Lawyers: Protect Your Vacation … from Yourself!
June 13, 2016
Is it possible for you to take a vacation and not check your email?
Ninety percent of the lawyers I meet will say no and that they feel better checking email once, twice, two hundred times a day while on vacation. It makes them feel in control and less stressed.
But by doing so, they are not present to their family. They are not resting, rejuvenating, and letting themselves recover from their demanding profession. They just work remotely and do nothing to protect themselves from the effects of overworking.
I can go on and on about the benefits of not reading and responding to email while on vacation. The attorneys we work with at Atticus with who do not check their email return to talk about the “greatest vacation ever.” They report back feeling “rested, rejuvenated, reconnected to loved ones, energized, ready to get back to work.”
The lawyers who keep accessing email say things like “Well, my family had a great time, I just worked in a different location. I am tired. It was a ‘working vacation,’ ” (which to me is like “fat free ice cream”— a unicorn, a myth).
Here is the truth: You have to plan your vacation to protect yourself from yourself. It is not the office that is the issue; you are the issue.
Thanks to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, we have further proof that the Zeigarnaik Effect is one of the elements at work. The brain will try to hold on to something that feels “incomplete.”
To protect yourself from this effect, you need to plan how to protect your brain from feeling incomplete about email. Yes, it is true that you will have cases that are ongoing during your vacation. And so, it is important to strategize with your team on how to protect you from anything that you may feel incomplete on during your vacation.
Here are three steps:
- Train someone to check your work email and handle time-sensitive questions/issues. The lawyers I coached to do this went on extended vacations from one week to a month, and it worked brilliantly. The key element was that they had to remove email access from their phones. The easiest way was simply to log out of their email service. For some, it meant using a different cell phone during vacation.
- Make a list of anything you might feel incomplete about during your vacation. Specifically, include anything that needs to be managed from an email perspective (and case perspective) and tell your team how to handle it.
- Create an emergency protocol. You start by defining an emergency. We don’t do surgery, so the odds of it being an actual life-threatening emergency is slim. Just let your staff know what a “real emergency” is to you versus what a client or opposing counsel claims to be an emergency.
Give it a shot. Worst case scenario: Your vacation is ruined by an actual emergency. Best case scenario: You have the most rejuvenating vacation you’ve had in a long, long time.
Try it, let me know how it works.
Lawyers: Can you get your inbox to zero?
January 13, 2016
Aiming for an email inbox count of zero sounds about as reasonable to most lawyers as finding a unicorn galloping about town.
Many attorneys start with such a goal, and then they give up after some effort and go back to what they were doing previously – desperately trying to reply to as many messages as possible.
The biggest challenge here is not achieving zero emails. It’s the assumption you could even try do it without taking three key steps.
- Get clear on your expectations. Appreciate what email is really about. It’s essentially a communication tool. You are not managing emails. You are managing communication. If you are solely focused on getting your inbox to zero, then you are missing the underlying issue, which I suggest is getting clear on what you want to communicate via email and what you do not want to communicate via email. Decide what kind of messages you want to send and receive via email. It might feel silly, but start by writing this list down.
- Tell your clients your expectations. I remind my clients that I view emails the same way I view the paper mail I get from my postal carrier. I retrieve it one time per day, and I typically reply to it one time per day. I am not in a chat room waiting for electronic messages, and they should not expect an instant response. If the email relates to an hourly matter, then they should expect to see a charge if the email is substantive in nature. Be frank with clients on this. If necessary, put it in your engagement agreement. It is amazing how many times I meet lawyers who tell me they don’t charge for emails but they do for phone calls and appointments. How long do you think it takes a client to figure this out?
- Tell your team your expectations. A lot of lawyers try to use email as a form of delegation. Yes, email can work well for simple delegations handed down to your staff. But it’s amazing how many delegations actually come up from the team to the lawyer via email. Teach your team what is okay to email and what is not okay to email. For example, if they send questions about a case that require more than yes or no, then they are delegating up. They should bring the file (assuming you are not a paperless office) and meet with you in person. You both save a ton of time since you’re not sitting there trying to analyze what to do or say step-by-step via email for the next hour.
In my experience, lawyers can shrink the size of their inbox if they implement these three steps. Working and responding faster to email will not solve the problem. The more clients and staff you have, the more email you will receive. If you plan on growing your practice, then your inbox will grow with it. So, as it grows, you must really think through your underlying communications strategy via email before you can start the quest for zero.
Lawyers: 3 Key Questions for 2016
November 18, 2015
I know you’re busy. All attorneys are busy. When I attend bar conferences, the lawyers there all trade stories about how busy they are. The real issue is not how busy you are, but how effective you are.
The end of the year is a perfect time to evaluate your personal effectiveness. One way to do that is to take time to learn from the past year and set up a great new year. While I highly recommend that you do an end-of-year planning session with your firm, I also suggest you do a planning session for yourself.
Here are three key questions to ask:
- What were the three key strategies that made this year a great year? What did I do that allowed me to move my practice forward?
- Where am I stuck the most?
- If I were to focus on five objectives or strategies for next year, what would they be?
In my experience, if you take an hour, with no interruptions (no email, phone calls and texts) and do the above, you will have greater clarity for you planning next year. Now, for extra bonus points, do the exercise again 72 hours after you did it the first time, and see what happens to your thinking.
Good luck and best wishes for your 2016 planning.
New Book & Webinar for Lawyers: The Domestic Assistant Advantage
October 9, 2015
Two years ago, I led a webinar for lawyers about why they should consider hiring a domestic assistant. It took me a while, but I finally compiled the content of that course into a new book: “The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to The Domestic Assistant Advantage.”
On Nov. 12, I’ll share insights from the book as part of the Atticus Practice Development Series of monthly webinars. You can register here.
So many lawyers needlessly struggle to both successfully manage a practice and keep things running smoothly at home. The stress they put on themselves to do-it-all as both Super Lawyer and Super (Mom, Dad, Wife, Husband) can create a sense of failure and fatigue.
Learn how The Domestic Assistant Advantage™ can help you succeed in your law firm and improve your life at home. This strategy helps attorneys regain a sense of control over their home lives by teaching how to find, hire, and train a domestic assistant to manage household chores and errands. The strategy has helped many lawyers decrease stress at home while increasing their ability to earn more revenue in their practice.
During this one-hour webinar, I’ll lead you through a discussion of the following issues and questions:
- Why would you hire one?
- How can it save or make you money?
- Coping with guilt
- Job descriptions to recruit one
- How to manage one – you can do this in less than an hour a week
- Creating checklists, task lists, and agendas
- And so much more!
Our Practice Development Series webinars are held the second Thursday of each month from 12 pm – 1 pm Eastern Time. The sessions cover topics such as marketing, staffing, technology, practice development and cash flow/financial issues. The calls are recorded and are available for download. We invite you to browse our call catalog and download those files that interest you.
Lawyers: Tech tips from a client
August 31, 2015
Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:47 pm
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One of my longtime clients, Attorney Mark Metzger, was featured in an article for Above the Law on how he created his own amazing document assembly program.
Mark is a member of one of the Atticus Dominate Your Market™ quarterly workshops, which I co-teach. He is a great example of how a solo practitioner can use a bit of ingenuity and patience to develop a strategy to leap ahead of competition.
In the article, Mark talks about how he streamlined a complex residential real estate closing process. Yes, there are real estate closing software programs out there, but Mark customized an off-the-shelf product for his firm in such a way that it allowed him to price aggressively and move work through his pipeline quickly.
Before you read the article, there are three things to consider:
- If you are going to repeat any action in your firm more than once, it may make sense to follow Mark’s lead.
- The software he references is an “off-the-shelf” toolset. That means anyone can buy it, download it, set it up, and use it. It may make sense to delegate or outsource the setup if you do not have Mark’s patience and tech skillset, but long term it pays off.
- In the Dominate Your Market™ program, we teach that sometimes the greatest way to increase revenues is not by marketing but by increasing your firm’s ability to move cases quickly and more profitably through your case pipeline.
Let me know what you think.