In football, the announcers always talk about the value of playing with a lead and the disadvantage of playing from behind. The same holds true in business and in life. In this episode we dive deep into why playing with a lead is so important to your practice and discuss some practical ways for you to implement this into your firm.
Why waking up at 5:00 a.m. (or finding that undistracted work time) is key to playing with a lead
Learn practical tips on how to plan ahead in regards to your court calendar and your case management
Make sense of this math: 1 client today = 10 clients down the road
Learn why it is important to be the first to try new marketing opportunities and stay constantly on the forefront of legal marketing
Rise and shine, fellow freedom fighters. Rise and shine. Hear that alarm. Listen to it. That is a terrible sound, isn’t it?
But it is the sound of mentally getting up early. Getting up and getting the day started off the right way. One of my goals for quarter number four is hitting a 5:00 AM wake up time on the weekdays.
And we’re going to talk today about the importance of playing from ahead.
But I was thinking to myself about why getting up at 5:00 AM is important. As I talked about in my quarter four goals podcast last week, if a goal is not important to you, if it doesn’t have a purpose or meaning to you, you’re not going to do it. It’s got to be something that you are personally committed to because of the fact that it is important, that it’s going to change your life, it’s going to give you a better existence, a better life. I was thinking through why is getting up early important. And the reason why is that when I get up early, I get to play from ahead.
Now, what does that mean? Well, I got a crazy life. I’ve got an awesome, awesome job, got great people here at the office, great clients, I’ve got a great family, but from the moment that my first kid wakes up in the morning until I go home at 5:00, time is divided by other people. Other people are controlling my clock, whether that is an appointment on my calendar, a court date, a judge being in control of my time in the courtroom, a DA being in control of my time, clients being in control of my time. Other employees, attorneys at the office needing to ask questions, get clarification on things. My wife called me with questions about things that need to get handled on the home front, one of my kids asking a question, it is non-stop control and other people’s time. So the 5:00 AM wake up allows me to be in control. Me to be in control of what it is that I’m trying to accomplish at that particular moment.
Again, there are ways to minimize that time management problem in other areas. You have to actually figure out ways to carve out time in your practice, to work on the things that you want to work on so that it’s not always other people that are controlling your time.
But the key to my being able to control that time is that 5:00 AM wake up. If I can get up at 5:00, then I have at least an hour and a half to get some things done that I want to get done, whether that is exercising, which often that’s part of that 5:00 AM routine, whether that is prayer time, whether that is spiritual reading, leadership marketing, development reading, whether it is something that I am working on and writing, there is time that I am able to control without distraction what it is that I’m trying to do. And there’s a need, again, to carve that time out during your work.
So whatever your kind of 5:00 AM time looks like, your undistracted time looks like, you have to preserve that. And that’s why to me that wake up time being what it is, is so critical, because it’s that undistracted opportunity to focus in on the things that I need to do in order to succeed as a person, first and foremost, as a Christian, as a father, as a husband. If I don’t put the right stuff in mentally and physically, then I’m not going to be able to be who I need to be for the people that I’m trying to help, support, take care of, and lead. So, it’s important to find that undistracted time, whether that’s 5:00 AM, or 10 o’clock at night, anywhere in between. On the weekend, on vacation, whatever it might be, you’ve got to find that undistracted time that is regularly worked in because that’s what allows you to play from ahead.
Now, I’ve said that a couple of times, but just logistically think through what playing from ahead looks like. So, in a football game, you always hear the announcers, when a team is up one touchdown, two touchdowns, talk about the advantage of playing from ahead.
What is the team that is up by a touchdown or two touchdowns or even more than that doing? They are playing that advantage. They are running out the clock. They have clock management on their side. They are in control of the game flow.
The team that is losing, that is playing from behind, the team that is down, other people are in control of how they have to play. They don’t want that clock going down, but they a lot of times can’t do anything to stop it. They got to sit on the sideline and wait for the next play to get called.
On defense, they’re just waiting for that next play. They can’t speed up the process by which the winning team snaps the football, they’ve got to wait until the play clock gets almost down to zero and then they get to react to what the offense is doing. They have no control over clock management on defense.
On offense, when you’re playing from behind, your playbook is limited. It becomes shrinking. And as you get closer and closer to the end of the game, it becomes very small what the offense can do on any given play because they gotta score.
The winning team doesn’t have to score. The winning team just has to not allow the other team to score more points than they do for the rest of the game. That’s it. But the losing team, they got to make up. They’ve got to work harder to get to a point where they can achieve the victory.
That is the value of playing from ahead. That’s the value of playing from ahead. You get to be in control of the game. Taking that mindset from football of playing from ahead, and it’s true in other sports, playing from ahead is a huge advantage, in basketball, in soccer.
What are those teams trying to do? They’re trying to possess the ball. That’s all they’re trying to do for the rest of the game. Once they get far enough ahead, the goal is just to play keep away. Don’t let the other team have the ball because you’re already winning. So as long as they have the ball, they can’t score, but there’s no pressure on you to put the ball in the net.
So how do we take that advantage of playing from ahead and put it into practice in our businesses, in our lives? Well, waking up early, that is one way to play from ahead. How can we do it in our law firms?
Couple of different thoughts that I have, just a couple of things that I was thinking, how can this plays into practice. First is, the court calendar. In district court practice, we are constantly at the beck and call of the court calendar, of the judge that’s sitting on the bench, of the DA that’s in the courtroom. So taking this mindset into calendaring, you have to be as proactive as your district, as your county allows, in being proactive about your calendars.
When I first started practicing, I had all the time in the world. So anytime I had one case on the calendar, I would go over, sit in court and wait for my case to be called. As things got bigger, as the practice grew, that became more and more difficult, and I realized that I could spend the same amount of time in court handling four cases as I could handling one case. Same amount of time.
So I’m earning more money on the dates that I’m going in handling four cases than on the date that I’m handling only one case, because now that’s just one trip back and forth to court. I’m dividing my time that I’m sitting in court that day between four cases as opposed to being three hours of sitting there waiting for one case to be called. So you have to be proactive about scheduling your cases.
If you’re in a district that will allow you to reset cases and put three or four cases on the same day, or mark three or four things for plea, or continue cases that are not going to get resolved so that you don’t have to show up in the courtroom and make an appearance only to punt down the road and your client doesn’t have to spend time sitting in the courtroom only waiting for a continuance, be proactive about that, because that will allow you to play from ahead.
One of my goals for this year 2020, at the beginning of the year, back into December of last year and then into January of 2020, was to try to spend only 10 days in court a month. I have a lot of cases. I have a pretty good size client caseload that I handle, but I got very aggressive about putting stuff onto the same day, having multiple cases on the same day.
If a case isn’t ready for trial, continuing it out ahead of time so I don’t have to appear on that date to handle the continuance. And every month so far this year, COVID helped us out a little bit in March, April, May, but every month this year, I’ve been able to keep the days that I spend in court to right at 10 days a month. I think there might’ve been one or two months that I had 11 or 12 days in court, that’s 11 or 12 business days, but most days, most months, it was 10 days or less in the courtroom.
And what does that allow me to do? Well, it allows me to work on my practice at the office. It allows me to engage with my clients more often on the phone and be proactive in terms of communicating with them. It allows me to help manage and lead my team, because I’m not again, stuck in the courthouse all the time.
That is reaping the benefits of playing from ahead on the court calendaring side of things. And in all honesty, at first, I thought I was going to be rubbing the court staff the wrong way, rubbing the DAs the wrong way, in terms of moving things around, they prefer it. They prefer to knock a couple of things out at the same time. If a case isn’t going to get handled, then why is the clerk pulling that shock from the clerk’s office and then sending it down on the trolley to the courtroom, and then it having to sit in a DA’s desk and the DA having to call it.
I’m saving the clerk’s office and the DA’s office hours of time a month on cases that were not going to be resolved in the courtroom anyways because they weren’t ready to go, by being proactive and pushing them out. So there is an appreciation on that side of things, that if you can get the buy-in on that front and explain it in those terms, how much time and energy and thought process will be saved, you’re going to be able to hopefully convince the DAs in your district, clerks in your district, judges in your district, that this is a win for everybody. It’s a win for everybody. You’re saving your client’s time, you’re saving the clerk’s time, the judge’s time, the DA’s time, your own time. That’s an all around win.
The court now has time in the courtroom to spend on cases that hopefully involve other attorneys, other defendants, and can actually have something occur with them, as opposed to wasting time continuing your case or dealing with a case that’s not ready to go on your end for whatever reason.
That’s playing from ahead in the courtroom. That same mindset of playing from ahead, and the win of that, the victory of that, is the extra time that I have at the office, the extra time that I have in my personal life, to focus on the things that I need to focus on, to improve my practice, to improve my service to clients, to improve my communication with my clients, to improve my time with my team. So be proactive about that. Play ahead when it comes to court calendaring.
Another place where playing from ahead I’ve seen the advantage of is in marketing and in business. When opportunities come along in the business realm, you got to jump on those and you got to take advantage of that. All kinds of different marketing opportunities are opening up all the time. If you were first to Google AdWords, when Google AdWords first rolled around, then you were paying pennies for something because nobody else rushed in, now, where that market is saturated, way more expensive.
If you were first Avvo advertising, same thing. If you were first to Avvo, you’re paying pennies for your advertisements now as they’re doing a good job, marketing to firms, marketing to attorneys and bringing other people in, the competition goes up, those ads increase in terms of the spend on that. Being there first makes a difference. Playing from ahead makes a difference. And you’re putting your firm out there at the beginning.
Google My Business. If you created a Google My Business account, five years ago, 10 years ago, when this first started coming out, you may be miles ahead of other firms that are in the same area, the same practice area, same location, because of the fact that you jumped on this new opportunity. You went for it in that marketing space.
Facebook advertising, same thing as with Google and Avvo. If you were first to Facebook, it’s cheap. As other competitors come in, both within the legal industry but more importantly from every other business in the world, Facebook ads are going to continue to go up, but they’re going to continue to get more costly.
So you have to constantly be thinking about what can I do different? How can I create a blue ocean? How can I create a space where I am not competing with other people? That is the advantage of waking up early in the marketing realm. What is waking up early in the marketing realm? Jumping on that new opportunity and seeing where it goes.
It may fail, it may be complete dud, but you got to have that mindset of, if it works and I’m the first person there, then I’m going to dominate that space from the outset. And now, I’m going to be able to play from ahead because I’m dominating that space. It’s a mindset process when it comes to marketing.
Another area where you can play from ahead is with your actual client cases. When a client calls you on the phone and you have that initial consultation, you have an opportunity to get out in front of that case. You have the client’s undivided attention because they’re really worried about this situation that they’ve called you, that’s why they’re on the phone with you, because they’re interested in talking to you. You have their full attention and you can walk them through the steps, at that moment, of what success is going to look like, what the next best step is going to look like.
If you basically talk to them in that initial call and you say, “Here’s what my fee is going to be to work on your case. Call me when you have the money,” click. That is a wasted opportunity. It’s wasted. While you have their full attention, tell them what their next best step is going to be, talk to them about what they need to do to right the ship in their life are. They’re listening to you. Set out the game plan, set out the action plan on how they can succeed. Talk them through that, then send a written follow up to them with the steps that they need to take.
On a DWI case, if you don’t do that, that’s why the first, second, third court date need to get continued because the client is repeatedly saying, “Well, you didn’t ever told me that I need to get an alcohol assessment. You never told me that it was going to be this much money to pay in court costs. I’m not ready for that. You never told me it was going to be that. You never told me it was going to be that.”
If you tell them in the initial consultation, you are giving them maximum time to plan and prepare for the consequences and to be ready to go when court rolls around, maybe even to move the court date up in time. That’s the advantage of playing from ahead on the court case, the individual case that you handle.
So what does that do? What does that do? Well, first of all, it allows the client to be more prepared, which is, from an anxiety standpoint, extremely important. But it also allows you to then be able to start thinking of other ways that you can handle the case faster, get things moving faster.
When you get hired on a case, request discovery if that’s possible. Don’t wait for the first court date, or the second court date, or the third court date, to get an officer’s report. If that’s going to be the next thing that you need to make a decision, proactively reach out to the DA’s office, proactively reach out to the officer that’s involved in the case and get that discovery.
If you’re waiting on that for a decision about whether your case is going to be for plea or trial, you need that as soon as possible so that you can move to the next stage of the case. Figure out the next step in the process.
When you can play from ahead in the case, you can shorten the timeline of the case. You can shorten the case timeline. Again, if client hires you, they pay you a $1000 to handle their criminal matter, and you have to go to court one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times, over the course of a year, or they pay you a $1000 to handle their case criminal case and you’re able to resolve that case before the first court date, you’re getting paid the same amount of money.
You’re getting paid in lump sum the same amount of money, but you are not making the same amount of money on that case. You’re making a seventh of what you made on the other case, because you’re spending all those extra hours, all those extra trips going back and forth to the courthouse, all those extra phone calls for every pre-court call with the client.
And your client wants this problem resolved, they want this thing done. So you’re being less helpful on the case. If this is a client that wants this thing taken care of and you can get it done now, versus handling it three or four court dates down the road, get it done. Look at, proactively, ways that you can try to get your case’s timeline shorter.
How can you do it shorter? Do not sacrifice service and do not put anything at risk in terms of the client’s wellbeing. If it’s going to be helpful to the client to drag the case out, by all means drag the case out. If that’s a part of the strategy in terms of hopefully getting to a dismissal or a not guilty, do that. But if it’s out of laziness that the case is getting drag out, you’re costing yourself a ton of money, you’re costing yourself a ton of time, you’re costing yourself a ton of frustration. Don’t do it.
Finally, in terms of the playing from ahead mentality, one other place that you can look for, this is in the client communication. How can we play from ahead in client communication? Well, attorneys, it’s easy for us to play from ahead. We can blow this one out of the water. And the reason why, is that we are always playing from behind in client communication, and clients know that.
One of the main bar complaints that go to the bar is for poor client communication. My attorney won’t call me back, attorney won’t talk to me, my attorney won’t answer my calls.
Think if you paid somebody a $1000, basically for nothing. For their service, not because you got a car out of it, not because you got a computer, not because you got a vacation, but you paid a $1000 and said, “Here’s my problem. I need your help.” And then that person didn’t call you back.
They basically now become an additional problem for you. You had the original problem that you walked into the attorney’s office with and now you got a second problem. The second problem is that the person that you paid to help you with the problem is now a problem. So now you’ve got two problems as the client.
Clients are so used to that. That is such a thing that is known about attorneys, that we don’t call our clients back. That if you can be, not only responsive, that’s the baseline. Well, let’s just say this, if you can just be responsive to when a client calls, either answering the phone or calling them back within a timely fashion, you’re going to look like an amazing lawyer, if you can just respond. But we don’t want to offer just good service, which is what that would look like, we want to offer great service. Wow service.
What does wow service look like? That is where you are proactively reaching out to the client. “Hey, we just got this discovery back in the office today, we’re sending it to you for review. Please contact me so that we can set up a time to talk about it.” Not waiting until the client calls, not waiting until the next point in the communication, when there is something to be acted on, reaching out to the client. “Hey. We know that you have court coming up in two weeks. Doesn’t look like we’re going to be ready to go that day, do you mind if I reach out to the DA and try to get a continuance so that you don’t have to be present?”
Client will love that. They would love to not have to spend their morning in court. They would love to not have to lose time from their job because they are sitting in court on a case that they don’t even need to be there on because it’s just getting continued. They would love that. Proactive communication is the key to, or at least one of the keys, to playing from ahead when it comes to the client relationship, client communication. Provide answers proactively.
Again, in that consultation, when you’ve talked to the client, what you’re doing in terms of follow up? Are you sending them links to people that they can call to help them with the assessment to get the continuous alcohol monitor installed? Are you sending them information about who they should contact about insurance? Are you telling them what they need to do in terms of getting a limited driving privilege, both on the phone and in writing? Are you telling them with a couple of weeks ahead, when they can get their license back, what they need to do for that? How they’re going to pay the civil revocation fee?
Constantly providing information and reaching out to the client is playing from ahead. And that allows the client to feel like they are getting wow service because they are getting wow service, but it also, again, helps in terms of shortening that timeline and then not having to respond to fires.
If you fail to respond to clients, if client has to call two, three, four, five times, before they get in touch with you, they are going to tell your receptionist to go to hell. They are going to cause all kinds of problems on the phone with your team, they are going to feel terrible about how the relationship is going, they’re going to waste your staff’s time by complaining about the lack of response, and rightfully so, they should be doing that. So your team is going to spend time that it does not need to be spending, putting out this fire. Then you’re going to spend time doing the same thing.
When you don’t respond to client calling, when you finally talk to them, are they jumping straight into the problem that they were calling you about? Nope. They are first of all going to talk to you about how long it has taken for you to respond. They are going to talk to you about how long it has taken for you to answer their question and why has it taken this long. Why have you not called me back? And you’re going to spend 10 minutes just talking about the fact that… Explaining, apologizing, telling them you’ll do better in the future. And that’s all waste of time. If you just call them back, you’d avoid that.
But now when you’re on the proactive side of things, you’re saving even more time. It sounds like you’re going to spend more time by proactively reaching out to clients, you’re banking time when you proactively reach out to a client about the situation. If you can proactively reach out to your client and say, “Hey. In two weeks you have court, you need to bring $600 for the court cost. You have to have your assessment with you. We wanted to make sure that you know what you’re going to have to do in terms of community service. Bring your license with you.” If you do that phone call and they show up and they’re ready to go and everything is as it was said, you are going to have an easy case in the courtroom.
If they didn’t bring that because you never called them, now you’re going to have to ask for a continuance. You’re going to have to sit around and wait until the afternoon so that they can contact the assessor and see if they can fax it to your office or to the clerk’s office. You’re going to be running around printing things, you’re going to be making phone calls, you’re going to be calling the assessor. They could have done all of these things if you just told them what to do.
This whole podcast, it sounds kind of preachy, but let me tell you that I’m not perfect at this. This is something that I’m trying to innovate every day and get committed and disciplined every day about making sure that we are doing these things, because the client deserves this. This is not preachy thing, this is just what the client deserves.
Last way to get ahead. I think I already said this was the last way to get ahead, but truly last way to get ahead. The mindset that we have when it comes to our growth as an office. And this has been true since very early on, almost 10 years in at this point, this has been true since very early on, the way that we see a client when they come into the office, is that every client that comes into the office today is 10 clients down the road. Every client that comes into the office today because of the service that we know we can provide to them, now, today, is going to result in 10 more clients down the road because of the word of mouth. Positive spread. It’s going to be a exponential growth from every client that walks into the office today. That’s how you play from ahead.
That’s how you play from ahead in businesses. Thinking through how can we create a client that when they walk out of this door after we’ve closed their case, that they are ready in the future to send 10 more clients our way. How you do that, is by providing wow service. Providing wow service allows you to play from ahead, and please not play from behind in terms of now having to, with every client that leaves your office, you got to worry about them leaving you a negative nasty review. You got to worry about them telling all their friends, “Hey. If you ever get in trouble, definitely don’t call this guy,” because you will go out of business in this world of reviews if that’s how people feel when they leave your office.
So you can’t really have that attitude, but if you just provide good service, your client will be satisfied, they’ll feel like their money was well spent, they will leave your office and they will never talk about you again. So good is not good enough. You’ve got to provide great wow service so that every client that walks into your office today results in 10 more in the future. That’s the value of playing from ahead. I hope you all play from ahead. Look forward to talking with you next time.