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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.

Law firm owners can get a head start on 2018

November 9, 2017

Filed under: Enjoying Life,Practice Growth,Practice Management,Stress Management — admin @ 5:16 pm

The holiday season is fast approaching, and I’ll bet you’re tempted to look back over this past year with a critical eye. Whoa there. Take a deep breath. Let’s look at your goals.

Acknowledge the things that went well in 2017. And, while it’s good to take note of the things that didn’t go so great (i.e. any frustrations, tolerations, or breakdowns), don’t dwell on them. Instead, use this line of thinking to propel your law firm into 2018 with momentum.

Possibly the best way to assess your practice’s past year is with an annual Practice Growth Diagnostic™ . It is the most comprehensive method to determine what is working well in your practice, what isn’t or needs attention, and how to strategize for the future. Check it out.

3 Things You Should Do

Set your practice up to win in 2018.

If you’re already wondering what you can do to prepare for next year’s challenges, I’m inviting you now to attend a no-cost webinar I’m presenting on Nov. 28 (12 noon Eastern) called “The 3 Things You Should Do NOW to Give Your Law Firm a Head Start in 2018.”

I’d also like to recommend a short exercise. Pull out a notepad (or use your computer or smart phone to start a new document).

Wrap Up 2017

Write down what you consider to be your practice’s three biggest accomplishments for the past year. Under or next to each item, write down the top three actions taken that generated this great result.

Is there anyone you should acknowledge who helped make these achievements happen? Probably, right? Make a note on your January calendar to speak with each person (not email!) to express your gratitude for their part in these successes.

Next, list all the little things you tolerated the past year. These could include staffing issues, daily interruptions, failing to find time for marketing, or hanging on to a troublesome client that you know you should have let go. As you write this, you will begin to see some of the small – but draining – matters that sapped energy from your practice.

The first step to addressing these kinds of distractions is acknowledging they exist. The second step is to choose at least one of these “tolerations” you’ve been putting up with that you’re annoyed enough about that you’ll commit to eliminating it by taking a specific action by a set deadline. Are you willing to commit to getting rid of more than just one?

Launch Into 2018

Finally, write down the goals you’d like to accomplish in 2018 both personally and financially. Give this part of the exercise some time, and don’t worry about making it perfect in one sitting.

This is going to be a “living document” you can refer to throughout the year, making additions and subtractions as needed. These goals are the foundation of your 2018 action plan!

Include the first action steps will you take to move towards achieving your personal and financial goals. If you feel like this is an area where you could use some reinforcement, please contact Atticus.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Lawyers: 2 Simple Lists Can Result in Big Wins for 2017

November 9, 2016

Filed under: Client Issues,Enjoying Life,Lawyer Coaching,Marketing,Money,Practice Growth,Practice Management,Stress Management — admin @ 4:16 pm

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

Filed under: Enjoying Life,Lawyer Coaching,Practice Management,Stress Management — admin @ 6:38 pm

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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