I feel good. I knew that I would, now

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Albert Schweitzer said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Actually, science says he’s right. By mapping the brain to identify dopamine production they found that pleasure results in greater productivity.

When you feel good about what you’re doing, you give it more energy. You work harder and get better results.

Are there exceptions? Sure. In the short term, you can make a lot of money doing something you detest. But it catches up with you in terms of poor health, failed relationships, and other negative consequences. So you wind up with money but you’re still not happy.

Why not start with happy and have both?

Stop looking at happiness as the end result or an added bonus and start seeing it as the pathway to success.

Most lawyers who aren’t happy suck it up and continue working until they have enough money, contacts, and ideas to retire or go with plan B.

Some make it. Some don’t.

How about this: If you don’t love what you’re doing, change something–your practice area, partner, job, or methods. Find different clients. Adopt different marketing strategies. Compartmentalize your work so can focus on the parts of your practice you enjoy and delegate or automate the rest.

Because success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.

Get more referrals so you can hire more help and let them do the things you don’t like

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Give your life a tune-up

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You’re busy. Taking care of business, living the life you’ve created, traveling forward in time towards whatever comes next.

Are you going where you want to go? Are you doing what you want to do?

If you’re not sure (or, even if you are ), I encourage you to make a list (yes, another list) and find out.

Make a list of everything you do you wouldn’t do if you didn’t have to.

If you didn’t have to have an office, for example, would you? If you didn’t have to write articles, record videos, network, or advertise, would you?

Include big things and small things and everything in between.

Would you practice law if you didn’t have to? Would you do trial work, stay with your practice area, maintain certain expenses (e.g., employees, software, etc.) or take the same types of clients?

Do the same thing with your personal life. Relationships, activities, hobbies, investments, expenses.

Write it all down. And make no assumptions about whether you really do have to do what you’re doing. We all do things on autopilot, because we’ve always done them or because we don’t think we have a choice.

Set aside the list for a while. Come back to it with fresh eyes. And then eliminate, delegate, or modify the things on your list that don’t serve you.

Or, consciously accept them (for now) if you believe there is no alternative or that the price you’re paying is worth it.

This exercise will allow you to make better decisions about what you’re doing. It will help you gain clarity about your goals, priorities, and responsibilities, pare down or eliminate activities you don’t enjoy, and improve both your effectiveness and efficiency.

It will help you become more productive and more prosperous and improve the quality of your life.

So, what’s on your list?

Getting more referrals gives you more options

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

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Dale Carnegie said,”People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they’re doing”. Was he right? Can you be successful doing work you hate? Or work that bores you to tears?

In the short term, sure. We’ve all done it. But in the long term, if you don’t enjoy what you do, you’ll never accomplish as much as you could.

But here’s the thing. You don’t have to enjoy every part of it.

When I was practicing, I loved helping my clients–watching them smile when I told them the great result I’d obtained for them, hearing them say thank you, getting cards and gifts, and having them refer lots of friends and family.

That was fun.

I also had fun going to the bank and making deposits. That never gets old.

Everything else? Being papered to death by deep pocket defense firms, Los Angeles traffic, calendar calls, the lack of conviviality with some of my opposition, the bar’s arrogance and heavy hand, clients who tried to micromanage their case?

Not so much.

But, on balance, it was fun. Until it no longer was. That’s when I started looking for my next adventure.

How about you? Are you having fun? If not, what needs to change?

More money? Shorter hours? A better crop of clients?

A partner? No partner? More employees? No employees?

A shorter commute? Less trial work? Less paperwork?

What?

Whatever it is, you can have it. I promise. Figure out what you need and go get it. Because no matter how well you’re doing right now, you’ll do better and be happier when you’re having fun.

Referrals are fun!

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What do you want, exactly?

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In order to figure out what you want in your practice or any area of your life, it helps to first figure out what you don’t want.

Try this exercise:

Sit down in a quiet place and write, as quickly as you can, a list of everything you don’t want in your professional life. The things that take too much time, the things you hate, the things you don’t hate but would prefer not to do.

Don’t editorialize (or whine), just get it out and write it down.

It might be litigation, divorce, small cases, big cases, employees, partners, working for someone else, going to networking events, business travel, high rent, long hours, billing, collecting fees, unhappy clients, stress, too little income. . .

Don’t hold back. Write it all down. Nobody will see your list but you.

Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else.

Look at your list. It feels good to unload all of your burdens, even if it’s only on a piece of paper.

But you might also feel angry, as you see, in black and white, all of the things you have brought into your life and allowed to continue. Things that cause you anxiety, stress, time, and money.

Acknowledge those feelings and resolve to change the things that are causing you to have them.

You probably can’t eliminate all of the things you don’t like, or even most of them, at least anytime soon. But you can eliminate some of them and make some of them better.

Look at your list and decide what needs to go and what needs to change. Then, take a few minutes and make a new list. A list of things you want, based on your first list.

If you said you don’t want to handle divorce any longer, what do you want to handle instead? If you said you don’t want to chase clients to pay their bills, write down the way you want things to be.

Then, add to your “want” list anything else that comes to mind. Let your imagination soar. Do you want to work a 5-hour day and simultaneously double your income? Write that down. (NB: you can do that, as other lawyers and I can attest).

This is an important exercise because clarity is the first step towards change.

Plan, do, review. Start with this

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What if you don’t like what you do but can’t change that?

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In response to yesterday’s trip down memory lane, attorney RG asked, “What if you don’t like what you do (law but can’t change that). . .”

I love a good challenge and “can’t change that” is about as good as it gets.

Of course you can change that, RG.

It might be difficult, emotionally wrenching, expensive, and take a long time, but it can be done. Many lawyers do it and so can you.

Start by asking yourself questions like, “How can I change my situation? What would I like to do instead? How do I find a way to “like” what I do?”

You can change your situation but first you must give yourself permission to do it. Before you can do that, you must give yourself permission to believe that it’s possible.

Onward.

I don’t know what it is that you don’t like about your work but I peeked at your website and see that (a) you are a sole practitioner who offers an array of services, and (b) you do litigation.

My first suggestion is to look at ways to reconstitute your practice areas.

Choose a practice area you like (or hate less) and focus on that. Take a partner or refer everything else out.

If litigation is a source of stress and long hours and “don’t like,” you can change that too. You can outsource some or all of it. Get an “of counsel” relationship with a firm and let them do the heavy lifting. Hire someone and keep it in house. Or refer it out.

Hold on, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that if you have fewer practice areas and outsource your litigation you’ll lose income and you can’t afford that. Am I right?

Well, what if that didn’t happen? What if you find that specializing allows you to increase your income? And what if the time you free up by outsourcing some or all of your litigation gives you room to bring in more of the work you enjoy and that pays well?

That’s what I found when I did it.

At first, turning away business was scary. But the vacuum i created by doing so was soon filled with work that paid more and required less time. If you’ve read my stuff, you know that I quadrupled my income and reduced my work-week to three days.

I’m sure there are other issues that cause you to want to “get out”. Many of these are fixable, too.

But if you can’t fix them, start working on a plan to get out.

Here’s how I did it:

I got good at marketing and built up a war chest that gave me options.

I started two side businesses The first helped me to replace my practice income. The second provided me with passive income which allowed me to retire and do what I love.

I don’t know who said it but this quote seems to fit: “You should either do what you love, or find something that gives you enough time and money to do what you love.”

How to choose your specialty (and why you should): here

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Faking it

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Do you remember the day you learned that you had passed the bar exam? Sure you do. We all do. We also remember how we felt when we got the news.

Me? I was relieved. Not excited. Okay, maybe a little excited but more relieved than anything else because I knew I would never have to go through that again.

I was also proud of myself. Passing the California Bar, arguably the toughest in the country, first time out–yeah, I was proud of that. All that hard work had paid off.

I boxed up the books and the notes, got sworn in, and got to work.

I had clerked throughout law school so the work was familiar. The moment I opened my own office, however, everything changed.

Having that license meant I was responsible. People depended on me. If I messed up, I had nobody to blame but myself.

Eventually, I got comfortable being in the captain’s chair. Okay, who am I kidding? I was scared to death. I was sure that my clients would see right through me and know I didn’t know what I was doing.

I would be unmasked as a fake. A fraud. A boy in his father’s three-piece suit.

But I did know what I was doing. Enough, at least, to get the job done.

As I gained experience, the work got easier. I became more confident. Case by case, client by client, I grew into the role of a trusted advisor and successful professional.

Building my practice was hard but worth it. I enjoyed the challenge and I enjoyed helping people and when the money was good, it was very good.

My practice eventually led me to other things. Other mountains to climb. I was (mostly) successful there, too, but I often wonder if I would have been happier doing those things instead of going to law school.

I don’t know. All I know is that things have worked out well. Probably the way they were supposed to. And that’s exciting.

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The three stages of a law career

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The way I see it there are three stages to a law career. Some lawyers go through all three stages. Some stay in one stage their entire career.

Stage one is where you love the work you’re doing or the challenge of learning and getting good at something new. Many new lawyers start out in stage one. Some skip over it right into stage two.

If you’re in stage one and you love what you do, congratulations. I wish you a long and happy career.

Stage two is where the work itself is no longer gratifying or challenging, or never was. You do the work because you have to but any joy or fulfillment you feel comes not from the work itself but from what your work allows you do.

You’re happy because your work allows you to get results for your clients, build a successful practice, or make the world a better place.

If you’re in stage two and the work no longer fulfills you, you might take on a new practice area or target a new type of client or market. You might look into teaching CLE classes or writing a book. You might find a charity or cause you care about and through it find new challenges and new ways to use your skills and training.

Stage three is where you don’t enjoy the work and the joy you feel from helping people or from personal success isn’t enough to make up for that, “Is that all there is” feeling that weighs on you.

If you’re in stage three and it’s just not working for you anymore (or it never did), you should probably do something else.

That doesn’t mean you have to leave the law. At least not right away. You can hire people and let them run the day-to-day of your practice while you explore and go find your plan b.

Of course, you may not fit squarely into any one of these stages. You may love some parts of your work and detest others. You may have good days, bad days, and days you feel like running away.

Those darn gray areas. They make your life complicated, don’t they? Hey, nobody said being a lawyer was easy.

You really can earn more and work less

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Do less

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You’re smart. Good at your job. Successful. But you want to be more successful so you do what most people do, you look for ways to do more.

More clients. More projects. More work.

To fit it all in, you look for ways to work faster and get bigger results.

You get busier and busier. You have less time and more stress. You’re frustrated because you’re doing more but not achieving more.

You’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

It’s time for a different approach.

Instead of doing more, do less.

Take things off your calendar and to-do list. Start fewer projects. Make fewer commitments. Have fewer conversations.

Make room for what’s important and what you do especially well.

You’ll have more time to do more important things and more time to build on your strengths. You’ll have more energy, less stress, and fewer distractions. You’ll make fewer mistakes, waste fewer hours, and make better decisions.

You’ll build stronger relationships with key people. You’ll complete projects that take you to higher levels.

You’ll achieve more by doing less.

Get busy doing less.

Work smarter. Leverage your professional relationships to get more referrals

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It’s not just the money

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You’re looking at two possible new clients. Client A doesn’t have a lot of work for you but you like him and the work. You think his business will grow and that this will lead to more work for you down the road.

Client B has lots of work for you right now. The work is dry and unfulfilling. Plus, the client is an asshat and you’re convinced he’ll be a thorn in your side.

You want the money offered by Client B but if you take him, you won’t have time for Client A. How do you decide what to do?

You consider all of the factors, weigh the pros and cons, and seek advice from people you respect. Then, you get very still and listen to what your gut tells you.

Because your gut is nearly always right.

There I go again, advising big-brained, logic-oriented professionals to get all woo-woo with their feelings. But in the end, that’s what we all must do when we’re faced with a dilemma or we have a big decision to make.

When logic told me not to lease a much bigger office because I didn’t have the income to justify it, I went with my heart, not my head, and in a few months, I was earning enough to not only handle the rent but to hire more staff to fill the new office.

The same thing happened when I switched from a general practice to a specialty practice and turned away business that didn’t fit. I was scared to death, but within a few months, I had plenty of business.

Even when I made mistakes and had to change direction, things eventually worked out, often better than the original plan would have provided.

I once closed my office to pursue a business venture but the business failed. Two years later, I re-opened my law practice and started over from scratch. It was incredibly difficult but it eventually led me to start two new businesses which helped me earn more than I ever did in my practice.

I can point to other situations where logic said “no” but my gut said “go for it” and everything worked out. If you think about your past, I’m sure you can do the same.

I’m not suggesting you ignore reality or dispense with logic. Consider your current situation, your responsibilities, your strengths, and all of the possible outcomes. Consider them, but don’t depend on them. Ask your gut what it has to say. You might be very glad you did.

How to make sure your clients know how to refer

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What are you willing to do to be successful?

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You want to build a successful law practice. You want to make money, help people, and do things that matter. The question is, how bad do you want it?

Are you going through the motions in your work, waiting to see how things turn out? That’s not much, is it?

Are you working as hard as you can, doing your absolute best to achieve the success you desire? That’s good, but what if your “best” isn’t good enough?

Or, are you “all in,” willing to do “whatever it takes” (legally, ethically) to reach the summit? That’s what some lawyers are willing to do. Are you?

Your knowledge, experience, talent, and effort are important. So is a burning desire. But, as Vince Lombardi said, “Most people fail, not because of lack of desire, but because of lack of commitment.”

Are you committed? Are willing to do whatever it takes? If not, why not, and is there another career path that might be better for you?

A successful practice requires successful marketing plan

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