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

 

I Don’t Want to Create a Business Plan!

I get it.  I really do.  They involve work and you’re busy.  And if you’re not trying to sell someone on why they should give you money to start or grow your law practice, why would you bother?

Because, my friends, every once in a while you should be selfish and do something for yourself.

client-meeting-cropped

Six Good Reasons Why Every Lawyer Can Benefit from a Business Plan

Everyone can benefit from the business planning process, especially startups.  But existing businesses need a vision too.  Creating a business plan will give you:

  • Clarity about what you want to do
  • Control over your own fate
  • A strategy for staying organized and on track
  • Accountability
  • A way to measure and monitor your progress
  • A path to help you move forward

For associates in law firms, creating an annual business plan is the only way to build a successful strategy for bringing in business – something all associates are expected to do sooner or later.

For partners, annual business planning is likely to be more about reflection: now that I’m an experienced lawyer with a book of business at XYZ Law Firm what do I want to do? If the answer is: make a lateral move, creating a business plan will likely be required.  If the answer is: something else entirely, then time spent reflecting and planning will help you ferret that out.

Why Lawyers Don’t Write Business Plans

Aside from the obvious excuse that creating a business plan is time consuming, you may also perceive it as too difficult.

But there is an even better reason not to write a business plan.  If you don’t put specific goals and objectives on paper you can’t fail.

Here’s What You’re Really Missing Out On

The problem with avoiding failure is that you also set yourself up not to succeed. And you miss out on the other benefits that go along with creating a business plan.

Create a Direction and Lower Your Stress

When you know what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there (the specific objectives included in your plan), it lowers your stress level. There is no more floundering or misdirection.  Having a plan means you’re back in control.

Doing What You Want to Do For People You Want to Work For Means Reduced Exposure to Liability and Ethics Complaints

There’s a huge difference between practicing door law because you’ve always done it versus purposefully choosing a niche.

The door law route exposes you to greater risk of malpractice claims and ethics complaints.  Keeping up with a few areas of law is hard enough.  Trying to keep up with five or ten is bordering on ridiculous.

Imagine instead that you are working in one area, or a handful of areas, that you know well or can master.  With a focus, you can target clients deliberately and work for a client base that you truly want to represent.

You’ll Also See Gains in Efficiency, Money, and Resources

You are a resource.  Your staff is a resource.  Spend your resources on meaningful, designed goals.  This is what creates efficiency.  And with efficiency you can’t help but save money.  Or at a minimum, experience a better return on your investment.  You know it, you can see it, you can measure it.

Business Plan Checklist and Resources

If I’ve convinced you, contact me.  I’m happy to send along my business plan checklist and a list of resources for creating a plan.  Do what you want to do.  I am.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

How to Write a Mission Statement in 30 Minutes or Less

Two years ago I spoke at the King County Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Bootcamp.  It was a red-letter day because I had the great fortune to hear counselor and mediator Joe Shaub.  Joe had tons of great advice, not the least of which was this simple, but effective exercise for writing a professional mission statement in 30 minutes or less:

Part One (10 Minutes)

Rank the values listed below on a scale of 1 to 4:
1 not important, 2 important, 3 very important, 4 extremely important.

  • Achievement
  • Ambition
  • Adventure
  • Affection
  • Beauty
  • Broadmindedness
  • Cheerfulness
  • Cleanliness
  • Competence
  • Competitiveness
  • Comfortable Life
  • Cooperation
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Discipline
  • Economic Security
  • Equality
  • Exciting Life
  • Fame
  • Family Happiness
  • Family Security
  • Forgiveness
  • Freedom
  • Friendship
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • Helpfulness
  • Inner Harmony
  • Integrity
  • Involvement
  • Intellectual
  • Logic
  • Loving
  • Loyalty
  • Mature Love
  • National Security
  • Order
  • Peace
  • Personal Development
  • Pleasure
  • Polite
  • Power
  • Recognition
  • Religion
  • Responsible
  • Salvation
  • Self-Respect
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom

Part Two (5 Minutes)

Identify the values you ranked as very (3) or extremely (4) important.  Make a list of each (very important values grouped together; extremely important values grouped together).

Values ranked as 4 – Extremely Important:

________________________________________________________

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(Continue on another page if needed).

Values ranked as 3 – Very Important:

________________________________________________________

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(Continue on another page if needed).

Part Three (10 Minutes – Allow 2 Minutes Per Question)

Next, complete the following five statements.  Write down the first thought that comes to mind.

1.  What I always dreamed of being or doing was:

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

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2.  My three or more greatest gifts or talents are:

________________________________________________________

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3.  The things I feel quite passionate about are:

________________________________________________________

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4.  The most satisfying moment in my professional/educational life so far was when:

________________________________________________________

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(Continue on another page if needed).

5.  What made that moment personally satisfying to me was:

________________________________________________________

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(Continue on another page if needed).

Part Four (Allow 5 Minutes)

Using the answers from Part Three, complete the following sentence:

My mission is to apply my gifts (which are                                        ,                               , and                                                                )* in advancing that which I deeply value (                                                           ,                                               , and                                                    )** in the service of                                                                  .***

* See your answers to Part Three, item 2.

**See your answers to Part Three, item 3.

***Consider all the values you listed as extremely important from Part Two.  Also consider persons or groups you deeply desire to serve and/or causes or ideals you deeply wish to advance.

It doesn’t get much easier than that!