Charitable Work Requires Time, Commitment
May 2, 2013
Integrating a charitable marketing project is a fantastic opportunity for you to grow your practice and make a difference for charity all at the same time.
But, before you go charging off to impact the charity and tackle the project, you should strongly consider the most important step, making room for the charitable project in your already overwhelmed and busy life.
To make a great impact on any charitable project you have to have control over your time. The number one frustration we hear from our lawyer clients is that they are time starved. Their work life balance is shot. They work, work some more, and have no life. Thus, I would strongly recommend that the first thing you do before taking on a charitable project (or any volunteer commitment) is to have your time management and focus under control.
Let’s assume that you have taken my advice, or at least acknowledged it, and you are ready to start your project. The second step is to get you to think about your project before you commit to it. With that said, here are some key criteria that I recommend before you take on a charitable project.
- Clarity About the Charity. Do not take on a charitable project for just marketing purposes. If you do, two terrible things will happen. First, you will run out of gas. Meaning that when it gets hard this project will drop and you will use it as ammo about why you are a bad person (you may not, but I promise I would). Second, people can sense a faker a mile away. It is almost as if they can smell it. If they think you are there just to generate leads for new clients it will blow up on you and you will never get clients. Pick a cause you personally care about it and you believe in it.
- Only One Charity and One project. A powerful charitable project can make a huge difference and be a time sucking vortex that wrecks you practice. My rule is focus only on one charity and one project at a time. Do not volunteer to be on the fund raising committee at one charity, the golf tournament on another, and on a board of another. Unless you are independently wealthy and do not need to practice, you need balance your family, your health and your practice. Do one charitable project at a time and do a phenomenal job on that one. If you are active in your community you will have more opportunities to be volunteer (or be volunteered) than you can imagine. You will want to say yes, but you need to appreciate that there will be no limit to opportunities to serve. In the end, you will be crushed by all the commitments. My strong rule is one charity and one commitment at time.
- Create a Time Budget. What I mean by that is determine the amount of time you are going to give this project. For example, is this going to take on average one hour per week? If so, budget it. Put it on your calendar like a client appointment. Be realistic. Most lawyers are so overwhelmed that they say yes without having a clear plan on how to execute on the work they agreed to behind the yes. Sit down and plan out the project.
- Manage It Like a Project.
- Why are you doing it and what is your commitment level (1 low to 10 high)?
- What results are you hoping to produce?
- What will it look like when you are finished?
- What resources will you need?
- Who do you know that can help you get the project done?
- What is your time budget?
- What is your financial budget?
- What are your actions steps? Write them out just like you would a simple business plan. In my experience, one to two pages, no more than 10 action steps.
Bottom line, you have to have your personal time managed so you can commit to taking on a charitable project. My rule is no more than one project for one charity at a time. Do an extraordinary job at that one project. Good luck with your project, and I hope it makes a difference for your charity.
Do Lawyers Love Being Miserable?
June 28, 2012
3.6 Times More Miserable, to Be Exact!
Have you ever noticed when you hang out with other lawyers that there seems to be a lot of complaining? For a long time, I thought complaining was what we as lawyers are supposed to do when we get together.
Now, I am not so sure. I suspect it may be part of a syndrome. Thanks to my new favorite book, I have evidence to support my theory.
My new favorite book that I am handing out to all of my coaching clients is The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. It is fantastic.
In the book, Achor works with the premise that being happy is actually an advantage. My soon to be 12-year-old daughter provided her thought “Duh, Dad, of course.”
But, I don’t think anyone actively develops habits or works to cultivate happiness. Most lawyers I know appear to be working to avoid happiness. It’s as if misery is some form of strange merit badge that your bar associations hand out.
Test my theory, write down 10 lawyers you know, and rate what you perceive their happiness level to be in your eyes. Rank them from 1 for miserable to 10 for euphoric. Take a look at that that list afterward and really think about it.
Achor says lawyers “are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from major depressive disorders than the rest of the employed population.” (page 92)
Achor says there are many factors that contribute to it. The book cites a study that supports the theory that our major “happiness” issue as lawyers is stems from our training. In law school, we are conditioned to be critical thinkers in our profession. But the problem with many of us is that we also use that critical analysis in our personal life.
According to the study, we “start to overestimate the significance and permanence of problems” we encounter in a our day to day life. What makes us great at helping clients is this critical thinking skill.
And yet, this “fault finding” mind set also makes us more susceptible to depression, stress, poor physical health and substance abuse. What makes us miserable is that we are applying the same critical thinking to our personal life to accumulate evidence why we should not be happy.
I think any time you use the word “should” it implies an ideal. A level of perfection that does not actually exist. But, that is for another day.
Read The Happiness Advantage. Do it now. It is a great book. I have enjoyed it and have been applying some of its principles to my life.
I would say that you will be happy if you did, too. But if you are like most of my attorney friends, there is only so much happiness you can tolerate.
If you read it and start to apply the guidance in it, let me know what happens for you.
Top 10 Reasons Why You Don’t Want to Double Your Revenue
October 6, 2011
So I teach this workshop twice a year, and it’s about taking your law practice revenues to twice what they are. Hence the way out, in-your-face name: Double Your Revenue. Nuts, I know.
It’s a two-day, intense workshop where you brainstorm, strategize and plan how to double your practice revenues. Now, since the seating is limited, I really am not interested in having just anyone attend this workshop.
So, to help you talk yourself out of signing up for it, I created a bunch of reasons why you don’t want to attend.
The primary reason not to attend this workshop is obvious: You don’t want to have twice your current practice revenues. (Please note, that I did not say work twice as hard and twice as long; that is not the goal)
But if you are thinking “I would not mind having twice the practice revenues that I currently have,” then please read on to see if I can still persuade you that you might not be the type of attorney who should attend this workshop.
- You will think bigger (plateau).
You will play with passion (bored).
- You may be feeling the squeeze on your profits. You know that point where you have maximized your gross practice revenues and they have been the same for the past several years? The practice has plateaued and you feel like you are running harder and faster than ever before. But, your costs are going up. You are sitting there thinking “If I could just raise my fees as fast and as hard as my health insurance premiums I would have it made.” Your increased overhead starts to gobble up your profits. Your net is getting smaller and smaller while your gross has plateaued and you feel squeezed. You have cut as much overhead as you can and feel like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere. If you like that feeling, don’t do the Double Your Revenue™ workshop. This workshop is designed to help you have a breakthrough in your thinking so that you play at a bigger level and bust through the ceiling that has you trapped and held in place. Yes, I know you are a really super smart lawyer. Yep, all the lawyers I meet and work with are super smart. Unfortunately, the market does not reward brains. Think about that one competitor that you know that drives the nicer car, has a bigger house, but is half the lawyer that you are. Aren’t you asking yourself: “What’s up with that?” So, whatever you do. Stay where you are in the muck of your frustration and enjoy the plateau. Whatever you do, don’t do something about it.
You will make more money (not worth it).
- You may be painfully bored and feel like you would like to be doing anything but the current practice. You may be playing the lottery with more passion than you are practicing law. If you have lost the juice and the excitement about the future of your practice, then please stay away! You will hate this workshop. Most lawyers that come with this exact problem leave the DYR with a whole new level of excitement and fun than ever before. I cannot be held responsible for your renewed passion for you practice and what you do with it.
You will grow faster (frustrated).
- Most lawyers hate to discuss things like net profit. Profit is a bad, bad word. In 23 plus years of attending CLE presentations I have never heard the profane word profit uttered. (Hence, the reason no bar association in the country would touch this workshop). In fact, in the hotel bar after a couple of drinks, after the off-color jokes and snarky remarks about the speakers, the conversation in a hushed whisper turns to things like “So, how do you know if you are running a practice profitably?” Sometimes you hear a question like “How do I know I maximizing my firms profitability?” or “My staff wants raises, my overhead is increasing, but how do I squeeze more blood from this rock? I can only work so many hours a day.” While any Bar Association’s executive director knows healthy profitable members means a well-paying and healthy membership, most Bar dues are mandatory like taxes. Why create value for the members when you just raise fees and essentially tax them? Oh wait, sorry that was sounding like a rant about Bar Associations. Here is my point: I don’t care how ethical and smart you are as a lawyer. If you are not making money, then you cannot provide a great customer service for your clients. You are stressed, squeezed for time, and a walking time bomb for something to go wrong. If the Bar Associations would focus on how to make practices profitable, then I predict grievances would drop. Think about it. But back to the issue of money: If you think having a profitable practice would get you ostracized from the practice and prevent you from serving as president of your Bar Association, run as fast as you can from this workshop.
You will spend time with other entrepreneurial lawyers (learn from others).
- If you are just plain frustrated with the growth in your practice, then stay away. This workshop is focused on increasing your practice growth. You will be encouraged and challenged to think about your practice differently. This workshop is designed to make you brainstorm, strategize, discuss, share, and plan how to grow your practice. I will not talk about legal technical issues. I am not that smart of a lawyer—I promise. I am not going to discuss new and cutting edge cases in areas of law that I practice. I will not talk about pending legislation or footnotes in bills that never passed. I will only focus on ways you can grow your practice fast.
You will have fun (some lawyers hate to have fun).
- Most lawyers don’t play well with others. If you think you are the smartest lawyer on the planet and are convinced that no other lawyer could come up with an idea better than you, then stay home and just admire your brain in the mirror. This workshop attracts creative and entrepreneurial types. Seriously, can you imagine a law professor wanting to attend this class? Or how about a senior partner in a mega firm? (OK, so I had one senior partner in a mega firm bring all of his support team; but he is the exception more than the rule.) The lawyers who attend will share some ideas and help each other think about their practices at a whole another level. They will share ideas, strategies, tips, techniques, and contacts. Some will even refer each other business. If you don’t like this type of experience, then stay away.
You will about think about your practice differently (same day same result).
- If you can’t tolerate having fun, then please for the sake of the other participants in the workshop STAY HOME. If you are a grumpy, skeptical curmudgeon, do not come, please. For my sake. Just read my blog, post smart-alecky comments and post why none of this will work. Seriously, don’t come. Just stay in a comfy office chair, cruise the Web waiting for the phone to ring and be annoyed by the world. Just sit there and be skeptical. In fact, email me so I can tell you about other workshops that you would rather attend than mine so I don’t have to put up with you in person. Because you will no doubt be the first person to come up to me and complain that your marketing is not working and business is really tough. (For those of you that are really slow at connecting the dots, let me do it for you—a grumpy curmudgeon will never be a great marketer. Seriously, would you send your friends and family to that skeptical curmudgeon—life is too short).
You will invest in your future (no interest in thinking about the future).
- If you have clients lined up at your door when you open up every morning with their check book handy, then you probably don’t want to come. Well, unless you want the line twice as long. Most lawyers get stuck in a decade long thought loop. Just my experience, they think about their practice the same way for around 10 years and then they go “Hmm. Nothing has changed in 10 years. It all feels and looks the same.” If you like it, stay there baby.
You have no guarantee it will work.
- Most lawyers work like dogs. The average work week exceeds 60 hours. In fact, a 60-hour work week for most of the attorneys I know would be considered a light work week. The thought of taking two days out of their inventory of billable hours (and let’s not even address the fact that they are probably only effectively collecting on 75% of the billings) to work on their practice would be nuts. No. Investing two days out of their inventory of 365 days would be crazy to see if they could find some leverage points to change their practice. If you think about it, the average working days available may be something like this:365 days minus weekends = 261 working days. Now let’s take two weeks out, which is nuts because most lawyers do not take vacations. This would leave you with 251 days a year to work and crank out your billings. If you attend this workshop it would only leave you 249 to work with. Two days out of 251 would leave you 249 to bang out all those billable hours, squeeze in a vacation, a few CLEs and maybe some family time. The last thing you would want to do is invest two days in strategic planning about your firm. Stay there and see if you can what you can effectively bill in two days (assuming your client pays you).
You will have to spend two days with me (OK, this one would be tough).
- So I have been teaching this workshop since 2004. Several hundred attorneys have attended the workshop. A few have repeatedly attended several times over that period and have brought their growing staff with them. The workshop actually got featured in a national newspaper, Lawyers Weekly. It may not work for you for this one simple reason: You do nothing with what you learned. If you don’t execute on what you learned, then it won’t matter a bit. You can learn the what the secret sauce is to doubling your firm’s revenue, but if you go home and do nothing with it, then you have wasted your money and took away a seat from someone who would have taken it seriously.
- You may be at a point in your career where you believe you know all there is about your area of law. You may feel like you have every tip, technique, idea down. You may attend programs and say, “Been there and done that.” You may also feel that you practice has completely ca growing a practice. You may think you’ve got all the answers and that I’ve got nothing of value to teach an old dog like you. But you’d be wrong.