Do you (still) work nights and weekends?

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When I started practicing, even though I had few clients, I showed up at the office every day, including Saturdays. I spent most of that time setting up form files and writing form letters I could use once I got some new clients, and doing whatever I could think of to try to make that happen.

When I finally got some new clients, I started staying late at the office and bringing work home with me. I thought that’s what I had to do to make it and I was too scared to do anything else.

Maybe you are where I was. Maybe you’re working longer hours than you need to, or should. Even if you are getting things done and making money, at some point, you have to ask if this is the right way to go.

What if you set up some boundaries for yourself? What if you worked a full day but reserved your nights and weekends for yourself and your family? What if you actually scheduled took a vacation?

In the short term, as you work fewer hours, you’ll probably earn less income. In the long term, probably sooner than you think, you might see your practice explode, as mine did when I made the switch.

All work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy.

Start living a little. At night, on weekends, read novels, play games, take the kids to the park and toss a ball. If you don’t have kids, start making some. You’ll have the energy now, so get busy.

Leave your work at the office. Turn off your phone. Use your free time to get in shape. Start a hobby. Take a class or join a club. Not only will you have some fun, you’ll meet some new people (who share your interest) and have something to talk about besides work.

You’ll be more relaxed. More interesting. And have more energy. You’ll attract new friends, business contacts, and clients. You’ll have time to work on taking your practice to the next level.

You’ll earn more without working more. And finally realize that work isn’t the goal, it’s how you reach the goal.

How to earn more without working more: go here

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Are you excited about practicing law?

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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.

How?

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.

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Do you get nervous when quoting fees?

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You’ve met with the prospective client, diagnosed their situation, and told them what you can do to help. You’ve got your retainer agreement ready and it’s time to quote a fee.

How do you feel at that very moment?

If you’re like many attorneys, you’re nervous. You’re afraid they will say no or try to haggle. They’ll balk at signing up and you won’t know what to do next.

Maybe they sign up, maybe they don’t, but the next time you quote a fee, you’ll remember that feeling and your apprehension will grow.

It doesn’t get better over time, it gets worse. It gets worse because deep inside you may believe that your fees really are too high and you telegraph that to the client.

What’s the solution?

Reduce your fees. Lower them until that uneasy feeling goes away and you feel that you are offering them a great deal.

Hey, if YOU believe your fees are too high, they’re too high.

Think about it. If you truly believe that what you are proposing to do for the client is worth more than what you’re asking them to pay, if you truly believe that you deliver immense value and the client would foolish to turn you down, you would have no trouble looking the client in the eye and telling them that. No nerves, no doubts, no hesitation.

Okay, okay, you want to know if there is another solution.

Sure. Instead of lowering your fees, increase the value of your services.

Look at what other lawyers do and do more. Provide better service, bonuses, guarantees, payments options, and other tangible and intangible deliverables that make the totality of what you do worth more to the client.

When quoting fees, you’ll be able to tell the client the advantages of hiring you. You’re worth more so you can charge more.

What’s that? You believe your fees are fair? You’re nervous because you think the client won’t understand.

Ah, but they will understand. You just have to do a better job of selling your services.

Don’t just show them the “features” of what they get–the documents, the process, the work product–show them the “benefits”. Show them how they will be better off as a result of hiring you. Show them how they will save money, increase their profits, protect their business or family, minimize risk, or achieve peace of mind.

Features are what you do. Benefits are what they get as a result of your doing it.

Don’t hold back. Tell them what could happen if they don’t fix the problem. Give them both barrels, right between the eyes.

Tell stories about other people who tried to fix that problem themselves, hired the wrong attorney, or waited too long, and suffered the consequences. And then tell them success stories of clients you’ve helped get the benefits you offer.

Give them a vivid picture of how things could be if they hire you, and how they might be if they don’t.

Sales is about the transference of belief. If you believe in the value of what you do, and you transfer that belief to your prospective clients, you’ll sign up more of them and never get nervous quoting fees.

For more about using features and benefits to sell your services, get The Formula

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

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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

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Too much of a good thing is AWESOME!

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Indulge yourself. Throw caution to the wind. Eat the whole thing. Buy the one you want.

You’ve earned it. You can afford it. You want to do it, so do it.

Go on a bender once in a while. Spend more than you think you should. Pig out, goof off, go blow off some steam.

You won’t die from eating too much today. Neither will you go broke from a one-time purchase. It’s what you spend or eat or do EVERY day that counts.

So after you have a crazy day or a crazy moment, get back to work. Don’t make binging a habit, unless you’re binging on good books. Even then, you have work to do and too much of a good thing could be too much.

You’ll have another binge day at some point. You might even plan it. And look forward to it. Of course it’s more fun when it’s spontaneous, as in, “Screw it, I’m not going to work today, I’m going shopping!”

Mini-splurges are also fun. Go to a nice restaurant this weekend instead of the usual place. Leave work early one day a week. Stay in bed an extra hour on Sunday.

If you’re like me, knowing that you could indulge yourself feels good, even if you don’t do it.

I’m not going to buy the laptop I really want (but don’t need), but it feels great knowing that I could.

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If it’s Tuesday, it must be clients

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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.

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The problem with being self-employed

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Being the boss is a double-edged sword. I love being the master of my destiny but sometimes the weight of responsibility wears on me.

You too? Do you ever get anxious thinking about how many people depend on you or how much work remains to be done?

You’re not just cranking out widgets, after all. You do important things, with important consequences. Every day you make decisions that affect the lives of other people. You can’t let your guard down. You have to keep your eye on everything, and everyone.

It can be difficult doing our best work when we have so many other things to think about.

Yes, that’s the gig we signed up for and most of the time, it’s worth it. But if you’re like me, it gets to you sometimes.

Sometimes I think, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone would tell me what to do today so I could do the work and go home?”

I remember when I didn’t have clients of my own and did appearances for other lawyers. I enjoyed just showing up and doing the work. Argue the motion, take the depo, do the arbitration. I didn’t have to worry about anything but the assignment. When it was done, I went home.

When I started getting my own clients, I had responsibilities, overhead, employees, and things got very complicated. I grew into the role, of course, and would never work for anyone, but sometimes I look back fondly at the time when I could just do the work.

If you ever find yourself overwhelmed with the burdens of running a law practice, wishing you could just show up and be a lawyer, I have a suggestion.

Go get yo’self two hats.

First thing in the morning, or at the end of your day, put on your “boss” hat and make a list of assignments for your “employee”. Map out the day, and include contingencies in case something comes up that requires the bosses attention.

Then, take off the boss hat, put on your employee hat, and get to work.

When the first assignment is done, look at the list your boss gave you and do the next assignment. When all the work is done, take a break, put your boss hat back on and make a new list.

Well, that’s it for me today. The boss told me I could home.

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What to do when you don’t feel like working

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It happens. You look at your calendar and your list of tasks for the day and you don’t want to do any of it. You don’t want to work, you don’t want to talk to anyone, you want to take the day off.

But you’ve got obligations. You have work to do and bills to pay. You can’t abandon your responsibilities.

Yes you can. It’s just one day. The work will still be there tomorrow.

Give in to your whim and take the day off. Sneak off to the movies or to the mall. Go sit in a coffee shop and read. Get back in your jammies and order in.

When you come back tomorrow, batteries recharged, you’ll plow through the work and get it done.

Before you take off, have someone contact your appointments and re-schedule them. And go through your task list for the day and prioritize everything so that when you return you can jump right in and knock out the most important tasks first.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes, giving yourself permission to take the day off is all you really need, not the actual time off. Knowing that you could play hooky provides the relief you sought. Once you have it, you realize that the work isn’t so bad and you’re ready to get back to it.

Remind yourself that you’re in charge. Even if you work for someone else, even if you have demanding clients, with demanding deadlines, you’re the boss. It’s your life and you get to decide how to run it.

If you really need a break, take it. Don’t feel guilty about it, do it. And enjoy yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s that? You want to know what to do if tomorrow you still don’t feel like working? Don’t ask me. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

Get more clients and increase your income. Get The Formula.

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Happiness is a choice

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Yesterday, I had one of those moments. You know the one I mean. It’s when you’re having a bad day and you are convinced that you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not good at anything, and you should probably give up and go do something else.

Yeah, that kind of moment.

But then I paused and thought about it. I thought about things that were going well, things that had amazing potential, and things that I was really good at, and the cloud of doom over my head floated away.

Just like that, I went from near despair to being excited about the future, and with that, I got back to work.

Do we really have that kind of power? Can we really just think ourselves into being happy?

You betcha.

Dale Carnegie said, “Remember, happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think.”

Yes, you can work your way through a funk. But had I tried to suck it up and work my way through my malaise, I’m pretty sure I would have simply found more “proof” of my inadequacies and justification for feeling sorry for myself.

Eventually, I would have forgotten about what was bothering me and returned to my regular chipper self. But instead of having an entire day being down, I was able to get back to “me” in just a few seconds.

When you are feeling blue, or experiencing any kind of negative emotion, instead of charging ahead despite those feelings, “change the subject”. Think about something that feels better when you think it. I might have thought about walking on the beach. That would certainly have felt better and my mood would surely have improved.

I chose another way. Instead of distracting myself from the issue (not being good enough), I found some aspect of that thought that felt better (thinking about what I was good at).

Either way works.

When we are unhappy, we can wait until our circumstances improve and then be happy. Or we can choose to be happy now and use that feeling to improve our circumstances.

Because happiness is a choice.

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Reba McEntire: “To succeed in life, you need three things. . .”

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In the “I wish I said it” category comes this quote from singer, song writer, and actress, Reba McEntire:

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”

Good advice for everyone, but especially lawyers.

We need to dream big to make it big. You can’t “play” at this profession, you have to go for it. Make big plans and take bold action. Another quote, author unknown, sums it up: “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, ‘Holy shit… what a ride!'”

We need a backbone to survive and thrive. Competition is tough, clients are demanding, and the ponderous rules we swore to abide by often make us want to bitch slap someone. Practicing law may be worth all the blood, sweat, and tears, but only if you can hang in there long enough to reap the rewards.

Most of all, we need to lighten up. If you don’t have a sense of humor, if you can’t laugh at the world and have some fun on this journey, you’re doomed. Bob Newhart said, “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.” Robert Frost said, “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” Groucho Marx said, “Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.” C’mon now, that’s funny!

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