I remember when I stated articling – many of the lawyers were unhappy folks. Even now, many lawyers are unhappy people. This is unfortunate – this can be changed.
Yearly totals of docketed hours were/are communicated as if there was/is a contest. Pulling two or three all-nighters in a row made you a champion. Testing a junior’s resolve was a sport – how to pick the partners of tomorrow. Partners in law firms would tell stories about what they had to do (and the sacrifices they had to make) in order to make partners as if these are the rules to work by.
Some of these young lawyers are now the older and wiser partners. Are we to perpetuate the unhappiness in the legal profession? Do we really want young associates to go through what we went through? Can we play the game differently than those taught us the rules of the game?
While it is important (critical) that we provide excellent legal services to the public and clients, what is stopping lawyers from being happy at the same time. Is it the struggle that makes a person a good lawyer or is it the opportunity to serve? Do we need to change the way we look at the future of the legal profession? Can we change the rules of the game and still win? Can we play the game better than our mentors did? I think so.
Some people just want to get a rise out of you. Some people say things and do things that they hope will upset you or cause a negative reaction. For example, opposing counsel may raise his voice in order to upset you. Opposing counsel may use inappropriate words in hopes you will also use inappropriate language. A senior lawyer in your law firm may give you work on a Friday afternoon in hopes that it will ruin your week-end.
You cannot control what other people do. You can control your reaction to it. If someone raises their voice to you, do not raise your voice – remain calm. If someone uses inappropriate language, make sure your language is appropriate or end the conversation until things cool down. If you get asked to do work on a Friday afternoon, ask yourself whether the client needs the help. If the answer is “yes”, then do your best work for the client. If you have plans for the week-end, attempt to adjust your plans to have your fun time and find time for the client too. As lawyer, we juggle commitments all the time -and we are good at it.
You can pass the test by not exhibiting the negative behaviour that the other person is trying to bring out. Be better than them. Know you are better than the other person. Passing the test is better than getting even.
What would you like to change in 2016? When answering this question, focus on the positive. Answer in the positive.
1. I will improve my blogging about topics that will attract clients to me.
2. I will blog about topics that will help people solve legal issues they face in their daily lives and will do this without charge.
3. I will exercise at least three times a week because my work will improve if I am healthy.
4. I will eat more fruit (not green veggies because I really do not like veggies).
5. I will communicate using positive terms because nobody likes negativity.
6. I will be grateful for what I have.
7. I will give back to the community by offering pro bono services to those in need.
My lawyers have never tried to meditate. A common question is “What I am I supposed to do to meditate?” Most people cannot flip a switch and start meditating – I can’t. For many, you cannot just sit in a chair or on the floor and say “Ok, now the meditation begins”.
What is the first step?
First, think of meditation as getting into a calm and light state. What else do you do that would be similar? I think that floating on water is similar. If you are too agitated, you have to move your arms to stay afloat. If your body is too heavy, you sink in the water. If you can recall the feeling of your body when you float in the water, try to replicate the feeling on land. If you forget how floating feels, go to the swimming pool and practice – then go on land and practice the same thing. On land, lie down and float. Next time, sit and try to recreate that same light and buoyant feeling. Do this some place that is calm and quiet.
For lawyers – time is money. Lawyers judge the productivity of their day based on “billable hours”. Have you noticed that you have more “uncontrollable” hours than “billable” hours? “Uncontrollable” hours are hours spent doing things that you did not plan to do when you created your daily “to-do” list. When you come into the office with a plan to do certain things and end up doing something that you had no control over – these are “uncontrollable” hours.
Some “uncontrollable” hours include:
- dealing with an upset employee;
- dealing with conflicts between people in the office;
- addressing compensation issues;
- dealing with an upset client;
- rewriting docket entries before sending a bill to a client;
- looking for documents that have not been filed properly;
- looking for documents because your office is a mess;
- searching on your computer for information that is not organized effectively;
- answering cold calls for free legal advice;
- waiting for your turn at the courthouse;
- waiting for clients to show up to a meeting;
- organizing documents provided by a client in a shoe box or bankers box; and
Some of these types of “uncontrollable” hours can be managed and some cannot. Think about the types of “uncontrollable” hours that you experience in your practice. If any type of “uncontrollable” hour can be minimized by a little organization or planning, then consider what changes can be made to improve efficiency.
For the “uncontrollable” hours that are just part of the practice of law, ask whether the practice of law can change. If it cannot, then accept that “uncontrollable” hours will always be a part of your professional clock. Don’t let “uncontrollable” hours bother you.
Homemade Gingerbread Men
I am not being judgmental here. I would like to know whether lawyers should give handwritten Christmas/Holiday cards (that is, not an e-card). What is the purpose of a Christmas/Holiday card? If the purpose of a card is to demonstrate to the recipient that you are grateful, should the card be a handwritten card? Does an e-card sent by a computer adequately show gratitude?
How much thought goes into an e-card. Does the lawyer do anything more than send a list of the marketing department? Does the recipient even read the card or does the delete button get pushed?
The best way to answer the question about whether to send an e-card or a handwritten card is to ask yourself, what do you do with e-cards? Do you ever print the e-card? Do you read the e-card? Do you remember who sent you an e-card? If you do not pay attention to e-cards, it is likely that others will not pay attention to yours – I am just saying.
I personally like to give and to receive handwritten cards. My mother-in-law likes to receive hand-written cards. Each card takes time if you write a personal note (as I do). Yes, each card costs a stamp. How much is it worth to you to convey your gratitude? A small stamp is worth the price.
I have been asked many times “Why should a lawyer meditate?” Most of the times I have been asked this question the person asking the question was really asking “Why bother?”, “Why take time out of a busy schedule to meditate?” and “What is this new age, hippy dippy stuff?”
My serious answer to the question “Why should a lawyer take 10 minutes to meditate?” is:
1. It lowers stress – If you take 10 minutes to calm your mind with meditation, your stress levels will be reduced (unless you stress about not meditating properly as you try to meditate). There are studies that meditation lowers stress. Further ,do you know any stressed out hippies?
2. It makes you feel better – Ten minutes of meditation will make you feel more balanced. When you feel more balanced and your heart is not racing and your mind is not juggling, you feel better.
3. It helps you focus – If you take 10 minutes to meditate, you focus your mind. In other words, you can throw ideas out that are not serving you. When you are able to focus your mind, you can focus on the task you wish to perform after the meditation has finished. Consider meditation as clearing you mind like you clear your desk in order to start a writing task.
4. It helps you be more productive – You will be more productive if you are not juggling too many thoughts in your mind. If you are not juggling too many thoughts, you have room in your mind for the task you have before you. If you meditate after a difficult call with a client when you wish to move on to a task for another client, it is more productive to clear the negative emotions from your mind and body.
5. It help you sleep better – If you take 10 minutes to mediate before going to bed and you discard the unhelpful thoughts in your mind, you will start your sleep more restful. If you start your sleep from a more relaxed place, you will sleep better.
@InspowerMinds tweeted “Keep Calm because life is too short to stress over people who do not deserve to be an issue”. This is good advice. Lawyers can spend too much time stressing about clients, other lawyers (opposing counsel), colleagues, senior partners, juniors, etc.
Ask yourself, is the person worth stressing over? If the answer is “no”, you should reflect on why it does not matter instead of making it matter too much to you.
Ask yourself whether you need this person’s approval for a goal that you have? If you will not achieve anything of value from the person’s opinion of you, stop stressing about what that other person thinks. It is more productive to take steps to help that person formulate the opinion you wish them to have than stressing about something you do not wish to control.
If the person is a nasty or negative person and they have yelled at you or put you own for no reason, their bad behaviour says more about them than it does about you. That person does not deserve the time you would take stressing about their actions/words.
The truth is that you will have day when something negative happens to you — that is not about you and is beyond your control. Do not let that negative event take control of you.
Would you like clients to email you during and after a file to say ‘Thank you so much for your assistance. I cannot thank you enough for all your help. You really have been a great support in my time of difficulty. I like lawyers because of you”? If you would like clients to have an exceptional experience, you must work to create that exceptional experience.
1. You should provide great legal advice. This is a given.
2. You should demonstrate to the client that you add value. The client should not feel that they could have done the work themselves without having to spend the money on legal services. Always remember that the client is paying for the legal advice.
3. You should communicate with the client about the work you are doing and the cost of the work you will be and are doing. Most misunderstandings are a result of lack of communication.
4. Take a moment to walk in your client’s shoes. Sometimes the client needs more than legal advice. Sometimes the client just needs to know that someone is on their side. Say that you understand what they are going through. listen to them (and sometimes do not turn the docket meter on to do so). I often say to clients ‘Sleep well tonight, you have left this problem with me for a while”. When I was on Bay Street working for CEOs i learned that even CEOs are humans and legal troubles weigh on their minds.
5. Ask the client what else they need from you. They may say “nothing”. They may tell you how to be a better client service provider. Take all the suggestions to heart.
6. Anticipate your clients needs before they call you.
7. When you have an opportunity, do something nice for a client just because you can. You may forward something of interest to them. You may offer a courtesy discount. You may take a client to lunch. You may refer a client/customer to your client.
I have to admit that I laugh when I hear screaming goats.
Here are links to a few videos:
Screaming Goats 1
Screaming Goats 2
Turn down the volume on your computer or you may scare the lawyers in the other offices.