All posts by - businesslawguy

Follow through is a double edged sword

People are fast to commit, but then what? Some do exactly what they say they will. They email or call the next day. Others don’t.

This leads to two quick thoughts: (1) some people are organized and follow up and (2) some people are disorganized and don’t. I think there is a third thought that has to be acknowledged: many people say they will follow up when they have no intention of doing so. It’s the flip side to people making offers or telling people to follow up with them when they don’t mean it.

I have been thinking about this and have come up with my own rules for making offers and following up. If you took the time to think through these ideas you may like the idea of having similar rules, or not. My rules are:

1. Only make genuine and intentional offers.

2. Don’t say you will follow up or show interest unless your response is genuine.

3. If you make an offer and the person doesn’t follow up, note it and move forward without them.

4. If someone makes you an offer, follow up.

If you are challenged by organization, use tools such as calendar reminders or organization apps on your phone to prompt you to follow up.

The point is to be intentional in your actions. It also is to be genuine. It will save you and others time, which is our most valuable commodity.

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Patience: learn it, live it

We all know patience is important, but can lose sight of that in the moment. I currently am experiencing this first hand because we have a puppy in our home. Dealing with a puppy for the first time in many years has provided me with insight into patience with my children and with my work.

In addition to the puppy, and his training challenges, which include an interest in picking items out of garbage cans because it must be fun to chew on, there are children related challenges requiring patience. In these situations, patience can be a challenge on good days. Adding in not enough sleep or stress from work can result in unplanned blowups that really relate to something other than the situation at hand. This post may have been inspired by a reaction I had, when tired, to a puppy garbage digging adventure….

From there I thought about work and how it seems easier to be patient there than with a garbage digging dog. When delegating work to a younger attorney or an assistant, I can provide guidance generally and on timing, but that doesn’t always result in the timing or level of work product I expect. When that happens, I have the choice to be angry and react accordingly, or take a step back, exercise patience and turn it into a learning moment – yes, right now, this seems easier with people than the puppy. By taking this approach I help the other person learn and thereby help myself (and my clients).

Having now put thought into this topic, I hope to have more patience with our puppy Ghost, who is sweet and cute when not getting into puppy mischief.

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Embrace failure

I think we all need to embrace failure. There, I said it. And it’s true. Failure leads to life lessons that can’t be taught. The point is we all encounter failure in our lives and it helps make us who we are and hopefully to become who we want to be.

You can’t read or listen to the news these days without hearing about the college admissions scandal. In case you somehow have missed this news item, many well-heeled parents paid money to help bribe their children’s way into certain universities. In some cases this included cheating on the SAT, and in others having the child be “recruited” by a university sports coach for a sport the child never participated in. Some of the children knew this was happening, while others didn’t.

When I first heard about the scandal, I thought about the helicopter parent, safety-net parenting that is very common these days. No parent who is honest looks forward to their child not “winning” or facing loss or failure. But if that is how you parent you need to ask yourself how your child will deal with defeat, which we all deal with in the real world.

Most people didn’t get into every college they applied to. Most people probably have experienced not receiving a job offer they were hoping for. But these are real occurrences people have happen and need to be able to deal with. The cliché that you learn more from failure than success exists because it’s true. If you think back through your life you know this is accurate whether in relation to the college application scenario, employment, personal relationships and so many other situations.

So embrace failure. This doesn’t mean we have to look for it or hope it happens. But when it does, look at the lessons the situation presents, because they will be many. By doing so you will grow as a person and hopefully avoid similar failures in the future.

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Helping people makes you feel good

A lot of people want to go on their way and not be distracted from their path. Others spend their lives seeking opportunities to help people. Most of us do some of both depending on the day and what we are dealing with at work and home. Taking time to help others makes your part of your city a community. It makes a difference.

This doesn’t mean spending all day volunteering at a non-profit, though that is a good thing to do. It can be helping someone with directions or a restaurant recommendation.

Last night, while leaving my youngest child’s sports practice, a woman was having trouble getting past another vehicle that was not parked well. I happened to be walking by. I saw she was having trouble and was getting herself stuck on a curb. She was so stressed out about her situation, she didn’t hear me making a suggestion as to what she needed to do, but did ask for help when she realized I was walking by. I helped her, and a few minutes later she had squeezed by the other car and was on her way after thanking me for taking the time to stop and help her. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but then realized my son was watching. What a good lesson for him to learn.

Helping people translates to your business too. We all are busy, but hopefully helping others in the workplace is part of your culture. Today I also happened to have a younger attorney come into my office to ask a question regarding something she thought she may have done wrong in a case. She asked if I was busy. Though I was in the middle of a project, I told her to sit down so we could discuss her concerns. In the end she hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was able to provide some ideas and direction. This is part of my firm’s culture and part of what makes it a great place to work.

Another level of helping others is through networking and being a connector. This also feels good and can earn respect in your professional peer group. Every business person likes a referral or warm connection. These types of actions can help make your career.

When you have the option to help another person, it doesn’t seem like a hard decision which path to take. Despite this, many people just don’t want to be bothered. That bother could result in opportunities that didn’t exist the minute before you stopped to help. Of course, another reason to help others is someday that person needing help may be you and, when you do, you might find karma comes is different flavors. Which do you want?

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Deliver outstanding service

Most of us provide personal services to someone, whether a customer, a superior or a work team. It can be difficult to measure the quality of the services you provide or receive. It is different than judging the quality of a hamburger or a car.

For me, I provide advice. This advice can be life or business altering for my clients. Though it’s intangible, quality matters as much as that of the tires on your car. And it’s a challenge because every situation I face is different. It takes effort, constant effort, to continually provide sound advice.

All of us can personalize the service we provide and strive to make sure it’s quality service. You need to know and understand your client’s objectives and goals. Don’t assume. Instead, ask questions.

When I am explaining something to a client, I try to make sure they understand what I have told them. This includes the pros and cons of the existing options. It also includes making sure they understand what I can do to assist them, as well as what isn’t possible. It’s important to be transparent about what you can do and what you can’t do, i.e. it’s not good to over promise and under deliver.

When providing personal services, trust is the key. You only recommend people you trust, and so will your clients. If you deliver great service in a clear and understandable manner, you will build relationships that can last a lifetime.

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Are you taking up too much space?

This past weekend I was reading an article and saw a great quote: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” I think this applies to all of us and it doesn’t matter what you do for a living. I read it as saying to always be looking forward and challenging yourself. If you rest on your laurels you become stagnant. More importantly, in our fast moving world not evolving leads to failure.

Moving forward and challenging yourself can take many forms. For me, I am always open to change and new ideas. At my firm, we all do business plans each year. I try to include at least one new action item and otherwise try new things related to my business, which I equate to living on the edge and not just taking up space because I always am looking for forward momentum.

That is how I came to write this blog. It was a new action item a number of years ago. The feedback was positive and it helped me make connections, as well as develop some new work. I sure didn’t know it was going to be a positive experience or that I would continue to do it further out in the future, but the point is I was open and willing to try.

I also understand that my “living on the edge” and your “living on the edge” may be significantly different. I am not climbing Mount Everest (though I always thought it would a cool), and you probably aren’t interested in what may be my current idea of living on the edge. I always say if we were all the same the world would be a more boring place. Importantly, we all gain ideas from what we see and hear about what others are doing. Your living on the edge doesn’t need to be a unique idea never tried before, but just something new to you that you think will move the needle in a positive way.

So take this as a challenge to find your version of living on the edge as you try not to simply take up space.

ps. In looking online, it appears a number of people have taken credit for the quote “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” My Google sleuthing seems to indicate it usually is attributed to Stephen Hunt, an author. Of course, it doesn’t matter who said it, but what it inspires you to do.

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Meeting Expectations

I currently have many really interesting matters I am working on. One of the matters had a large deadline a few weeks ago, which was then extended for a week. You can’t work on a large project without it impacting other work you have. The extension was a blessing and a curse because the pleading created was much better thanks to the deadline, but it certainly delayed me from focusing on other matters on my desk.

I know I can call a client to reset expectations and tell them my work on their matter is going to take longer than I initially explained, but I try not to do so unless it really becomes necessary. To me, the matters I am working on for different clients all are important. Even though deadlines can impact what rises to the top of my desk, I try to work in a timely manner based on the initial expectation I have set for a specific client.

For the last month, this has required me to work many nights and weekends to do what I have said I would within the time frames I set. I could have called clients to change that timing, but doing so would have just continued the problem of catching up while other matters with upcoming deadlines keep popping up and requiring attention. This also ignores new matters coming in, some of which require immediate attention.

By working in this way I have managed to meet my clients’ expectations. It hasn’t been easy, but part of it is meeting the expectations I have set for myself regarding how I work with and treat clients. It isn’t meant to be some sort of self-imposed torture forcing myself to work so hard. Instead it’s part of how I want to treat my clients and how I want to protect my reputation for doing what I say I am going to do by the deadlines I have set. By working in this way I am trying to manage and meet the expectations I have set for my clients and the expectations I have set for myself.

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Routine and Organization

I use routine to try and stay organized. This can be my general morning routine, to how I go about things when I get to the office. The Groundhog Day mentality definitely helps me stay on track. I have found that if I stick to certain routines, as much as possible, it allows me to accomplish the goals I’ve set for each day or each week. And this is both my professional and personal lives. But this doesn’t mean each day is the same because I am talking about general organization, not scripting all of each and every day.

A good way to dip your toes in the water of organization is to pick one area to script. It could be your morning routine, a to do list for each morning of work or choosing to work out on specific days at specific times each week.

For instance, my wife and I each have routine manners in which we start each day during the week. She starts with a cup of coffee. I start by meditating and doing some stretches. Our different routines work for each of us even though they are different. The point is we have that first thing or two that we just do without having to think about it, which makes it easier to get our days going.

I recommend finding one area in your life where a routine will help you meet your goals or do a better job at something. I think it helps to break your day down into smaller chunks of time and see where organization may help. Even if you are organized and use routines, you should revisit them every so often to see if they still are working for you or could use some new thoughts. The idea and goal is to continually be thinking of how to improve in all aspects of your life.

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Don’t be a poor winner or loser

Despite the participation medals or trophies our kids get for seemingly every activity or sport, in most everything in life there are winners and losers. This obviously includes in business. The baseline is easily a business surviving versus a business failing. If you speak with someone whose business is going to fail, they don’t want a pat on the back or to be told “good try.” They wanted to win.

Of course we all lose. When you lose, how do you react? Do you get upset? Do you blame others? Or do you take responsibility for your part in the loss, if any? I ask because I am used to seeing people make excuses.

Conversely, how do you act when you win? Do you gloat? Do you put down whoever lost? Or are you complementary to the person who lost?

In what I do there are winners and losers all of the time. It could relate to a motion being considered by a court or at trial. No attorney can win them all. And there can be real excuses because we are hemmed in by the facts in each case and the law that applies. The excuses I have heard over the years for these types of losses are many, such as “the judge made a mistake” or “the jury just didn’t like my client,” etc. The list goes on and on.

When I have lost I chalk it up to experience and try to look back on what I can learn. I also try to be a graceful loser, where it makes sense and is appropriate. When I communicate a loss to a client, such as when a court issues a ruling months after a hearing or trial, I make sure to do it in person or on the phone, and not by email or text. I don’t make excuses. Doing so never helps the situation and is not how I would want to come across.

When I win, I am, of course, happy. Who isn’t? But I also maintain a professional decorum with any opposing attorney or party. I save the celebration for my client and the attorneys I have worked with on my side of the case.

Knowing how to win and lose is important. It contributes to how people view you and your reputation in your community. Next time you win, or lose, think what you want your reputation to be and let it guide you to acting accordingly.

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Work smarter

Everywhere you look you are told hard work pays off. This is true, as is the fact that hard work is required to become successful. But as you gain experience and have success, the formula should change and you should work smarter.

By working smarter I mean a few things. The first is that you should be able to streamline much of what you do. This may be through utilizing technology that saves you time or keeps you more organized. It also could be that your experience allows you to complete certain tasks or types of work faster.

Second, you should be delegating work. This allows you to push work down to younger or less experienced co-workers. In my world that means having associate attorneys do certain projects such as research and writing, which saves me time and the client money. It also allows you to focus on higher-level tasks. By delegating work you can choose the work you enjoy more or create the time to develop more work.

Third, choose to work when you have the most energy. When you are first working you it feels like you have to be in the office when your superiors show up in the morning and when they leave at night. As you gain experience and the people you work with and for know you get your work done, you hopefully can schedule how you work.

If you aren’t a morning person, having to be in the office and working by 8 am won’t help you get more done. I know someone like this who starts work after 10 am each day, but then works into the evening. If you are a morning person or the opposite, try working to your body’s rhythms and see if it helps you get more done. It also may help you feel more rested and maybe even experience a touch less stress.

These are just a few ideas for working smarter. We all should be open to trying new ideas and strategies that may help us do so. If you do, hopefully you will find a few ideas that will work for you.

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