When was the last time you were scared?


I was pretty cocky about starting law school. But I was also scared.

It was new, it was different, and it was intimidating. I didn’t know if I was embarking on a great adventure or I had made a big mistake.

I can say the same thing about opening my practice and about many other milestones in my life. I’m sure you can, too.

It’s not the fear of failure so much as the fear of not knowing what’s next. H.P. Lovecraft said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

But the flip side of fear is excitement. Not knowing what’s about to happen can be thrilling. So can the notion that you might be about to accomplish something great.

And so I ask you, when was the last time you were scared?

Because if you’re not scared from time to time, if your career or your life are boring and routine, it means you’re not taking enough risks, or big enough risks, and you’re not growing.

Former CEO of Evernote, Phil Libin, said recently that one of the reasons he stepped down from the company was that he was bored. He’s now with a venture capital firm and thrives on not knowing what’s next. “It wouldn’t be the best time if it wasn’t scary. When we started Evernote, it was terrifying,” Libin said. “I don’t think I’ve ever embarked on anything great without being scared.”

Of course too much fear can be paralyzing, so you have to find balance. You have to find things to do that challenge you and frighten you but also excite you and pull you forward.

What might that be for you career-wise?

Take on a partner? Go out on your own? Start a new practice area? Revamp your marketing?

Or are you ready for a new career?

Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing.” Do something that scares you. Find your next daring adventure.

If you’re ready to revamp your marketing, start here


Are you excited about practicing law?


Are you excited about practicing law? I was, when I started. But it didn’t take long before the thrill was gone.

I liked helping people and I liked the challenge of building something from scratch. But I didn’t love what I was doing.

Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.

I kept going because I had invested so much into my career, how could I walk away?

How could I not? How could I wait twenty years before finally giving myself permission to do something else.

Successful people are passionate about what they do. Monday morning can’t come soon enough. They can’t imagine doing anything else.

Successful people don’t need to push themselves, they do what they do because they love doing it. Steve Jobs said, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

That’s what I want for you.

I’m not saying you need to leave the law, although that may be the right thing for you at some point. I’m saying you need to find a way to get excited about your work.


In The One Thing You Need to Know, Marcus Buckingham distilled years of research about personal success down to one thing: “Find out what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.”

Get rid of the things you don’t love about your practice so you can do more of what you are good at and enjoy.

It sounds simplistic but imagine if the things you don’t like about your work were gone. Handled. Not something you need to think about.

It would be liberating, wouldn’t it?

Is this possible? Could you delegate or outsource all of the things that cause you stress? Probably not. When you’re in charge, there are always burdens on your shoulders. But if you could get rid of 80% of the things you don’t like, you might smile a lot more.


Two six-month vacations per year


Hey there. I’ve got something to share with you. But it will have to wait. I’ll be back in an hour. . .

Okay, I’m back.

Where did I go? What did I do? I didn’t go anywhere, and I didn’t do anything. I took the hour off because I wanted to prove a point.

My point is that we can all choose how we spend our time. If we want to take an hour off, we can. If we want to take the rest of the day off, we can. If we want to take Friday’s off, we can.

Who says you can’t? Your boss? Your spouse? Your clients? Your creditors? Okay, so you have obligations. I’m not suggesting you shirk them, just that you don’t have to be enslaved by them.

You have free will.

So the question isn’t, “Why can’t you?” it’s “How can you?” How can you take off Friday afternoons if you want to, and still meet your responsibilities?

Come in a little early? Work a little later on Thursdays? Do some work on the weekends?

Think. There are solutions. You can find them.

Once you’ve mastered taking off Friday afternoons, you can work towards taking off every Friday, if that’s what you want to do.

There are solutions and you can find them.

I know professionals who take off an entire week every month of the year. Why couldn’t you?

I know some who take two months vacation every year (and they’re not European). Are you interested?

I know people who have the ultimate goal of taking two six-month vacations every year. Yes, it’s a joke, but for some people, it’s a very real goal. If you have enough cash or income-generating assets or passive income, it can be done.

Start with the end in mind (the goal) and work backwards. What would I have to have? What would I have to do first?

You may have a tough time right now accepting the idea of taking even an hour off in the middle of the day, but you can. Once you get used to it, you can go for two.

It’s your life and you can live it on your terms.

You may have some ‘splainin to do to the people in your life, and you should probably start small and not announce you’re taking the rest of the year off just yet, but you can (eventually) spend your days on Earth any way you choose.


Lawyers make the worst clients


Just as most doctors will tell you that doctors make the worst patients, I think most lawyers would say the same thing about our species.

It’s because we know how things are supposed to work. And it’s because of ego. We’re not comfortable letting someone else call the shots.

And so we routinely handle our own legal affairs, often to our detriment. Nowhere is this detriment more apparent than when we have a dispute with another lawyer.

A lawyer friend contacted me the other day and told me about one of his clients, another lawyer, who has become the proverbial client from hell.

She isn’t happy with anything and blames him for things outside of his control. She wants what she wants and steadfastly refuses to compromise, despite his many attempts to accommodate her. At first, he wanted to save the client. Now, he just wants to save himself.

How bad is it? She’s reported him for imagined ethical violations and is threatening to file a criminal complaint.

As I say, the client from hell.

He asked for my take on it. Naturally, I suggested he turn it over to another lawyer. Not just because of the ethical and criminal risks, but because the whole thing is making him miserable.

“You’re too close to the situation and she will continue to push your buttons,” I said.

If he’s lucky, she will get a lawyer, too. Then the two lawyers can negotiate without the animus or emotion that has gripped this situation. It will cost him, but can you put a price on your sanity?

I’ve met lawyers who swear they will never again have a lawyer for a client. What say you? Have you represented any lawyers who made you wish you hadn’t?


Would you hire you?


I’ve got a question for you. Something for you to ponder over this weekend. Don’t just answer and move on, give this a bit of thought because it is important.

The question is, “Would you hire you?” Knowing what you know about your skills and experience and what you really bring to the table, if you needed a lawyer who does what you do, would you hire you?

If you would, great. Write down all of the reasons you would do that. In fact, keep a running list of reasons because you can use these in your marketing. Make sure you do this for each of your practice areas and/or services.

If you would not hire you, why not? If you have doubts about some things, what are they?

Be honest. Nobody else is listening.

What could do you better? What skills do you need to improve or acquire? Where are you “just okay,” when you know you should be great?

Since you might not be able to see these things, or admit to them, you might ask others to help you with this. Ask you clients. Do exit surveys. Do anonymous online surveys and let them tell you what you need to improve. Ask your staff, your partners, and your spouse.

Can you see how this information would be helpful?

Good. Because when you’re done with this question, I have another one for you to answer:

Would you buy your practice?

If it was for sale, would you plunk down the cash to buy it? Would it be a good investment? Or would you just be buying yourself a job, and underpaid one at that?

I don’t have the answers. Just the questions. Because that’s my job, and I’m good at it.


If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right


Do you enjoy practicing law? Do you look forward to going to work every day? If you do, great. If not, we need to talk.

The purpose of life is to experience joy. At least that’s what I believe. We’re not here to suffer or sacrifice endlessly, we’re here to experience our time on earth as the blessing it is meant to be.

Your work, your marriage, your social life, even your faith, should be fun. Or at least gratifying. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.

I’m not talking about the little things you have to do to keep the wheels spinning. You may have to plunge out a toilet every once in awhile. Marketing may not be your favorite thing, but you have to embrace it to some extent because without it, you won’t be able to do the work you love.

Okay, I said “work you love” but I don’t really mean it. You don’t have to love your work to be successful at it. You just can’t hate it.

For some, work is an expression of their joy and their purpose in life. It defines them and pulls them forward towards a better future. For others, work is a means to an end. They enjoy it, but it’s not who they are.

And that’s fine.

There will always be things you don’t want to do. There will always be parts of your work that you would rather not do.

As long as most of your time is spent doing things you enjoy, you’ll be just fine.

My law practice wasn’t my life’s purpose. There were a lot of things I didn’t enjoy. But I focused on what I did enjoy: helping people (who appreciated it) and making money. That’s what I focused on. That’s what kept me going.

I delegated the things I didn’t like, or put blinders on and accepted them as part of the deal.

Eventually, though, the negatives outweighed the positives and I knew it was time to move on.

Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Starting my practice was, at the time, a daring adventure. When the thrill was gone, I found a new adventure.


Mr. Spock was only half right


As a kid, I loved Star Trek. I watched the original series and thought that Mr. Spock’s unemotional, logical approach to problem solving was the way to go.

Examine the evidence. Calculate the probabilities. Make your decision.

I even took a class in logic in college. It was one of my favorites. My professor noticed my enthusiasm for the subject and wrote me a letter of recommendation to law school.

Anyway, I started my legal career with a penchant for logic. I calmly reasoned my way through problems to find the best solutions. I did my best to keep my emotions in check.

And it’s a good thing I did. Those first few years were awful. I didn’t know how to bring in clients and, oh yeah, I barely knew how to do the legal work. Every month was a struggle to survive and if I had let my emotions out of their box, I would surely have fallen apart. Logic got me through some tough times.

Later, when I had turned things around and had a thriving practice, logic only took me so far.

At one point, I had an important decision to make. I can’t recall the subject but I remember having a terrible time deciding what to do. I had a paralegal who saw my consternation and offered a suggestion. She told me that I was more intuitive than I realized and that I should trust my intuition to provide me with the right answer.

I listened to her. And then I listened to the voice inside me that told me what to do.

Whatever the issue was, my intuition provided the solution and the problem is long forgotten.

We should remember that Spock was half-human. Somewhere inside him was a reservoir of intuition and human emotion. We saw flashes of it when he made illogical decisions to save the life of Captain Kirk.

We all have great intuitive powers and we shouldn’t ignore them. There is a voice inside us that wants to guide us but most of us (men) don’t listen.

Feelings, who me? I’m a lawyer. I don’t let my feelings tell me what to do.

Maybe we should. Maybe we should listen to how we feel about things before we make decisions.

I do that now. When I think about choosing A or B, for example, I ask myself how I feel about those options. More often than not, I choose the option that feels better.

I also do that when charting my future. I look at the pantheon of options available to me–all of the projects I could work on, all of the tasks on my master list–and do the ones that I feel pulled toward.

I have one such project I’m working on right now. It’s something I feel good about and I can’t wait to get back to work on it. Isn’t that how our work should always be? Mostly doing things we enjoy?

Look at everything on your plate right now, and everything on your list of ideas. Which one calls to you? Which one feels good when you think about it?

That’s probably what you should do next.

Mr. Spock might not approve, but he’s at the Science station and you’re in the Captain’s chair.


Can you be successful doing work you don’t love?


Can you be successful doing work you don’t love? If you define success in material terms, I think you can. But success is not just about money. To be truly successful, you have to be happy.

And here’s the thing. When you are happy, when you love your work, financial success is much easier to achieve.

You don’t have to push yourself to get up early. Mondays are your favorite day of the week. You can’t wait until your next speaking engagement, trial, or networking event.

When you love what you do, the work is almost effortless. Problems seem smaller and easier to resolve. You don’t have to work hard to find clients, you attract them, in droves.

When you love what you do, you are happy, and when you are happy, you love what you do.

What if you don’t love your work? What if it’s just okay?

You eliminate or marginalize the things you don’t like and do more of the things you enjoy.

You can delegate, outsource, and partner. You can change practice areas, client types, and target markets. You can get rid of the marketing techniques that make your stomach churn and replace them with things that come naturally.

You can also give it time. You may learn to love your work eventually. As you hear sad stories about friends who have lost their jobs and can’t find any work, for example, you might start appreciating things you previously took for granted.

Or you might see your current situation as a stepping stone to something else.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t dwell on the negative aspects of your work. Focus on the things that make you feel good.

Think about the things that are going well and come easily to you. Think about your accomplishments and victories. Think about how good it is that you are paying your bills and that you have the time and space to turn an okay situation into something great.

Focus on the things that make you happy in your work because what you focus on grows.

Success is easier when you have a plan


Are you picking up what I’m laying down?


What do you do when a client doesn’t follow your advice?

I was discussing this with a subscriber-friend via email recently. He said: “You fire them. . . I can get clients who make me happy. If a client makes me unhappy for an hour, I can’t get that hour of my life back.”

Yes, but, if the check clears, I’m happy. If I can say, “See, I told you not to do that. Maybe you’ll listen to me next time,” I’m happy. If I can charge them even more to fix the problem they created by not following my advice, I’m happy.

Okay, it’s not that clear cut.

Clients can make us unhappy in so many ways. And they do blame us when things go bad, even when it’s not our fault and we have the CYA letter to prove it. And clients do make us want to tear our hair out when they post nasty-grams about us on social media.

So yeah, we should be prepared to fire difficult clients, and replace them with clients that make us happy.

Fortunately, most of our clients are decent and follow our advice most of the time.

But it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little more time explaining the reasoning behind our advice, making sure the client understands that reasoning, and agrees to do what we recommend.

And maybe we should be a little more tolerant when they don’t.

As long as the check clears.


If it’s Tuesday, it must be clients


You have a lot on your plate. This morning, you have to review pleadings and get them filed and served. Then you have a meeting with your office staff. After that, you’re off to a hearing. When you return to the office, you have a new client to see. Before you go home, you plan to catch up on some billing.

If you get interrupted in any of these tasks, you lose momentum. It takes time to get back in the groove and, therefore, you’re not nearly as productive as you’d like to be.

Is there a better way?

One idea is to do what Twitter founder Jack Dorsey does. He gives each work day a “theme,” so he always know “what to focus on that day, and what to return to when [he gets] distracted.”

So perhaps you use Mondays for paperwork and Tuesdays you see clients. Wednesdays might be for administrative tasks and meetings with office staff. Perhaps you will schedule depos and arbitrations on Thursdays. Fridays could be for planning, marketing, and working on big projects.

Or, you might reserve mornings for court appearances and paperwork, afternoons for clients and meetings.

However you do it, the idea is to schedule your work in blocks of time so that you always know what you’re doing and you avoid multitasking.

Think about how you could create theme days (or half-days) in your practice. Look at your calendar for the last month or so and look for patterns. Also consider your energy levels at different parts of the day.

Or. . . maybe wait and do this on Friday. It’s Tuesday and I think you’ve got some clients coming in this afternoon.