An alternative to a conventional website

An alternative to a conventional website

Developing a website as well as maximizing your business cards potential have both been discussed during the last two Lawyers Connecting meetings that I have attended. Having a website can be costly and sometimes even detrimental to acquiring potential clients when done poorly. However, when a quality website is created and maintained, it can often be the difference between gaining a client and losing a potential one. The first thing that an individual who is looking for an attorney does is perform a Google search. If the attorney they have searched for doesn’t have a website, the individual most often moves on to the next attorney that had been recommended to them and does another search. Many attorneys acknowledge this problem but often say they are unable to afford cost and the maintenance which goes along with creating a website. The solution in my opinion, maybe not for the long term but a solution nonetheless, is developing a strong public profile for your Linkedin account.

By making a public profile you allow your page to become accessible by way of a Google search, thus allowing yourself to be discovered by potential clients. Many of you are very familiar with the layout associated with a Linkedin profile, so I’ll keep this brief. Your public profile can convey your mission statement, a summary of your practice, your experience as an attorney, your contact information and perhaps most importantly it can display your recommendations. If creating a website is not something that is in your budget, with fifteen minutes and zero dollars you can create a Linkedin public profile which will allow you to connect to potential clients who would have otherwise passed you up.

While creating a public page is a creative and effective alternative to establishing a website, one should also display their public page’s URL on the business cards which they plan to distribute at networking events. It may not look as clean as a conventional website’s URL, but it will allow individuals who may have your card, but don’t remember you, to rediscover why they wanted to remain in contact with you. Cheap fixes and alternatives most often do not pay off, but these little additions to your networking efforts could be difference your practice needs in acquiring new clients.

Daniel Lenzini

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Finding the Right Fit as an Attorney

Finding the Right Fit as an Attorney

September was my first month attending the Lawyers Connecting networking group. The most unexpected person I met was board member Alan Levin, who provides therapy and counseling to attorneys. Among all the others looking to build professional connections or find employment, it was interesting to have someone present whose goal was to help lawyers find happiness. Studies have shown that the most common reasons for entering law are the pursuit of intellectual challenge and the opportunity for social service. On the other hand, those dissatisfied as attorneys reported not having enough time for personal endeavors or a lack of fulfillment in their work. Finding the right fit for you as an attorney may make the difference between a promising career and burning out.

What questions can help determine how to find personal satisfaction in your work as an attorney? The type of law you practice is one of the most basic factors that determines the basic work environment. Time commitment, stress levels, amount of paperwork, all of these are tied in with what type of law you practice. If one of these factors has created personal problems in the workplace, it may be time to look for a new focus. Another thing to consider is that most people change careers during their lifetimes. In the likely event that you do not stay a one firm your entire life, what kind of training is your employer providing that can help you take that next step? If your current placement doesn’t teach you anything new, what are you personally doing to prepare for that next job? Constantly developing new skills will help prevent the roadblock of becoming trapped in an unfulfilling position. How you interact with clients is also a factor to take note of. Supplying vital information and services in a time of crisis can be an incredibly gratifying occupation. However not all people need to play such a personal role in their work. How much human interaction you have with clients is another thing to consider when deciding what kind of attorney you want to be. Often these kinds of questions slip by when looking for work or trying to pay off debts. But if you can’t find happiness or fulfillment in your work, is it worth spending the time and effort necessary to become a lawyer? In the end, this kind of self-analysis may make the difference between making healthy career decisions and a few miserable years as a practicing attorney.

Nils Robbins recently graduated from The George Washington University with a double major in Political Science and International Affairs. He is currently looking to gain experience in a law firm with a strong commitment to client advocacy.

He can by reached by phone at: 1-224-392-0897 or by email at

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How Can I Create a Brand that Generates Business?

How Can I Create a Brand that Generates Business?

This month Lawyers Connecting invited the president of Local First Chicago Melissa Ryzy to come speak about professional marketing strategies for attorneys. In the current economic climate it has only grown more important for attorneys to determine what sets their practice apart from competitors. Melissa stressed the need for effective branding as the core of any marketing effort. Every lawyer needs something Melissa refers to as a “Unique Selling Proposition”. The USP is that particular mental image, skill, or personality trait that puts you in the front of the potential clients’ thoughts. The only true purpose of marketing is to purchase this piece of mental real estate. If your public presence fails to create a lasting impression, the time and money spent on advertising your practice has been for nothing.

So what are some strategies attorneys can employ to avoid wasting resources on ineffective marketing? Melissa says that the internet is one of the most powerful tools to showcase your brand. Upon hearing about a business or individual the most immediate response is to check for a website. Using simple graphics and a clear message on your homepage is one of the easiest ways to turn an individual into a client. A more active tactic is to get involved in public speaking events or to provide comments for newspaper articles. Both of these can reach thousands of individuals while establishing you as a legal authority. Referrals are just as important. Obviously you should establish a rapport with clients, but forging relationships with other professionals is just as necessary. Networking groups (like Lawyers Connecting) and mentoring younger lawyers are excellent ways to grow mutually beneficial relationships with other attorneys. Melissa also suggests co-branding your practice with compatible, but non-competitive professionals. Most importantly, take into account what kind of mental and emotional state clients are in when they start seeking your counsel. Relating to your clients on an emotional level can be just as vital as legal know how when it comes to establishing a USP. Identifying what makes your practice unique and effective not only creates a brand to market, but also helps you become a better attorney to your clients.

Nils Robbins recently graduated from The George Washington University with a double major in Political Science and International Affairs. He is currently looking to gain experience in a law firm with a strong commitment to client advocacy. He can by reached by phone at: 1-224-392-0897 or by email at

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By Steve Ross

Michael Gardiner gave a presentation about his new business venture, Aliunde. Aliunde is a website for law firms to bid on client projects. He described the problems and strategies involved in keeping his legal practice going simultaneously.

Building the website turned out to be more painful than he expected. He used a web development firm from India, and it took twice as long as he expected. The firm did not give any feedback about the website he wanted to develop, which he expected and what an American company would do. The web developer took his instructions literally. Michael described late night telephone conversations with the developer where he had to explain to the developer that the instruction underline meant underlining a word, not writing the word underline.

The clients are businesses with a range of projects:
Small – involving little time;
Mid-sized – which are important and have significant costs; and
Large – such as complex litigation, and corporate transactions.

Aliunde allows businesses to find lawyers who are good and efficient. Efficiency involves attorneys with a particular expertise or knowledge of their type of business.

The businesses describe legal projects on the website and attorneys make non-binding bids. It is template driven. Aliunde has signed up several users.

Michael is considering bringing on a business development co-founder or a technical co-founder.
Despite the unanticipated glitches Aliunde has encountered, it has one large client, and hopes to expand its business to business operations.


The main speaker was Melissa Ryzy, who spoke about marketing for lawyers.
Ms. Ryzy discussed effective branding. She showed us pictures of products such as Band-Aids, Kleenex, IPad, and Post-It notes where most people think of a specific brand when they think of the product. These products have TOMA – Top of Mind Awareness.

Then, Ms. Ryzy discussed USP – Unique Selling Proposition. Each lawyer has a unique character that makes them memorable. She noted that Annette Pinhasik is unique because she is a female personal injury attorney. She brings a woman’s compassion and understanding to an area of the law which is dominated by attorneys the public perceives to be aggressive, brusque, ambulance-chasers.

Branding has three basic parts:
Identity – Who you are;
Image – What you are; and
Mind Equity – What makes you memorable?

Ms. Ryzy tried to compress a 90 minute program into a 30 minute presentation. She also gave everyone an 11-page color handout describing effective branding, and agreed to meet with everyone for 30 minutes. Personally, I can’t wait for my meeting!
Steve Ross is a sole practitioner in Chicago.
He can be contacted at and 312/566-4170
His practice emphasizes appellate law, civil litigation, collections, landlord/tenant law, and juvenile law.

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A Recent Graduate’s Observations

A Recent Graduate’s Observations

As a recent law school graduate faced with the present economic climate, networking is more important now than it has ever been for an individual in my position. Finding networking events is not difficult, however, finding fruitful events can be. Having attended past networking events I was usually faced with a large room filled with hundreds of attorneys, often only meeting and conversing with a few. While it is possible to leave such an event with positive results, often that is not the case.

While searching for new networking opportunities I was introduced to Daniel Felix who invited me to attend both the North Suburban event as well as the Downtown event held this month by Lawyers Connecting. When I arrived I was introduced to the members in attendance and given the opportunity to share my background and goals. While almost all of the members are in private practice, most have had past experience working in larger firms. This not only allowed me to gain insight into how to evaluate opportunities in large firms but also gave me perspective into the options that private practice creates.

An added bonus to my experience was the presentation made by the guest speaker. The subject happened to be finding ways to increase your marketability. While the intent of the presentation was to help the members present to recognize and better utilize their unique selling points, I may have gained more from the discussion than anyone else. Developing yourself as a new attorney is critical and I believe anyone who has recently graduated could benefit by attending smaller events which are more focused on professional development and enrichment, which I learned is the case with Lawyers Connecting.

By: Daniel Lenzini
IL Bar Results Expected 10/11/11
Area of Concentration: Trial Advocacy

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Memo to the Trustee: how to talk about money

Memo to the Trustee: how to talk about money

By Daniel P. Felix, J.D., The Professional Trustee

Money is such a charged issue – and most of us have a range of different charges or emotions about it. This also applies to our trust beneficiaries, perhaps especially those who have come into their money through inheritance. This population may be particularly sensitive to money – and to money conversations – due to being inexperienced at money management or ambivalent about their inheritance and being wealthy, to name just a few possible reasons.

Fortunately, there is some great advice available on how to work sensitively and powerfully around money discussions with such scions of wealth.

In fact, one of the gems at John A. Warnick’s Purposeful Planning Rendezvous in Denver last month was offered by the team of Jamie Traeger-Muney and Emily Bouchard, the principals of The Wealth Legacy Group, who, as experts in the emotional impact of wealth, have developed valuable insights on this subject.

Jamie & Emily’s tips on how to have sensitive and powerful conversations about money – especially with those who may be new to such conversations – include:

o Contextualize money with a story as opposed to just throwing around various figures or spreadsheets. Listening to someone about what it means to them and how it got there can give some handles for the discussion.

o Also, identify context in the role that you are referencing for them – so, “as a business owner,…” or “as a parent,….”
This helps them be clear about which of the sometimes many hats they are wearing in the situation. Do you know the joke about the father/boss firing his son out of the family business?

o Among other communication practices:
o Ask questions to elicit their story and enhance their learning and understanding.
o Mirror or reflect back their key points.
o If emotions arise, help them understand those emotions are normal and understandable, and that there’s nothing wrong with them.
o Help them to ask their own questions by demonstrating that all questions are welcome.
o Work together with the client to develop best practices for the advisor relationship. This is key in arguably every professional relationship: coming to consensus around what will be acceptable, unacceptable, as well as outstanding service.

Jamie & Emily also suggest that the trustee consider becoming versed in the typical archetypal patterns around money, as this approach opens up new possibilities for effective conversations related to money. In their experience, the top eight with a few of some of their possible attributes are:

The Innocent: who can be trusting, happy on the outside while fearful internally;

The Victim: prone to blaming, highly emotional, shares with the Innocent a feeling of powerfulness;

The Warrior: powerful, driven, competitive;

The Martyr: Manipulative, long suffering, secretive;

The Fool: undisciplined, irresponsible, overly generous;

The Creator/Artist: passive, internally motivated, non-materialistic;

The Tyrant: controlling, fearful, oppressive, highly critical and judgmental, secretive;

The Magician: spiritual, wise, powerful, fluid, confident.

They have a simple tool that can be used easily to assess how clients tend to approach (or avoid) money in their lives.

For more information about “money types” and how to use them effectively, they’ve graciously offered a free mini-training including the assessment tool for the first 50 people who contact them via Emily:

As the Professional Trustee, Daniel P. Felix has been serving clients for almost 20 years. His approach is to honor the grantor, while empowering the beneficiary. He is also actively involved in articulating and applying best practices. Dan is also principal and founder of Lawyers Connecting™ a networking and professional growth group for attorneys.

He can be reached at:

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Pedestrians (and Drivers) Beware! Distraction Seems To Be The “New Normal.”

Pedestrians (and Drivers) Beware!

Pedestrians_in_Traffic_iStock_000011513499XSmall1As pointed out in an editorial in today’s Chicago Tribune, as well as in a recent study showing that 80% of all accidents happen in or near the crosswalk, PEDESTRIANS MUST BEWARE OF DANGEROUS SITUATIONS!Now, this is not to say the the fault of this dangerous situation is all to be placed firmly on the shoulders of drivers of motor vehicles, but it is a cautionary tale of just how much distraction there is in our lives.

It used to be that walking across a street was a simple activity with little or no distracting stimulus to take away our focus on the color of the light, the vehicles around us, and what they were doing.  Driving too used to be a rather blandly focused activity.  Perhaps smokers would have to pay attention so as not to light themselves on fire with ash falling, and radio listeners had to adjust the radios while still keeping a keen eye on the roadway.  People ate in cars and drank in cars.  None of that has really changed much.

That is not our world now.

Think of all the increased opportunities for distraction for drivers and pedestrians.  Ipods with ear buds, phones that allow us to receive and send emails and texts while we walk, not to mention view movies and videos if we can’t face walking across the Loop without something “going on!”  Add to that satellite radio with a plethora of options, phones with Bluetooth devices allowing us to legally speak hands-free while still keeping our brains unengaged in the activity of driving.

It is not a stretch to say that we are a distracted society.  It is not a stretch to say that there is a direct corrolation between this increased distraction and our increasing numbers of accidents that occur in crosswalks.

Simply, drivers are doing more than focusing on driving and pedestrians are doing more than walking.

It has to stop.

Make it your duty, your job, your focus, if you will, to NOT BE THAT GUY (OR GIRL) who texts while walking across a busy intersection or surrepticiously tries to send an email while turning into a busy crowd of pedestrians.

My job is to represent people who get hurt due to other peoples’ negligence.  I love my job.  I represent some really great and interesting people and am able to provide them a measure of justice so they can be compensated for their injuries.

But I don’t want to make money because of preventable accidents.  I wish everyone would just pay attention so these preventable injuries (and deaths) could just never occur.

If you walk or drive, I’m talking to you.

And me.

We all know we’ve been guilty of distracted driving or walking at some time.

Now it is up to each of us to pay a bit more attention to what we are doing.

People don’t need to be hurt or killed so we can access our email.

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Chicago Bar Association Solo Small Practitioner Meeting

Chicago Bar Association Meeting For Attorneys

For those of you who do not know, this is my second year as the co-Chair of the Chicago Bar Association Solo and Small Practitioner Committee.We are very excited to have our first meeting of this calendar year kick off with such a great topic and great speaker!

That meeting is September 6th at 12:15 p.m. at the Chicago Bar Association–the entire meeting announcement is copied below.

With new ethical rules in effect, it behooves every lawyer to obtain FREE MCLE ETHICS CREDIT by attending our meeting.

But wait, there’s more…

…by attending you will get to meet great people, many of whom also practice in a solo or small firm, and who can offer much support to you in your networking, practice development, mentoring, case referrals, and offer a social outlet to boot.

While I will be unable to attend that meeting, I hope many of you attend and hope to see all of you at our next meeting, October 6th, which will feature an attorney who advises small firms on how to avoid ARDC complaints and stay in compliance.

Committee: Solo and Small Practitioner Committee
Meeting Date and Time: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 12:15 p.m. ? 1:30 p.m.
Topic: Recent Developments in Ethical Rules-What Every Solo or Small Practitioner Should Know.
Speaker: Mary Andreoni, Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, mandreoni@iardc.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
WEBCAST: Webcast–to be determined
MCLE Credit: Yes/ professional responsibility credit approved *Exact amount of MCLE credit will depend on actual length of program. (You will need to bring your membership card to electronically record your attendance at a meeting. If you need a replacement membership card, call the CBA Legal Bookstore at 312-554-2130.)
Co-Chairs: Stephen L. Hoffman, Law Office of Stephen L. Hoffman LLC (stephen@hofflawyer.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view, Kenneth H. Levinson, Joseph, Lichtenstein & Levinson (klevinson@jlllawfirm.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Vice Chair: John A. Stefani, Joseph, Lichtenstein & Levinson, jstefani@jlllawfirm.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Location: CBA Headquarters, 321 South Plymouth Court.
See guard in lobby for meeting room location.
Lunch: Lunch is available for purchase at the CBA servery with CBA membership card only for $9.50. Non-members and guest may purchase lunch tickets at the CBA shop for $12.00
Materials: Visit click on Committees then click Meeting Notices, then choose your Committee meeting to download presentation materials.
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Document Security and Protected Health Information

At a recent Lawyers Connecting™ meeting, Vic Miceli, a principal of Des Plaines Office Equipment, rose for his presentation. I’m usually a bit groggy at the morning, and immediately thought, “Why did I roll out of bed this early to learn about office equipment?” I soon found out.

Vic started his presentation by discussing the existence of latent, private protected health information (“PHI”) found on copiers, computers and just about any device that has a hard drive. Among other things, he spoke of the action needed to remove PMI when this equipment is no longer being used by as medical practice.

We’re all familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) enacted in 1996. The enforcement rules in HIPPA set civil money penalties for violating HIPAA rules, and established procedures for investigations and hearings for alleged HIPAA violations. However, its deterrent effect has been negligible, resulting in few prosecutions for violations. After all, when was the last time you went to a doctor’s office and was handed a HIPPA disclosure document?

Now enters the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (“HIGHTECH”) and its own set of privacy requirements. Vic noted that HIGHTECH puts teeth into the provisions of the now often-ignored privacy requirements of HIPPA. Among other things, HITECH addresses the privacy and security concerns associated with the electronic transmission of PHI. This is of particular interest to me, since I represent many healthcare professionals whose practice submits electronic medical records on a daily basis.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned from Vic that is the next time I attend one of Vic’s morning presentations, it merits going to bed early.   – Richard A. Crane, 7/4/11

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Phil Gafka, L.E.A.P. Associates, Inc. Strategic and Business Planning Process for Attorneys

Phil Gafka, L.E.A.P. Associates, Inc.

Strategic and Business Planning Process for Attorneys

By Richard A. Crane, Esq.

Once again, kudos to Dan Felix, the founder of Lawyers-Connecting, for having another superb speaker at the October meeting of L-C. This time, Phil Gafka, the principal of LEAP Associates, Inc., spoke on the Strategic and Business Planning Process for Attorneys. I’ve known Phil for quite some time, but really didn’t know much about what he does. Now I do.

Phil first discussed the importance of having a Basic Foundation for a business plan consisting of an individual’s business philosophy, core values and principles. Not only having these values, but putting them to use, also known as “walking the walk,” is essential.

Next, Phil recommended having a long-term vision of 5-15 years. I queried him about this, especially since in the present economic climate, “survival” trumps long-term planning. While Phil acknowledged this, he thought that long-term goal setting is still helpful, although perhaps not a priority. Other elements of Phil’s business planning process include having a Mission (something to accomplish rather than the often amorphous Mission Statement), Critical Goal Categories, Setting SMART Goals, Action Steps and Budgeting. Understandably, the limited time for the presentation didn’t provide the opportunity to discuss some of these elements. However, the Strategic and Business Planning Process Flow Chart which Phil passed out was easy to understand, follow and actually made sense. This in and of itself distinguishes Phil from many other coaches (including Lovie Smith?).

Phil then explained the SMART Goal-Setting System which he uses. This was of significant import for me, since goal setting has not been my strong suit. SMART goals are an acronym: S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Attainable, R = Realistic (High), and T = Time Element. The consequences of adopting or not adopting the SMART system are often the key to business success, just getting by, or failure. I thought there was one missing element to the formula: Accountability. I’m a sole practitioner, and it’s difficult to hold oneself accountable when trying to implement the SMART System. Perhaps I’ll institute ASMART System of my own.

The SMART system, including writing down goals to accomplish every day, and then prioritizing them, isn’t brain surgery, and there are almost as many business coaches as attorneys. However, Phil is able to distinguish himself from most others by being able to call upon his vast business background and experience, including being the CEO for a number of large businesses, to help make individuals SMART by designing an individualized approach that is specifically designed for each individual and business.

Like most businessmen, it has always been extremely important for an attorney to differentiate himself or herself from other attorneys, not an easy task under the best of circumstances. People presume that attorneys know the law, so in this context knowledge of the law isn’t a distinguishing factor. Making it more difficult to stand out among the masses, there are over 60,000 active attorneys in Illinois, 40,000 or so who practice in the Chicago Metropolitan area. Only New York and California, with about 100,000 each, have more attorneys than Illinois. In Shakespeare’s Henry VI, when England faced economic problems of their own, Dick the Butcher suggested “The first thing, kill all the lawyers.” A bit extreme, but if this policy was adopted today and somehow I was spared, it would certainly make differentiation a lot easier.

Phil did note that attorneys, like most other businessman, must adapt today’s rapidly changing business environment in order to have a successful practice. No longer can an attorney sit back and rely solely on referrals from existing clients. I can certainly appreciate this. About 4 years ago, I didn’t have a website, used AOL for my business email, and thought “networking” was something fishermen do when their net breaks. Fortunately, I’ve come a long way. My website is and my email is I’m still not sure what networking is, but at least I figured out that it has nothing to do with fishermen.

Rich is an attorney ( who concentrates in corporate and real estate law. He is both a general member and a member of the Board of Directors of Lawyers-Connecting.

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