Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eleven Marketing Ideas For A Changing Economy

Marketing Your Law Firm In An Ever Changing and Challenging Environment

The following advice came from Gregory Brown, Esq in his presentation to the LMA Association of Southern California. Some is common sense while some may be things your firm is not doing at the present time. Either way, it is critical during these times to constantly remind ourselves the key role that marketing plays.

Eleven Marketing Ideas For A Changing Economy

The three ways a firm can achieve increased marketing results are:

  • Quadruple the marketing budget
  • Contact every client and prospective client every week
  • Spend all waking or at least all working hours marketing to the exclusion of practicing law.

So said Gregory Brown, Esq. of the law firm of Kring & Brown, facetiously when he spoke at the January meeting of the LMA of Southern California.

Acknowledging that these methods were unrealistic, particularly in the current challenging economic environment, Mr. Brown went on to suggest some manageable marketing ideas. His viewpoints were of interest to the chapter because he is a founding partner in a mid-size firm with offices in Southern California and Las Vegas. The firm is known for their stylish ads in business publications and their Thanksgiving weekend charitable golf tournament.

The first step is to define your business. What type of firm are you? What type of work do you do? More specifically, what are your “key” practice areas? Which practice area do you want to expand? Whichcan you expand based on factors such as availability of desired work and the necessary expertise and manpower to handle the increase of clients and cases.

Next, list your goals, both short term and long term in writing , identifying specific steps to achieve each one. Share them with everyone in the firm. All attorneys and staff like to know what the firm's goals are so they can each contribute in their own way to reaching them. Most importantly, “don't bite off more than you can chew!” he advised. Be reasonable about your resources of time, talent and budget.

Define your target audience. Who are your potential clients? How do you reach them? What do they do? Where are they located? What do they read? What trade associations do they belong to? Who do they work with? And most importantly, why do they need you? Understand why your target audience truly needs YOUR services.

Don't forget your current clients. Everyone has heard of the 80/20 Rule: that 80% of business comes from 20% of your clients. Believe it and don't forget to cross market other services to your existing clients.

Make a plan. It should be a firmwide marketing plan with multiple contributors who will buy in to the stated goals. Also, the attorneys should write individual marketing plans. These should be fluid road maps referred to often but changeable based on what efforts bring the best results.

Make a budget. How much of your budget will be dedicated to advertising? Promotion of each practice area? Once you start tracking, you can eventually determine which practice areas provide the largest amount of gross revenue and best profit margin. Increased marketing affects the profit margin. Remember, no new marketing campaign makes money immediately. It takes time.

Focus your efforts. Don't attend a 2-day marketing boot camp training session and try to implement everything the first ten minutes you return to your office full of enthusiasm. Slowly introduce new things.

Track your successes. Determine how your marketing hours and dollars are paying off in new business. Keep your tracking simple:

· Responses from ads can be tracked by the receptionist.
· Referrals appear on a new client information sheet.
· Document responses from articles.
· Have a guest book sign-in on your web site.
· Collect business cards from speaking engagements and trade association participation.
· Allocate special event costs to whichever branch reaps the majority of the benefit.

Create a Buzz. Become a name your target audience recognizes. “It pays to advertise” within your budget.

Even if a solo or small firm can't advertise in a business journal, they can have a recurring ad in a well-targeted trade association directory.

Submit articles to the publications your target clients read. Speak at their organization meetings.

Be the expert they reference and remember.

Sponsor organization meetings, but be involved enough to create long term relationships that will lead to business or referrals.

Repeat contact will create recognition of your firm as the go-to attorneys for your key practice area.

Follow up. Recognize and respond to referrals. Minimize the effects of any lost dot.com clients or any other business areas in a current downturn. If you do bankruptcy work, market the practice more right now to take advantage of the current opportunities.

Don't be shortsighted. Cutting people or slashing budgets in this changing economy will not bring in more business. Increase your marketing results by being more selective based on your past successes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Credit Repair: What It Is and Why You May Need It


Your
Credit, Your Money, Your Life.

Special Report About Credit And How It Effects Yo



Credit report information

Details about your financial behavior and identification information are
contained in your personal credit report. This consumer-friendly report
is sometimes called a credit file/report or a credit bureau. A copy of
your credit report makes it easy for you to understand the information
a lender would be seeing if they review your credit history. The typical
consumer credit report includes four types of information.


By law, a credit report cannot disclose certain medical information (relating to physical, mental,
or behavioral health or condition). Although they do not generally collect
such information, it could appear in the name of a data furnisher (i.e.,
"Cancer Center") that reports your payment history however. If so, those
names display in your report, but in reports to others they display only
as medical payment data. Consumer statements included on your report at
your request that contain medical information are disclosed to others.


Public record information in some states may also include overdue child support. Bankruptcy information can remain on your credit report up to 10 years; unpaid tax liens can
remain for up to 15 years; other public record information can remain
up to seven years.




Credit information includes specific account information, such as the date opened, credit
limit or loan amount, balance and monthly payment and payment pattern.
The report also states whether anyone besides you (a joint account holder
or cosigner, for example) is responsible for paying the account. Active
positive credit information may remain on your report indefinitely, while
most negative information remains up to seven years. The most important
factors to look for on your credit report are as follows:


  • Account Name/Number
  • Balance
  • Status (Collection,
    Chargeoff, Previously Late, Paid, etc.)
  • Credit agencies
    listing the item
  • Imortant Dates
    (Open date, Close Date, Activity dates)
Most important above all is your credit score. This number gives you a indication of your "credit
health".

  • 300-499 - Terrible
  • 500-599 - Poor
  • 600-650 - Fair
  • 650-699 - Good
  • 700-850 - Excellent
Personal information
is also contained in your report and can include your name, current and
previous addresses, telephone number, reported variations of your Social
Security number, date of birth and current and previous employers.




Two main factors determine your overall credit strength and are considered by all lenders and creditors
before approving you for a specific rate. The worse these two factors
are, the worse rate you get, or the more often you will be turned down
all together for loans and credit lines:


  • Credit Score (as
    determined by your both your positive and negative credit history)
  • Debt to Income
    Ratio
No one can improve your debt to income ratio, only you can. It basically means how much money
you make versus how much you already have credit you have extended



If you have a low credit score however, this will also be one of the biggest reasons why
you will always pay more to get less. Or worse, why you will get denied
for the loan, or credit line you want. It is so important to your financial
health to raise your credit score and improve your credit situation if
you have poor or even just a few marks against you on your credit report.

You will save more
(tens of thousands over a period of years) and you will always be able
to have more than someone with poor credit. It's just a simple truth.

There are several
ways you can raise your credit score and improve your credit. The most
popular and by far the fastest is to use a trusted credit repair service.

After
many requests to research the top credit repair companies available online,
this is what we found... There are many options available and it does
not surprise us to see many “every day” people get taken by false claims
and empty promises. If you're unhappy with your credit, and you’re looking
for a little help, then you’ll be glad to know that we’ve saved you the
time, and bypassed the headaches of looking for the best affordable option.

DSI Solutions, a recognized leader in credit repair, has put together one of the most
complete solutions for repairing your credit we’ve been able to find anywhere.
They take care of everything for you. EVERYTHING. After a little research
we discovered that the company has over 7 years experience, amazing proven
results, and 30,000 satisfied customers. They have legally repaired over
100,000 credit reports and their clients see results within the first
60 days. And if that’s not enough, we recently received an email from
the company and this week they are offering a special promotion for all
new clients. We highly recommend you check them out, and we've managed
to give you a head start on their promotion, so take advantage of it.
Visit their website here to get all the details.


This is recommended to anyone who has bad credit, or even less than perfect credit. You'll
find out why you're paying more just to get less, and how they can help.
It's a very affordable service, and this company really gets the job done.
If you have late payments, collections, chargeoffs, or other negative
marks against you on your credit report, it's costing you money—and
holding you back. They help a ton of people, and they're highly recommended.

To also help you understand how much your current credit history and score are costing you we have
also put together some simple numbers for you to view:




Your
Credit Score

Interest
Rate

Monthly
Payment

Total
Interest Paid Over 30 years

720-850

5.57%

$858

$158,880

700-719

5.69%

$870

$163,200

675-699

6.23%

$922

$181,920

620-674

7.38%

$1037

$223,320

560-619

8.53%

$1157

$266,520

500-559

9.29%

$1238

$295,680


If you are making payments on a car, you are probably paying between $4,000 and $8,000 more
in interest just for having bad credit. This added interest shows up every
month in a higher payment. Take a look:



$30,000 car paid over five years:



Credit Status Rate Payment Cost
of

Bad Credit
Excellent 5% $566.14 $0.00
Mildly
Damaged
8% $608.29 $2529.00

Damaged
12% $667.33 $6071.40




So many people just live out their lives with poor credit and low credit scores. They don't
even realize how much it is costing them, and worse yet, they don't even
know credit repair is available. This company is one of the most aggressive
(and affordable) options anywhere. They're honest, fair, and help hundreds
of people every month exactly like you. If you're really tired of dealing
with your credit situation, and if there are some marks on your credit
report that are really hurting your score visit their website and check
out your options.



Click
here to read more
.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Are you considering a solo practice?

What Are Some of the Key Questions to Ask Yourself If You Think You Want to Open a Solo Law Practice?


  1. Do I have the persistence and patience necessary to run a business and practice law?

    It would be nice if once you wrote your business plan all you needed to do would be to execute it and your practice would grow. Maybe it happens for a few lawyers but usually in some part of the plan you get different results than you expected. It takes patience to wait for the result in the first place. It takes persistence to keep updating your plan and then trying something else until you find how to make it work.
  2. Does having my own practice really energize me?

    Am I really excited about it?If your vision of this practice is really compelling it will give you the energy to move forward on your idea. The energy allows you to persist even when things are not going as planned and it helps you to generate enthusiasm in others.
  3. Am I convinced that I am exactly the right person to open this practice? Can I articulate why?

    Self-confidence is important in the success of the practice. You must believe in yourself before others will believe in you.
  4. Do I have the ability to convince others that I am really good at the kind of law I practice?

    Rainmaking is the key to the solo lawyer's success. Solo practioners have to spend most of their time marketing initially. Attorneys with a book of business still need to market in order to grow their practice. Attorneys must be able interest others in themselves and their work.
  5. Do I have the commitment necessary to put aside other interests to focus my energy on my practice?

    There will be lots of distractions while you start your practice. Are you willing to commit to whatever it takes to get the practice up and running successfully?
  6. Am I able to quickly recover from setbacks and not take things personally?

    Can you still keep working and feeling confident even on a day that a big client decides to take his/her business elsewhere?
  7. Who will support me in this endeavor?

    It helps to have people in your life that appreciate you and really want you to succeed. Family support is critical because you'll need to spend large amounts of time working and your family needs to understand this. Mentors, colleagues and coaches also are important for advice and encouragement.
  8. Do I have enough financial reserves to carry me until I am profitable?

    Your practice needs enough capital to get going until it is profitable. You also need money in reserve for your personal expenses if things get tight. Worrying about money will sap your energy.
  9. What weaknesses do I have that may get in my way as I start this practice? What will I do about them?

    Identifying your weaknesses and strengths is an important task. Use your strengths in running your practice and find ways to off load the tasks you are not good at. Shore up those weaknesses as best you can in the beginning when finances are tight. Being aware of them is the first step.
  10. What is my intuition telling me about this venture?

    Be in tune with your intuition. Lawyers can get caught up in looking at the numbers of clients they have. The numbers are very important in running your business but don't ignore what your gut tells you. Leave some time in your day to spend time thinking about your vision. (Daydreaming!)


    Article courtesy of Alvah Parker

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Topdot Mortgage Has FHA Approval Withdrawn


Breaking News On TopDot Mortgage
 
Lender faulted for gross violations of FHA underwriting standards

(7thSpace.com) WASHINGTON – "The Federal Housing Administration’s Mortgagee Review Board (MRB) today immediately and permanently withdrew the FHA approval of Premium Capital Funding, LLC, a Jericho, New York-based lender doing business as TopDot Mortgage. Today’s action prevents TopDot from participating in FHA programs and seeks a monetary penalty of $674,000.

In addition, the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) is defaulting and terminating TopDot as an issuer in its Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) program and is ending the Company’s ability to continue to service Ginnie Mae securities. Servicing of TopDot’s $181.2 million dollar Ginnie Mae portfolio will be transferred to LoanCare Servicing Center, Inc.

The MRB and Ginnie Mae took these actions based upon TopDot’s numerous and egregious violations of FHA requirements, including failure to document borrowers’ income, evaluate borrowers’ creditworthiness, and approving loans with grossly excessive debt-to-income ratios without compensating factors to justify approval.

“This lender demonstrated a pattern of utter disregard for how we do business and its behavior not only put the FHA insurance fund at risk, but placed their own customers at greater risk of foreclosure,” said FHA Commissioner David Stevens.“FHA approval is a privilege that we entrust to the most responsible lenders. If any lender violates that trust, the MRB will take action to protect borrowers, the FHA insurance fund and FHA programs.”

Mary Kinney, Ginnie Mae’s Executive Vice President, said “Ginnie Mae’s requirements are in place to protect the borrower and the American taxpayer. Both, Ginnie Mae and FHA are working aggressively to ensure that borrowers are not harmed by the misdeeds of lenders. These lenders are on notice that they must strictly adhere to Ginnie Mae and FHA regulations to maintain their status within HUD programs.”

While TopDot may appeal FHA’s withdrawal by submitting a written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge within 30 days, the filing of an appeal does not delay the actions announced today. A complaint seeking civil money penalties will be served on TopDot in due course and the Company will have the opportunity to contest the imposition of the penalties before an Administrative Law Judge.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also continuing to evaluate the conduct of individuals who participated in TopDot’s violations of FHA requirements and will move quickly to take appropriate action against those individuals.

If TopDot is your mortgage company, see HUD’s website for more information about the status of your loan and the next steps for borrowers. FHA and Ginnie Mae have taken several steps to minimize the disruption to borrowers whose loans are serviced by TopDot and are committed to protecting all FHA-insured borrowers and the American taxpayer."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New FHA Guidelines


Tighter lending requirements for loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration may leave some borrowers unable to get mortgages, but economists are divided on the impact they could have on housing's recovery.

The changes, aimed at strengthening the FHA's reserves in the face of rising foreclosures, shouldn't hurt too many borrowers, officials say.


"We don't expect this to have a significant impact on the housing market," says FHA Commissioner David Stevens, adding that "the moves are designed to get the reserves back up."

The FHA is playing a greater role in the mortgage market, insuring about 30% of new loans, up from 3% in 2007. Growing defaults have cut its reserves below the level mandated by Congress, leading to fears that it might need a taxpayer bailout.

FHA-insured mortgages are attractive to borrowers, however, because down payments are only 3.5%. That won't change under the new policies the FHA announced Wednesday, which are to take effect in spring or early summer. Among them:

•New borrowers will have to have a minimum credit score of 580 to qualify for a 3.5% down payment. Those with lower scores will have to make at least a 10% down payment. The average credit score of FHA-insured borrowers is 693.

•Allowable seller concessions will be reduced from 6% to 3% of the sale price. The change is intended to discourage inflated appraisals.

•Buyers will have to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 2.25% of the total loan amount, up from 1.75% now. A $150,000 mortgage would require a payment of $3,375, or $750 more.

Article courtesy of UsaToday.