Posts tagged - ethics

Change is an opportunity

I met up with an attorney I know recently. She had switched firms, going back to one she had worked for previously. I was surprised because she seemed happy at her last firm. It turns out she was generally happy, but some colleagues she liked were changing firms and a call came at the right time to get her to consider leaving. She did, and seems invigorated from the change of scenery.

Now this attorney may be in the honeymoon phase of working for a new firm. However this seems unlikely for an experienced attorney who already spent a number of years at the “new” firm.

The point is that change in what you do or where you do it creates new energy and new opportunity. It can have an incredibly positive impact on you professionally if you recognize this and act on it. Change can breed excitement, even in the case I mentioned above where the attorney liked the last place she worked.

This type of opportunity can come from other types of change too. I know a different attorney who lost a client that was a large percentage of the work he brought in and worked on. This could have been a demotivating event or even a career killer. Instead, he looked at it as opportunity and redoubled his marketing efforts to create a broader practice less reliant on a single client. In doing so, he created opportunity where many people would have been left floundering. Over time this attorney ended up with larger and more diverse practice, and became much more successful.

There are many examples of this, but you don’t need significant change like the ones described above to have opportunity. You can create your own opportunities at any time by making changes or tweaks to what you are doing. In either scenario, there is no time like the present to spend some time thinking about what changes may benefit you and your business, and create new opportunities.

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Perfection breeds insanity

No one is perfect. We hear this all of the time, which is why it has become a cliché. It is true, but many people strive to be perfect. It simply is not possible, and is your idea of perfection the same as mine? I guarantee you it isn’t.

I know an attorney at another firm who is a perfectionist regarding the pleadings researched and drafted. By this I mean the number of times a draft pleading is revised is almost endless. By working this way, the attorney spends an immense amount of time on whatever pleading is being drafted. This ends up being bad on two levels. One, this attorney self-edits time, meaning that the entire time spent is not billed to the client, i.e. the client never will know how much work was done on the case. Second, all of us have important things to do, whether business or with family, that get lost in the shuffle when “extra” work is done that the client doesn’t know about and isn’t billed for. The idea of the perfect pleading also ignores the client’s budget because legal work, like many products or service, isn’t one size fits all.

What happens in the reality I just described is the attorney loses time for other work and activities, thereby billing less, making less money and having less time for outside activities. At the same time, the client likely is billed more than they can afford. These types of issues are problematic. The time issue is obvious, but time also is impacted by the money issue.

Attorneys don’t like dealing with billing issues generally. True statement. Plus, any time spent dealing with billings issues, whether with a client or your partners, is more time spent not getting work done for paying clients. The client wants to know why the pleading cost so much and your partners want to know why the pleading cost so much. Your partners also will want to know the client’s expectations of cost and why isn’t the client paying for the work. Despite these issues, many attorneys do this over and over, and have done so for years.

This is an example of how perfection breeds insanity in the legal profession. The definition of insanity I am thinking of is: doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting different results. Or maybe they don’t expect different results, and don’t know how to stop working in that manner. Either way it’s insanity.

Whatever type of job, profession or industry you work in has an equivalent to this. Instead of perfection, try to deliver the best possible service or experience to achieve the client or customer’s objections while keeping their ability to pay and any budget in mind. Do this and you have the best chance to meet their expectations, get paid and not waste time dealing with the issues that come with doing too much. You will save yourself headaches and brain damage by keeping these types of objectives in mind in your day-to-day work.

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5 things to check on or do with your attorney, insurance agent or work before you go on your summer vacation

Summer is fast approaching. At least it feels that way here in Phoenix. With summer comes the inevitable vacations, which include road trips and all kinds of fun (and somewhat) dangerous activities. Before you escape on a great adventure, here are some things you may want to think about and consider:

  1. Call your attorney if you are leaving minor children at home with friends, family or a babysitter. You need to leave insurance cards and information, but you also need to provide a limited power of attorney for the caregiver to be able to make medical decisions in the event a child becomes sick or is injured while you are in some exotic locale or otherwise unreachable.
  2. Call your attorney if your estate plan up is not up to date. If you’re not sure, you know the answer. Whether you are traveling alone, with a partner or with your family, it is important to have your estate planning documents in the form you want them. No one plans on something bad happening, but it is good to be prepared in case it does.
  3. Are you doing a short term or long term rental in-state, out of state or abroad? Call your attorney to review any rental contract or terms you are not familiar with or uncomfortable with (and this is important) before you sign the document. Rentals can cost a lot of money and you want to make sure you are getting what you think you are paying for.
  4. Call your insurance agent or broker and make sure you have sufficient life insurance in place prior to bungee jumping or skydiving during your vacation. Ditto for auto insurance before your road trip.
  5. Otherwise, remember to let your clients and colleagues know when you will be gone, and how to reach you (if you will be reachable and actually want to be reached…).

The point is that the more you know the better off you are. The professionals you use are available to advise and help you, and a few question can go a long way to protecting you and or your family.

That being said, I hope you are getting ready to go on or putting the finishing touches on a fantastic summer getaway!

 

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Disconnecting from technology frees your mind in a way you may have forgotten

Most of us are connected to our phones, tablets or computers from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep. I recently went on an annual trip where I try to disconnect for a few days. It is harder to do than you think. When I do, I am reminded we all need to do so. It is so relaxing and provides a much needed break from work and the continuous need to stay on top of email and various forms of electronic media and information. When is the last time you disconnected?

We walk around with these small computers in our pockets that we use to communicate with others, take pictures, surf the Internet, and stream video and audio content. Of course, we also use them for work, whether through email, text or something more substantive. Most of us really are connected all day long whether because of a level of addiction or the need to be accessible at all times to customers and clients.

As an attorney, I definitely have clients who think I should be able to immediately respond to any email or text at almost any time of the day. I try to set reasonable expectations of my availability and general response times, but many people think because a message was sent it will be immediately viewed and responded to. I had one client who used to text me “????” if I didn’t respond or call him within a few minutes of his text. When I would get back to him he logically understood I have other clients, a family and things going on, but because he is an instant responder on email and text, his knee jerk reaction is that everyone else is too.

Use your phone to Google it and you will find numerous articles and studies about how bad it is for your brain and, generally, your well-being, to be connected, using technology so much and accessible at all hours. How bad has it become? Someone my wife previously worked with used to (and hopefully, for her and her husband’s sanity, doesn’t) keep her phone under her pillow and answer texts at all hours of the night. That is so bad on many levels.

Just like your body and brain need you to take vacation, they need you to disconnect from technology for at least short amounts of time. But it isn’t easy to disconnect – our phones help us fill downtime or dead space. The problem is that the downtime is time we used to spend thinking, coming up with ideas, and being creative. In the big picture, for most of us, technology is a creativity killer. For me it may mean the great legal argument or idea for one of my cases won’t come into my head out of the blue like they used to. For you it probably means something different, but there is something you have lost from not taking time to let your mind be unoccupied.

At the same time, I am a big fan of technology both in my professional and personal worlds. I continually am trying to balance its use better, with varying results depending on the day. But I really look forward to the few times a year I know I am going to shut it off and figuratively “tune in, turn on, drop out,” as Timothy Leary famously said in the 1960’s. Back then Leary was referring to the hippie counterculture of that day, but I think it applies the same to technology. And it can go either way – you can be turning onto technology and dropping out of other parts of your life, or you could be doing what I try to, which is to tune into and turn onto real life without technology for a short time. It is a great way to drop out and reconnect not only with the people around you, but yourself.

Try taking a short break from technology and see what positive effects it has for you. I know some of you are saying to yourselves “but when I turn it back on I will be so behind and have to catch up.” You have to do that anytime you go on vacation between getting ready to be out and then upon return, so that is a given anyway. Most of you who try it, will come back looking forward to the next time you can do so again.

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Confidence is important in life and success

Winners have confidence. They know they won’t always win.  They realize risk is part of the equation. But they realize we’re all human, all equal, someone has to take the lead, and it might as well be them.

It’s up to you to be confident or not, because confidence cannot be instilled by others. Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing in who you are.

The people who put on a show are insecure. You know these people – if you look at their social media accounts or speak with them it looks and sounds like their lives are perfect – all sunshine and rainbows. But no one’s life is perfect, even those with confidence or a level of success. Confident people don’t curate a life, they live it.

Most people who are successful play it down. They don’t need to talk about themselves and their “accomplishments” to make themselves feel better. They can be themselves because they are comfortable in their own skin.

There is a reason the person this post reminds you of is successful. They believe in themselves. Most of these people also know connections and relationships are everything. These are the people who are fun to hang out with because they are not trying to tell you how great they are, even though they know.

If this is you, keep on doing what you are doing. If it is not, what are you going to do about it?

 

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Meeting expectations shows clients you care

I previously have mentioned that my firm has 21 fundamentals that are the foundation of our culture. We call it the JW Way (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). JW Way #3 is Be Passionate About the Client Experience. Without clients or customers none of us would have a job.

We all have them. Whoever you work for is your “client.” For me, I have clients. You may have customers. If you work at a company and report to an internal higher up, that is your client – if this is you, you may be thinking “Manager Jones isn’t my customer or client,” but if that is who oversees what you do and provides feedback on whether you have met required goals or expectations, they are your “client.”

I am big on meeting or exceeding my client’s expectations. I do this a number of ways, with the focus always being on delivering outstanding legal advice, which happens to be JW Way #1. The day to day situations where expectations come in for me is on deliverables, such as draft letters, agreements or pleadings. If I tell a client I will have a draft letter for their review on Wednesday and I email it on Wednesday, I meet the expectation I set for them. If I send it on Tuesday, I have exceeded the expectation. But if I get it there on Thursday or Friday, I have failed. I would much rather under-promise and over-deliver than the opposite.

Even if you under-promise to make sure you can meet a deadline or expectation, it doesn’t mean you always will be able to do so. When that happens, you know in advance you need more time. So pick up the phone, let your client know and set a new deadline you believe you can meet. Things happen. Of course, if you reset deadlines all of the time, the client will think you either over-promise consistently, don’t manage your time well, always move this client’s work to the bottom of the pile or all of the above. If you do this often to enough clients, you won’t have to worry about time because you likely will be working for fewer clients.

Meeting expectations is an important facet of being passionate about the client experience. When you do this, it shows you care about what you do and your clients. This is the image you should want to project. And, if you are honest with yourself, you know it is what you expect when you are the customer.

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How to have difficult conversations

Things that are hard to say usually are the most important. Because of this many people avoid the difficult conversations in business and their personal lives. To effectively manage people in business or personal relationships you need to be able to speak about important matters. Letting import matters go unspoken is problematic for numerous reasons.

The problems include the potential for people you manage to continue to take actions or work in ways you think need to be tweaked or changed. If you don’t have these conversations timely, they only can result in continuing issues in the future, making for even harder conversations and a lot of wasted time. It also includes the likelihood of a wedge being driven between you and whoever the other person is because, even though unspoken, these issues usually are apparent from body language and other indirect feedback. This can result in strained relations and passive aggressive behavior related to all things unsaid.

If you are uncomfortable having difficult conversations, there are ways to try and ease your discomfort. You can outline the points you want to get across and practice your side of the conversation. This can include what you want to say depending on the response your receive. As with preparation for a presentation, knowing your talking points will help. I usually am not a fan of spending time on a “hypothetical conversation,” but with difficult conversations, preparation can help. Plus, what occurs in most situations is that even though the conversation may be uncomfortable, it is not as bad as you anticipated.

Another idea is to work on your talking points and the conversation by practicing with someone else you trust. This can help to hone your points or how you will respond to various responses, questions or defensiveness during the real conversation.

The point is to prepare then take hard conversations head on. If honest, most people will tell you they really want to know where they stand and what others are thinking, whether it is with a peer, a superior or a significant other. So don’t let the import subjects that need to be discussed fester and turn into a real negative by having difficult conversation timely and in a manner to allow them to be as non-adversarial and productive as possible. For instance, if you have feedback on this or any of my blog posts, whether positive or negative – read: constructive criticism – I always am open to hear it.

I hope you will take the next difficult conversation you need to have head on and figure out what works best for you to prepare and participate in these types of conversations.

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What is your road to success?

Does your definition of success have to do with money? Job title or prestige? Or does it relate to family or your children? Or maybe it relates to the level of your current golf game. You should be aware of how you define success. If not, how can you tell if you have achieved any or all of what you view as success, whether you have met interim goals or whether you need to change course to reach your goals?

As with all goal setting exercises, it helps to begin with the end in mind. It makes it much easier to chart your course and come up with the steps to get there. Knowing where you are and where you want to be also will help you set interim goals.

For me, success comes from both my professional and personal lives. In my professional life, I work with a great group of attorneys, enjoy the types of clients I work with and am proud of the professional reputation I have in my community. In my personal life I have a great wife and four (mostly) great kids depending on the day. They all are happy and healthy. I am able to spend time with them and enjoy their company even though it all is going by too fast. For me, I view both parts of my life as successful.

But that doesn’t mean I have no goals related to success and am resting on my laurels. You have to continuously set goals that fit within your definition of success. This includes both long-term and short-term goals.

It is important to remember that what you view as success likely will change over time. It is relative to where you sit, what is important to you at that point in time and where you want to be. The point is that it is okay to pivot and shift your interim or ultimate goals.

Similarly, me feeling successful doesn’t mean I am the best or most successful attorney. Similarly it doesn’t make me the best husband or father at every moment. Instead it means I am working to meet what success means to me, and the goals I have set and reset to get there.

It will help you if you write down what success means to you, along with the steps and goals to get you there. Once you do that, don’t file it away. Instead, keep a copy on your desktop on your computer, in some program on your phone or tablet and even a hard-copy on your desk or in your work space. You need to review this information regularly so you know where you are or whether changes may be needed.

Take the time to see where you are on your road to success and you will have a better chance to get there. And remember while you are on that road to enjoy the ride.

Here are some quotes on what success means to a few people you may be familiar with:

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, equates success with personal fulfillment:

“Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with. In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.”

“To me, the definition of success is waking up in the morning with a smile on your face, knowing it’s going to be a great day. I was happy and felt like I was successful when I was poor, living six guys in a three-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the floor.”

The late basketball coach John Wooden said his definition of success was more about competing with yourself than the other guy.

Warren Buffet says he measures success by how many people love him.

The late poet Maya Angelou believed “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Bill Gates looked at it differently, saying “It is also nice to feel like you made a difference — inventing something or raising kids or helping people in need.”

The important thing to note is they each are right, just like your definition of success will be for you.

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Don’t settle for average

Are you an Average Joe? When I think about the term Average Joe, Homer Simpson comes to mind – the person who goes to work and does what’s needed, goes home and does the same, and then gets up and repeats each day of the week. There is nothing wrong with being average, but, if given the option, why wouldn’t you strive to be more?

There are many people who come to mind when I think about above average, both in my personal life and in the world at large. I know the types of people I wanted to emulate, and it didn’t include Homer Simpson. I am not saying I am above average, but I know that I am striving to do more professionally and personally. Trying to break out of “average” isn’t easy and even if you try, there are no guarantees, but the possibility makes trying worthwhile.

Not being an Average Joe means working harder and sacrificing time that could be spent on leisure time and fun pursuits. Average people have hopes and wishes, but people trying to be above average have goals and plans. Do you? Do you work nights or weekends when its necessary? If you don’t, does the person who does, whether where you work or a competitor, do so? If so, its likely you will fall behind and that person will get the promotion or the business.

Sports can provide a good analogy for many business ideas, and that is the case here. The athletes who have the best and most consistent careers do because they are willing to put in time and effort to try and remain competitive at the highest level. A good example is the basketball player who puts in extra time outside of practice shooting shot after shot.

It makes me think if Steve Nash, who was a star point guard for the Phoenix Suns from 2004 to 2012. He was an all-star into his late 30’s. That is old in professional basketball. I remember reading at the time how he changed his diet, the levels of his workouts and the extra time he put in both practicing and recovering from practicing and games, i.e. massages, using ice and heat, etc. He wasn’t ready to retire and he didn’t want to turn into an average player. By putting in the extra time and effort he extended his career and played at a well above average level for more years than he would have otherwise.

To not be average, you have to invest in yourself. You responsibilities can make it hard to have that extra time you need to invest to break out of “average,” but if you don’t find the time you may never know or reach your potential. Don’t settle for average.

Here are a few quotes on not settling for being average that I find inspiring:

“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

“All I knew is that I never wanted to be average.” Michael Jordan

“Never settle for average.” Steve Jobs

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The Facts Matter

A fact is defined as a thing that is indisputably the case or a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article. This is why it is important to know the facts or check facts you hear before relying on them or passing them; don’t simply take them as true.

We live in a world where most people blindly believe what they read on the Internet or hear on television. But facts and truth matter, whether in the news or for you. In my world the facts, and the details related to the facts, make differences as to whether my clients have a chance of success or not in disputes and lawsuits. If I make an unsupported statement in a legal pleading or in court, in addition to not helping my client, I hurt my credibility generally and specifically – judges are smart and remember attorneys who do not support their positions well, let alone make outright misrepresentations in an effort to win for their client.

The idea that facts matters hit home for me recently when ESPN reported that my alma mater’s basketball coach was implicated in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. The story was based on facts that ESPN failed to check, which included alleged wire tapped conversations and what was supposedly discussed in those conversations. But ESPN did not confirm the accuracy of what they were reporting, or its source, before repeating the story over and over again. Instead, less than forty eight hours after the initial report, it is clear that no one at ESPN (or any other news outlet) has heard the tapes and that the “facts” they reported and how they interpreted those facts do not make sense if a simple time line is done. Importantly and interstingly, ESPN has generally been radio silent on allegations since twenty-four hours after they first reported them.

Now, this does not mean the coach did or didn’t do anything improper or illegal, but the damage is done. The University of Arizona has already lost one high-level basketball recruit. It is in a no win situation with the coach because his reputation has been significantly damaged, and therefore so has his ability to recruit top high school players. He may not be able to coach again. If he did something wrong then that is a good result. If he didn’t, his life has been ruined by people reporting hearsay information in a rush to be the first to report the story. How would you feel if happened to you or someone your know?

The point is that you need to make sure you have the facts straight in all situations. Each of our reputations relies on people believing us and relying on what we say. If you have the facts wrong, or don’t take the time to confirm you have them right, you are doing a disservice to the people you are dealing with, whether paying customers or clients, or friends or family. People will question what you say if you ignore the facts, or in some cases, the lack of facts. So always do your best to get the facts straight.

 

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