Are You Tongue Tied?

I follow lots of people in the on line world and one of my favorites is Chris Brogan of  Here’s some information about Chris (directly from his site:)

Chris Brogan is President of New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency, as well as the home of the New Marketing Summit conferences and New Marketing Bootcamp educational events. He works with large and mid-sized companies to improve online business communications like marketing and PR through the use of social software, community platforms, and other emerging web and mobile technologies

Pretty straight forward – as is Chris.

Now, the reason for this post is because Chris recently wrote in his blog:  27 Things To Do Before A Conference.  As I’m headed off to Chicago for a conference in April, Chris’ post couldn’t come at a better time.  While all the information he provides is helpful, of particular interest to me and what I wanted to highlight for you is this entry:

#24  If you’ve got a business offer to promote at an event, practice and practice and practice how you’re going to talk about it. Be crisp. Make it easy to say. Be very clear about the ask. If you’re looking for people to review your demo, then make that the ask. If you’re looking for work, be clear that you’re available for a few extra projects. It seems that lots of folks beat around the bush or don’t exactly know how to have a beginning, middle, and end to a conversation.

I find that lots of people who are in business do not understand the importance of being able to answer normal, business type questions – what do you do, how do you do it, how much do you charge – and sound like a coherent, intelligent person (meaning not stumbling through scattered information in sentences laden with uhhhs and ummms).  Even if there is no networking event or trade show to attend, every e-preneur needs to be able to speak about their business.

It’s not that I don’t understand why…. I attribute it to the fact that e-preneurs spend a lot of time in the first few years on development.  Generally, working alone for one or two clients while putting in place the processes and tech their budding business needs to be in business and, of course, grow.  This means, e-preneurs don’t spend much time in the first few years talking to anyone not already familiar with them and their business, service or product.  Hence, no need to develop the lingo.

This is why I always suggest to newbie VAs and fledgling e-preneurs that they write out a list of the “normal” business questions they will be asked.  You know, the stuff they would ask of someone else if they were doing the hiring.  Then draft 1-3 sentence responses.  Some questions may require more information – but the goal is to deliver the answer in as few words as possible – keeping the answer somehow memorable, if possible.

Once the words are written, it is just a matter of practice.  I encourage literally speaking the sentences out loud, and refining the responses until each rolls off the tongue with ease.

For those who prefer a live audience to practice on, look to ToastMasters International – a true not for profit group with a mission to help ordinary people speak better and become better leaders. There are ToastMasters clubs in 100+ countries and you can find one near you by visiting the main site:

Original post date March 18, 2009

Wanna Get Paid?

Every little bit counts!

In reading: Keeping the Cash Flowing: A Dozen Tips for Getting Clients to Pay More Promptly by Lawyer turned Coach Debra Bruce

I noticed the number one thing I tell attorneys to do in order to keep the cash flowing was not listed.

My number one rule to getting paid regularly is to bill regularly.  Set a deadline (mine is the 7th of each month) and no matter what else is exploding around you – get the bills out by that date.

This does two things:

  1. cements with clients that when you say you’re going to do something, you do (in a way that is not directly involved in their matter); and
  2. gets each client in the habit of accepting, reviewing and paying your invoices on a schedule.

You can facilitate payment by accepting credit cards, so long as you play by the rules re: your trust account. This is why I recommend  Long-standing player in the “legal” world, LawCharge is owned by an attorney who knows the ins and outs of the merchant account world the way you do a courtroom or the law library.

I understand just how hard it is to be solo – to have to do it all and how being solo makes some routine tasks infinitely more difficult.  A standard “where’s my payment” call can easily turn into an hour long discussion about everything when all you wanted to know was when you would be paid.

This is why my second tip would be to find and build a relationship with a bookkeeper or virtual assistant, then routine billing and follow up payment reminder calls can be competently performed by someone else –  freeing up your time and removing potential stress on the attorney-client relationship should the money not be flowing as quickly as you would like.

FYI, this is not a commercial for LegalTypist as she does not offer bookkeeping nor collection (or any other) calls.  If I had a good contact in legal to recommend for the bookkeeping, I would.  Unfortunately, the best virtual bookkeeper I know – @CandyTX at – prefers not to work with attorneys … something about how they can be difficult.  Who … what…  attorneys?!

Original post date: August 20, 2011



Lawyers are not known for brevity, but LegalZoom can be summed up in two words: It sucks.

LegalZoom purports to help its unwitting customers avoid paying for lawyers by allowing users to prepare their own documents. While LegalZoom clearly warns that it is not offering legal services, it creates the misconception that for important matters like wills and incorporations attorneys aren’t necessary. Per LegalZoom, a client doesn’t need estate planning, it simply needs a will, which LegalZoom reduces to a glorified MadLib. Granted, a testamentary document replete with mentions of sexual organs, dirty words, and excretory references will probably lighten the mood at the reading. It’s also highly inappropriate, and not just because the decedent should not be allowed to bequeath his testicles to Aunt Betty.

For new businesses, LegalZoom treats incorporating not as a tool for owners but as an end itself. There’s no lawyer to explain why one might want a corporation or what entity ownership entails. Because new entrepreneurs often confuse the act of incorporating with the process of starting a business (unaware that the former is merely one small step in the latter), they generally don’t recognize and can’t use the entity as a tool for mitigating risks. By suggesting that a lawyer isn’t necessary to start a business, LegalZoom reinforces the misconception that incorporating by itself is enough.

In sum, LegalZoom encourages people to think of attorneys as glorified meter maids: Functionaries whose sole job is to complete paperwork that needlessly costs money. It feeds off the notion that all attorneys are nitpicky, word-twisting, morally compromised, overdressed, bottom-feeding sleazewads who defend killers like O.J. Simpson (which is ironic considering that ‘Dream Team’ alumnus Robert Shapiro is one of its founders). LegalZoom is to legal services what McDonald’s is to cuisine. Both are inexpensive and quickly satisfy a perceived need. They also do tremendous damage that often goes unseen until it’s way too late. If you eat enough fast food, you start to look like Grimace, the obnoxious, eggplant-shaped, morbidly obese purple blob that used to appear in McDonald’s commercials until he died either of a massive coronary or an allergic reaction to whatever it is in McDonald’s French fries that preserves them like petrified wood. LegalZoom erroneously suggests that the value in legal services is in the documents themselves. They provide their business customers with pages of useless garbage that look nice and official sitting on a bookshelf. However, if you get into an argument with a cofounder, have a dispute with a vendor, are trying to raise investment capital, or need something other than a pretty binder with a bunch of printed pages, you almost never have the resources required to proceed. Like a McDonald’s customer who gobbled down one too many Big Macs, someone must open everything up to clean the mess, and it’s expensive, time-consuming, unpleasant, completely unnecessary if you’d just gotten something better in the first place . . . and known to cause explosive diarrhea.

The value in legal services is in the advice and guidance that an attorney provides. The documents are almost an afterthought; they only codify the decisions clients have made in conjunction with counsel. Provided properly, business lawyers are a value-added service. Whether by protecting a company from lawsuits and regulatory actions, prescribing an easy remedy for ownership disputes, or just letting a founder sleep better at night knowing that his investment is protected to the extent possible, good counsel is not just a cost of doing business. LegalZoom is . . . and it is often a steep price to pay.

5 tweets for #legal peeps

  1. ILTA podcast re: Future Staffing  a conversation about people, process and technology in the real world. One of my fav peeps – @jeffrey_brandt – shares several insights on working the day to day in any sized law firm environment.
  2. Me too! Thanks! RT @jmerritt: Useful link. Just deleted my own history (using DuckDuckGo searches now too). @bcrypt here is the link to go and delete your Google-tracked online activity:
  3.  It was just a question of time (really, really) – 2 serious #LastPass bugs revealed, another on the way 
  4.  Are you a #Mac using attorney hungry for a pure-Mac tech legal conference? Check out <-now in its 9th year
  5.  RT @LegalTypist: RT @ScottMalouf: Who’s responsible for stopping live-streamed crimes?

Why Dictate?

Simple. To get more stuff done with less effort.

It’s not just “documents” when you dictate – if you can intelligently formulate a request and speak it – you can delegate it and get it off your to do.  In his groundbreaking work Getting Things Done, David Allen lists “dictation” as one way to get what is in your head out and useable.  I agree.

I remember reading a stat that said speaking is 7x faster than hand writing and 4x faster than keyboarding for the average typist.  In other words, you can speak much faster than you can write or type.

Here’s the catch – even if you type fast – with more than 4 fingers – do you want to be the only person charged with creating the documents, spreadsheets, reports, letters, stipulations, and all the other “documents” required to run the firm?

I’ve heard it a million times – “I think while I’m drafting/typing”. To that I say – right – you’re thinking while drafting – now send the thoughts through your mouth, instead of your fingers!

There’s other reasons why typing while “drafting” can work against you.  For instance, the tendency to self-edit not only constantly interrupts the creative part of the drafting process, it certainly increases the amount of time it takes to get the job (an initial draft) done.

And what about all that typing which isn’t “drafting”? Things like entering time and billing, contacts and calendar entries? Then there’s also all that administrative typing – which is a lot more data entry type of work – do you  like being the only person who has to do it all … all of the time?

The solution is as easy as asking. That’s what dictation truly is — asking someone to put keystrokes on a page, or data into a form, or to get a task done.

Dictation works so well, it has been a business process mainstay literally for centuries.  From boss/thinker/employer to assistant/secretary/person that makes it so – for so long as there have been bosses, there have been those running behind taking notes and getting the work done.

It was in the 1970’s that the process went from a boss speaking their needs to another human being frantically scribbling in Gregg or Pittman (steno) to recorded on tape and the productivity gains were enormous and immediate!   Attorneys and professionals could get their work done from anywhere – so long as they had their recorder, fresh tapes and batteries; and staff could spend more time at their desks, plugged in and working independently of their attorneys.

Tape vs. Digital

Tape based dictation was a definite improvement to the business process of dictation.  Not only did it liberate lawyers from their offices, assistants were no longer tied up for hours “taking dictation” and office tasks and responsibilities, including making calls, speaking with clients/adversaries/clerks and the courts, following up on things could all easily be recorded for the assistant to fit into the flow of the work that day.  If there was a priority – she would be asked to hunt for it on the tape – or the rush would be dictated onto a new tape.

While recorded dictation was an improvement to the process, it still left one huge problem:  the tape.

Tapes have issues – the first and foremost is that a tape is a physical something that requires a physical transfer – either everyone in the same location; someone driving into the office to leave  on their assistant’s chair; or through the use of couriers and overnight mail.

There’s also the physical things which can happen to a tape – it can get mangled, broken, or lost.

Also, as illustrated in the example of the rush job above, tapes are linear and not a good medium for the management of the work contained on them.

What Do You Need To Dictate?

Seriously not much! Used to be you had to have expensive equipment – recorders and the transcription machines were required to complete the process.  Now an inexpensive app on a smartphone is all that is needed to use the power of your voice to get things done!

For those transitioning from tape based dictation to digital – I recommend you get a unit with a slide switch. Professional dictation equipment ranges  in price from $250.00 for the button controlled units to about $500.00 for those with a slide switch.  Along with the recorder, software is provided for the transfer of the digital file created by the unit to a computer, generally through a USB cable or a cradle.

Dictating is straight forward and quite similar to an analog (tape) recorder. When purchasing a unit, note button size, shape and location. Be certain that the unit is not so small, or button placement so awkward that it is uncomfortable to use. Also be certain that the recorder has all the functions needed. Some less expensive recorders, for instance, do not have the ability to transfer the file, making them useless for dictation purposes.

Another option is digital dictation software which turns a computer into a dictation machine.  As with many types of software, development of digital dictation applications range from basic to the extremely comprehensive and industry specific. Most dictation software has a free trial period (usually thirty days) and can be downloaded directly from a developer’s website.

Last is my favorite way to set up clients of LegalTypist – the app Dictate + Connect.  Download this app to your Apple or Android device, and for less than $20, have the ability to dictate on you all the time!  Unlike apps for speech recognition or Siri – Dictate+Connect is a true dictation tool; does not send your files to their servers or scan any content; and can be set-up to automatically transfer files to your assistant or typing service.

How To Dictate:

Just as you do not innately know how to use a computer, or write, dictation is a learned skill. For those just starting out, here are a few tips:

  • Organize your thoughts and documents before you begin. Some find it helpful to make an outline prior to starting their dictations.
  • Do not begin speaking for at least 1-2 seconds after you have pressed the “record” button and do not press the “stop” button for at least 1-2 seconds after you have completed your final syllable.
  • Begin your dictation by letting the typist know what s/he can expect.  Specify the type of document you would like prepared and how you would like that document to be formatted (as a letter, memo to file, pleading, etc.)
  • Speak clearly and slowly and be sure to clearly articulate unfamiliar words, names or terms d’art.  Which you should also spell.
  • When spelling out words, say the word, spell it, then say it again.  When it comes to spelling, it is important to articulate letters in the alphabet that sound similar, such as “m” and “n”.
  • Any special commands, such as underlining or bold, say before the words.  So give the command: “begin bold” blah blah blah and to end the command, say: “end bold”.  Example:

This is an example.

You would say: “bold centered this is an example period end bold.”

  • It is better to give commands before the words you want affected. So Getting Things Done would be dictated as: “begin italics, initial cap, getting things done… end italics”.
  • Dictate punctuation such as “period”, “comma” and “new paragraph”.
  • When dictating numbers always say zero instead of “o”.

Dictating Numbers

0 is always “zero” not “o” or “oh”
1,000 one thousand
1967 nineteen sixty seven
3.17 three point one seven
52,487 fifty two thousand four hundred eighty seven

Common Dictation Commands:

. period ( open parentheses
, comma ) close parentheses
: colon ; semicolon
new paragraph ? Indent
@ at symbol & ampersand
§ section symbol / slash

Special formatting:



Say: “heading bold centered underlined all caps – to get this heading style – new paragraph”

Numbered Paragraphs

Numbered paragraphs are common, especially in legal.  You can say: “Next numbered paragraph” – rather than keeping track of each paragraph.  Additionally, you should instruct your assistant to use automatic paragraph numbering –  “Please use automatic paragraph numbering” will suffice.  This way, should you make revisions that impact the numbers, the numbers will automatically adjust.


Legal case sites are either underlined or italicized.  If you explain your preference at the start of the dictation, your transcriptionist will already know which to use and you can just dictate each cite without the instructions.


A quote is usually surrounded by quotation marks.  “If this is what I wanted.” I would say “open quote if this is what I wanted period end quote”

If a quote is more than a line and half long, it should be indented.  Once indented, a quote does not require quotation marks.  All quotes should give a cite.  This cite is not contained within the indent.  For example:

I’m quoting myself saying this stuff to you.  I’ve decided to ramble on much longer than a line in explaining this concept.  Now I’ve created a quote too long to be left as part of the text.  This is what it looks like when it’s indented.

Andrea Cannavina, Digital Dictation 101.

To get this type of quote, you’d say:

“Quote.  Single space, indent both margins.  Here’s where the language goes … return to margin. Andrea Cannavina, Digital Dictation 101”.

With time, every dictator improves and becomes comfortable dictating.

Digital dictation is the way to work in the here and now—and all the way into the future.

It can be used to immediately modernize and simplify the workflow of an entire office.  Digital dictation will save you time and money and increase the overall productivity of everyone.  If you’ve never used dictation, you can reap the same level of reward as when the process jumped from human to tape – and become immediately mobile and able to process work not only away from your office – but away from your keyboard too!