Lawyers: 2 Simple Lists Can Result in Big Wins for 2017
November 9, 2016
The holidays are nearly here, and for many lawyers that means using this time to sit back and reflect on their successes or failures of the last year. Some of you will armchair quarterback yourselves over what you should or should not have done.
Stop it. Looking back in regret will not fix those issues. Just because a calendar year is nearing its close does not mean it’s okay to navel-gaze instead of looking for opportunities to improve. You risk falling behind.
Now is the best time for lawyers to set personal and financial goals for 2017. I encourage my coaching clients to write two simple lists to help them make progress in both life and business for the coming year.
Setting Simple Goals
The first list is your top 10 personal and financial goals for the year – as simply stated as possible. This list might include paying more attention to your children, exercising more, increasing your business’ marketing efforts, or paying off old debt by following a new budget plan.
One goal you might consider is hiring an accountability and strategy coach!
Of course, you don’t have to finish this list in one day and laminate it! Some people get writer’s block if they are on deadline. Instead, draft it out, set it aside for a day or two and come back to it to make revisions or additions.
Repetition and Reminders
Once you’ve set these goals, make three copies: one for your desk at work, one taped near the bathroom mirror at home, and one miniaturized in size to carry in a wallet or purse. This might seem silly to some, but reading one’s goals regularly can really help ensure commitment to achieving them. It’s a practice in self-accountability.
Share these goals with your key assistant or another attorney you trust, if you are comfortable doing so. That way, you’re saying you want to be held accountable to meeting these goals because you want this person to check on your progress.
The Little Things
The second list is all about the little things you have been tolerating over the last year. Take 15 minutes and sprint out a list of these annoyances. Don’t worry about prioritizing it, just put pen to paper.
Maybe you’ve been so busy wrestling with issues at home that you’ve come to accept working in a messy work space or office? Or, you’re missing a button on your favorite jacket, and are reminded of it each time you put it on to take the dog on a walk. It might be a garage door that needs fixing or a checking account that needs reconciling.
Perhaps you sacrificed having a dental issue treated because of unexpected business expenses? Or maybe the list will contain names of problematic clients you’ve tolerated instead of letting go.
Once you begin writing these things down, it becomes clear just how many annoyances you’ve been putting up with in daily life that need addressing. Regardless of its content, this list of tolerations will certainly grow if it is not addressed.
You don’t need to take an oath to eliminate each of these issues within the next year, but you will have a much better chance of addressing most of them if you just start by writing them down.
As always, I hope this article has helped you and your practice. If you have a specific practice management issue or concern you’d like to share, please contact me.
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.
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: Try Sincere and Unique Holiday Marketing
August 12, 2015
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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.