Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. . . unless you’re a lawyer

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I used to have an employee who laughed after nearly everything he said. He might have asked me something completely innocuous like, “Should we open a file?” and follow that with an awkward smile and a pinched little laugh.

He was incredibly lacking in self-confidence and this was his way of coping with life.

He could get away with it with clients and others who didn’t listen to him all day long. I tuned it out, mostly, but I have to admit it bothered me. Sometimes, I would ask, “Why are you laughing?” or “Why is that funny?” Yes, I was a prick. And no, it didn’t help.

Maybe you’ve had someone like this work for you. Or maybe you’ve had an office clown. You know, the ones who are always telling jokes and making comments that aren’t in the least funny. And yet they persist, because they think they are God’s gift to humor.

Even if they are funny, too much yucking it up in a law office isn’t a good thing. A little humor is great for lightening the mood. And laughter is contagious. One or two people start laughing, it won’t be long before the entire office is enjoying themselves.

Just make sure there aren’t any clients around. You can’t let them think that what we do is fun and games, or that we’re insensitive to their problems.

But this is probably not a problem in most law offices. Just the opposite. There are too many lawyers who never crack a smile and never find humor in anything.

That’s not good, either.

You need a balance. Not too much humor, not too little.

How much is too much or too little? We must use the reasonable man standard. What is appropriate? What would a reasonable man do in the same or similar circumstances?

Wait, I guess that should be the reasonable person standard. We don’t want to be sexist.

Wait, if we say person, are we not insulting the rest of the animal kingdom? Guess we need to say, “reasonable being” standard.

Hold on, that doesn’t work. What about robots and drones and AI? They may not have feelings, but that doesn’t mean we can insult them. That’s just rude. And unfair. Probably racist, too.

Okay, someone just read this and thinks I’m a jerk for making fun of an out-of-control politically correct narrative. They don’t think this is at all funny.

But hey, calling me a jerk is hate speech. Lawyers have feelings, too. Said no one, ever.

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If The Three Stooges managed your law firm

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“Moe, Larry the Cheese!”

If that puts a smile on your face and brings back memories of your silliness-obsessed youth, welcome to my world. If you don’t get the reference, I’ll meet you in Niagara Falls.

I confess, as a kid, I loved The Three Stooges. What can I say, they made me laugh. They still do. I might just watch me some Stooges on YouTube after I finish this.

My wife doesn’t share this opinion, although she did see the Stooges movie that came out a few years ago and didn’t hate it. I think very few woman like The Stooges, and that’s okay. I’m not crazy about shoes.

Anyway, I’ve written before about what might happen if your Mom managed your law firm, and if my cat was in charge, and a few other critters, and I got to thinking, what would it be like if The Stooges managed your firm.

For starters, you’d have to increase the amount of liability insurance you carry, because God knows something is going to happen to one of your clients who runs late or doesn’t want to pay their bill. You also need a first aid kit in every lawyer’s office.

But despite their penchant for hitting and falling down and putting heads in a vise, you’ve got to admit that The Boys were hard workers. They might not have been very good at hanging wall paper or fixing the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom, but this wasn’t for lack of effort.

They wanted to please the boss. The customer was always right. Service with a smile, yessir.

So if they were in charge of your firm, they would insist that you put your clients first. Unless they were bad. If they are bad, all bets are off. The bad guys always get clobbered.

More than anything, if The Stooges ran your firm, every day would be an adventure. You would never know what might happen, you just know that before the day is out, someone will have their face slapped and their eyes gouged, and someone will be laughing.

And that’s my point.

There isn’t enough laughter in the law business. It’s much too serious.

Yeah, we deal with serious matters, and no, you can’t go telling your clients jokes all the time, but can we all lighten up a bit and have some fun?

You don’t agree? Pick two.

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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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Is “attorney” the right career for you?

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I don’t know what you think about the Myers-Briggs personality test, based on Carl Jung’s work, but according to a new infographic on career choice, I should have been a college professor instead of an attorney.

I’ve taken the test more than once, and got different results each time, so I’m not sure, but today it looks like I am an INTJ. That comes with the shorthand label, “Independent Scientists” and while the independent part fits, I’m not sure sure about the science part. College professor, maybe. Depends on what I’d be teaching.

I found “attorney” listed under ENTJ, which isn’t too far off. Of course there are many different types of attorneys, each with our own styles and leanings. I don’t see how trial attorneys and tax attorneys could possibly be in the same category.

Anyway, it’s kind of fun to see what the “experts” think about our choice of career, and I think the graphic does a good job of describing the different types. If you want to see yours without taking the MB test, job on over to this page and check it out. You can learn more about the 16 personality types on the Myers-Briggs website.

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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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A simple daily habit that could change everything

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I read an article that offered suggested daily habits that could help us 5 years from now. One habit stood out, not just because it has marketing implications, but because I think it could bring immediate benefits.

The habit:

Talk to one stranger every day.

Think about the possibilities. The stranger you speak to could be your next client, a marketing joint venture partner, or a source of referrals. Or they might introduce you to someone who fulfills one or more of those roles.

Talking to someone new can give you ideas for articles and posts, for marketing or managing your practice, or for doing something new and exciting.

Practicing the habit of approaching strangers also helps you develop your networking and interpersonal skills.

And it could be a lot of fun.

You could approach people by design–professionals and centers of influence in your target market or local community, for example. Or, you could make it a serendipitous adventure and approach people at random. How about the person immediately behind you in the line at Starbucks?

Strangers represent opportunities, the article notes. True, most opportunities don’t pan out. With many strangers, you won’t get to first base.

But you never know when the next person you meet might be the one who opens doors to great new adventures. Or, turn out to be a new friend.

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Are we having fun yet?

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I have a theory. And a challenge for you.

My theory is that we are put here on earth to have fun. The purpose of our lives is to feel and express and share joy.

We work because we enjoy what we do or because it provides the funds that allow us to do what we enjoy. We learn things because we enjoy learning or because it makes us better at our work, which allows us to have more fun.

We raise kids because they give us joy (most of the time). We embrace our religion because it gives us inner peace, direction, purpose, and pleasure.

We watch TV and movies and play games because it’s fun. We buy new clothes and new cars and other things we may not need because we enjoy looking good.

Every sentient being acts to either avoid pain or achieve pleasure. We’re hard wired for this. We avoid danger and we seek comfort. Humans are defined by our self-interest, and as we pursue things that make us happy, we make the world a better place. We create, we contribute, we share.

I’m no philosopher, but this is what I choose to believe. And. . . I enjoy believing it, so don’t try to talk me out of it.

Are we having fun yet? Yes, we are. That’s what we’re supposed to do.

My challenge to you is to admit why you’re here. Confess that you are a pleasure-seeking creature and give yourself permission to freely express your love of life.

Make it a habit. At least once a day, do something completely fun. Play a game, read a comic book, watch a funny video. Do something creative, just for the fun of it. If you have to, schedule 5 minutes a day on your calendar and label it “fun”.

Imagine what it would be like having fun all day long. Getting up with a smile instead of a groan. Doing deeply satisfying work. Surrounding yourself with people and things that make you happy. Going to bed at night knowing you have a purpose and you have lived that purpose.

This is not a pipe dream. You’re on your way towards making this your reality. You may start with 5 minutes of scheduled fun, and if that’s too much for you, start with one minute. Then two. Eventually, most of your day will either be outright fun or something that supports it.

Life is supposed to be fun. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong.

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Wake me when it’s over

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If TV shows portrayed the practice of law accurately, nobody would watch. Nobody wants to see what we really do. A law practice is usually one big yawn-fest.

Where’s the fun? The laughter? The joy?

“But lawyers aren’t supposed to have fun. We deal with the serious side of life. That’s what we are paid to do.”

True, but wouldn’t you like to have some fun once in awhile? I know your employees would. So would your clients.

What to do. . .

Hey, I know, how about movie night? Invite your staff and clients to join you to watch Thor: The Dark World. You buy the popcorn.

How about a Christmas party? With jingle bells, egg nog, and “Secret Santa” gift exchanges.

Next summer, you could do a picnic or barbecue. With hot dogs, three-legged races, and egg tosses.

Tell people they can invite friends and family. The more the merrier. Everyone will have fun and be glad they work for you or have you as their attorney. Guests will think you’re the grooviest lawyer in town.

You’ll post pictures on Facebook and everyone will share. You’ll get website traffic. You’ll grow your list. You’ll get more clients.

Yes, fun can be profitable. But it can also be fun.

Marketing is everything you do to get and keep good clients.

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The virtue of wasting time

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“Quit goofing off and get back to work!” Have you ever said that to your kids or your employees? I know you’ve said it to yourself.

We seemed to be obsessed with the idea that wasting time is a bad thing. I know, “wasting” implies “no value,” but is that really true?

Me thinks not.

Playing video games, checking in or posting on social media, watching football, or whatever you like to do when you’re not doing what you think you’re supposed to do, is not wasting time. I can think of several reasons why it is good for you. And if its good for you, then its good for your work and other aspects of your life.

  • It helps you relax. Stress is a major health risk. Goofing off helps us forget our troubles and lower our blood pressure. Laughing has been proven to improve mental and physical health.
  • It helps you think. When our conscious minds are distracted, our subconscious minds come up with ideas, solve problems, and help us make decisions.
  • It improves skills. Gaming can improve hand-eye coordination and sharpen critical thinking. Watching sports can teach you about leadership, strategy, and team effort. Social media can help you learn about pop culture, which can be used in conversation and writing.
  • It helps you meet new people. With many hobbies and personal interests, you get to meet new people–at the game or the sports bar, online, at the concert, or the convention. New people bring new ideas, new contacts, new business.
  • It affirms life. The purpose of life is joy, not work.

Is there such a thing as spending too much time “wasting time”? Our bosses, parents, and spouses may think so, especially if they’ve seen us spending an hour or two on a site like this one. But it’s really the wrong question.

Better to ask, “Are you getting your work done?”, “Are you making a contribution to the world,” and “Are you happy?”

If you can answer those questions in the affirmative, I don’t think the amount of time you spend conquering pretend kingdoms or contemplating your navel really matters.

Earn more so you can goof off more. Here’s how.

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You got into Harvard Law School? That’s funny!

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In the movie, “Legally Blonde,” Reese Witherspoon plays Elle Wood, a beautiful blonde who is dumped by her snobbish fiancé because he feels her lack of intelligence will hurt his career plans. Not ready to be dismissed so easily, Elle applies to and is accepted at Harvard Law, where she meets up with her ex- in the hallway on the first day of class.

He is surprised to see her and reminds her that their relationships is over. When he realizes she’s not visiting, she is a student, he is incredulous. “You got into Harvard Law?!”

Whereupon, Witherspoon delivers a line that still has me chuckling more than ten years after I first heard it: “What? Like it’s hard?”

Now if you don’t find that funny, you either don’t have a sense of humor or you went to Harvard. Wait, that’s redundant.

What? You’re still not laughing? You must be a tax lawyer.

Okay, I do have a point: We all need to laugh more. It’s good for our health and good for our business.

People like people who make them laugh. They like people who are fun to be around. They like people who smile and enjoy life.

Yes, what we do is often terribly serious. But not everything and not all the time.

I’m not suggesting you learn to tell jokes. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. I’d love to take a stand up comedy class. People always tell me I’m funny. I remind them that looks aren’t everything.

Hello, is this on?!

Anyway, we all need to lighten up and have some fun. Even when times are tough. Especially when times are tough.

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