Do you have a blog on your website? If not, you should finish this article and start writing one. If you do, close your eyes and ask yourself, “What’s the goal of my blog?” If your answer is, “To improve my website’s Google rankings,” you’re blogging for all the wrong reasons.

At this point, you likely know Spotlight Branding’s position on SEO: After years in marketing, we’ve realized it’s overrated, ineffective, and often does more harm than good. A myth has sprung up in legal circles that the purpose of blogging is to increase your SEO, and you need to include keywords, make sure to backlink, and do a thousand other things to make it happen. We’re ready to bust that myth wide open.

Which option makes more sense: blogging in order to impress a robot and hopefully convince it to send more leads to your virtual doorstep, or blogging to reassure, impress, and convert the leads already on your website? The latter, of course. That’s why instead of blogging for robots, our clients blog for people.

Blogging for people is simple. There are no tricks, secret keywords, or lines of code. You just need to write with your audience in mind, focusing on their questions and pain points. What is your ideal client worried about? What are they curious about? What could they use your help with? The answer to each of those questions contains many blog posts.

Once you’ve chosen a topic, distill your information and write it clearly in language the average reader will understand. Unless you’re marketing to other lawyers, this isn’t the place for legalese. Simply answer your ideal clients’ questions, and give them enough information so they know why they should come to you and how you can help. This will elevate your expertise and prepare your clients for the process. These posts don’t need to be perfect; they just need to be effective.

Last but not least, you need to produce and distribute this content regularly. Don’t just let it sit on your website. Post your blogs on social media, or include them in an email newsletter — put them where the people are. If you’re not sure how to do this effectively, give Spotlight Branding a call.

This is an excerpt from my book, A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Life, Not Just a Living: Ordinary lawyers doing extraordinary things.

Are you pre-programmed? Yes, pre-programmed, with what you should do, with no room for what you want to do? Is your comfort zone killing you?

Has complacency set in? Are you just going through the motions? Is complacency sucking the oxygen out of your dreams, your courage, and your passion?

I have the great privilege to work with lawyers and I know all too well the answer to that question isn’t good.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The legal profession is a traditional one, and consequently, it tends to create traditional environments, procedures, and expectations. Yet there are lawyers who have broken the shackles of tradition. It takes guts to swim upstream. It takes courage to believe in yourself when you have little evidence that it will be successful. It takes wisdom to apply the skills you honed practicing law in a different way or another environment.

Whether you are looking to build your practice where you are, find a new firm, or start your own firm, move from public sector to private sector or vice versa, or just stop the madness, you can make it happen!

Candace Duff has broken the shackles of tradition with guts, courage, and wisdom. You will be inspired by her journey. Candace Duff knew what she should do and knew it wasn’t enough, but she found a way to do what she wanted to do and stepped out of her comfort zone. Candace Duff is a mediator, attorney, arbitrator, and a published novelist aka L.J. Taylor.

Black: Tell me about your early influences.

Duff: Well, I decided to become a lawyer when I was twelve years old. I went from visiting nurse to spy to lawyer. There weren’t any lawyers in my family. I probably got the idea from TV and books. As a child, I was a voracious reader. I read all the books in my parents’ collection, including quite a few inappropriate ones. I used to read twenty Harlequin romances a week, when I was in high school, much to the chagrin of my math teacher.

I always had a creative side, though. I loved to sing. I loved to write. I wrote poetry and song lyrics. There are even some of my poems in the high school yearbook. And I even tried to write a science fiction novel when I was thirteen years old. It has heavily based on Star Wars—back then Star Wars was a hit and really huge, so there’s a hero, there’s a princess and all.

Black: Did your family play a strong role in guiding you?

Duff: I had a very strict mother, and she stressed education. You know, if she knew you could get an A, you couldn’t come back in that house with anything less than an A. She also stressed having a profession. You had to be a doctor or a lawyer..

She downplayed hobbies. Being a writer and being a singer—those were hobbies, those weren’t professions to her. In fact, my mother had a beautiful voice herself. She sang like Nancy Wilson. And there were a few recording studios who had courted her, but she declined, because, you know, back then you just didn’t do that. You raised your family, you finished nursing school.You didn’t go off into the sunset to try to become a singer, and she taught us the same thing.

Black: Did college fuel your creative side?

Duff: After high school, I got into Vassar College. And Vassar College opened up a whole new world to me. It allowed me to explore my creative side. I was an actress in the Ebony Theater Ensemble. I was a singer in the gospel choir. I was even a dancer back then, although I couldn’t do ballet to save my life.

After Vassar College, I went into law school, and I didn’t write while I was in law school. In fact, I couldn’t even read fiction books. In law school, all you read are legal tomes. You do so much reading it pretty much turns you off from reading anything else.

Black: So what happened after law school?

Duff: After I left law school, I ended up getting a job at Greenberg Traurig. Greenberg Traurig is an international firm—top one hundred. And so while I was there, I focused on becoming the best lawyer that I could be, because there were so few African American lawyers in the firm that I really wanted to be a good example. Later in my career, I focused on making partner and I worked a million hours, and there wasn’t time for anything else.

Black: Did you find any time to write?

Duff: I took a vacation every year and during my vacation I would go to writers’ conferences. I really liked the Maui Writers Conference, because it was in Maui, so how could you go wrong with that?

And I would dream. I would dream of writing a book.And there were so many people there, so many writers there, I would get all this intellectual stimulation while I went and I would dream about writing a book, but I just never had the time.

Black: And how was the rest of your life moving along?

Duff: I made partner at Greenberg in 2001 and I said, now what? September 11th happened later that year and I realized I had no personal life at all. All I had done was work, and I was restless. I misinterpreted my restlessness as a desire to get married. So I accepted the first proposal that I got, and married the first man who asked me. My ex wasn’t very supportive about writing. He told me that even if I became a bestselling author, I could never stop practicing law, because he wanted to make sure that money came in steady. Needless to say, that didn’t last very long, and he and I were divorced two years later.

My sister became unable to care for my niece. I ended up raising a fifteen-month-old baby by myself. Here I was, a professional woman—a single mother, suddenly—working at Greenberg with a fifteen-month-old baby. I’m surprised my niece is still alive!

I had no time to write. I had no time to go to writers’ conferences and hone my craft. I had no time for anything but to work and take care of my niece.

Black: When did things start to change?

Duff: My first “aha” moment came two years later. My niece was reunited with my sister and I had become a construction law expert and I practiced primarily real estate litigation, representing developers, but then in 2007–2008, the market crashed. Banks weren’t lending. Real estate wasn’t being sold. Condos weren’t turning over and suing developers. People who had differences in real estate and construction thought it was better to settle than to litigate the issues. The cranes had stopped.

Like so many other attorneys, I had to reinvent myself. So I started doing work that I wasn’t in love with, and I did that for a while. Until one day I asked myself, is this what you want to do for the rest of your life? And the answer was no.

Black: I bet that was eye-opening. What did you want to do? Continue Reading An Interview With Lawyer and Novelist Candace Duff

Are you missing out on easy money? We recently wrote an article about why you shouldn’t “stop feeding the beast.” As a quick recap, our point was that in today’s fast-paced digital world, people are consuming content faster than you can possibly produce it, so you should put as many articles, videos, and social media posts out there as you can. In this post, we’re going to tackle an aspect of content that we think a lot of lawyers don’t recognize: its power to generate referrals.

Referrals are the bread and butter of the legal field, and we’re sure you get a bunch of them, but you’re probably missing out on more than you realize. We’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: According to a study conducted by Texas Tech University, law firms are only getting about one-third of the referrals they should be. The study found that, on average, 83% of satisfied clients are willing to make referrals, but of those, only 29% actually do it. That means that out of all of the clients who are willing to refer you, only 1 in 3 actually takes the leap.

A great content strategy can help you solve that problem! By putting out the right content and leveraging it correctly, I’ve seen law firms increase and even double their referrals. Here’s why it works:

CONSISTENT CONTENT KEEPS YOUR FIRM TOP OF MIND
One of the biggest reasons lawyers miss out on referrals is that they aren’t consistently staying in touch with their past clients and referral partners. Your method of reaching out doesn’t necessarily need to be a newsletter. Social media, for example, was designed specifically for this purpose! Sure, you can use it to reach out to new people, but first and foremost, you should use it to keep in touch with your existing network. Every piece of content you share via social media, email, or print is a touchpoint that reminds your clients who you are and what you do, making them more likely to think of you when it’s referral time.

EDUCATIONAL CONTENT POSITIONS YOU AS AN EXPERT AND THE GO-TO LAWYER IN YOUR FIELD
To really maximize your referrals, you need to focus not only on whom your content is for, but what it’s saying about you. The content you put out should be focused specifically on the type of work you do and aim to answer common questions your clients have. In this case, being entertaining isn’t nearly as important as being informative. You can share information on cases you’ve won, for example, or updates on changes to the law in your practice areas. You can provide commentary, insights, and practical guidance in a variety of ways in your area of law, and you should take advantage of all of them!

If your content is relevant to your services, even a quick title scan should remind readers of what to refer you for. Your old clients are a lot more likely to remember that you do estate planning if they see an email about it in their inbox, and that will make it easier for the lightbulb to go off in their head when a family member, friend, or colleague needs help with it. On top of reminding readers what you do so that they know whom to point your way, educational content positions you as the expert in your field. If you’re sharing knowledge, people will perceive you as knowledgeable, and every social media post, website blog, and email newsletter will remind them of it.

That’s it! Increasing your referrals really is that simple. If you need help, get in touch with us today.

This is an excerpt from my book, A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Life, Not Just a Living: Ordinary lawyers doing extraordinary things.

Retirement. What does that word mean to you? Old or wise, laid back or charging ahead? Playing endless rounds of golf or attending endless board meetings?

Retirement has certainly been redefined; we’re working well beyond sixty-five. All we have to do is look to the Supreme Court as a prime example. According to Bloomberg, in an article by David Ingold, the projected age when a justice will leave the Supreme Court is now about eighty-three. That’s a ten-year increase from the 1950s. Wow, that’s ten additional years of being relevant and contributing to the decisions of our country’s most important issues.

Okay, I get it. Not many of you have an appointment for life—or do you? I think it depends on how you look at it. Have you had a lifetime of helping and mentoring, or a passion for the arts, or maybe volunteering to make life better for so many others?

My next lawyer has had a lifetime appointment. Quite frankly, I believe it’s in his DNA, and he couldn’t have done it any other way. John Kozyak was one of the founders of a bankruptcy and complex litigation firm more than thirty-six years ago, and is currently the chairman of the board of the Parkinson’s Foundation. He is the force behind the enormously successful Minority Mentoring Picnic that fosters diversity in the legal profession.

Black: John, where did your deep-seated commitment to diversity come from?

Kozyak: Well, I grew up in a totally segregated community in Southern Illinois, just a few miles from St. Louis. I graduated from high school in 1966 in a class of about nine hundred students, and not a single one of them was black. Of course, black was not a term used then, and where I grew up, I never understood the mean prejudice that was everywhere surrounding me.

My mother was the kindest, most wonderful woman I ever met. Surrounded by hate and prejudice, my mother was a quiet, small civil rights leader. Before 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was enacted, the bathrooms and restaurants in St. Louis were legally segregated. When we went there to go shopping, my mother chose to sit on the segregated side of the Woolworth’s soda fountain counter. I’ll never forget her courage when people would call her an n-lover, and that’s when it started that I thought I could make a difference, and I would try.

I never spoke to a black person or a colored person or Negro until I was in the Army after college, but some would say I made up for it since.

Black: Well, John, I certainly can attest to that. So how did you focus on diversity as a young lawyer?

Kozyak: When I became a lawyer in 1975, I got involved in recruiting, and heard far too often, “If we could only find a good one.” That was code for someone who spoke like a white person, was unbelievably bright, articulate, well-dressed, and would not make waves—in other words, somebody who was far, far better than the people we were hiring.

Black: How did you happen to start the Minority Mentoring Picnic?

Kozyak: The University of Miami Law School had a program in the nineties and I loved being a mentor. The law school dropped the program, and I decided to pick it up and expand it.

My wife, Barbara, and I hosted receptions in our backyard for black law students at UM for several years before we had our first picnic. And we didn’t initiate or invent black lawyers and black law students getting together for a picnic either; we just decided we could help.

We had two hundred people come the first year. Barbara and my law partner, Detra Shaw-Wilder, served food, cleaned up, sent my mentor out for more hot dogs and beers. People brought food. And it was my first time to get a sweet potato pie, and I knew we were on to something.

The picnic grew. When we realized that many of the lawyers signing up to be mentors werewhite women and Hispanic men and women, we decided the second year to include every minority. We actually started looking for gays, lesbians, transgenders, Muslims, Christians, Dominicans, Haitians, disabled, women, and everyone else who might need a boost.

Now I’m so very proud, and know my mother would be proud, that I feel that we have the best diversity-oriented event in Florida—maybe the country. We bring everyone together for a day, and then, maybe, a lifetime.

There are so many good stories that resulted from the picnic. You can see the young children— Muslim, white, Hispanic, Asian—all of them playing together, and their parents enjoying it, their parents meeting new people. I’ve become close friends with many of my mentees, and I know that we have made a difference.

Black: What was your vision for your third act and when did you start thinking about it?

Kozyak: Strangely, I first started talking about retirement in my early forties as a way to rationalize my crazy workaholic lifestyle. I would tell people that I’d retire by fifty, or maybe teach a few classes, to get them off my butt about working too much.

In my late fifties, my mother and then my father were both diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It’s then that I recognized that I didn’t control everything in my life. I decided to live my life as if I was going to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s any day.

When I was approaching sixty, I decided I could do more than bill hours and make money. I also thought I should make up for all the hours I spent at my desk, in court, or on a plane, or up in the middle of the night, worrying about clients instead of people who loved me and whom I love.

Fortunately for me, that included a number of people I had worked with my entire career. I have the best partners and staff imagined.

Black: So what did you do?

Kozyak: I also wanted to go out on top. I have boxes of plaques and awards. I don’t tout my accomplishments, which have been many. I’m one of a handful of lawyers who are Fellows in both the American College of Bankruptcy and the American College of Trial Lawyers. I decided to officially slow down and sell my equity back to the firm a year before the recession of 2008. I was tired of hustling for work, and I thought I might have lost a little off my fastball. Continue Reading An Interview With Bankruptcy Attorney John Kozyak: A Journey to a Fulfilling Third Act

There’s a stigma out there that says attorneys only care about getting every last cent they can out of people. And while that may be true if you’re an attorney who goes up against bigger corporations in court for big settlements, this notion typically doesn’t ring true for most attorneys, especially when they’re working with their own clients.

So how do you eliminate that stigma? By offering free information on your website. What does that look like? Well first, it’s easier to tell you what it doesn’t look like.

If your website is no more than a couple of pages that has your contact info, lists the areas of law you practice, and simply says “We can help,” then your website isn’t actually very helpful. It’s not highlighting your expertise and it isn’t addressing your visitors’ concerns. Instead, your website should have the following:

1. A Regularly Updated Blog

We’ve talked about this before, but having a regularly maintained blog with evergreen topics that cover your practice areas is a great way to provide information on your website. You don’t have to recreate chapters from your law school textbooks, but you can provide basic, surface-level overviews of a given issue and show that you’re the expert they can trust.

2. A Robust Video Library

For people who prefer watching videos to reading text, a video library is another great way to provide free information. Even more, video has a couple of psychological benefits that blogs can’t provide.

First, they break down any sort of barrier that exists between you and the client where they lose any intimidation they felt by you. They can now feel more comfortable around you knowing they can put a face and a sound to your name.
Second, the videos mentally prepare viewers for when they take the next step and come into your office for the consultation. Even if it’s just slightly, that extra preparedness will make your job easier.

3. A Newsletter Signup

Whether you have an email or print newsletter campaign, make sure there’s a way people can opt into it on your website. Then, if you’re doing your marketing right, they’ll receive your latest blog or video (or both!) in your next newsletter without them ever having to regularly check your website.

4. A Complimentary Download

This is a great way to capture leads on your website. Having a free download, such as a white paper or ebook, is arguably the biggest credibility booster you can have on your website. And here’s the thing: You don’t need to actually write a full-length book or legal brief. You can take one of your most evergreen blogs, expand it a little bit, and turn it into a free download. Anything more than 1,500 words becomes laborious for the reader.

If your website lacks one or all of these free resources, you risk having a website that isn’t living up to its fullest potential. If you’d like help implementing these features, give us a call today.

This is an excerpt from my book, A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Life, Not Just a Living: Ordinary lawyers doing extraordinary things.

When I talk to lawyers about finding a niche, there’s usually an audible groan. Most lawyers want to leave their options open. They say, “I can do a lot of things, so why not make a list that says that I can do them all?” Two reasons come to mind.

One is that a long list signals that you’re not an expert at any of them. And two, it’s hard to get referrals, because no one can remember what you do. It takes courage and vision to draw a line in the sand and declare your specialty—your little corner of the world, so to speak. And it requires tenacity to become known for that niche, so you need to enjoy it.

Not many lawyers have the courage, the vision, or the tenacity to become known for a specialty like Michelle Estlund. She will tell you how she found a niche she enjoys and became an authority in the area. Michelle Estlund is the most recognized Interpol defense lawyer in the world. Yes, I said world.

Black: Michelle, what was going on with your practice when you realized something needed to change?

Estlund: I had been practicing criminal defense for most of my career when I met you, and     I really enjoyed it, but I was also feeling complacent. I knew that I wanted to add something to my practice and grow it into a very complementary part of my life, rather than just have a job or even just a career.

And I remember that in our discussions you had told me several times about developing a niche practice and to kind of be on the lookout for that. I remember you encouraged me to focus on a very specific area. And I had heard this from other sources also, but it seemed like so many things related to criminal law were already saturated with specialty attorneys.

I knew that I loved criminal law. I loved human rights and politics. But I didn’t really honestly think I could mesh all those things together in a law practice that I both cared about and would be lucrative. I thought, that will just never happen.

Black: Explain how your “aha” moment came about.

Estlund: I remember that a client walked into my office with an Interpol case and asked if I could help. This client was wanted out of Venezuela. This was at a time when the Venezuelan government was nationalizing various industries—including the banking industry. And in order to obtain the assets being held by this particular bank, the government had issued arrest warrants for the heads of the bank and the people who were on the board of directors, including that particular client.

I started researching extensively, and what I realized was that there was no real in-depth treatment of Interpol anywhere online. I saw that even the attorneys who were advertising themselves as being experienced were in fact not, once you did a little bit of digging. Nobody was looking at this on a profound level and I realized I could do better than nobody.

Black: I remember what happened next.

Estlund: I told you, “I think I have an idea,” and I told you about the Interpol research I had done and the client that had approached me. And I remember you smiled and told me I had to give you my credit card so we could buy a URL and start a blog. I remember that I did take out my credit card and hand it to you, and I did not want to let go of it because I knew that once I did, that this thing was going to start—and that was really scary for me.

I remember that you told me, “You’ll be the leading expert on Interpol,” and I knew that you were a crazy person. And turns out that kind of ended up happening, didn’t it?

Black: What were the obstacles that almost stopped you?

Estlund: I think my primary limitation at that time was a concern or a fear of criticism. And this might sound odd coming from somebody who is a criminal defense trial attorney, who should be used to criticism and used to hearing no, but this was different for me, because it wasn’t a set of facts in a case that was presented to me, for me to protect and defend another person. This was for me, which is often more difficult. It was my writing, my thoughts, and my ideas. The idea of something that personal being critiqued was very challenging for me.

I wanted to start a blog that was geared toward other attorneys, potential clients, academics, and people like that with the goal of educating people about Interpol, establishing credibility for myself, I wanted to attract clients, of course, and I wanted to advocate for reform where it was needed. Like I said, part of what I wanted to do was advocate for reform of Interpol proceedings, and I was worried that people would think, well, who does she think she is? Why would we listen to this Miami lawyer over in Europe?

This is an international, quasi-legal organization, and I just didn’t feel that I had the gravitas that I needed in order to effect change.

Also, I was worried more personally for my practice—that if I publicized myself as being a specialist or focusing in a niche practice, people would think that that’s all I could do, that I’m a one-trick pony. So those were my concerns.

Black:What was your strategy?

Estlund: In terms of strategy, I can’t say that I had a specific strategy thought out, other than I knew who my target audience was going to be, and I knew that I wanted to serve as a source of information that wasn’t otherwise readily available. And I hoped that consistent blogging about my topic would also force me to stay on my toes, and it has.

Black: So what did you learn, and how did you muster up the courage?

Estlund: I eventually accepted that no one knows everything, even experts. And I remembered my favorite, most well respected professors and mentors throughout my life all had something in common. It was that they didn’t back away from saying “I don’t know,” because they loved what they did, and they knew how to go find out the information that they needed. I knew I could do that too.

I also realized that we can’t wait until we’re not afraid to act. It’s not brave if you’re not scared. Even the most seasoned attorneys are afraid of something. For me, it’s not judges, it’s not juries, it’s not law enforcement officers, and it’s not public speaking. For me, what I was really afraid of was writing about something I cared about and having it not be perfect in public and online. Continue Reading An Interview With Michelle Estlund: How She Found a Niche

If you’ve been following us for a while, then you know we offer our clients social media marketing. However, we also understand the drive many lawyers feel to try their hand at managing their business’s online persona themselves. If you’re tackling your firm’s social media presence alone, try these two proven strategies to make the process as easy and effective as possible.

1. ESTABLISH A BUSINESS PRESENCE

You’d be surprised just how many law firm owners neglect to make separate pages for their firms, instead relying on their personal social media accounts for marketing. We always recommend making separate business accounts, starting with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This will help you separate your business life from your personal life and give you a second way to reach people. For efficiency, we suggest starting with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn because you can share photos, videos, or text on all three platforms, making it easy to cross-post.

Pro Tip: Once you’ve established your core accounts, you can start building your firm’s presence on Instagram. Create a business account. Then, every once in a while, shoot a video or take a behind-the-scenes snapshot at the office. Stick with simple subjects and short captions—don’t overthink it!

2. CREATE A SHARING FORMULA

In a previous post, we shared our strategy for turning one piece of content into over 35 pieces. To do it, set content benchmarks for each week. How many times are you going to share your blog posts, links to your website, or inspirational quotes? Nail down numbers for each objective so you can just “plug and play” to stay consistent. Remember—you can share the same post multiple times on different platforms or with different captions. Aim for content balance with a mix of media types, and don’t forget to throw some fun posts, like inspirational quotes, in the mix for interest.

Pro Tip: Spend a couple dollars to boost every post you make on Facebook. More people will see your content, and that exposure is worth the price. Using these strategies, you’ll be able to put your brand on the map. If you’d like backup implementing them or want to take things to the next level, contact us today.

The following is an excerpt from my book,  A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Life, Not Just a Living: Ordinary lawyers doing extraordinary things.

Everyone knows that success in business is in direct correlation with the relationships one fosters. In the legal profession, relationships have been the foundation of building a practice or a career path. It was the only option before lawyers were allowed to advertise and certainly before social media.

Many internet marketers beat the drum about SEO and pay-per-click advertising. They have their place in a modern business development strategy, but they will never replace a good old-fashioned relationship.

So how do you build relationships that matter? One of the ways is to listen—be present. You never know where a seemingly insignificant conversation may lead. To listen is the greatest gift you can give another human being. We all know the feeling we get when someone isn’t listening. It’s dismissive and demeaning, certainly not conducive to building relationships.

There is a secret to building relationships that matter, relationships that are genuine and authentic. It’s about looking for opportunities to connect on common ground.

I spoke with a lawyer that is a master relationship builders. Clarissa Rodriguez is a shining example of why building relationships is the key to a practice you love. She’s a commercial litigator and an international arbitrator. She describes herself as becoming Indiana Jones.

Black: So Clarissa, I am dying to hear the backstory of you becoming Indiana Jones.

Rodriguez: Well, believe it or not, Indiana Jones raised me. I can recite any line from any of the first three films cold. At age nine, I boldly declared to my parents that I’d be an archeologist when I grew up. Instead of being proud or impressed, my parents were practical. They reminded me I didn’t like the outdoors. I’d prove them wrong and try to camp in our backyard, but I wouldn’t make it to sundown. Archeology seemed out of the question.

Despite the setback, I found myself taking church history courses, art classes, and getting a minor in anthropology in college. I didn’t, however, become an archeologist. I became an attorney.

My practice area has always been international. Miami being the hub between Latin America and Europe has afforded me the chance to work with international clients on cross-border investments, international arbitration, and litigation.

This focus drew me to professional organizations for international practitioners, like the Miami International Arbitration Society and the Florida Bar International Law Section. I volunteered for everything to get involved, and it paid off. Within a few years, I found myself voted on the executive council of the International Law Section, and later onto the executive board. I’m slated to become the fourth woman president of the International Law Section in thirty-eight years.

Every year, the International Law Section hosts a premier conference in Miami, titled the iLaw. The iLaw 2017 invited world renowned Donald S. Burris to be the keynote speaker. Mr. Burris’s work was characterized in the movie Woman in Gold.

As you may know, Woman in Gold is a film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, about Holocaust survivor Maria Altmann’s fight against the Austrian government to retrieve a series of Nazi-looted art taken from her family during World War II. It happens that Maria’s family had commissioned the artist Gustav Klimt to paint the portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer. He painted what would be called Woman in Gold, also known as Austria’s Mona Lisa.

Maria Altmann’s quest was to get back her family’s art collection. She hired a friend of the family, Randy Schoenberg. He was a solo practitioner renting a cubicle in the same building as Don Burris.

Black: Neither Randy nor Mr. Burris were big firm lawyers?

Rodriguez: No, neither. Amazing, right? Randy and Mr. Burris had been friends for years. Mr. Burris bumped into Randy in the elevator of his office building. He asked Randy what was going on and catching up, when Randy mentioned he had opened up his own firm and needed help with the Altmann case. Don agreed to help.

Black: So did either of them have experience in restituting looted art?

Rodriguez: No. Neither of them had experience retrieving art from anyone, much less looted art. Together they sued the Austrian government, and fought for eleven years to retrieve the artwork. They successfully argued before the Supreme Court and won the right to sue the Austrian government.

Once they had the right to sue Austria, they engaged in an international arbitration and won. The Austrian government was compelled to return the entire collection to the Altmann family, consisting of eleven pieces of art, setting the precedent for this kind of work.

The movie Woman in Gold chronicles the legal battle. And since then, Mr. Burris has become the preeminent legal expert in the field of looted art and its restitution. Hearing this, I knew I would enjoy his talk at the conference.

Black: How did it come about that you met Mr. Burris?

Rodriguez: The International Law Section was hosting an opening ceremony cocktail party for the iLaw conference, and I was asked to entertain Mr. Burris and his wife, a California couple in their seventies, and make them feel welcome. I was hooked.

Mr. Burris and his wife invited me to dinner, and by the end of the night, I had an invitation to their home in Los Angeles. We became instant friends, and he insisted I call him Don.

The next day, at the conference, his speech “From Tragedy to Triumph: Altmann, Benningson, and the Pursuit of Looted Art” was a splash of cold water on me. His work was impressive, inherently noble, and utterly captivating. For days I couldn’t stop thinking about Don’s lecture. It was an adrenaline rush.

Fast forward to a few days later, when you and I had our follow-up meeting to develop my practice. You knew I had lots of international work experience. And I remember we were trying to find the right one to explore and focus on. Casually, I mentioned the conference and began talking about Don, and suddenly your eyes widened. You screamed, and “Wait, stop!” Remember?

Black: Oh, yes, I do.

Rodriguez: You asked, “Why didn’t you start our session with this? Are you listening to what you’re saying?”

Honestly, no. I was telling you about meeting this amazing man with this incredible practice. And what you heard was me discuss the invitation to dinner, the invitation to visit in LA, and the invitation to stay in touch. It had not occurred to me that these invitations meant something. You recognized I had a connection with Don because of our mutual passion and his area of practice. It was international, historical, and unique; it was exactly what I wanted to do. Continue Reading An Interview with Litigator Clarissa Rodriguez: How I Became Indiana Jones

This article originally appeared in Forbes.com.

Work-life balance is a phrase we’re all familiar with, but what does it really mean? Does anyone know?

I don’t believe in balance. I believe in harmony. We’ve got one life to live, and work is part of our life, just like the time with our families is part of our life. The time we spend running errands, driving in the car, pursuing our hobbies — it’s all part of our life.

I don’t like the word “balance.” To me, it conjures up an image of a seesaw on the playground, with children scrambling around to make sure that each side is weighted exactly the same. It’s not realistic. If, by chance, everything aligns and you achieve balance, it’s not sustainable. That’s just not how life works.

Work doesn’t fit into a neat little bundle, and neither does your family, and neither do your hobbies. Trying to “balance” it all out doesn’t make sense. Instead, I believe in creating harmony throughout our lives: harmony among your career, your family, your personal hobbies and your friends.

Here are three steps to make this happen:

1. Don’t let anyone else tell you what your life should look like. 

Too many people spend their lives trying to meet the expectations of other people. Sometimes it’s our parents or boss. Sometimes it’s our friends or neighbors. Sometimes it’s colleagues.

Here’s the truth: It’s your life, not theirs. You’re the only person who gets to define success, and your opinion is the only one that really counts. You don’t have to dedicate your life to climbing the corporate ladder if you don’t want to. You don’t have to drive a Mercedes. You don’t have to have kids. You don’t have to settle down in the suburbs. None of these are bad things. If you want some or all of that and you attain it, that’s amazing. What’s important is that you don’t spend your life trying to meet other people’s expectations of what your life should look like.

You’re the only person who gets to decide that.

2. Define the goals and priorities that truly matter to you.  

Now that we’re clear that you are in the driver’s seat of your own life, the next step is to honestly and clearly define the goals and priorities that matter to you.

What do you want to accomplish? For example, do you want to make partner at your law firm? Or maybe go out and start your own company? Raise a large family? Travel the world? Be honest with yourself: What do you really want your life to look like?

Then, reflect on your priorities. What’s important to you and how do you want to spend your time? Your priorities might be time with your family, time spent pursuing personal hobbies, time with your friends, time building your business or whatever else fuels you.

There are no right or wrong answers. All that matters is that you’re honest with yourself about what’s really important in your life.

3. Get creative and ‘integrate’ your life. 

Once you’ve defined what you want your life to look like, the next step is making it a reality. The truth is, if you’re willing to think outside the box and get creative, you’ll be surprised at the harmony you can develop.

For example, I live and serve clients primarily in Miami, but I have family in Denver. For years I struggled to “balance” those two realities. And then it hit me one day: Integrate. So I began to develop a book of business in Denver, and now I coach clients there — and also get to spend quality time with my mom.

What does this look like for you? How can you integrate your life?

I have a client who’s a licensed pilot and loves to fly. He integrates this passion with his work by flying his plane all across the state to meet with clients.

Perhaps getting involved in your child’s school is important to you, but you’re also building a business. Can you use your child’s school events as an opportunity to network with other parents and potentially develop business?

What are your goals, what are your priorities, and how can you shape your life in order to create harmony?

You’ve got one life to live, so live it your way. 

Our time is too precious to waste conforming to the expectations other people have for us. What really matters is what you want your life to look like. If you’re willing to be honest with yourself and define your goals, I believe that with some creativity, you can create real harmony in your life.

Not balance, but harmony.

That’s a goal worth pursuing.

Are you struggling to charge what you deserve? Raising your rates can be tricky, and right now, it might seem particularly tough or even insensitive to consider. That’s because, as we write this, our economy is in the very early stages of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. However, not only do you deserve to be paid well for your work, but ensuring you can charge a reasonable amount could also make the difference in keeping your own family and firm safe in the long run.

So, let’s dive right in! As I’m sure you know by now, content is a powerful tool. It can touch pretty much every aspect of your firm, and that includes your rates. If that seems impossible, consider this: Great content will build your reputation, positioning you as the expert and the go-to thought leader in your practice area. And when you’re seen as an expert, you can charge like an expert.

This outcome hinges on having a steady stream of the right kind of content. Most importantly, it has to be educational and relevant. You need to appear to be the sage on your topic, offering wisdom and advice to readers that answer the questions they’ve already been asking in their heads. Nothing is more compelling for a reader than finding all of the answers they need in one place—whether that’s your blog, your website, your podcast, or your social media platforms. Ideally, all of these spaces should be full of educational content.

That said, you don’t need to do an insanely deep dive into every topic you discuss to prove you’re educated. Remember, your average reader likely doesn’t know a lot about your practice area — you aren’t writing for other lawyers in your field here. As long as you focus on the things you do, stay on topic, and offer some useful information, you’ll effectively build your reputation and give yourself the brand boost you need to raise your rates.

Here at Spotlight Branding, we’ve had multiple lawyers we work with tell us that because of their content changes, people have started coming in to their consults more ready to move forward. These new clients are excited to work with them because of what they’ve seen about their firm online. And at the end of the day, the more in demand you are, the more you can charge.

When you’re ready to actually raise your rates, the smartest way to go is implementing an annual or semiannual rate increase. Whatever timeline you choose, scheduling these increases will motivate you to keep putting out great content and doing your best work. You’ll feel like you deserve the increase, and the more targeted, top-quality content you put out, the less resistant your clients and prospects will be.

In fact, raising your rates will soon start working with your content to improve your reputation—people expect the best lawyers to charge a bit more and could get suspicious if your services and price seem too good to be true.

We’ve seen solo and small law firms charge rates all over the spectrum, from $200 an hour to $600 an hour. We’re not saying you need to be at the top of that spectrum to succeed, or that you have to be in the middle, but you should be charging a rate you’re comfortable with. Don’t undersell yourself or listen to the people who say you need to be in a huge firm to charge what you deserve. With the right content strategy, you can make it happen — and we are here to help. To learn more about how we can build the perfect content strategy together, contact us today.

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