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

 

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.

Best Practices – eService, Workflow, Trust Accounting and Beyond

From office system best practices to eService and advanced trust accounting – CLE offerings covered a wide array of topics this year. If you missed a program, don’t despair. Video and audio recordings are available to download from my online store.  Here are the details:

Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement & Workflow
OSB Program No.: 6724*9 (1.0 PS/general MCLE credits)

Recognizing the objectives and ethical traps of client intake, implementing the 7 key elements of intake forms, automating intake with ease, documenting representation, modernizing the engagement process using forms, brochures, automation, and eSignatures, using technology and staffing to improve workflow, and more.

Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement & File Retention
OSB Program No.: 6724*10 (1.0 PS/general MCLE credits)

Represent clients effectively and ethically by applying best practice recommendations for docketing, conflicts, disengagement, and file retention. Includes docketing tips for eCourt practitioners, streamlining conflict checking, limiting liability exposure through proper disengagement, simplifying disengagement, and creating file retention policies, procedures, and checklists.

Oregon eService
OSB Program No.: 6724*11 (1.25 PS/general MCLE credits)

For experts and novices alike – an opportunity to polish eService/eCourt skills and apply tips straight from the courthouse – or understand eService from the ground up. Includes how to eServe in four easy steps, six compelling reasons to use eService, identifying eService exceptions, responding to service contact issues, pursuing sanctions under UTCR 1.090(2), eService vs. service by email, courthouse dos and don’ts, and proper Certificates of Service.

Trust Accounting Fundamentals
OSB Program No.: 6724*12 (1.5 ethics MCLE credits)

From managing bank charges and avoiding impermissible cushions to reporting overdrafts and addressing client fee disputes – this program will provide a fundamental understanding of how to operate your lawyer trust account.

Advanced Trust Accounting
OSB Program No.: 6724*13 – 1.25 ethics MCLE credits

Delve deeper into the more advanced issues of trust accounting, including how to safely manage wire and EFT transfers, using layaway payment plans, collecting “first and last month’s rent,” managing evergreen retainers and hybrid fee agreements, receiving third party payments, bartering legal services, passing on credit card transaction fees, what to do with unclaimed funds, responding to garnishments and liens, how to disburse settlement proceeds if your client is missing, and more.

Your on demand CLE purchase includes

  • MP4 download (combined audio and video file)
  • M4a download (audio only)
  • Written program materials, including presentation slides and resources
  • Answers to polling questions asked during the live CLE
  • MCLE Form 6 for self-reporting of MCLE credits

Instant digital delivery with options to save to the cloud or your mobile device

Links to digital files are delivered instantly at checkout with your purchase confirmation email.  Download, stream, save to your Dropbox account, or send files to your mobile device or desktop computer.

Free eBook!

If you visit my online store, be sure to download your free copy of Tips for Improving Client Relationships.

Secure payment processing

All transactions are handled by Selz and protected with industry standard security, including encryption and SSL secure. The Selz platform is also PCI compliant. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover accepted.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Commit to Your Goals to Achieve Marketing Results

Have you set goals for your law practice?

 

From a big picture perspective, all three choices are valid.  What they lack is a reasonable chance of success.

You can greatly improve the odds of achieving your goals by taking these three simple steps:

  • Create measurable goals
  • Write your goals down!
  • Be accountable

Have I written about this before? Yes, indeed.  But a reminder never hurts!

Create Measurable Goals

If your goals and objectives aren’t measurable, how will you know if you succeeded? It’s easy to say “I want to grow my client base,” because this statement can mean so many different things: you want to increase revenue, open more client files, or start taking on clients in a new area of law.  Perhaps keeping your goals fuzzy is a way of feeding a tendency to procrastinate or avoid identifiable failure ….

If you want to grow your client base, start by articulating what this means to you.

Let’s say your goal is to increase new client retention by 10%.  Start by assessing your success in converting clients (new clients interviewed vs. new clients who retain you as their lawyer).  If your conversion rate is less than 75%, it is time for introspection and some retooling.  What issues are you facing?

  • Do you need to bolster your confidence? Finding support through peer groups or counseling may make a big difference.
  • Perhaps you need to learn more about a specific area of law so clients are assured of your knowledge. Contact the Oregon State Bar and Professional Liability Fund. Access OSB BarBooks, download PLF Forms, attend CLEs, join Bar Sections, and read pertinent publications.
  • Maybe you can benefit from polishing your client interviewing skills or learning more about client needs?  Find a mentor, reach out to colleagues, search this blog for posts on client relations and marketing – there are a ton of resources available in this area if you ask.  It may be as simple as observing your mentor or asking her to sit in on your client interviews (screen for conflicts; get client permission).

Identify the challenges – there may be several – then dial down.  Create a series of measurable steps to help you achieve your goal of increasing client retention by 10%. Be concrete and set time limitations.  Here are examples from a prior post.

Continue developing additional specific, measurable steps you can take to improve client retention.

Write Your Goals Down!

If you don’t mind a success rate hovering around 43%, then talking or thinking about your goals is a good way to go. If you prefer to do better than that, write your goals down.

Putting pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard) is an inescapable part of making your goals more real, concrete, and achievable.  You can improve your chances even more by keeping your goals visible: a sheet kept on your desk, a series of post-its on a bathroom mirror, or saving a screen grab to your desktop or mobile device.

The act of writing is, in itself, a process of mental transformation.  If you don’t believe me, just Google “why is writing down goals important?” and scan through the myriad of results.  Here is the best explanation, IMHO.  By the way, science backs this up. Writing down your goals and sharing them with a friend will increase your rate of success from 43% to 62%.

Be Accountable!

Being accountable to others is success on steroids!  The Dominican University of California conducted a study on strategies for achieving goals.  By including the additional step of sending a weekly progress report to a friend, 76% of study participants accomplished their goals, or were at least half-way there, in a four-week period.  Wow!

So if I write a text or send an email to a friend,

“Hi Sheila, I’m setting goals for my law practice this year.  One of my objectives is to read the OSB Family Law BarBook cover-to-cover by June 1.  I need you to hold me accountable for getting this done.  Can I send you weekly progress reports?”

and my friend holds me to my promise of sending weekly progress reports, there is a 76% likelihood I will follow through? I’m on board!  Naturally you can buddy-up on this idea:  find a colleague with whom you can exchange goals and weekly progress reports. You will both benefit by holding the other accountable.

Getting Started

Get underway with the process of goal setting, marketing plans, and business development by accessing the great resources available on the PLF website.  Choose Practice Management, then Forms. Under “filter by category,” select “Marketing.”

You can make this happen. Commitment and follow through make all the difference.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2018.