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 and New Year Resolutions
January 9, 2015
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.
Lawyers: Get Ready for the End of Year Sprint
September 10, 2014
How are you approaching the end of the year? Yes, we haven’t even reached Halloween, but it’s not too early to decide how you will maximize your time and efforts during the last few months of 2014.
If you’ve been following me for very long, you’ve likely heard me talk about a strategy I call the End of the Year Sprint™. I addressed it last year in my blog, and I’m revisiting the topic because it’s a yearly habit you should be doing to grow your practice. You’ll have to forgive me if some of this advice seems like a rehash; frankly, it is. But I believe this is an important annual process lawyers should complete, and so I am hoping you’ll forgive the repetition.
There is an actual worksheet I’ve created using that title, but this exercise— once you understand it — can actually be done quite easily on a large sheet of blank paper that you’ve divided into four quadrants.
Before I explain the exercise, let’s dig a little deeper into how lawyers typically approach the end of the year. In my experience, there are the two ways they handle it:
The Worst Way
- The end of year sneaks up on you like a mugger and clobbers you.
- You are and your team are distracted by the holidays.
- Cash flow is inconsistent.
- Suddenly January is here, and you are surprised to see it.
The Best Way
- You see the end of the year like a finish line and sprint to it with intensity.
- You sprint with focus and clarity to drive great results.
- You create a contest or game with your team.
- You maximize your cash flow.
- You start setting up 2015 to be the best year ever.
If the “best” way makes sense to you, then here is how I suggest you approach the sprint:
Budget one full hour on this week’s calendar for you to do this exercise. At that time, take out a large sheet of blank paper. (An 11×17 sheet works best, but you can improvise by taping together two standard letter-sized sheets.) Position it horizontally and draw a large cross dividing the sheet into four quadrants.
Label your four quadrants with these headings and follow the instructions:
- Cash Flow – To maximize your cash flow, list your best financial opportunities for the rest of the year and put together a quick written plan on how to get them accomplished. Rank your highest dollar cases first.
- Marketing – Identify your top five marketing opportunities that will happen before the end of the year and draft a plan on how to get the most out of your marketing efforts.
- Projects – Identify your three most important projects you want to complete before year end. If possible, assign a project manager to help you complete them by year end.
- Next Year – Answer these questions to set up strategic planning for 2015.
- What would it take for 2015 to be the best year ever?
- What would you have to do now to start the ground work for 2015?
- What support would you need for 2015 to be the best ever? (Do you need to plan a firm retreat? Hire a coach? Join a quarterly group program?)
Filling out these four steps, while not replacing the power of a live workshop, can at least give you the sense of how to set up and do an End of Year Sprint in your own practice.
Doubling Your Revenue is a Competitive Advantage
August 13, 2014
What would it mean to the growth of your practice if you innovated your way into doubling your revenue? Significantly more revenue would certainly give your law firm a competitive advantage over the other players in your market.
For more than 15 years, I’ve coached attorneys one-on-one and in group workshops. One of the most powerful programs I have developed in that time has been the Double Your Revenue™ workshop. In the past, I led this program about twice a year to groups of 10-30 attorneys, each seeking to create a plan to dramatically grow their practices (and profits) without doubling their workloads.
Several other projects have prevented me from teaching this workshop for a couple years, and I’ve really missed doing it. Traditionally, the workshop took two days to complete and attendance cost nearly $1,500 per attorney. That proved an obstacle for some attorneys who wanted to attend but couldn’t take two or more days away from the office.
The big news: Together with my partners at Atticus, we are “un-retiring” the Double Your Revenue™ workshop! The new version will now last just one day. And, the price will be even more affordable – likely less than $1,000 per attorney. The exact tuition fee hasn’t been set because we are still making final negotiations on a hotel contract.
Atticus is looking to host two separate classes for this workshop in Dallas, Texas. We’re capping enrollment at 15 attorneys per session. The first workshop is set for Thursday Nov. 13. When the first session’s enrollment fills, we’ll open up registration for the second session – set for Friday Nov. 14.
Atticus hasn’t yet opened up enrollment for these two dates to the public, but that will happen soon.
In this message, I’m providing coaching clients, former workshop attendees and followers of my blog and newsletter the very first information about how to enroll in this workshop at a reduced cost. When enrollment opens to the public, it will be offered at a higher retail price than the level I’m talking to you about now. And so, I am asking you to clear these dates on your calendar and let me know if I can expect to see you.
I’ll be teaching these sessions with Atticus co-founder Mark Powers. If you consider having both of us as instructors better than just one of us, then you should understand that this will be the only Double Your Revenue™ workshop that we will teach together, side-by-side.
I know this workshop has changed lives. One attorney saw such good results that he enrolled two more times, returning every few years after continuing to double his revenue.
The Double Your Revenue Workshop™ addresses every phase of the professional’s practice, utilizing a variety of unique strategies, including:
- The Practice Comfort Trap™ – This concept allows you to distinguish what invisible barriers freeze practices in place and identify the blind spots that prevent growth.
- The Brainstorming Sprints – This breakthrough process helps you create 60 to 80 ideas you can use toward doubling your revenue.
- The Virtual Board™ – This practical exercise allows participants to test their plan by sharing it with a virtual Board of Directors of other participants.
- The 90-Day Growth Accelerator™ – This strategy empowers you and your support team to stay focused on immediate growth for the critical first 90 days after the workshop.
At the end of the session, participants will have a written, step-by-step plan that will allow them to implement the best and most effective ideas they generated at the program.
If you want to Double Your Revenue™ and have a competitive advantage, act NOW and follow up with me. If you are unhappy with the program, after attending the session and implementing our strategies, we offer a complete money back guarantee.
Lawyers: Why Dominate Your Market?
October 10, 2013
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Why would you want to play a bigger game than what you are currently playing? Who needs the effort, right?
And, why would you ever play such an outrageous game as something called “Dominate Your Market” workshop?
One of the biggest traps that stops great law firms from growing is the trap of relative success. The partners look around and see that no other law firm is doing what they do. None of their competitors market as well, practice as well, treat their employees as well, or make as much money as they do. They think: “We are, without a doubt, the best in our marketplace. No one comes close.”
They attended a CLE program as a participant or as a speaker and thought, “Wow, I am the smartest attorney in this room. No one can touch me.”
They see themselves as the best in comparison to anyone else. They don’t need help. They just need to show up and smile.
In my experience, once this occurs, all growth stops. The ball game is over. The trap of relative success has been sprung, and this firm has hit a plateau of comfort.
This trap owns them now. They will never see it as the collar it is around their necks. Their growth is now leashed, and that chain is short. As long as the trap of relative success owns them, they will slowly but surely lose their spot in the market place. Of course, they will never see this coming. They are blinded by their own brilliance.
This why you we at Atticus say lawyers should always play for market dominance. If you are always playing to be the best at all times, then no one can catch up to you. You must always set stronger and hungrier goals — the type that motivate you to always play at your best level.
Nothing is worse than a lawyer that ran out of goals. You must always be playing to be bigger, stronger, more profitable, and never ever think you are the prettiest firm in the room.
If you’re interested in taking your relatively successful law firm to new heights, then I encourage you to check out the Dominate Your Market workshop program. It meets quarterly, provides members access to our top coaches (me included) , an inspiring peer group of high-achieving lawyers from around the country, and access to Atticus’ enormous bounty of practice management resources and tools.
If you don’t yet qualify to join the program — it’s not for everyone — then you should know that Atticus offers a number of other workshops that will help your law firm reach its tipping point to success — The Practice Builder, The Practice Growth Program and Rainmakers.
If you have any questions about Dominate Your Market or any of Atticus’ coaching programs, contact me.