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: 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.
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.
Summer is coming to a close, and it’s time to begin planning your law firm’s holiday marketing strategy. I’m not talking about advertising. I’m talking about connecting with the very people who put coins in your coffers: referral sources and existing clients.
What you spend is up to you. It’s the sincerity behind a thoughtful gesture that makes an impact. Your choice of gift can reveal that you really thought about a person’s interests, hobbies or needs. Your consideration will be noted and likely rewarded in the form of more great referrals and return business.
I have three quick suggestions:
- Identify and acknowledge your practice’s top twenty referral sources. What would be a unique gift for each person? This is where you might spend most of your holiday budget since you are thanking the people providing your best new clients.
- From within that group, identify your “next level referral sources.” These top three or five people provided your firm its highest revenue-generating clients this year. Along with a unique gift, include a high quality thank you card containing a note personally inscribed by you.
- For your key clients, what could you do for them so they know how important they are to your firm? The gesture or gift depends on your practice area, and whether you receive recurring business from these clients. And again, including a handwritten message makes a much better and more lasting impression than a card signed by your staff (or a stamped signature).
Here’s a bonus suggestion:
- If at all possible, have a staff member lead this project. If no one has time, then hire a temporary marketing assistant. You’ll still be filling out thank-you cards and choosing the gifts, but the actual number-crunching, store shopping, and package wrapping needs to be managed by someone else.
I hope this has helped you and your firm. If you have any questions or ideas you’d like to share, please contact me.
I recently read an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about the best way to make your New Year’s resolutions stick. It got me to thinking about why so many lawyers struggle with their goals and what keeps them from making progress.
The article quoted an expert in cognitive behavior therapy who explained the benefits of a buddy system and why vague goals fail.
I believe lawyers must have an accountability system for implementing resolutions and goals. It is absolutely crucial to achieving them. If you don’t have someone or something holding you accountable to taking steps to achieve the goals you set forth, you are almost certain to fail. This includes goals for your practice and personal life.
The first accountability system every lawyer should start with is a time and focus management system. I won’t waste time with making recommendations on which one to use. There are several great software and cloud-based options for attorneys that are easily found with a simple search engine query. However, you will want something that allows you to block out a weekly or monthly template for times you should work on production, marketing, client appointments and projects. Don’t let your schedule or your focus be at the mercy of someone calling the office with “a quick question.”
The second accountability system you need is flesh and bone. If you don’t have a one-on-one coach or practice advisor working with you on attaining your goals, then consider joining a group coaching workshop. If neither of those things are possible for you because of constraints on time or money, then I encourage you to find a peer you would feel comfortable asking to talk with you on a weekly or monthly basis.
Ask this friend or colleague if he or she would be willing to hold you accountable to the things you’ve said you’re going to do. If you’re like most lawyers I’ve met, you’ll need this person to follow up with you on how you’re doing with your plan, so give him or her 100 percent permission to call you out on your excuses. Because you’ll make excuses. You know you will. They’ll be pretty lame ones, too.
“Oh gosh. Things are so busy right now. I haven’t had any time to do anything with this plan.”
“My staff has (insert scapegoat excuse) and that has really taken up my time.”
“One of my clients has (insert excuse), and I haven’t been able to focus on anything else.”
“Between everything going on at the office and what’s been happening at home, I couldn’t work on this.”
Another reason people fail to keep annual resolutions is because they’re making commitments to do something really big that they’ve been putting off. But the problem, according to the article, is that these “big” things are really hard to accomplish – “otherwise we would have done them already.”
Big goals sound impressive, but they’re often too much for us to take regular action on without a compelling reason – like say impending death. Nothing will make a person stick to a healthy diet or keep exercising like suffering a recent health scare. Resolutions without a “sticky” factor also are doomed.
There’s also the “no choice” category of resolutions, the article said. There are some new habits we employ without any struggle because we don’t give ourselves a choice. For some of us, these can be things like paying your bills as soon as they arrive in the mail or always wearing a bike helmet when you go riding. If you never give yourself the option to waver from this kind of habit, you don’t struggle to keep it.
For attorneys, I recommend a good place to start with a “no choice” resolution is only answering emails and returning phone calls at a specific hour during the workday – not as they come in, in between meetings, and definitely not on the weekends.
In closing: Have an accountability system. Tackle attainable goals. Give yourself no choice but to follow through with good habits.
I hope this has helped you. I’d love to hear what you’re using that has helped you make good on your New Year’s resolutions – or even your quarterly or annual goals.