Rural Marketing – Its The Message

Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say that there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe. Frank Zappa

This post is off-schedule in part to that particular brand of “what were you thinking when…” stupidity that keeps lawyers employed and in part to the sheer genius of the purveyors of commercial advertising space that leaves in its wake a feeling of  absolute wonderment that any organization could survive the disconnect between the people selling the service and the people serving existing accounts.

Now, I am not a marketing wunderkind – frankly my entire theory of marketing is that one should address potential clients as if they have a functioning brain and tell them “what’s in it for them” in as few words as possible. Hopefully this can be accomplished before their eyes glaze over or they run screaming from the room – my marketing theory has yet to incorporate bondage, but I do hear that it is popular in some circles. However, the idea that one’s customers might possibly be thinking creatures seems to be out of favor this week in some sales circles. Continue reading

The Deed Is Done

The deed is done, the shingle hung, and practice begun!

The weather conspired against a June 29th opening (when the crop is ready and the weather is right you harvest and all else gets delayed), but on July 8th the planets aligned and I opened the doors to my new office.

In no particular order here is what I’ve discovered about opening a practice:

  1. If a tape measure says the distance between your computer and the network port is 15 feet, use a 20 foot cable to connect the two.
  2. Telemarketers start calling about 3 days after phone service installation. The corollary to this is that junk mail is the first to find its way to your address, followed shortly by bills.
  3. The “new” wears off guest chairs after the 4th use or so – don’t get attached to unblemished furniture.
  4. There are two types of installers – those that say they’ll be there in 2 weeks and then show up in 2 days and those that say they’ll be there in 2 days and show up 2 weeks later. I don’t think this is due to the random nature of work – I think it is somehow related to how difficult it will be to fit a given time/date into my schedule
  5. Buy local – don’t always assume that you get the best price on-line and/or in the big town just down the highway. Paying for personal service often trumps paying for shipping and handling.
  6. Pens walk out the door with installers, delivery people, contractors, etc – make use of this and have your pens imprinted with your name and phone number.
  7. After all the preparation and the hustle and bustle of moving-in and setting up, opening day will seem like an anticlimax.

IOLTA ABCs

OK, strictly speaking, you don’t need to have a trust account. If you never receive settlements on behalf of clients, never receive advance fee or cost payments from clients, and never hold other funds on behalf of clients – you might not (at least in MN) need a trust account. However, the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board’s recommended practice is to maintain a trust account just in case. Think of it as cheap CYA insurance.

Opening an IOLTA (lawyer’s trust account) in Minnesota is a simple process – find an approved bank, download and complete a Notice to Financial Institution form (see the Lawyer Trust Account Board), and then take the form with you to the bank when you open the account. After spending 30 minutes with a banker and making a nominal deposit you’ll walk away with an IOLTA account.

While the Lawyers Board and the Minnesota Bar Association have a number of helpful materials on managing your trust account, they do omit some very practical hints like:

  • Use different color checks for your operating and trust accounts (green for your operating account – its your money & red for your trust account – stop its your client’s money)
  • Color code your deposit slips so that they match the check color of the account (green stripe for operating, red stripe for trust)
  • Keep your trust account & operating account at different banks
  • When choosing a bank for your trust account, ask what interest rate the bank pays on the funds – pick a bank that offers the best interest rate. It costs you nothing while helping others.

How Much Computer

Recently, I was asked to recommend a computer to a colleague and as the conversation progressed, the main question did not center on the typical Mac v. PC or Dell v. HP v. Gateway v. etc questions, rather the question was: how much computer do I need anyway. Like any law school graduate, my Pavlovian response was – it depends.

I told my colleague that the first step is to specify your mission and then let the software guide you. The problem with this approach is, as my colleague pointed out, it requires one to know what software they are going to run and allows little room for future growth. So, were there any rules of thumb that would lead to a solid middle of the road computer – something better than your $300 home PC and something a step down from that killer game machine or desktop supercomputer?

By the end of lunch, we had our rule of thumb – Look at the minimum specifications for the latest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator then double the processor speed, quadruple the RAM, 20x the hard drive size, and 8x the video card memory card size.

Starting the Firm

I’m finding that starting a firm is a process of choosing answers to a myriad of questions and hoping that each choice is going to be the right one — your typical entrepreneur worries. The one bright spot is that information is plentiful out there from general small business advice to technology review sites. Here’s some sites I’ve found useful so  far.

My go-to site for general small business advice is: SCORE.org. From on-line articles to confidential counseling, SCORE provides no-nonsense practical help from people who have been there and done that. With over 300 offices and over 10,000 volunteer counselors nationwide, there should be a SCORE office and volunteer mentor near you.

Every business needs a mission and every mission needs to be expressed. For those of us with writer’s block, there’s Mission Statements – your on-line source for mission statement inspiration. My current favorite is Sandoval Law Firm’s mission statement: “To provide fair, honest, and equal representation to those in need of legal aid.” Short and to the point.

Without adequate information, technology choices are difficult to make, and for legal software your standard review sites like CNet just aren’t much help. Not to fear, litiReviews by LexBe is here. Full text reviews are organized by software category and application name.

For those of us that see marketing as terra incognita, festooned with the warning Hic Sunt Dracones, Duct Tape Marketing is here to help. The articles section offers simple affordable solutions to problems ranging from advertising to web site design. My only quible is that a given topic heading not seem to always align with the subjects covered by the articles filed under that heading – I don’t see the connection between “Virtual Assistants” and “Online Gaming Can Be Expensive – Here’s how to Pay to Play“.