Holiday Stress Revisited

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.

How? By using the four A’s:

Avoid

Alter

Adapt

Accept

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

Updated 2020 All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis

Do You Have a Fire Claim Due to the Oregon Wildfires?

If yes, help is available. Please spread the word.

In-person Consultations

Over the next two weekends the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) will have volunteer lawyers available to answer questions in person at various locations around the state. No appointment is necessary and the consultations are free for wildfire victims.

Learn more about these in-person events here.

Help by Phone or Email

If you can’t make it this Saturday or the locations in Glide and Springfield don’t work for you, call or email OTLA for help.

Online Fire Resources

For a list of online fire resources, visit the OTLA website.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Wildfires in Oregon – How to Stay Safe, Replace Lost Documents, and Get Your Ballot

The Ready.gov checklist below describes how to prepare for, survive during, and be safe after a wildfire.

For resources on replacing lost documents or receiving your 2020 ballot, see the postscript.

Please share this post if you know someone affected by the wildfires, including those who are under a Level 1 or 2 evacuation notice.

HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN A WILDFIRE THREATENS

Prepare NOW

  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts. Sign up for email updates about coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Check AirNow.gov for information about your local air quality.
  • Know your community’s evacuation routes and find several ways to leave the area. Drive the evacuation routes while following the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state and local authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Have a plan for pets and livestock. Remember that some shelters do not accept pets.
  • Prepare for long-term social distancing by gathering emergency supplies. Include cleaning supplies, non-perishable foods, first aid supplies, and water. Consider gathering soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, household cleaning supplies, and masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Set aside supplies in case you must evacuate to your safe location. After a wildfire, you may not have access to these supplies for days or even weeks. Don’t forget the needs of pets. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Obtain extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment. Being prepared allows you to address smaller medical issues at home, alleviating the burden on urgent care centers and hospitals.
    • Being prepared allows you to avoid unnecessary excursions and to address minor medical issues at home, alleviating the burden on urgent care centers and hospitals.
    • Remember that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases and slowly building up supplies in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips. This helps to protect those who are unable to procure essentials in advance of the pandemic and must shop more frequently. In addition, consider avoiding WIC-approved products so that those who rely on these products can access them.
    • If you already have one at home, set aside a respirator, like an N95 respirator, to keep smoke particles out of the air you breathe. Respirators are not meant to fit children. Due to COVID-19, it may be difficult to find respirators. While cloth face coverings, surgical masks, and dust masks provide protection from exposure to COVID-19, they will not protect you from smoke inhalation. To ensure that healthcare workers have access to N95 respirators, it is best to limit your exposure to smoke rather than buy respirators.
  • Designate a room that can be closed off from outside air. Close all doors and windows. Set up a portable air cleaner to keep indoor pollution levels low when smoky conditions exist.
  • Keep important documents in a fireproof, safe place. Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Use fire-resistant materials to build, renovate, or make repairs.
  • Find an outdoor water source with a hose that can reach any area of your property.
  • Create a fire-resistant zone that is free of leaves, debris, or flammable materials for at least 30 feet from your home.
  • Review insurance coverage to make sure it is enough to replace your property.
  • Pay attention to air quality alerts.

Survive DURING

  • Evacuate immediately if authorities tell you to do so. If possible, bring items with you when you evacuate that can help protect you and others from COVID-19 while sheltering. Examples include hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, cleaning materials, and two cloth masks per person to prevent the spread of infection.
    • If you are unable to stay with family and friends and must stay at a shelter or public facility, take steps to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19. Wash your hands often, maintain a physical distance of at least six feet between you and people who are not part of your household, wear a mask. If you can, wash your face covering regularly. Masks should not be worn by children under 2 years old, people who have trouble breathing, and people who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the covering.
  • If trapped, then call 911 and give your location, but be aware that emergency response could be delayed or impossible. Turn on lights to help rescuers find you.
  • Pay attention to any health symptoms if you have asthma, COPD, heart disease, or are pregnant. If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the operator know if you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth fae covering before help arrives. If staying at a shelter or public facility, alert shelter staff immediately so they can call a local hospital or clinic.
  • Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
  • If you already have an N95 mask, use this to protect yourself from smoke inhalation. N95 masks also protect against the spread of COVID-19, however they should be reserved for healthcare workers. If are in a public cleaner air space or shelter, use a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • If you are not ordered to evacuate but smoky conditions exist, stay inside in a safe location or go to a community building where smoke levels are lower.

Be Safe AFTER

  • Listen to authorities to find out when it is safe to return, and whether water is safe to drink.
  • Avoid hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers. The ground may contain heat pockets that can burn you or spark another fire. Consider the danger to pets and livestock. When cleaning, wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, appropriate cloth face coverings or masks, and sturdy thick-soled shoes during clean-up efforts. These will protect you from further injury from broken glass, exposed nails, and other objects. Use appropriate masks or respirators and maintain a physical distance of at least six feet while working with someone else to protect yourself from COVID-19. When cleaning up ash, use a respirator to limit your exposure.
    • People with asthma and/or other lung conditions should take precautions in areas with poor air quality, as it can worsen symptoms. Children should not help with clean-up efforts.
    • Pay attention to any health symptoms if you or your children have asthma, COPD, heart disease, or are pregnant. Get to medical help if you need it.
  • Continue taking steps to protect yourself from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, such as washing your hands often and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.
  • Send text messages or use social media to reach out to family and friends. Phone systems are often busy following a disaster. Make calls only in emergencies.
  • Wear a NIOSH certified-respirator and wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Document property damage with photographs. Conduct an inventory and contact your insurance company for assistance.
  • Wildfires dramatically change landscape and ground conditions, which can lead to increased risk of flooding due to heavy rains, flash flooding and mudflows. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wildfire. Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect the life you’ve built and to assure financial protection from future flooding.
  • Be available for family, friends, and neighbors who may need someone to talk to about their feelings. Many people may already feel fear and anxiety about the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The threat of a wildfire can add additional stress. Follow CDC guidance for managing stress during a traumatic event and managing stress during COVID-19. You may need to talk to someone about your feelings, too. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or professionals if you need help coping with your stress, anxiety, or sadness.

Last Updated by Ready.gov: 09/09/2020

Postscript

If you or someone you know had to evacuate without important DMV documents, here’s how to replace them.

The League of Women Voters offers this advice for getting your 2020 ballot if you’ve been displaced.

COVID and Law Firms

Consider these headlines from the ABA Journal:

May 2020 – Law firm revenue takes nosedive during COVID-19, new survey data shows

  • Roughly 81% of law firms have seen their revenues drop during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 27% of firms experiencing loss of revenues saw business decline by more than half
  • Nearly 20% of firms have been forced to shrink their staffs
  • More than 60% said they believe it will take from four months to a year for their firms to revert back to their financial positions before COVID-19

June 2020 – Top law firms fared surprisingly well during COVID-19 pandemic, survey says

  • Demand for the first five months of the year was down only 1.4%
  • Cash collections were up more than 3% through May
  • Expenses were essentially flat as law firms reduced discretionary spending
  • 54% of the law firms reported increases in client requests for discounts in May, compared to the previous month
  • 52% reported more requests for extensions the same month
  • Lawyer layoffs have been modest
  • Layoffs of nonlegal staff members have been concentrated in jobs that don’t lend themselves to remote work
  • Transactional practices, such as corporate and real estate, were most affected by the slowdown
  • Practices have been active in bankruptcy, banking, labor, and employment
  • Liquidity is good, with almost 90% of law firms having the ability to cover at least three months of monthly expenses, excluding partner draws
  • More than 50% of the surveyed law firms cut or delayed partner contributions, which gave them more cash on hand

So… which is it?

Good question! There’s a difference between a nosedive and faring surprisingly well, although the devil is in the details.

The top law firm data is based on a survey of 52 of the nation’s top 100 grossing law firms and 20 midsized and regional law firms. Such a list would include very few, if any, offices with a presence in Oregon.

Additionally, the data was gathered four to five months ago. Measured in COVID time, which eerily resembles dog years, the survey feels outdated. Notice too that the firms judged to be “doing well” nonetheless laid off staff and reduced spending. Half received requests from clients asking for discounts and extensions, which were no doubt granted.

Either way we know our truth. Oregon is a state largely comprised of small firms and solo practitioners – lawyers who make a living but aren’t among the nation’s top money-wise.

So as we work to restore our livelihoods and practices, what should we keep in mind?

Five thoughts to keep in your head

  • We can and will bounce back.
  • Continue following COVID guidelines and don’t let your guard down. Staying healthy ensures that your practice remains open.
  • Deal in facts. Know the economic indicators for your firm.
  • If you have been neglecting marketing, you absolutely, positively must get going.
  • Make a plan and take action. Now might be the time to consider other practice areas.

What to do next

Work on your mental mindset

You are more resilient than you think.

Consider the tough times you’ve lived through. Losing someone you loved, struggling over student loan debt, or ending a relationship. It felt bad at the time, and I am not minimizing how bad. However, you did survive. You are here. You moved forward.

Furthermore, I am willing to wager that you had help. Someone supported you. Said something or did something that made you feel better. Reach out to those people today. Reach out to the attorney counselors at the OAAP for free, confidential assistance.

Your physical health

If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help others.

You know what to do to stay physically healthy, so you won’t see it repeated here. Mental health is another matter. If you are struggling, pick up the phone and call the OAAP. They can help.

Just the facts mam

What are your outstanding accounts receivable? How many clients are 60 or more days overdue? When did you last compare your actual income and expenses against budgeted projections? Do you have a budget?

Financial management may not be fun, but we have to deal in reality. You can’t guess who owes you what or how much, you’ve got to know. Start now.

Begin by adjusting or creating a budget for the remainder of 2020. Yes, I know we only have four months remaining in the current year, so this is a task you could easily procrastinate about. Don’t do it. Face the numbers now while time remains to make a plan and take action.

On the expense side, ask for no-penalty extensions, negotiate new rates, request discounts, and get tough on discretionary spending. You may need to collect retainers for litigation expenses you previously fronted.

On the income side, get on top of overdue accounts. I’ve said it before: the most effective thing you can do is pick up the phone and talk to your clients. Screw up your courage and do it. Accepting monthly payments or a discounted amount due is better than no money at all. Offer contactless payment through your website or Square account, accept Zelle or Venmo. Be flexible. Find out what works best for clients.

Marketing

I devoted the month of July to marketing tactics centered around the new normal of COVID-19. If you didn’t catch those posts, or need a refresher, access my blog archives from July. From the home page, locate the sidebar on the right portion of your screen. The archives are midway down the page.

Make a plan

You are in control. Make a written list of what you will do differently, starting today and in the future. Be specific and lay out next steps. For example:

  • Read up on COVID and marketing. Identify 5 or more ideas you want to pursue. Set timelines for each and execute your plan.
  • Prepare a budget-to-actual comparison. Identify what you need to adjust, and act accordingly.
  • Review accounts receivable. Decide on a strategy for each overdue client and begin making calls.

Commit by scheduling out each planned activity. Allow adequate time to get tasks done and don’t overcrowd your calendar.

Scheduling isn’t busy work. It protects your intentions to follow through on your plan and increases the likelihood you won’t brush tasks off.

If you really want to ensure success, find an accountability buddy. Another lawyer is nice, but not necessary. Anyone who is willing to partner with you in goal setting will work. The purpose is not to critique, but to incentivize you to follow through because you’re answering to someone other than yourself.

Once you have a buddy, schedule weekly phone appointments. You won’t be sharing confidential client information. This is a “how did you do this week?” type of conversation and it doesn’t have to be a major time suck. If you want the exchange to go a bit deeper, obviously it can. You can ask for feedback and offer suggestions. It’s up to you.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Procrastination in the Time of COVID

procrastination31

Do you find yourself avoiding work? Feeling anxious or stressed? Dreading what you might read in emails or hear in voicemails?

You are experiencing procrastination. And possibly depression. With the upheaval COVID has brought to our lives, getting up in the morning may feel challenging.

Understanding and addressing procrastination is difficult. One of the better explanations appeared in a post on The Productive Mindset:

  • Procrastination is not a time-management problem.
  • Procrastinators often have anxiety or doubts about their abilities, or about the perception others have of their abilities.
  • Many procrastinators would prefer others think they lack drive instead of providing the opportunity for others to question their capabilities.
  • Underlying fear of failure or fear of success is common among procrastinators.
  • Depression and procrastination go hand-in-hand.

Fear, Anxiety, and Doubt

While the original Mindset post is no longer available, Googling “the psychology and behaviors of procrastination” reinforces that fear, anxiety, and doubt are major players here. Factor in a major life change – like a pandemic – and the stress ratchets up threefold.

Does This Sound Like You?

  1. Do you put off taking care of important things to the point of jeopardizing relationships, career, finances, or health?
  2. Do you put off doing what you need to do until a crisis develops?
  3. Do you put off doing tasks unless you can do them perfectly or until you can find the perfect time to do them?
  4. Do you hesitate taking necessary action because you fear change?
  5. Do you think about things you’d like to do but rarely get around to doing them?
  6. Do you believe that projects or tasks will somehow take care of themselves?
  7. Do you overcommit yourself?
  8. Do you tend to do only what you want to do instead of what you should do?
  9. Do you tend to do only what you think you should do instead of what you want to do?

Adapted from It’s About Time, by Dr. Linda Sapadin with Jack Maguire [Procrastination Self Test.]

Ending the Paralysis and Self Sabotage

We all procrastinate occasionally. But if putting things off is affecting your practice, home life, health, or finances – don’t struggle alone. Oregon lawyers are encouraged to contact an Attorney Counselor at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) any time for help with this issue. The OAAP is free and confidential. They are an excellent resource if you are experiencing depression, which is often the real story behind procrastination.

You can read more about the paralysis of procrastination here.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis