On a cold Tuesday afternoon, just three years after I graduated from law school, I heard code red called in the ER. The code was for me. I was 30 seconds from death: veins collapsed, no blood pressure, 30 pounds under weight, metabolic acidosis prevailed, 32 ounces of blood lost daily, and no ability to sit upright or walk. I was 28 years old and knew nothing about how my reactions cause outcomes. Not knowing almost killed me. Years of stress and anger had taken their toll.
Two decades after code red was called, I’ve finally learned that negative: thinking, acting, behaving, and images physically weakens us and positive: thinking, acting, behaving, and images strengthen us. My adrenal glands, which produce cortisol to respond to stress, had exhausted themselves. My adrenal cortexes were dead and so was I, nearly. The emergency room doctor later reported to a mutual friend that he was sure I was going to die.
At that time, I had no vision of what my life could be or how I would come to impact future estate planning clients and now attorneys, their firms, and their lives. Understanding, absorbing, and living success principles will change your life as they have mine.
Sound like a bunch of mumbo jumbo? That’s up for you to decide for yourself, but don’t hold colleagues back when you see them thrive because you don’t get it – yet. Living within success principles will empower you to take charge of your life and your firm, helping you to create what you want – and ultimately help more people.
The Principle of 100% Self-Responsibility
Event + Reaction = Outcome is the fundamental success principle formula that will impact your life most. It’s foundational and essential. After all, if you’re responsible, you’re in control and can determine the outcome. Taking 100% responsibility for your life is empowering.
Events are just the way things are. You can’t control what happens to you (the economy, death in the family, illness, tax hike, traffic jam, gender bias, etc.), but you can control your response to those events which means you can control the outcome.
Lack of Awareness
Back in the days I described above, I created my own stress level and plummeting health by the way I reacted to events.
- For example, during my first year of law school, my then boyfriend was a college senior, my (soon-to-be) mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and my (soon-to-be) father-in-law died two weeks later after her diagnosis. I ruminated on and exacerbated the fallout from those events over-and-over again for several years.
- At the same time, my mother went off the deep end into some undiagnosed mental illness, becoming toxic. I allowed myself to be manipulated for years instead of separating myself from her.
- Did I mention I was in my first year of law school at the time? I reacted to that as you likely did.
I couldn’t control these events and at the time didn’t know I could control my response. Now that I own my reactions and take 100% responsibility for my life, I can control my responses and, thus, I control outcomes. This means the nasty neighbor, the financial challenges of two children in private colleges, the XYZ, and the ABC no longer get to me.
Do I have my moments? Of course! I haven’t transformed into Mother Teresa or Gandhi, not even close. But, I’m sooooo much better at responding as I choose, rather than emotionally bursting as I have in the past. Being able to respond as I choose is life-changing.
3 Responses You Can Control
In the entire world, you can only control three responses:
- Your behavior aka actions, which includes what you say as well as how you say it
- Your thoughts, including self-talk and beliefs
- The visual images you hold in your mind
You create your own experiences by how you react to both opportunities and challenges. What’s cool is this means you get to control your life, the quality of your relationships, workload, income, and health by controlling your behavior, thoughts, and the visual images you hold.
We’ve all seen the statistics for lawyers – high drug, alcohol, depression, unhappiness, and divorce rates. We score much higher than the general population. Why? I suggest self-imposed pressures. We feel trapped with a long list of things we think we “have” to do and another list of things we think we “can’t” do.
- I submit you would be well served by substituting the word for “choose to” for every “have to” or “must.” You don’t have to do anything. Yes, I know what you’re thinking; there will be consequences of not doing something, of course. But there’s still a choice, and that’s dang empowering. For example, “I have to go to that committee meeting tonight” versus “I choose to go to that committee meeting tonight.” Feel the difference?
Try another one, I have to keep practicing family law versus I choose to keep practicing family law.
- Next, replace “can’t” with “choose not to” and observe how that feels. For example, “I can’t take Friday afternoons off versus “I choose not to take Friday afternoons off.”
What about this one? “I can’t make $500,000 a year” versus “I choose not to make $500,000 a year.” Yes, you even have a choice about how much money you make.
When we aren’t taking 100% responsibility for our lives. Many of us feel trapped, overworked, and unhappy in the work we’re doing. We feel angry at opposing counsel or lousy clients or feel frustrated by our own failures or limitations because we have no idea how to run and build a successful law firm business.
Images Make It Real
When you visualize over-and-over again a fight with your spouse or opposing counsel, your body doesn’t identify any difference between when you’re in a fight (and cortisol needs to come to the rescue) and when you’re driving home, picturing the fight as well as what you wish you had said. That’s how your body gets exhausted. Cortisol comes to the rescue even when you’re just imagining the fight.
Will you develop primary adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s Disease) like I did? Not likely. Your body and mind will break down where your weakness lies – maybe depression, anxiety, alcoholism, or disease.
Self-Responsibility as Empowerment
This isn’t a doom and gloom diagnosis. You are not doomed to be miserable or doomed to be diseased. Personal responsibility is personal empowerment. You create your future through your reactions: your behavior, thoughts, and visual images. There’s no judgment from me and I encourage you to eliminate any self-judgment or self-blame – and separate yourself from those you judge you.
Choose self-responsibility. Consider that you always have a choice; you are never trapped. For example, there are thousands of people who have taken situations like your own and succeeded but not just succeeded, they’ve prospered. What’s the difference between those folks and you? Thinking, actions, and the pictures in your head. Change those things, you change your life and law firm.
Law Business Strategist Wendy Witt, JD practiced trusts and estates law for 15 years. She helps attorneys think entrepreneurially, increase revenue, and create the law firm/life they love. You can find out more at AttorneyAlchemy.com; you can reach Ms. Witt at Wendy@AttorneyAlchemy.com
by Lori Owens
As reported in the ABA Journal, attorneys have higher depression rates and more stress than the average American. At our own Elevate conference, this past year, Wendy Newman Glantz de-mystified emotional intelligence and provided concrete tips for lawyers to improve both their person and work lives as outlined here. Following on that theme, I had the pleasure of attending a session on succession planning presented by Roy S. Ginsburg to all LegalShield provider attorneys this past fall.
Briefly, Roy’s goal as a legal strategic advisor is to “help lawyers become more successful and satisfied in their careers.” Roy used quotes on many of his slides which helped to frame the discussion and I have included those below as headings. (A bit more information on lawyer and coach, Roy Ginsburg: Roy has spent more than 30 years practicing law in both private practice and as in-house counsel, and currently runs a successful part-time solo practice. You can reach Roy here for more information.)
I will first focus on why lawyers need to have a succession plan and what retirement is today and then will dive into how to retire, including some tips on selling your practice.
I thought some of the reasons why lawyers fail when it comes to planning for retirement were interesting and should be highlighted first:
- Only thing that is considered is the dollars needed retire;
- Or in other words, think with enough money, all will be fine;
- Believe this life of leisure will be fun and satisfying;
- 62% disagree on timing for retirement; 33% disagree on retirement lifestyle; and
- Many are overwhelmed by family issues.
“Failure to plan is planning to fail.” J. Wooden
This quote was an overall theme within Roy’s presentation. Looking at the statistics on our aging population is mind boggling. The American Bar Association (ABA) estimates that 400,000 baby boomer lawyers will retire over the next decade and a half. Over the next almost twenty years, 10,000 people will turn 65 years old each and every day. Also, Roy mentioned that each sixty-five-year-old has on average a twenty-year life expectancy.
Many lawyers scoff at the idea of retiring at the traditional age and envision practicing well into their twilight. However, it may be in your best interest and that of your clients and firm to retire when you are at the top of your game. Regardless, a succession plan needs to be well thought out and start several years prior to actual retirement.
When to Hold ‘Em and When to Fold ‘Em – Kenny Rodgers
All good things must end and in simple terms, it’s important to decide if it’s time. However, also consider that if you wait too long, you may risk your retirement years. Roy mentioned that among those 65 or older, 25% experience memory loss; 20% have a serious illness; and 20% struggle with depression. However, finances play a large role in any decision to stop working. This again, reminds us to do an inventory of our financial resources plus health insurance; social security; and estate planning. Also, it’s important to decide if it’s really time by taking stock as follows:
- How is your physical health?
- How is your mental health; do you have the same passion?
- How is your significant others’ or family member health?
- Is it time to give back in the form of pro-bono or a career shift?
- Do you desire more family time or wish to spend more time on hobbies, rest, or relaxation?
Further to the last two points, some wonder how they will replace work because it’s more than just something to do. For those who have left a firm or taken a leave, your sense of identity and purpose is wrapped up in your career. Many need the mental stimulation and social interaction, not to mention the challenge of the law plus the routine or structure associated with a daily trip to the office or court. For others, the idea of leaving by retiring means losing all this plus a reduction in compensation, social status and clout, or in some cases, retirement can be seen as political suicide.
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” Susan Sontag
Shifting gears, there are many exciting idea for retirement as Roy outlined below. However, regardless of your age, you may wish to check-in on your level of addiction to work. For example, are you glued to your smartphone or tablet all week and into the weekend? Do you take vacations, and if yes, are they more than a few days? Roy recommends that retirement is practiced so you can choose from these activities:
- Earn an Honest Living: Alternative dispute resolution; politics; adjunct professor; entrepreneurship or small business; or write.
- Relax: Travel or be a couch potato; spend time with family & friends; go back to school; exercise to maintain your health and so on.
- Volunteering: At any of the following – clinics, shelters, bar associations, social services, civic organizations, continuing legal education, SCORE, education or youth services, cultural, sports, or arts. The list is endless!
Everyone must eventually retire and therefore, regardless of your management responsibilities, planning is needed to minimize the impact on the firm. Finding your successor requires time and training. Remember the reasons above why lawyers flunk retirement – overall those attorneys that pass, retire to something, not from something. I will now move from the why of retirement into the planning for leaving the law, including some tips on divesting your firm.
“The time to put on a new roof is when the sun is shining.” John Kennedy
As discussed above, those who are ready to retire have usually created financial stability and an identity above and beyond work. Once the decision is made, then a whole new list of action items is required. However, first a few decisions are needed in terms of your succession planning:
- Are you closing your practice?
- Are you retiring and leaving the firm to other partners?
- Will you entertain a buy-out by an internal successor or a buy-in from outsider?
- Will you sell to a competitor or merge your firm with another?
If this seems like a daunting list, that is okay as there are professionals to help you and also this is a long-term strategy as outlined below. Business brokers and consultants can help you advertise your firm and you can also use your own network to look for a potential buyer.
There is certainly less stress when you are retired but what if you still wish to work with clients? You can consider stepping down as partner to alleviate the management headache and still serve your clients. However, that might not be a good fit if there is a shift in firm culture. Or perhaps you may not wish to relinquish control over and work for someone else again at the end of your career.
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Abraham Lincoln
The value of a law firm is with the clients and the revenue stream. As you plan to either sell or retire, it’s important to review the plan for client transition to ensure that there is minimum disruption within the firma and amongst your clients. This should include the use of customer relationship management (CRM) and practice management systems to gather the information on clients’ billing history; future legal needs; and the relationship over the years.
A multi-phase and multi-year succession approach was discussed as follows:
Phase One (Years 1-3): Think of this as probation for you and your successor as responsibilities shift and you spend time training. There is still time to back out if you change your mind in this phase. Your goal is to test that you have picked the correct person to take your place.
Phase Two (Years 4-6): At this point, you are starting to scale back and will work less and start to receive payments as your clients that are transitioned to your successor.
Phase Three (Years 7-9): This is the tipping point where you will start to receive significant payments for your share of the clients as you are exiting. The marketplace will generally define a fair price for those payments.
The above deal is your compensation and you should structure your payout over time but the sooner this process is mapped out and initiated, the better. Please note that the years are just estimates and certainly the process can be shorter or longer. Remember, each deal is different.
Interested in learning more about topics like this while earning CLE? Join us at our second Elevate by LegalShield on June 28-30th, 2018, more information here.
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You know why I’m super excited about the GLSA/GPSolo conference in New Orleans?
Well, first off, it’s taking place in New Orleans! C’mon, that’s really a perk. I had the pleasure of visiting the Big Easy for the first time last Fall. It certainly captured my imagination with the atmospheric jazz music, historic architecture of St. Charles Avenue, St. Louis Cathedral, gumbo, beignets, and its friendly, welcoming people. But, it left me wanting for more!
The GLSA/GPSolo 2018 Joint Spring Conference promises to be an event brimming with educational and fun activities. If you missed my podcast with a Preview of the GLSA/GPSolo 2018 Joint Spring Conference, you really need to listen to it. Several conference speakers and panelists, Nicole Abboud, Matt Hahne, Aastha Madaan, and Ibrahima Seck, and Tom Martin (that’s me) share their insights about how to make the conference really work for you.
Slated for April 25 through April 28th, there will be FOUR full days of programming, beginning with a field trip Wednesday morning and ending with a Saturday afternoon post-conference workshop on building your business through podcasting.
- Food, parties, Bywater and French Quarter pub crawls, and other networking events aplenty, including a po’ boy/crawfish lunch and a Welcome Reception at Pat O’Briens on the Mississippi River
- CLE’s presented by the leading voices and emerging influencers in legal services. Learn about legal plan administration, access to justice efforts, user experience design, video marketing and branding, cutting-edge law office technologies, hot topics in solo and small firm, substantive law, special ethics and trustee issues, and more from nearly 70 speakers including Nicole Abboud (The Gen Why Lawyer), Riyad Bacchus (Sykes), Jean Clauson (ARAG), Dina Eisenberg (Outsource Easier), Sam Glover (The Lawyerist), Mary Juetten (Traklight), Alan Klevan (Summit Law Practice Solutions), Aastha Madaan (Madaan Law), Tom Martin (LawDroid), Stephen Mogila (Slevin & Hart P.C.), Rinky Parwani (Florida Legal Insurance), Nick Rishwain (LegalTech Live), Allen Rodriguez (ONE400), and Bryan Wilson (The Texas Law Hawk).
- Offsite educational programs that allow you to explore vibrant NOLA neighborhoods and enjoy adventure travel in the Louisiana countryside
- Private appointments allowing you to meet administrators from new and familiar legal plans and solicit their advice on growing your business through legal plan panel work
That’s 20+ hours of MCLE credits and some of the most interesting topics by some of the most vibrant minds and innovators in the legal industry! Download our current schedule of events.
New Orleans also offers a great opportunity to learn more about our American heritage. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be happening. There will also be a field trip to plantations, including the Whitney Plantation, the first slavery museum in the US, led by Research Historian Ibrahima Seck.
I’m also (of course) looking forward to seeing friends from the far flung reaches of the country and catching up with what they have done and what they are working on. It’s amazing how events like this bring like-minded, engaged people together.
I really do hope to see you there. It’s gonna be a blast!
Remember, the the ABA-GPSolo/GLSA 2018 Joint Spring Meeting in New Orleans is happening April 26 through April 28th! If you haven’t registered yet, you need to register now by going to GLSAOnline.org and clicking on the tab for the 2018 conference.
Save $100 if you register before April 11th!!
With details of programs spanning many of New Orleans’ neighborhoods – and the nearby countryside – our brochure for the ABA-GPSolo/GLSA 2018 Joint Spring Meeting will make you wish you could fast forward to April 25, 2018! Consider it your guide to the city charms, CLE programs, networking opportunities, and special events sure to make this conference one of your best investments in business and pleasure ever.
Anyone with an interest in law technology, legal plans, marketing opportunities, solo and small firm practice, hot substantive law topics, or four magical days and nights in the city celebrated as “the Paris of the South” is encouraged to join us April 25th through 28th in and around the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. Although telephone and paper mail registration options are available, we encourage you to sign up online for the conference and its special events – which colleagues, family and friends of conference registrants can attend for a la carte prices. Registration by April 12th guarantees you GLSA’s early bird registration rate of $350 for members and $450 for non-members. Guest passes – which include most food and beverage events but do not include CLEs – are also available for $175.
We look forward to creating memories with you at our conference and at the concurrent NOLA Jazz and Heritage Festival just under two months from now!
The Staff at GLSA
312 988 5752
First, let me start by saying kudos! If you are a lawyer creating marketing videos or want to start creating them for your law firm because you know how powerful they are, then you deserve a high five.
In order to get the most out of the videos you are creating, it’s important to recognize how some of the major social media platforms treat videos. Understanding the context and mindset of how social media users want to consume videos on each of the platforms will increase your video’s appeal and engagement with a wider audience and more potential clients.
In this article, I’m focusing on 4 specific social media platforms and how you can maximize your videos’ effectiveness on each platform:
Let’s dive in with videos for Facebook. What are some of the pros and cons of using video on Facebook?
- Supports long form videos
- Easy to share
- Great for engagement because of comments section
- Boosting capabilities (put some money behind your videos and get more eyeballs on them)
- Access to data/analytics to see how well your videos/posts perform
- Unless someone follows you or likes your page, they won’t see your video
- Many say that organic reach on Facebook is dead, so that forces you to put some money behind getting your videos seen (either as an Ad or a Boost)
Length requirements: Up to 45 minutes
What type of videos are best to post on Facebook?:
- Educational videos (How-To’s)
- Interviews (with people in the industry, experts, other lawyers)
- Entertainment (any video that will entertain your viewers)
- Client testimonials
How does Instagram treat videos? Here are some of the features and drawbacks of posting on this platform:
- Owned by Facebook so as a user, you have a lot of the same data and analytics available to you as you do on Facebook
- Use the right hashtags and expand reach of video
- Attracts a younger crowd (if that’s your intended audience)
- No links allowed in comments. You only have one link available and that is in your profile
Length Requirements: up to 60 seconds
What type of videos to post here:
- Behind-the-scenes and day-to-day at your law firm
- Quick legal tips
- Inspirational videos
Just a few months ago, LinkedIn began allowing for native uploading of videos to their platform. Considering LinkedIn is the largest professional social media platform, this is a great opportunity for lawyers to engage in video creation and brand building. So, what makes LinkedIn so great and not so great when it comes to video?
- Largest professional platform
- Fairly new native video capabilities so it is not a crowded space…yet. Your videos have a chance of standing out
- Data/insight available
- Only your connections can see your posts (unless shared by a connection, in which case, their connections see it too).
Length Requirements: Video must be at least 3 seconds and cannot exceed 10 mins
What type of videos to post here:
- Educational (How-To’s)
- Presentations you might have given
- Attorney profile videos
- Client testimonials
Last but not least, why use videos on Twitter?
- Hashtags and tagging others in your posts work well on Twitter
- Can re-share several times in a week without appearing “spammy”
- Very short shelf-life because Twitter feeds move so quickly
Length Requirements: limit up to 2 mins and 20 secs
What type of video to post here:
Newsjacking – Twitter loves breaking news videos so if you can create a quick video based on anything that’s happening in the news, that’s perfect
General good rules to keep in mind:
- If your original video is longer than the length requirement for each platform you plan on sharing it on: take the best snippet from the video. Search for the enticing segment of the longer video and create a shorter version that is within the time and length requirements for each platform. Don’t just post the video from the beginning because often, the beginning is not the most interesting part.
- Pay attention to captions: None of the platforms mentioned here play the audio automatically so if you can include captions in your videos, that will allow people to read what you’re saying before they decide to hit that play button.
- Call to Action: Use a call to action in your videos. Things like “Share if you agree,” “Share this with a friend,” “Be sure to follow/subscribe,” or “Press link for full video” work well.
- Intro/outro: If taking a segment of the full video to repurpose and share on social media, then you’ll want to fade out at the end of the snippet and include some sort of call to action to invite viewers to watch the entire video.
- Additional features for each platform: Pay attention to any additional features each platform offers. For example, Instagram has Instagram Stories and Live so think about how you can use those features to help promote your video.
- Make viewers feel something: Create content that will allow viewers to have an emotional reaction– happiness, laughter, anger, admiration, inspiration or some sort of urgency are all good emotions
Nicole Abboud is the Owner of Abboud Media – a video and podcast production company for lawyers. Find out how you can create videos that will brand you as an expert in your practice area over at www.abboudmedia.com. For daily video and podcasting tips, follow along on Instagram @abboudmedia.
By Kerry M. Lavelle
When I think of finding the right person for the role of the office manager, I liken it to asking myself, “What is the last presidential candidate you have analyzed that had the perfect resume to be the President of the United States of America?” If they did, they would have graduate level degrees in economics, business, a law degree, and a CPA with expertise in taxation. In addition they would have been an officer position of General or higher in the military, hold advanced training in diplomacy, world history and of course, political science, public speaking, and be an expert in the congressional law making process. Pretty impossible, correct? Consider the office manager position for a small law office? The required skills include accounting, banking, computer repair, IT spending, marketing decisions, human resources, Dale Carnegie skills at winning friends and influencing people (including high paid lawyers) being attacked and resolving argumentative client complaints on invoices on a daily basis and lastly, the organizer of the office birthday cakes on a monthly basis.
Almost impossible – right?
The History of Your Office Manager
If you started like most growing law firms as a solo practitioner or a small law office, there is a high probability that an experienced assistant rose to the level of office manager. He or she probably did so because he or she was very good at being your assistant, capturing nuances of the job, assisting you and the management of the small law office and began to take on responsibilities as you fed him or her with bank deposits, billing, client receivables, and balancing the firm’s bank accounts. In other words, he or she probably morphed in to the position of office manager by merely starting as your general administrative assistant and then growing to the point of having the aforementioned skill sets. In reality, those skill sets cannot be acquired on the job without outside training (unless you are prepared to face many instances of failure).
If the office is growing, and the responsibilities of the office manager begin to expand because of all the nuanced issues that come up in the growth of a law firm, the office managers will need additional training or know when to rely on the outside accountant or other outside consultants of the law firm. Remember, no matter how much on the job training occurs for the office manager, he or she cannot be held to the standard of being an outside tax accountant for the preparation of your tax return and financial statements nor should he or she be held to the standard of being a lawyer in managing all of the HR problems around the office. Outside help will be needed as the law firm grows. As the office continues to grow and you provide more responsibility and your reliance grows on the office manager, outside training and outside experts are necessary. These are good problems to have. Nevertheless, they are problems that need expertise.
Notwithstanding the incredibly difficult resume an office manager would need to have to be successful, as well as the ability to get outside training in the more technical aspects of running a law office, there exists a certain list of items that should not be compromised and should be very well expected of your office manager. Those skills should include, but not be limited to:
- Competence in billing and accounting software;
- Sending out bills on time;
- Handling irate client calls on billing;
- Oversight of cost management of office overhead;
- Managing certain human resource responsibilities and tracking payroll information and vacation days;
- Hiring, firing and managing support staff;
- Responsiveness to partner requests; and
- Continually striving to improve office manager skills.
As you can see, the main accounting and billing software for the law office is critically important and the office manager needs to be an expert at that software. All efforts should be made for the highest level training on the software for the office manager. If the office manager cannot become an expert on that software, he or she is not cut out for the job. So long as there is a support system for the software, and a help desk, there should be no excuses for the office manager not to master the software that runs the law office.
The office manager needs to be an extension of the managing partner. His or her job is to serve as an absolute support mechanism and system for the managing partner. The financial infrastructure is run through the office manager on a day-to-day basis. Of course it will be reviewed by the outside accountants and tax returns will be prepared based on the financials of the law office, but the day-to-day activity needs to be kept up and input on the modular accounting software for the law office.
Finally, as the office grows, you must be willing to provide your office manager with the support of outside consultants, or be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Through it all, when the office manager responds to partner requests timely, and notwithstanding requests from clients, support staff, associates and partners, you will know you have a great office manager when the birthday cakes are delivered on time.
For any further discussion on the role of the office manager for you or your law firm, please reach out to Kerry Lavelle at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.
Kerry Lavelle is the author of The Business Guide to Law: Creating and Operating a Successful Law Firm published by the American Bar Association. It can be found on the ABA website at: http://bit.ly/1J1p0Aa. He grew his solo practice to a 26-attorney firm, accumulating numerous awards and commendations along the way for his legal work and community service. He is a frequent speaker at bar association seminars and conferences on law office management, and has served as an adjunct professor for business, economics and law school classes, and has served on boards for the Northwest Suburban, Illinois and American Bar Association.
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