Celebrating My 100th Blog Post

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SLU Law Entrepreneurs Forge Paths to Success — excerpt from Saint Louis Brief, vol. 3, issue 1

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Click here for the full version of the SLU Law Magazine.

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Should lawyers have a business plan?

Today, I was interviewed by Helen Gunnarsson who writes for the Illinois Bar Journal. She asked a very good question–do lawyers need a business plan?

I asked my law practice management class at St. Louis University Law School to end the class with a presentation of a business plan for their future practice. I think business plans give a lawyer a base on which to practice; we are not in isolation anymore. There is tremendous competition for the same legal dollars from everywhere, within the city, state, multi-jurisdictional firms, large volume document processors and traditional law firms.

This competition demands that we deliver legal services for a lower price; even large corporate clients have become value conscious, which means that the little gal or guy better measure up and perform. So what does this signify for us, the little guys and gals? To measure up and deliver value measured legal services, we need to identify our target client and ethically market to that client.

Lawyers are not just business-people, they also have to practice and deliver within the bounds of the rules of ethics. Just because we find that our best client is usually at the emergency room in a hospital or in an ambulance, does not imply we can accost the prospect there to convert them into clients!

Having a strategic plan also requires that we must use social media and have a website, but market ourselves within the limits of our state licenses. I use my strategic plan to identify my market, define where the prospect is located and target my best marketing skills and media to that client. Hence my strategic plan must have a plan for using social media and my current clients. You need both because the law is not yet a commodity, although some parts of it are heading in that direction. I deliver quality services to my current clients who refer other clients to me.

I have a plan on how I use my Linkedin, Facebook and blog accounts. The audience and message on these media are highly focused and the fact that your marketing plan needs to match your audience.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Google+

My daughter sent me an invitation to Google+. At first glance it seems to be a mixture of Facebook and LinkedIn, and you can post updates like twitter. I added photos from Picasa and made them public. I separated my friends into acquaintances and close friends with whom I hang out with every weekend. I also separated other ‘friend’ groups, and my family to ‘near and dear’ and extended family.  resumably I can send targeted comments and have different sharing settings.

Google+ says it is a work in progress and that like gmail, it is being rolled out slowly. I was able to upload my pictures from Picasa and photos from my album very easily. But I was a little wary of sharing my Picasa photos or making them public.

Get this: I can video conference with 10 friends on Google+. It is called ‘Hangout’. All my google services are being loosely connected together in one spot. I discovered one of my friends had 42 friends already and her friends became my friends! No asking permission.

I also added topics of interest (Sparks) to my profile. Easy! Just searched and voila, added! Now I get streams of info on topics such as gardening, immigration law and news.

The groups called circles means more privacy than Facebook, where everything I say is sent to my friends and friends of friends. So I would manage the circles very carefully. I never forget that the internet is forever.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Marketing Your Law Practice Part II

I don’t care how many people tell me that marketing on the internet is the way to go, the only way to be seen and to attract clients; I still think the good old fashioned way of building relationships is the way to build your business and brand.

Relationships can be built in person or over the net. I am a member of a quite a few listserves, both professional and personal. The more you write to listserves, the more your name is know to other contributors. I go to conferences and it is fun to meet and greet other listserve ‘contributors’; I feel I already know them, and we have a conversation as if we have known each other for years.

Community involvement is also a relationship builder. A friend of mine celebrated her 70th birthday. I was delighted to be part of the party planning committee. It was a great success; we had over a 100 people show up. I met and befriended so many persons I would never have met otherwise.

I never realized that my updates on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter were being seen by my friends. Recently, I posted a remark about my children graduating and finding their place in life; ‘it was a joy’, I wrote. I had the greatest number of responses to that tweet. My professional tweets never solicit so many responses!

I am still trying to walk the tightrope of being real onlinem and yet not revealing personal details that would jeopardize my clients and friends.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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Hiring Employees

So now you are in business and of course can’t do everything yourself. You want to hire someone, but are not sure that you need a full-time or part-time person. First step, decide the list of tasks to be accomplished by the new employee, and the amount of training time you need to bring the new employee up to speed. After all, you want someone to complete the job the way you do business. As a small business owner, I have found that CraigsList is a good place to start. I needed an attorney to research a memorandum of law and another to assist me in completing applications and filings to court and immigration. To reduce the training time and learning curve, I decided to look for 3rd year law students. One I found on CraigsList; the other I found the old fashioned way, referred by a friend. From past experience, I have found that candidates needed some legal training to accomplish the tasks that I needed to delegate. Some may not agree with me, but in my opinion, as a lawyer, there is no correlation between class rankings and the ability and smarts to do the job. Having employed both lawyers and non-lawyers, I have found that the ability to problem solve and interact with clients and staff is key. Organizational skills, follow through on tasks and ownership of the tasks, are all essential traits. So back to the paperwork to hire a new employee.

Start by filling the W-4 for state and federal. State W-4 forms are found on the State Department of Revenue website; federal W-4 forms are found at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf. The purpose is to help you as the employer withhold the correct income tax from your employee‘s paycheck. I am an immigration attorney, so I always think of non-citizens; if you employ a non-resident alien, then use Supplemental Form W-4 Instructions for Nonresident Aliens, before completing the W-4. If you are a federal contractor or a state contractor, you may be required to maintain Forms I-9 for your employees. All states do not mandate Forms I-9.

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

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Creating Your Website

This time my post is going to be short and sweet. It is evident that attention spans are brief these days! 

I hired an internet marketer to develop and publish my site. It was supposed to be up today, but of course I did not know that the ‘ftp’ devils were lurking! If your designer does not have ‘ftp’ access to your site, they cannot upload the beautiful pages the designer and internet marketer have created for you. I use Yahoo! as my domain host. Go to small business site on Yahoo!, click on ‘Business Control Panel’, choose ‘web hosting control panel’, then ‘password’ tab; create a new user for the web designer to upload the pages she has created for your website and then voila!!! Your pages are published to your domain. I thought I was going to practice law, but along the way I learned to be a web techie, an internet surfer and all around geek.

See you in my next post.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

www.lawyersyoucantalkto.com

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

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