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Lawyers: Take more time off

July 7, 2018

Filed under: Enjoying Life,Lawyer Coaching,Practice Growth,Practice Management,Staffing Issues,Stress Management — admin @ 5:04 pm

In the whole of recorded history of lawyers, there has not been one attorney, who, on his deathbed, thought, “Boy, I wish I had been able to spend just one more day writing briefs.”

What do you want to be able to say in your later years, that you worked yourself to death in the office or that you enjoyed time with your loved ones, creating lasting memories during the vacations you took? If it’s the former, that’s just kind of sad because the latter is where we live and love and actually enjoy our lives.

Lawyers Need to Take More Time Off

Taking more time off will increase your productivity and create a stronger support team.

Vacations — time off — should be for leaving the office behind and relaxing, not taking the office with you.

Here’s a scenario: You decide to take your family to Hawaii for vacation. You’ve got a great room with a beach view and a loose itinerary that allows for plenty of spontaneity. Sounds great, right? However, if you check your office email and return phone calls every morning, then you’re not on vacation. You’re just working remotely from a much prettier location. All the stress you left behind at the office has followed you to Hawaii, stealing time from you and your family.

If you’re really, actually, positively going on vacation, then go on vacation.

Even Lawyers Need a Break

Your brain needs time to rest, to heal from the day-to-day grind of running your practice. My experience — personally and working with attorneys who take great time off — is that your creativity goes through the roof when you return to work. Client problems don’t seem so big, and you get a new perspective that allows you to grow your business dramatically.

I could list a hundred reasons why you need to take time off, but for today I’ll give you my top three reasons.

First, it’s good for you, mentally and physically. Too many lawyers are working themselves into an early grave, stressed out with high blood pressure and poor physical health. Time off allows you to shake off the stress and recharge your batteries. Investing time with the people you love can actually help you be more creative, interesting and productive than lawyers who are always in the office.

Second, taking off also gives your team an opportunity to take off the training wheels. If you’re there to solve every problem — whether it’s legal or customer service — they’ll never grow beyond you. If you’re the big tree blocking the sun, growth will never occur. Taking several weeks off will empower your team to make decisions. Let them know you won’t be checking on them. My prediction is that they’ll grow and learn and expand as professionals. If you never take time away , then it robs them of this opportunity. You have to learn to trust your people. And if you can’t trust your people, you’ve got the wrong people.

The third reason is that taking time off will help you see how your firm works without you. How do your systems for customer service and marketing work when you’re not directly involved in all of it? Does it wither or thrive? How is your case flow in your absence? More importantly, how’s your cash flow if you’re not the one driving it?

Off Means OFF

I encourage lawyers to take at least 175 days off every year — and when I say off, I mean off. No emails, no phone calls, no “I’ll just check this one thing.” If you get interrupted, then there a system or process that needs to be fixed. When you’re on vacation, an emergency is nothing more than an opportunity for your team to figure out how to fix that problem. Empowered team members are happy, productive people — the kind you actually want in your firm.

I could list another 20 or 30 reasons why you need to take time off. Instead, I encourage you to look for any opportunity to start strengthening your law firm and your capacity for joy. Expand your life and grow your firm by taking enjoyable time off.

Lawyers: Gain an advantage with a domestic assistant

May 14, 2018

Filed under: Enjoying Life,Money,Practice Growth,Practice Management,Staffing Issues,Stress Management — admin @ 5:42 pm

Domestic Assistant AdvantageIf you’re like most attorneys, at the end of a long day at the office, all you want to do is get home to your family and relax. You want to take it easy, especially at the end of a long week.

All too often, however, you can’t relax. There are dishes in the sink, dirty clothes that need washing, and a carpet that looks like it hasn’t seen a vacuum in weeks. After a long day at work, you still have a long day ahead of you at home.

As a law firm owner, you’ve hired and trained staff for key positions that keep your practice humming — from a receptionist to a client intake specialist, from a paralegal to a team leader for document drafting. There’s one position you might not have considered, however, that could really increase your productivity at work and the amount of quality time you spend with your family: a domestic assistant.

I know what you’re thinking: There’s no way I can afford to hire someone to help manage my household errands and projects. I say there’s no way you can’t afford to hire a domestic assistant. Doing so will free up time for you to be more productive at the office and more focused when you’re spending evenings and weekends with your spouse and children.

My book, The Domestic Assistant Advantage,™ can help attorneys regain control over their home lives by teaching how to find, hire and train a domestic assistant to manage household chores and errands. You’ll be less stressed at home, and when you’re able to relax you’ll find that you’re more productive and happy at the office.

My book will answer many questions you might have:

  • 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

You really can buy time. Hiring a domestic assistant can help you become a super lawyer and super mom, dad, wife, husband and partner.

Lawyers: Can you get your inbox to zero?

January 13, 2016

Filed under: Practice Management,Staffing Issues,Stress Management — Tags: — admin @ 11:13 pm

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

New Book & Webinar for Lawyers: The Domestic Assistant Advantage

October 9, 2015

Filed under: Enjoying Life,Money,Staffing Issues,Stress Management — admin @ 11:01 pm

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.

 

Could a temp-to-permanent hiring process keep bad apples from ruining your staff?

March 10, 2015

Filed under: Practice Management,Staffing Issues — admin @ 3:22 pm

When you hire someone for a position in a law firm, the interview process is daunting from both sides of the desk. You want to make the perfect hire, and the candidate wants to land the job.

But there are many factors that could make the job/candidate a poor fit. Perhaps the new hire discovers the position isn’t what she thought. Or maybe his personality doesn’t fit with your firm’s culture. It’s a costly error to hire someone and then have to build a case to fire that person.

What if you proposed a trial run in a temp-to-permanent work arrangement?

It’s a trend gaining a foothold with smaller firms and businesses across the country. However, there are several factors to consider before adopting this hiring method, which doesn’t work for every office.

What if the candidate has a job? Assuming the work wouldn’t violate their current firm’s rules, can they take a week off to work with you? Perhaps work nights and weekends on a project?

To make it worth the candidate’s time, they should be paid a reasonable contract fee.

How much time do you invest? Do you need a week, a month or milestone goals to vet the candidate?

A Microsoft Business blog by Joanna L. Krotz, offers this advice on temporary-to-permanent options: If your instincts about the potential hire are strong, give the person the job as a probationary hire. Usually, state law dictates how long these periods may last, but it’s usually 90 days.

In a recent New York Times report, CEO Jon Bischke discussed how well the process works at his 20-person company, Entelo, a recruiting software company in California.

He said more than a dozen people of 30 who agreed to the trial run were hired. For those who didn’t get the job, it was a matter of the fit wasn’t right for the candidate, he said. For others, “Let’s just say that had we hired them, we probably would have had to fire them.”

Could this approach work for you? It takes some planning, but in the long run, it might save your practice from making a bad investment.

For additional guidance, I recommend “Hire Slow, Fire Fast,” a must-read for every practice for assistance in hiring the right members, forging the winning team and managing it effectively. The book provides dozens of forms including applications, tests, surveys and checklists to help you build your dream team.

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