Regain Control in 2019

Is it really possible to change your work habits?

Absolutely! The new year offers each of us the chance to make changes. Not by setting lofty goals, but by committing to small adjustments that can make a big difference in attitude, health, and resilience.

Cut your work hours

Several years ago I reported on a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine that found people “who work an average of 11 or more hours per day have a 67 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or dying from heart disease than people who work a standard seven- to eight-hour day.  Those who work between 10 and 11 hours per day have a 45 percent higher risk.”

Your micro goal: Commit to a 9 hour (or less) work day. The occasional exception is fine, just don’t backslide.

Stand, move, stretch

Sitting in your chair for hours on end shouldn’t be the norm. Stand, move, stretch. Consider a treadmill or standing desk. Better yet, leave the office for a few minutes and walk around the block! Your joints and muscles will thank you.

Your micro goal: Move at least once an hour. Use a cheap timer, an app, recurring task reminders, or whatever it takes to remind yourself to get up. No one will care if you stretch during a deposition or walk to the back of the room during a CLE.

Say no

Find it hard to turn people away? You aren’t alone. I don’t really have a choice. I need the money. Family, friends, or former clients are depending on me. These are things we tell ourselves. Follow this advice to turn the tide.

Your micro goal: Say no at least once a month. As you gain confidence, don’t hesitate to say no whenever necessary.

Cull the herd

Too much to do and not enough time? Cull the herd.

  • Review your current client list for matters you regret taking.  If feasible, say goodbye to those clients.
  • Farm out work or delegate to others in your firm. If you’re a solo/small firm practitioner, reach out to colleagues for referrals to a contract lawyer who can get you over the hump.

Your micro goal: Apply your newfound client/case criteria to future matters and screen out cases that aren’t a good match for you.

Protect your priorities

What do you want to get done? What are your priorities? When is the last time you even thought about what you wanted?

It’s easy to get pushed around by interruptions: phone calls, texts, emails, pop-in clients, or colleagues.

Your micro goal: Block out time on your calendar for work you want to get done. Treat this time as if it were a client appointment. (No interruptions allowed.) Stay off the Internet unless the task at hand involves being on the Internet. Give the matter your undivided attention.

Put your calendar first

If your calendar contains your personal and business commitments, including time blocks to get work done, let it determine the scheduling for all new promises.

Your micro goal: Check your calendar before promising completion of a time-related task. If there is no “deadline” per se, determine when you can reasonably fit the new project into your schedule. Add it to your calendar and back it up with a task reminder. You gain nothing by promising a quick turnaround if you can’t keep your word.

Triage

If you’re in a pickle – a deadline is approaching and you know you can’t meet it  – the best approach is to face it head on. I know this can be hard. We assume clients or other lawyers will yell at us. The truth is, people are more understanding than we give them credit for. Everyone has been there. They get it.

Your micro goal: Renegotiate deadlines you can’t meet.

You can start over and you can make changes. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2019

 

Why Law School is an Investment in More than the Law

The following post is a good reminder that your law degree can be used for more than practicing law.

If 2019 finds you evaluating your career options, read on. Follow-up by contacting the attorney counselors at the OAAP who can meet with you one-on-one or refer you to career resources, including CLEs.

Featured on NW Sidebar: Why Law School is an Investment in More than the Law.

A Year’s Worth of Advice About YOU

As we wind down the year, it’s time to reflect back on 2018. Whatever your concerns, questions, or issues may have been, the answers could be here – if we’re lucky. Because this is the year of YOU. Your well-being. How you manage stress, respond to rotten clients, or cope with law school debt.

Everyone needs a pressure relief valve. Find yours.

Maybe it lies in learning how to say no, deploying strategies to take back your schedule, or finding time to get away from the office for a while. Each of these play a role in work-life balance and your well-being.

Peruse this list. It only takes 24 seconds – I should know, I timed it. What speaks to you?

Not sure how to start? These folks provide free and confidential help.

 

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Postscript

For those who are looking for an “end of year” review touching on eCourt, eService, finances, technology, and workflow – see my post on December 31.

Stress and Thanksgiving

You may feel there’s nothing you can do about stress.
The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more
hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities
will always be demanding. However, you have more
control over stress than you might think. No matter how
stressful your life seems, you can take steps to relieve
the pressure and regain balance.

Sage words from the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

Since Thanksgiving – and the holiday season in general – can be especially stressful, here are three stress management strategies to try:

  • Use a tool in the Stress Relief Toolbox. (Take a walk, get out in nature, listen to music, etc.) Pick an activity from the toolbox and do it. Best practices? Don’t wait for stress to build up – use one of these suggestions every day and add your favorites.
  • If you’re a list-maker, you may like the Stress Management Self-Help Checklist. It’s a good way to stay on track and remind yourself of the importance of managing stress as part of your overall health.
  • Last, but not least: if you’re trying to get a handle on the stressors in your life, consider keeping a Stress Journal.

For specific advice on how to cope with holiday expectations and holiday-related stress, review these articles from the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program:

If you’re not sure where to start, or want to talk to someone now, contact one of the attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP). Services are free and confidential.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Using Contract Lawyers

Contract lawyers can play an essential role in managing workflow. Here are five quick tips from Law Practice Today on using freelancers effectively:

  • Get client consent.
  • Decide whether the contract lawyer will have client contact (if so, this affects the contract lawyer’s liability coverage status in Oregon).
  • Supervise! Overseeing the work of a contract lawyer is your ethical duty. Outsourcing lawyers should also be sensitive to the impression the contract lawyer makes on the client, particularly if they engage in client communication.
  • Beware of potential unauthorized practice of law. Ensure the contract lawyer is licensed to deliver services in the state of the client’s legal issue.
  • Don’t hesitate to bill for the contract lawyer’s services at prevailing market rates. I would add: include this cost (or fee) in your client engagement letter.

If you are considering hiring a contract lawyer (or want to offer your services on a contract basis), check out the following resources from the Professional Liability Fund:

  • Contract Lawyers Checklist
  • Contract Project – Letter of Understanding
  • Contract Project Intake Sheet
  • Independent Contractors or Employees
  • Letter Declining Contract Project

From the PLF home page, select Practice Management > Forms > Contract Lawyering. A number of CLEs are also available under the CLE > Past CLE heading:

  • Contract Lawyers CLE: Conflicts
  • Contract Attorneys: Managing Expectations and Getting Paid
  • Practical Contract Lawyering

To learn about Oregon malpractice coverage for contract lawyers and qualifying for a “supervised attorney” exemption, contact the PLF at 503.639.6911 or 800.452.1639 and ask for Jeff Crawford or Emilee Preble.

The Oregon Women Lawyers operate a Contract Lawyers Listserve for members. To join or use the service, visit the OWLS website.

All Rights Reserved – 2018 – Beverly Michaelis