Happy New Year!

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

 

You don’t really have to choose, because in 2016 you’ll see posts on all these topics and more!

STREAMLINE YOUR PRACTICE IN THE NEW YEAR

We begin the year with a Fresh Start.  If you’ve ever felt disorganized or overwhelmed, this post is for you.  No habit or office system is written in stone.  You can make adjustments, update your practices, or create new procedures. For a kickstart, visit this blog tomorrow.

BETTER CLIENT MANAGEMENT

Recommitting to marketing and client retention begins with understanding how to control and relate to clients.  Watch for Turn Over a New Leaf with Better Client Management on January 11.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Collecting fees is a battle every lawyer fights. In 2016 we’ll revisit fees and fee collection with a look-back to these classics, updated for the new year:

  • The 7 Golden Rules of Collection
  • Can I Double My Fees if the Client Doesn’t Pay?
  • Bartering Legal Services
  • Four Sure-Fire Ways to Get Paid

Speaking of money, be sure to stay tuned on January 25th for Do Lawyers Have an Ethical Duty to Replace Hacked Funds?  Cyber crime is an ever-growing problem.  If you’re hacked and trust funds are taken, are you automatically obliged to make your clients whole?

BETTER TECH FOR EVERYONE

On January 19, we’ll revisit lessons learned at the PLF’s Seamless Client Intake Webinar featuring Lexicata. If you resolved to embrace the cloud or upgrade your tech for 2016, attending this FREE program is a good start.  Registration is closing soon, so if you haven’t signed up yet do so before January 6.  Visit the PLF Website and select CLE > Upcoming CLE.

Happy New Year!

FSRapids

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2016]

The Year in Review – Top Posts in 2015

Thank you loyal readers!  As 2015 comes to a close, here is a look back at the year’s top posts:

Working Effectively – Time Management, Staffing

File Management – What to Keep, What Not to Keep

Marketing, Business Development, and the Attorney-Client Relationship

eCourt

Fees – Getting Paid, Finances, Credit Cards, Trust Accounting

Security

Technology – Macs, TECHSHOW, Office 2016, Windows 10, Paperless, and More

Potpourri

[All Rights Reserved 2015 – Beverly Michaelis]

4 Ways Lawyers Can Be Happier People

What tools do lawyers have in their toolbox to reduce stress and promote happiness?

On NW Sidebar attorney Kristina Larry offers up her top four secrets to happiness in the legal profession:

  • Do some good
  • Rethink billing
  • Strike out on your own
  • Care for yourself

Helping Others

Adding more to your plate is not, at first blush, the most appealing solution to feeling stressed.  But Larry makes some good points in her article, key among them: “Pro bono cases offer a chance to get away from what you normally do and you’ll get the chance to truly help someone, which can be very rewarding.”

If volunteering is a viable option for you, learn more about pro bono opportunities here.  Another choice is to channel volunteering efforts toward the profession.  The Oregon State Bar and other groups have many such opportunities, but the most diverse might be those offered through the Multnomah Bar Association.

Ditching the Hourly Ball and Chain

As a stress management tool, I couldn’t agree more.

Because deviating from the strict hourly billing model begins with writing a hybrid fee agreement, check out The Five C’s of Hybrid Fee Agreements.  From there, Google “alternative billing practices for lawyers” or “alternative fee arrangements” to find the many blog posts and articles on this topic.

Time to Transition to Solo Practice?

If working in a firm isn’t a good fit for you, solo practice may be.  How can you explore the pros and cons of sole proprietorship?

OAAP and PMA services are free and confidential.

Caring for Yourself

Taking care of yourself is BIG piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing stress. The OAAP provides free, confidential one-on-one help to all Oregon lawyers and law students.

Self care is also addressed in the CLEs listed below.  These programs are completely FREE to Oregon lawyers.  Locate one or more of these CLEs by selecting CLE > Past CLE on the PLF website.

  • Riding the Waves of Life in the Law
  • Strategies for Balancing Work and the Rest of Your Life
  • Stress Hardiness for Lawyers and Judges
  • Taking Care of Ourselves (While We’re Busy Taking Care of Others)
  • Transitions: Challenge or Opportunity?
  • What Lawyers and Judges need to Know About COMPASSION FATIGUE and the Strategies to Prevent It
  • Work and Worth: Navigating Your Way in the Profession

Sometimes stress can be traced to other issues going on in a lawyer’s life – struggling with student loans or debt, technology overtaking our lives, feelings of being overwhelmed by work/lack of organization, or family pressures.  CLE resources are available on these topics as well:

CLEs Relating to Student Loans, Debt, or Money Issues

  • Money Matters
  • Navigating Student Loan Repayment Options

CLEs Relating to Technology Over-Consumption and Organization

  • Legal Productivity: Responsible Connectivity – How NOT to Be Consumed by Technology
  • Leveraging Technology to Effectively Manage Your Law Practice
  • Reducing the Pressure
  • Road to Office Organization Series

CLEs Relating to Family Pressures

  • Enjoying Parenting
  • Gambling: A Family Matter
  • Kids and Drugs: What Parents Need to Know
  • Meeting the Needs of Aging Parents
  • What Can You Do When Someone In Your Family Experiences Depression, Anxiety, or other Health Issues

Final Thoughts about Happiness and Stress Management

Don’t overlook humor as a stress-fighting tool:

Research shows that laughter makes people happier, healthier, and more successful. Humor is also a neglected workplace tool. It diffuses tension, builds
rapport, and motivates workers. Humor wields enormous positive influence over people, making them feel more relaxed and comfortable. Humor Your Way to Happiness,Health, and Success.

Take stress hardiness seriously.  It is possible to become more resilient through the three C’s: challenge, commitment, and control.  These concepts are at the core of the Stress Hardiness CLE referenced above, and you can learn more by ordering this free program from the PLF website.  For an overview, see Building Stress Hardiness and check out the many other articles written about stress, available on the OAAP website.  On the In Sight page, select the link to view an index of articles from previous issues, then search the PDF for articles related to “stress” or “happiness.”

All Rights Reserved [2015] Beverly Michaelis

Time for a Law Office Getaway

Summer is almost upon us!  And regular readers know this is the time of year when I “nag” you about the importance of building vacation plans into your work schedule.

Work without rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation leads to burnout.  So banish the excuses!  This will take a bit of effort and planning, but your body and mind will thank you.

I Can’t Afford It

“If I’m not at the office, I can’t bill.  If I can’t bill, I won’t get paid.”  True enough, but there is a solution:  budget for your vacation.  A bit of research and number crunching is in order here.  First, calculate your vacation expenses. This should be relatively easy.  Next, quantify the lost revenue you need to replace during your time out of the office.  Now that you know how much you need, begin setting aside funds every week to meet your financial goal.  If necessary, find little ways to cut back that can really add up: like bringing your lunch to work, deferring your daily Starbucks fix, using public transportation, or telecommuting.  Saving weekly will keep you on track and help manage expectations. If you’re just getting started, then your plans this year may be more modest.  Next year, you can begin saving for your summer vacation in January.

I’m Too Busy

Work will never go away, but I guarantee that if you look ahead in your calendar you will find a block of time with no commitments.  Even if you haven’t made plans yet, block the time out now before your calendar fills up.  If you have a habit of backsliding, enlist your family as enforcers.  This time should be sacred.  If you need an extra incentive, consider non-refundable travel reservations.

Preparation is Key

If you’re a member of a firm, going on vacation is a matter of meeting with other lawyers who will be covering cases during your absence.  If you are a sole practitioner, use the buddy system.  Find a colleague who is experienced in your practice area and willing to cover for you.  This arrangement is usually reciprocal and is helpful if you have an unexpected absence from the office due to injury or a medical condition.

Get a game plan in place:

  • Notify clients, opposing counsel, judges, or other appropriate parties that you will be out of the office;
  • Prep your files.  They should be well-organized and current, with status memos so your buddy can easily step in if needed;
  • Create a “Countdown Schedule.”  Identify what needs to be done when and whether certain tasks can wait until your return;
  • Allow for wind down.  As your vacation approaches, leave time in your schedule to finish up last minute work.  Reduce or refer out new matters;
  • Train staff.  Do they have a clear understanding of office procedures?  How will they screen client calls during your absence?  Give them parameters for contacting you or your buddy in the event of an emergency.
  • Resist constantly checking voice mail, e-mail, or text messages.  Technology is a God-send, but part of rejuvenation is taking a break from our instant Internet society. Checking in is okay, but stick to a schedule to avoid obsessing over what is going on back at the office.  Remember – you have an emergency plan in place.  If something happens, staff or your buddy will get a hold of you.
  • Avoid post-vacation overload.  Just as you blocked out dates to go on vacation, allow yourself time to get back up-to-speed.  Otherwise, you’re right back where you started.

Give yourself and your family a well-deserved break.  With a bit of organization, you can budget for (and enjoy) your time off.

All Rights Reserved [2015] Beverly Michaelis

Escape from the Office

If you’re a regular reader, you are accustomed to my annual “reminder” to build vacation plans into your schedule.9371665116_dca14d2541_k

Work without rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation leads to burnout.  So banish the excuses!  This will take a bit of effort and planning, but your body and mind will thank you.

I Can’t Afford It

“If I’m not at the office, I can’t bill.  If I can’t bill, I won’t get paid.”  True enough, but there is a solution:  budget for your vacation.  A bit of research and number crunching is in order here.  First, calculate your vacation expenses. This should be relatively easy.  Next, quantify the lost revenue you need to replace during your time out of the office.  Now that you know how much you need, begin setting aside funds every week to meet your financial goal.  If necessary, find little ways to cut back that can really add up: like bringing your lunch to work, deferring your daily Starbucks fix, using public transportation, or telecommuting.  Saving weekly will keep you on track and help manage expectations. If you’re just getting started, then your plans this year may be more modest.  Next year, you can begin saving for your summer vacation in January.

I’m Too Busy

Work will never go away, but I guarantee that if you look ahead in your calendar you will find a block of time with no commitments.  Even if you haven’t made plans yet, block the time out now before your calendar fills up.  If you have a habit of backsliding, enlist your family as enforcers.  This time should be sacred.  If you need an extra incentive, consider non-refundable travel reservations.

Preparation is Key

If you’re a member of a firm, going on vacation is a matter of meeting with other lawyers who will be covering cases during your absence.  If you are a sole practitioner, use the buddy system.  Find a colleague who is experienced in your practice area and willing to cover for you.  This arrangement is usually reciprocal and is helpful if you have an unexpected absence from the office due to injury or a medical condition.

Get a game plan in place:

  • Notify clients, opposing counsel, judges, or other appropriate parties that you will be out of the office;
  • Prep your files.  They should be well-organized and current, with status memos so your buddy can easily step in if needed;
  • Create a “Countdown Schedule.”  Identify what needs to be done when and whether certain tasks can wait until your return;
  • Allow for wind down.  As your vacation approaches, leave time in your schedule to finish up last minute work.  Reduce or refer out new matters;
  • Train staff.  Do they have a clear understanding of office procedures?  How will they screen client calls during your absence?  Give them parameters for contacting you or your buddy in the event of an emergency.
  • Resist constantly checking voice mail, e-mail, or text messages.  Technology is a God-send, but part of rejuvenation is taking a break from our instant Internet society. Checking in is okay, but stick to a schedule to avoid obsessing over what is going on back at the office.  Remember – you have an emergency plan in place.  If something happens, staff or your buddy will get a hold of you.
  • Avoid post-vacation overload.  Just as you blocked out dates to go on vacation, allow yourself time to get back up-to-speed.  Otherwise, you’re right back where you started.

Give yourself and your family a well-deserved break.  With a bit of organization, you can budget for (and enjoy) your time off.

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis

Treating Clients Well

In today’s legal economy, developing business and marketing to prospective clients is the centerpiece of nearly every lawyer’s existence. Whether you are a sole practitioner, an associate or a seasoned partner, you will most likely need or be expected to cultivate and grow your own clientele.

Some firms lean heavily on web design and search engine optimization to attract prospects. Others rely on referrals. Both approaches are effective, but incomplete. The next step is to deliver top-notch client service, starting with understanding and meeting client needs. Continue reading

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 46,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Plan a Stress-Less Holiday – from the OAAP

Stressed about the holidays?  Consider these quick tips from the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program:

First – A Reality Check

  • The holidays are not really a competition
  • It’s okay to say no.
  • All holidays are celebrations of the good things of life
  • It’s good to ask, What can I do to help others?

The Plan

  • Participate in the holidays in any way you choose – arrive when and if you want.  Leave when you need to. 
  • If you are in recovery and there is any doubt in your mind about the safety of an event or party, say no.  Find out what your sponsor and other recovering friends are doing.
  • Enjoy the holidays for what they mean to you.  Celebrate whatever makes YOU feel the best.
  • Volunteer to make the holidays special for others

Read the complete article here.