we’re really good at being change agents for others. We can learn the process and skills to move ahead and take control of our destiny.  Then, it is a matter of confidence, consistency, and courage to see the change through. Of course, it helps to have a tribe to support you on the journey. 

One constant in my 28-year career has been seeking out and adapting to change. My journey has included roles as a lawyer, business executive, entrepreneur, educator, executive coach, and speaker. Along the way, I tried many things that didn’t work and I discovered many incredibly effective strategies. I found common blockers and blind spots that keep otherwise smart and successful people from taking action. I also learned the Change Equation, which can help us initiate and navigate change effectively and resourcefully. 

The Change Equation 

The Change Equation is a model that explains how change happens and how to overcome blockers from moving forward. I learned it while designing and teaching courses in leadership, innovation, and change management for the MBA program at The Malcolm Baldridge School of  Business. It has its roots in the 1960s research in organizational development. The modern formula was popularized in the early ‘90s by Kathleen Danmiller. 

The formula is: D x V x F > R 

D is for dissatisfaction with the current state. Dissatisfaction is the catalyst for change. This factor is most powerful when you clearly understand the source of your dissatisfaction. Many lawyers are dissatisfied with their practice, the life it provides, or both. When we dig deeper, we find they struggle to articulate exactly what isn’t working for them, why they aren’t satisfied, or even what “satisfactory” looks like. Do you feel this way? The first step is to acknowledge those things that leave you feeling empty and dissatisfied. It’s easy to shove your dis-ease down and accept it as normal. But when you do, it often manifests itself as malaise, lack of focus, perpetual overwhelm, and real disease. (Think of divorce and estrangement from your children and  dissociation from what matters most, an accusation of malpractice, or a visit to the professional  disciplinary committee.) So, call out the dissatisfaction from the dark recesses and name it. 

V is for a vision of the future. Create a clear and compelling mental picture of what the future can be like as a result of the change. Most people start with what they want to move away from, not what they want to move toward. When you are bogged down by the daily grind, it can be hard to allow yourself to imagine or to dream of a better future. I see this often with lawyers who put  themselves and their skills into a particular box with a label, such as “litigator” or “criminal  defense attorney.” Labels can keep you from seeing the possibilities for other applications of your skills into new areas of the law, or even other careers. Permit yourself to dream again. Allow those lost interests to percolate to the top. Take some time to journal, and muse, and reflect. 

Invest some time in this process. Connect again with those things that bring you joy. 

F is for the first steps. You don’t need to plan every step to your destination to begin.  Getting comfortable with uncertainty is one of the keys to making the change equation work for you. That’s why the equation focuses on the first steps. Start by brainstorming the big steps you must take to achieve your vision. Organize them into a general sequence that you feel would work and is actionable. Consider what knowledge, skills, abilities, and beliefs are necessary to execute the first several steps. The goal is not perfection; it is action. Plan for early wins. Then take a deep breath and take the initial steps. Assess whether you got the outcome you expected, what was the difference, and why, and determine what you can do differently. Repeat to build momentum. 

R is for resistance to change. Unhappy people have a high resistance to change.  And, typically, people seek to avoid the potential of loss rather than the potential to gain. FUD  (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) is a significant source of resistance. Fear of rejection. Fear of making a mistake, fear of commitment, fear of missing out. Fear of success. These all trigger our primal freeze, or our fight or flight response. We freeze up in the current state. We run away from the problem. Or we get angry and fight, denying the problem exists or blaming others for our issues. 

We all resist change. The key to overcoming this factor is doing an honest assessment of what might be blocking our progress. Clearly defining your resistance points can reduce this factor and allow the rest of the equation to work for you. 

You may have noticed that this is a multiplication equation. So, if any factor is zero, or if any factor is negative, the equation will fail. Each factor is related to and supports others. When your D x V x F is strong, you will begin to move toward your goal. You’ll then be in motion and increase your control in an out-of-control world. 

Take the first step!

If you want to grow your practice you have to love the work you do, who you do it with – and the clients you serve.

Filling your practice with great clients starts with great marketing.

Stay tuned for our announcement about the new Practice Accelerator!  


Doug BrownHow to Start Building the Practice You Really Want
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Check the 4 Pillars of your Practice Foundation

This year shook the foundations of every business. It’s time to find the cracks and make yours stronger so your practice house doesn’t fall – and is ready for the storms ahead.

I’ve been helping attorneys and business professionals repair storm damage and prepare for the future for more than 25 years. This was a norm-shattering year and it’s still not clear what a “new normal” looks like. No matter what lies ahead I do know that certain fundamentals will be there no matter what. And that’s the place to start.

First, let’s toss out the notion that you can either be a licensed professional or a business person. You must be both. To do that successfully you have to learn and apply core business principles you probably haven’t learned or mastered before.

I call these the 4 Pillars of your Practice (Business) Foundation.

  1. The vision, mission, goals, and objectives you set for yourself and your practice.
  2. The problems you solve – and how clearly you focus on those problems.
  3. The clients you solve it for – you can’t be everything to everyone.
  4. Why you do what you do – what you really value drives what you want to create.

So many professionals skip quickly over the first pillar. They are not clear on exactly what they want to accomplish for themselves or their business. They just get going and get sucked into the vortex. Then, years later they may realize that they are working for their business – rather than have their business working for them.

To check the first pillar just answer the following questions – and do it on paper or it’s not really real!

  • What do I really want for myself – and my business (Vision)?
  • What am I doing to make that vision a reality (Mission)?
  • What are my Goals for the next year to move me toward that Mission?
  • What are the interim objectives (or milestones) I’ll use to check my progress?

If you are like most professionals you’ll find that this isn’t quite as easy as it looks – especially if you’re doing it for the first time by yourself. Luckily you’re something of an expert in figuring out difficult things – so you can do this too. And if you’d like some support just reach out and we’ll talk.

Doug BrownCheck the 4 Pillars of your Practice Foundation
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The SMART Way to Grow Your Practice

How many clients will you add to your practice in the next quarter?

How much revenue and profit will that generate for your firm?

If you’re like most attorneys (or most business professionals for that matter) you will probably say “as many as possible” and “as much as possible”. And that’s a problem – because it is impossible to achieve “as many/much as possible”.

The most successful professionals and business owners have very specific targets for their sales and business development activities. These targets allow them to reverse engineer their activities with the specific intent of hitting their targets. When they hit them there is a reward – financially and otherwise.

This discipline – setting very specific targets for sales, profit, and many other business metrics – will work in your law practice. Even if you don’t hit your targets – you will be a better, faster, stronger, and more profitable firm. Here’s how to get started.


In business, we talk about setting SMART objectives and goals. SMART stands for:

  1. Specific – you know exactly where you are going and why.
  2. Measurable – you know how to measure your progress, and when you get there
  3. Actionable/Achievable – you can take concrete action to actually achieve it.
  4. Relevant – it makes sense for your broader business
  5. Time-Based – you have a deadline, and defined checkpoints.

Getting Started on Sales Goals

The sales discipline of businesses applies to your law practice. Follow these steps to get started.

1) Xray Past Sales. Those are the clients and the matters you’ve handled in the last 24 months. You’ll use that as your baseline so your targets are not simply a wish or a shot in the dark. How did they come to you? What was their journey to get to your door? Who was their guide? How many came, in what frequency?

2) Identify Patterns. What patterns or trends do you see in the data? Who are your top referral sources? What matter(s) are driving clients to you? Why? You’ll use these patterns to create a forecast for the coming two quarters.  I know that COVID is going to impact the data since March – so you’ll have to adjust. Don’t make the mistake that you can’t create a forecast just because it’s complicated.

3) Make a SMART Sales Plan to take advantage of the patterns and trends with specific sales targets for the next couple of quarters, and the specific steps you need to take to cause that to happen.  SMART is easier to understand than it is to implement. Even when you think a goal is SMART you can probably make it much SMARTer and more powerful.

Like most business principles, this is not a one-and-done. It is a process and a cycle that takes time to master. But you can’t master it unless you start.

The value in doing this work is both the plan you’ll need and what you learn about your practice along the way.

Don’t leave your future to luck or circumstance. Get SMART.

And if you’d like help with this or to learn more, just message me, like or share.

Doug BrownThe SMART Way to Grow Your Practice
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The Power of Daily Sprints

Is it hard for you to stay focused and on-task for large blocks of time? Do you wind up distracting yourself and getting off track or just running out of gas? Or maybe you hope for that phone call or drop in to save you.

You are not alone. Research shows that it is normal for people to need a mental break after extended periods of work. It also shows that we are far more effective sprinters than we are marathon runners.

Here’s something you can try right now, today to improve your effectiveness using the “Pomodoro Technique”.

The idea is to set a timer and sprint with intense, hyper-focused work for 25 to 45 minutes at a time. Then you take a break for 5-10 minutes and go back to it. After several sprints, you can take a longer break. During this time you shut out all distractions.

When you are in a sprint and thought pops into your head that isn’t on the task then reach for a pen and your handy notepad jot it down and keep going. Using paper and pen will keep you from distracting yourself further by flipping screens and seeing other shiny objects to distract you.

When you are in a break make it a real break. A break is not surfing the web or checking email or talking to a client. Step away from the computer and let your mind rest.

Start easy so you have some wins. A few times a day for 25 minutes at a time will lead you to the longer 45 minute time. Have the timer running with a bell that goes off. You can find a host of timers online by searching for ‘Pomodoro Timer’.

If you are a competitive person then try making the sprints a game to see how focused you can stay and how much quality work you can accomplish.

This works. Doing it can give you more productivity and more quality time working on the things that are important to build your business, improve your revenue and give you a better sense of control in this out of control world.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes

Doug BrownThe Power of Daily Sprints
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Power of Focus | Rule of Threes

How many times are you distracted each day?  10, 20, 30?

Did you know that it takes between 11 and 25 minutes to get back on task after a single distraction?

Do the math.

That’s right, the average day is nothing but distractions – things that take us off the priority we chose to work on at the moment.  That’s not to say that all distractions are bad. Some are quite good – like new clients. Others are self-inflicted, like the ding of the popup that alerts you to a new email.  Or perhaps you have a wandering co-worker who is also distracted and wants to bring you along for the ride.

It is no wonder that we carry our real work around with us hoping to get it done in the morning before work, at lunch, at the coffee shop or at night.   Somehow the really urgent things manage to get done, while the important things pile up on – hopefully, a single to-do list while other things and spill over the dam and run down the river.

Oh yes, the to-do list. Do you ever feel like you spend more time managing your to-do list than doing things on the list?  Or perhaps you wish you had the time to create a list.  There has to be a better way.

The flow of stuff rushing at us is not going to stop or slow down. We have to adapt – or drown.  It is a daily struggle for nearly everyone, and we are not going to solve this problem all at once. We just have to start.

There is true power in simple solutions.  Here are three steps I use that might make a difference for you:

1) Pick only 3 things that are top of the list that must happen, in order.

2) Block time on the calendar to work on these things. Make it just as important as a client appointment. It is.

3) Decide to block out distractions for that time – and take action:

– Close the door

– Turn off your alerts – on all devices

– Start a timer and see how long you can go without getting off task, and how much you can get done

In the end, make note of what you got done, or what got in the way.  Give yourself a short break. Then check in and see what was going on in the world while you were ‘away’. The sky probably did not fall, and you make progress on your priorities.

Try blocking just 90 total minutes a day of ‘focus time’ for your work, for a week.  See if you can do it – and what a difference it made for you.

Let me know how it goes.


Doug BrownPower of Focus | Rule of Threes
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4 Rules for Building Relationships and Referrals

Referrals are one of the most critical elements to building your law practice.

Now that we have a firm grasp of the obvious let’s talk about the more important ideas.  Just how do you actually make referrals happen?   Why does it come so easily to some and not at all to others?   And why don’t they teach this in law school?

Doug Brown4 Rules for Building Relationships and Referrals
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4 Steps to Better Cash Flow in Law Practice

Happiness is a positive and predictable income stream.  When we meet or exceed client expectations we can dramatically increase our cash flow.  The opposite is also true – clients whose expectations are not met are less likely to pay in full and on time.  Consider the following steps to set clear expectations and therefore improve your cash flow.

1. Really understand the client’s expectations.

Doug Brown4 Steps to Better Cash Flow in Law Practice
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Good is the Enemy of Great

I practiced law for many years as in-house counsel before “crossing over” to the business side.  It was a natural evolution for me because I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind, seeking out new challenges and building out ideas.  As I took on more business roles I was introduced to a wide array of management and leadership concepts.  One of the best was Jim Collins’ work in Good to Great.  This month I’ll explain some of those concepts and consider how they apply to building a law practice.

Doug BrownGood is the Enemy of Great
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