7 Mistakes Attorneys Made in 2017

It is a new year, and you are starting with a clean slate. However, it is important to examine what went right and what went wrong last year, so you can learn from your mistakes. During this Tom Talks episode, I speak with Ben Glass about the “Seven Mistakes Attorneys Made in 2017”:

Mistake #1: No clear goals, no clarity of mission, unrealistic expectations, boredom, restlessness

Mistake #2: Not putting in the required effort or not providing enough resources to achieve the very goals you set for yourself and your business

Mistake #3: Copying your competitors, being a lemming, becoming a commodity

Mistake #4: Being afraid to be yourself

Mistake #5: The grass-is-greener syndrome

Mistake #6: Not looking in the mirror

Mistake #7: Trying to do everything yourself

Our webinar picks up where this Tom Talks episode left off to provide you with the tools you need to take your business to the next level in 2018. Tune in on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. as Ben Glass and I talk candidly and explain “What You Need to do in 2018 to Crush Your Competition.” Sign up now to attend—it will definitely be worth your time!


Tom Foster: Hey, everybody, Tom Foster here and it is my latest and greatest Tom Talks, which is our new venture that we are doing. I’m really super, duper excited to have the man himself, Ben Glass, here today with us.

Ben Glass: You’re really excited you don’t have to wear one of those headphones. Jim got us some nice audio equipment today.

Tom Foster: I know. That is a big thing too. We’re making a lot of changes in 2018 — improving our processes. That is part of our conversation today. You’re right though; I feel much freer. They don’t sound good anyways.

But this Tom Talks is special. Well, they are always special. But it is always good because we’ve been doing this a long time, and Ben Glass, of all people, has seen it all. This talk we will try to keep to ten minutes. It’s really the beginning of a bigger talk that we will have later on in the month—the webinar that we are going to do. And you are going to share (I don’t even know all the stuff that you are going to talk about).

But the first thing we will talk about is the seven mistakes that attorneys made in 2017—the biggest ones you saw. And I’ve got a couple listed, and I’m going to say them to you and want to get your reaction. And then what we will do on the webinar is talk about what they should do.

Ben Glass: Yeah. What you should be doing, depending on where you are in your knowledge of marketing. So we have stuff for people who are new to our world, and we got stuff for people who have been around a long time and have really mature practices.

Tom Foster: So, really quick because I’m going to turn on my timer here. What did I tell you, Jimbo? Ten minutes. Okay.

Mistake number one: No clear goals. No clarity of mission. Unrealistic expectations. Boredom. Restlessness.  

Ben Glass: I like that. Mistake number one is like 17 things. Everybody is so busy, and so many lawyers are scrambling to get leads in and keep the cash flow going. Lawyers are no different from any other entrepreneurs. Most small businesses actually struggle, and there is a small number who get things in place and get up to a level where the business is actually serving them. I think the number one thing I personally worked on in 2017, is the whole vision thing. Even though we have been talking about this for years and years and doing it, the older I get (I’ll be 60 next month), and I’m looking at the horizon to end game. The clearer your picture is of what you want your life to be like and what you want your firm to be like that serves that life, and the more you start to tell people about what that vision is, the more stuff comes to you. It sounds weird, but actually talk to the universe about this. It’s amazing. I’ve been working with Sammy Chung this last year in 2017. We met weekly, and he helped clarify that for my wife and I and our family. Everybody can do it.

If you talk to most lawyers, they say they want more cases and less stress, but that is really vague. What do you really want this deal to look like in six months, three years, five years, or in my case, ten years?

We just signed a ten-year lease on the space. Over ten years, what does this deal really look like? So, being really clear and understanding that you have permission to decide. It doesn’t matter if you just started a practice or whether you have a practice that is mature but you don’t like everything.

You can start today with a white piece of paper, with no holds barred. Don’t worry about the money. Don’t worry about the people. Don’t worry about how you will achieve it. But get the vision clear. There are so many people in the world who will help you and have the experience to help you get to that vision.

Personally, for me, I used to get stuck if I had 27 steps, but I didn’t know how to do step 24.  So that would stop me or certainly slow me down. There are people out there, really smart people that have gone that path.

Nothing that you or I do is rocket science. And nothing we do is really something that no one has achieved in the world. So there is somebody out there—it doesn’t matter your practice area—who is crushing it. Personal injury, bankruptcy, family law—no matter what it is—there is someone out there who is doing that. You make the vision, and we’ll help you find that path to that knowledge. Now you have to execute it. So that is a lot of words to your words.

Tom Foster: That’s good. My follow-up question to that is: Where could somebody turn first to get help with that? That is a big thing.

Ben Glass: We could just say join Great Legal Marketing or follow Foster Web Marketing.

Tom Foster: If you skip this step, it’s going to end up costing you.

Ben Glass: There are two things. There is so much material out there in the world. I’m a huge fan of real books. We’ve talked about this before. I read real books every morning to focus, study, and take notes. There is recorded stuff, audible. So there is that world. There is information out there. So you have to be smart enough to know who is a valid guru and who is a charlatan. That will get you part way there. So that knowledge is there. I truly believe that hanging out with people—whether you do this in your hometown, join something like Great Legal Marketing, or hang out with Foster Web Marketing and the crew that you have assembled—but getting together with entrepreneurs (not just lawyers) who are doing this stuff and growing businesses, you can’t help but find the answer.  

Sometimes you have to shed friends and people who have gotten you to a certain level, and that’s okay. I’ve always tried to hang out with people, and I’ve paid the money and traveled to places, where I’m not the smartest guy in the room. It’s pretty easy to not be the smartest guy in the room, right? But you want to be in rooms with people who are farther along the path than you are. That’s how you do it. A lot of print and audio resources, but then people.

What I found too is that most successful business owners in the small business entrepreneurial world that we run in, most of the elite ones are happy to share. They are happy to share, even if you are a competitor. Most of them are willing to help.

Tom Foster: Your point is to hang around the people you want to be like. And I love the point that sometimes you are going to have to shed some friends, and that’s another point we will make later on.

Ben Glass: And one of the things that makes them really great is that they are good teachers.

We’ll talk about this more on the webinar—leaders of elite firms are great teachers and coaches themselves. And so they like it when someone is interested comes and asks questions.

Now I don’t want my time wasted; I want you to go and do stuff if I’m going to give you a recipe for doing stuff. So 80% of the people won’t do anything, and 20% of people will go and do something. But most successful small business owners are happily willing to share their knowledge and their resources with you.

Tom Foster: We need to move along. So that was mistake number one. Sammy Chung, great guy. I’ve known him for years—fantastic individual if you need help with mindset.

Ben Glass: The guys and girls in my mastermind group are like that and are willing to share stuff, but it isn’t about that, you don’t have to join my mastermind group. Find this in your town or create it yourself.

Tom Foster: Mistake number two: Not putting in the required effort or not providing enough resources to achieve the very goals you set for yourself and your business.

Ben Glass: So here is my analogy. As you know, last June I started CrossFit training. I played division one soccer in an era before there was a total athlete. So I never really did Olympic lifting. And I love it, and I’m addicted to it now. It’s hard work every single day. I have goals that I set for myself in that world, but its hard work. We were having a snow storm, kind of a blizzard here, and at 5 o’clock this morning me and my buddies were there at CrossFit because we support each other.

So it’s the same thing in building a business. You cannot be a lawyer technician 24/7 just working the cases, working the cases, working the cases and think the business is going to grow. That can be your practice, and it’s okay, but you are not going to grow and become an elite practice unless you are taking some time (in my world it’s over 50% of the time) working over here on the business and putting in the time and effort in all the things. Understand the money. How does it flow through your business? Where does it come from? Where does it go? Understanding that, reading, the resources that we talked about earlier, and then, particularly in our world, creating web content that is compelling and attracts visitors.

I started…you and I started, in your home office and did it all ourselves. Now we outsource that, have people in our firms, or we hire you guys to do it. But you can’t go from here to here without applying some level of effort to the building of the business part. It doesn’t just happen by accident. It is an absolute lie that if you do good work, it will come. That’s the slow and maybe it will happen, and maybe it won’t happen way. But the really good lawyers that tend to rise to the top of the pile at Great Legal Marketing spend a lot of time—and sometimes it’s getting up earlier, staying up later or working on Saturdays—not on the cases but on learning business principals. That is the one thing lawyers come out of law school with no knowledge of. The CLEs, they aren’t teaching it. The established bar hates to spend any time telling you how to market, grow, hire, fire, or develop culture (which we will talk about in the webinar). You have to do the work. And the cool thing is that it actually isn’t work. I’d rather be doing that. It’s rewarding. It’s reflective in the number of dollars you make, the number of hours you are maybe not working. If you are there on Saturdays and Sundays working on cases, you can absolutely fix that.

Tom Foster: And we will talk about that in the webinar, and we are going to keep saying that because that is where you will get more of the meat and potatoes of actually what to do. But I was telling him before of this book I read, How Champions Think (recommended by Jay Henderson). It was great. There are tons of stories about LeBron James, Tiger Woods. About how champions think and what extra they put into it. And that’s the point; it doesn’t just happen.

Ben Glass: A really quick story. My son Patrick, who you know. You remember Pat? So Pat has made a killing in Bitcoin. He has a real job, but he has made a killing in Bitcoin. Because he went and got the materials and listened to the webinars and became a very serious student of this stuff that he has now tried to explain to me four times and I still don’t get it. He just got back from his second trip to Russia, and he is killing it. So just a point being made is that you can achieve anything. It’s work; it doesn’t just happen.  

Tom Foster: You just picked up CrossFit, and that’s not a simple thing. You didn’t just go into it. There is a process.

Ben Glass: There is a method, right. And it hurt a lot in the beginning.

Tom Foster: And you had to get through that.

Ben Glass: Absolutely. Good coaches though, and it’s very safe.

Tom Foster: It’s like when I learned guitar. I had to practice. You got to do the work. You can’t just sign up. You buy a website; you’ve got to put effort into it. You buy a marketing plan; you buy Infusionsoft, you go to Great Legal Marketing; you have to actually do the stuff that works.

Ben Glass: If you are going to try cases, you’ve got to prepare and do all that stuff. It doesn’t just come. Everybody that you see out there that you think is more successful than you are—if they are truly more successful—it’s because they are putting in the extra time to learn both the lawyer skills but also to learn the business skills. And that’s where we come in and do a great job at Great Legal Marketing, and where you come in in terms of helping with the web marketing. Where most lawyers fail is that they think they don’t have to do this stuff because they are a lawyer and went to law school, so they don’t have to do it, which is crazy.

Tom Foster: Or they think they are doing it right.

So mistake number three: Copying your competitors; being a lemming.

Ben Glass: It gets back to the entrepreneur thing. What an entrepreneur does is he looks outside of his own industry and looks at what other successful business owners are doing. And they always ask this question, “What are you doing that is so smart? And how can I import that into legal?” So I look at new member websites. We have new members fill out a 30-day report. The number one thing I talk about is your website. I can switch my name in for yours, and it would say exactly the same thing. That’s exactly what you did because someone sold this to you, but the competitors say the same thing. So the best way to stay average is to do what all the other lawyers in your community are doing, and that’s what lawyers succumb to. I can spend more money. In the old days, it would be to spend enough money to get two pages of yellow page ads. Today, it’s I’m going to pay to have my pay-per-click ad be number one. You can do that; you can play that game. And the guy who can pay the most will absolutely win. But it’s an expensive game, and there is only a very little amount of space at number one.

Tom Foster: Mistake number four: Being afraid of being yourself. And that leads into the earlier mistake. These are people who are trying to be somebody else.

Ben Glass: So a huge way to differentiate yourself is to talk about things other than your accomplishments as a lawyer. I have a particular voice. I am a huge fan of printed, mailed newsletters. I have a voice in there of self-sufficiency, of conservative thinking, of entrepreneurship, or get your lazy ass out of bed and go to work or school, or read books. That’s my voice. It’s not attractive to everybody, but the people it is attractive to are magnetically tied to me. I got a tribe of people in our community who know me for reasons other than I’ve been practicing law for a long time and I’m a decent lawyer.

Tom Foster: So you are authentic to who you are.

Ben Glass: Absolutely. You have to be authentic. So the guys taking pictures on top of motorcycles but they don’t ride, they would hurt themselves—the market will figure that out.  Most lawyers are afraid of, or they have never been introduced to the concept of having a voice, standing for something, and it can’t just be in the personal injury world where you say you hate insurance companies because everyone says they hate insurance companies.

Tom Foster: People buy from people they like.

Ben Glass: They do. And this takes a while to develop. It takes practice, writing and study. What are the things you can talk about that sets out your voice in the community?

Tom Foster: It’s hard to do, and it goes back to the first thing we talked about is mindset. For a lot of people, it’s awkward and uncomfortable to be true to who you are, especially in a lawyer world where you need to be a certain way. But you are who you are, and the important thing about it is being authentic to who you are because then you are going to get clients that you like working with. A lot of times what happens is if you are not who you are, you are going to get a lot of people you don’t like.

Ben Glass: You are a hundred percent right. It’s a developmental skill. I was a very shy guy growing up. It’s a skillset. I’ve developed it. I’ve gotten success with it, and I’m authentic. Right down the middle. What you see is what you get, no matter if I’m on the soccer field, doing law, or even having this discussion with you. There is no variance in what I say to the world.

Tom Foster: I’ve known you for 20 years. I know how you were when you first got started. You are still who you are. You have more confidence now because you earned it and because of what you have achieved. But you are still authentic to who you are. You can still bust on yourself, and we still make mistakes. And that’s a great lesson for everybody. You are never done.

Okay, so mistake number six: Not looking in the mirror. It’s really easy to blame others when things are not going well for you.

Ben Glass: Don’t get me going on that. Where you are today is a product of the decisions you made yesterday. Where you will be tomorrow is a product of the decisions you made between now and then. Period. End of conversation. This is not somebody else’s world. Bad stuff does happen, but you have total control over the response that you have to bad stuff. I make great sports analogies that we can talk about at a different time. This is your life. It is your responsibility. Do not blame other people—judges, web designers, attorneys on the other side, insurance companies, your spouse, your kids. Forget it. It’s your responsibility. I just ticked off a lot of people because I always get hate mail when I say that. “You don’t know. I had a really hard life.” Tough shit.

Tom Foster: But it’s true. There are a lot of people who have a hard life, and it’s what you do about it that matters because no one cares.

Ben Glass: I have story after story of lawyers who have maybe even struggled, who have been in bankruptcy or near bankruptcy, and start to do the stuff we teach and take control of their practices. They shed their old friends, get rid of bad clients, shed employees who have been around for twenty years just because they know where all the keys are, and they take control. That is a hot topic for me.  

Tom Foster: That’s good. I know we will be talking more about that on the webinar. And this next thing is kind of tied into all of that too, which is trying to do everything yourself. So that is a classic problem in the lawyer world, right?

Ben Glass: There is a time and place for it. That is where we started, and that’s what we did. There are lawyers where that’s the only choice they have right now, and that’s okay. But as soon as you can, you need to start creating the list: stuff I don’t want to do, or stuff I don’t like to do, stuff that is not a good use of my time, or stuff I’m not good at. And find somebody. The world is full of people who would love to do that stuff. I had a hard time understanding it. There are people who would love to do jobs that I would never be able to do and hate to do. You just got to go find them.

In today’s world, where we are all sort of connected by the internet, they are worldwide. With every minute that you free up by doing stuff that is not worth your time, you are over here doing what you are most required to do, and that is thinking—thinking about a strategy on a case or thinking about your business. Thinking is what lawyers need to do more of and let other people, systems, electronics, and the tools do the work that you think you are the only one in the world who can actually do it. I’m the only one who can write a blog post about car accidents. I haven’t written a blog post in years. One last thing. I know we are way over time. I just got my own Twitter personal account because we have Twitter for Ben Glass Law.  I got it so I can read what we are tweeting. Full confession.

Tom Foster: But that’s good because you never felt like you had to do it all.

Ben Glass: At one point, when we were beginning, we did.

Tom Foster: Think about how overwhelming it was, and it wasn’t that overwhelming compared to today.

Ben Glass: This is a two-hour seminar about how overwhelming the choices are of what you could be doing, how you could be spending your time, and how you could be spending your money. One of the things we are really good at, at Great Legal Marketing, no matter where you are is helping you figure out the most efficient use of your next dollar or your next hour in building your business. We are good at that.

Tom Foster: Okay. We did it. It was really good, and we are going to go on in the webinar. Just real quick before we close this out, Ben, if you don’t know Ben Glass, you need to research who Ben Glass is, of Great Legal Marketing, he has said that multiple times. Ben Glass is a very successful personal injury lawyer here in Fairfax, Virginia, who I met twenty years ago.  We both started our things at the same time, helping each other out, more as if this is fun marketing stuff and I’m the toolbox, and he is the architect. He has created Great Legal Marketing, which has helped hundreds and hundreds of lawyers (just like you) become millionaires and gazillionaires or decide not to become a lawyer because they don’t want to do it. Either way.

Ben Glass: Or having a life that is actually fun to lead and having a business that serves you. So you can do the really fun stuff.

Tom Foster: That is actually a better way to say it. Sure, people have benefited financially from it, but it’s more about teaching them how to have a great life. And if you have not been to a Great Legal Marketing Summit, you need to go. Go to www.greatlegalmarketing.com.

Ben, thank you so much for being on Tom Talks.


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