Dear Readers: I first posted this titled: IS THERE AN ELEPHANT IN YOUR LAW OFFICE? Unfortunately,  today the thoughts are the same, just a new title.

You’ve probably heard about the dysfunctional family with the Elephant in the living room, and nobody talking about it or even recognizes that it is there. Well, the same thing can and does happen frequently in Law Offices, from the small to the large.

So what are the characteristics of these Law Office Elephants?
• Elephants are born from denial and fed by denial
• Elephants are big, heavy and move very slowly. They are very happy to stay in the office all the time and never go outside.
• Elephants start out as 1,000 lb babies and get bigger …and bigger.
• Elephants take up a lot of room and are constantly getting in the way.
• Elephants eat and poop and you have to fed them and clean up after them.
• Elephants can’t fit through your doors once they are full grown, so you usually have to take the door off the hinges or cut a huge hole in the wall to get them out.

How are Elephants created?
• Elephants are created by time wasters.
• Elephants are created by living in denial about issues in the office which cause resentment, foster chaos, and divert the focus of good lawyering.
• Elephants are created by lack of leadership.
• Elephants are created by lethargy.
• Elephants are sometimes created by drug or alcohol use.
• Elephants are created by lack of planning.

Time Wasters can come as spending inordinate amount of time on unimportant phone calls or projects which will not produce revenue. More subtle time wasters are being so hesitate to make a decision that one never gets made or when it does, it is useless.
How about the “doggie” cases in the office that do not produce anything but pain and frustration? Definitely a huge Time Waster.
Then there is the law office where one of the staff comes in late every morning and every one grumbles about it behind his/her back but no one ever speaks up. Or the drama queen or king of the office who has an emergency every twenty minutes. Or the Bank that totally screws up the accounts over and over again, but never gets dumped. Or the client who, although his case is worth big bucks, is such a hassle that it takes 24 hours of therapy to recover from a session with him.
Elephants don’t like someone to take a leadership role in the office and to begin to solve the problems and thus deny the elephant more food so it can get bigger. Elephants would prefer their handlers to snooze or zone out for most of the day.
When Elephants smell that someone in the law office is using drugs or alcohol, they raise their trunks up and thank the elephant Gods for providing a substantial increase in food. Especially, if there are timid people around who cannot bring themselves to recognize that something is very, very wrong in the work environment. In these cases a special Elephant Intervention might have to take place using professional help. More tragically, if lethargy and lack of leadership is already in place, the Elephant can get so big that it obliterates the office and everyone in it.
Elephants thrive best in an environment where there is no planning. When there are not clear goals and focus,    Elephants are happy.

Once a plan is in place to stop time wasters and to challenge problems and not ignore them, Elephants start to shrink to a size that will fit through the office doors and with a kick to the behind, wander back out to the jungle where they belong.
There are other times, however, when people in the office have to cut a huge hole in the wall and shove the Elephant out. Unfortunately, the Elephant may be accompanied by several staff members or clients. The results can be painful, but remember the hole in the wall can be easily rebuilt and after sweeping up the last of the Elephant pooh, the office will be large enough to accommodate all kinds of new work and profits.

So the next time you reach for a pen on your desk but instead find a big grey trunk under your hand, it’s time to act……


Everyone knows that the most people rank public speaking right up there with root canals or at least something to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, attorneys also know that being an effective speaker, whether it be in Court or in a Seminar, is a great benefit to their profession.

Although there is not enough space here to go into details, I wanted to open up a conversation to explore why it is so scary and how attorneys can work towards feeling more comfortable in speaking.

  • Let’s first look at why this topic causes so much fear. Are you afraid you will make a mistake? You have no idea what to speak about? Do you think everyone will walk out when you start speaking? Do you feel it will open you up to criticism? The reasons go on and on. See if you can identify yours.
  • Next thing to do is to refute the idea that you can’t do it. This means you have to change your mind as well as your behavior. If you can identify your reason as really ridiculous (everyone will walk out), then you can start to dig your way out of your negative thoughts. Take a look at what might disprove your thoughts. If you can’t find something to speak about, look at the needs of your target audience. You can even ask them what they would like to find out about. You will make less mistakes if you are thoroughly prepared and have rehearsed.
    If all else fails, think about joining a Toastmaster’s Group where you can get some support and practice.

So, you have made up your mind that if other attorneys can do it, so can you. Where do you start? First, you will need to find an audience. This should be people in your “target market”. That means people who have the ability to become clients or refer to you. Also you will want people or a group where you can get some publicity and help in branding yourself as a competent and knowledgeable attorney.

For instance, if you are a family law attorney, Marriage and Family Therapists(MFCCs) might be part of your target market. They often need to refer clients to family law attorneys. What do these therapists need to know about the law? Is it about adoption? Is it about family support? Is it about bankruptcy? Is it about the rights of parents? The list goes on and on. Here you might want to run any ideas by a family law attorney that you know and find out what is of interest.

Next you will need to find out where these groups meet. Do they have an organization that you can approach for speaking? If so, prepare a few topics and write up a proposal allowing them to pick from it a topic that they want to hear about. If you can’t find a group, it might be possible to form your own little seminar by inviting all of the MFCCs in your area to a free seminar. Sometimes libraries will have free facilities to do this or you may have to use someone’s large conference room or even rent a space.

Next you will have to PREPARE, PREPARE AND PREPARE some more. Research and have a “core” of information that you are going to concentrate on. This will make you less nervous because you have facts, opinions and ideas that you are going to give to your audience. You will also need a beginning and an ending. If you aren’t a good joke teller, forget that. Often times you can start with a scary story about how a MFCC got in trouble for not knowing the law. You need something up front to grab the attention of the audience immediately.

Last, know your venue. Arrive early to set things up. Coordinate with the sponsor (if there is one) so you know the time allotted for your talk. Leave time for questions or tell your audience up front that you welcome comments and questions during your presentation. Be sure you have a microphone available if you need it. Also it is very important to have hand outs so you can put your contact information on it.

So I have skimmed the surface of public speaking. Hopefully, I may have calmed some of your fears about trying it to increase your marketing. Have a lot of your friends in the first audience. That always helps and get their reviews.


When thinking about a subject for my blog this week, I decided to take the plunge and discuss that I really believe that most of the lawyers I meet don’t aim high enough.  The goals they start out with are ones they can easily reach. True, many of them never even reach those, but I am now thinking that is because they are dull and boring and don’t excite the spirit enough to be committed to actualizing them.

What about if instead of just wanting more revenue, the lawyer’s umbrella goal (read my book for an explanation) was to become a judge?  Certainly if the lawyer were in desperate financial shape that might not be appropriate but there are many attorneys out there who only think they need more income.

Wouldn’t the juices start flowing if it could be shown that a high lofty goal would benefit the attorney in more ways than simply lock stepping into traditional goal setting.  Simply overcoming the resistance to thinking BIG will build confidence.  This confidence then can be spread down into the attorney’s everyday life.

One of the valuable tools I present to coaching clients is to discuss how many more years of productive work lies ahead for each.  A twenty five year old has 45 years if his/her health holds out.  The fifty year old still has 20 years in this day and age. That doesn’t mean full time work all those years and there may be some break in time for children, etc. but the law allows us to work will into our “later years”. We are then EXPERIENCED ATTORNEYS.

When lawyers think in terms of years, they can begin to see that they have quite a bit of time to make changes and morph into lots of ways.  Thinking of how far one could go in that time, is exciting.

I think I have been guilty of this myself.  I often just plan for the next year and I used to plan just to survive. This is no fun.  I’ve decided I’m going to reach very high (maybe not president!) but set some realistic but a lot higher goals than I have been working on.  Want to take this journey with me?   Give me a call at 831 466-9132 and we’ll talk about it.


From Walter Isaason’s Book STEVE JOBS  A conversation between Steve and John Sculley who was CEO of Apple:

Steve’s head dropped and stared at his feet. After a weighty, uncomfortable pause, he issued a challenge that would haunt me for days. ” Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”
Sculley felt as if he had been punched in the stomach. There was no response possible other than to acquiesce. ” He had a uncanny ability to always get what he wanted, to size up a person and know exactly what to say to reach a person,” Sculley recalled. ”

Steve could have offered John money, prestige, fulfilling work but instead persuaded him to take on a massive task by showing how far John could go……if he decided to.  The idea of changing the world is not only tempting but can be a driving force to persuade someone to honor your request.

So do you use this kind of persuasion or do you use force, blackmail or other negative tactics to get what you want?

I just finished researching and writing a program about Women and Persuasion.  Often we find women who are afraid that being persuasive is seen as bitchy.  Men can be seen as bullies but not until they get into the “force mode”.  Women are sometimes faulted for just directly asking for what they want and not taking no for an answer.

Hopefully this will give you something to think about this week.  What tactics do you use to get your way?  Would you be interested in learning some new one?  Remember persuasion is not manipulation.  It is showing that there is a better way for both parties.  Stay flexible.  The person who is the most flexible has the most power. Be sure you start with a bottom line. Then go for it.

Let me know if this topic is something you want to think about and have a further conversation.


We have all run into people who have real trouble with commitment. And NO I don’t just mean men about marriage.  I find the ones even more irritating that say YES to a goal or project but only last a week or so before being no longer committed.  Even more frustrating are the passive aggressive types who keep saying yes but never do any work on the goal or project.

We all sometimes commit to too much and we have to withdraw.  It is perfectly acceptable to explain your reasons once you see the error of taking on the assignment in the first place.  This is the adult way of handling the escape.

But let’s look at the mere fact of a belief that you could never be over committed.  What a thought!  There is that saying that “it is best to give a job to a very busy person because they will get it done”.  This holds true because that “very busy person” is usually brilliant at TIME MANAGEMENT.

I love the concept that we all have as much time as President Obama or Beyonce. That means that each of us has 24 hours in a day.  What we do with those hours is our choice.  Even more importantly, lawyers sell their time.  Even those lawyers working for a set salary, work for a certain number of hours every day producing results which are services, not products. How they arrange those hours results in what they produce.

Always being fascinated with the Renaissance, I have trouble equating how little new ideas, art, music, etc. we produce today with what they were able to produce during that time period. How could Michelangelo paint, sculpt, invent, design architecture and do all the things he did in the same amount of time that we have today?  And what about Napoleon who as commanding an army at 19 years old? Do you think either of those two felt over committed?

Let’s take a look at your life.  Sure, you probably played  a lot more and have a better life balance than these two gentlemen but what more could you have accomplished if you had better organized your life?  Someone said (and I don’t remember who) that a life unexamined is a life not worth living.  That’s a little harsh but I would challenge you to take a few minutes each day to examine your life.

  • Are you doing what you want?
  • Do you have growth goals in place?
  • Are you taking care of yourself?
  • Are you doing important things?

That’s your job this week.  Next week we will look at how each of us might find a better way of organizing or live so that we, too, can create extraordinary results.  What FUN!


What that means in legal terms is changing or adding a different area of the law to your practice.   Below is a reprint of an article I did in my former column as Philida, the Oracle  for BIG NEWS FOR SMALL FIRMS, State Bar Publication.  Good information here:


Dear Philida,

I opened my solo practice three years ago doing social security work which I had previously done as a law clerk. I would now like to expand my business in bankruptcy. Do you have any suggestions about how I can become competent in the field as I don’t have much time or money at this point.

Puzzled in  Long Beach


Dear Puzzled,

And probably perplexed. This is like starting a new practice and holds all the good, bad and ugly parts with the additional piece that you also have to keep your other practice going strong.

My suggestions are: First, find a mentor. Look for someone, maybe in your Bar Association, who has been doing bankruptcy for a long time and doesn’t feel that helping an attorney will be competition. Or someone a little out of your geographical area where you wouldn’t be competing. Find out what it takes to set up a practice.

Next, make a list of your major expenses. One would be buying new software (find out from your mentor which is the best). Another would be a budget for classes you need to take and groups that you need to join. Also you will need some funds for advertising and marketing. This would include expanding your web site. Be realistic. Decide where this money will come from. Do you need a small loan? With interest rates so low right now, it might be time to go to your local Credit Union. They frequently have small loans available without collateral for small businesses. You will have to give them a business plan but that would be good for you to do anyway.

Find out what pro bono services for bankruptcy there are in your community. These are usually legal aid or other types of low cost legal clinics. Volunteer so that you can learn the fundamentals of the business and work on real cases with supervision. Your mentor, especially if he/she is very busy, may let you come into the office and work on cases pro bono ( or at a minimum rate).

Last, find out who are the “ players” in bankruptcy in your community. Go to your local Court and meet some of the lawyers and judges that work there. Sit in on a couple of hearings.

Gear up to spend considerably more time and energy on your practice. You may be working evenings and weekends for awhile but it will all be worth it as you have already proven yourself to be a productive lawyer and good business person if you have had a solo practice for three years. It is now just a matter of building on the skills you already possess. Also, you have picked a good parallel area to open a practice because your social security clients (old and new) will be a great referral source. When you are ready, be sure to do a giant mailing with follow ups to all of them.

Puzzle Solved ( how bold I am!)



  • I don’t ask for help because I don’t need it.
  • I can figure it out by myself.
  • I have the internet and I can look up anything I need to know.
  • I don’t want my colleagues to know that I am weak and need help.
  • I can’t afford to spend any money on getting help.
  • No one can really help me.
  • How can I trust anyone but myself to care about my success?
  • I have to stand on my own two feet.
  • and on and on…..


Does it give you goose bumps?  Would it feel really good to have people just waiting to help you?

We know that much of the resistance to get help throughout life comes from the early training of either getting too little or too much help.

Nowadays there are books out about “Helicopter Parents” who get involved in every aspect of their kids’ growth.  They do their homework,they call or text the child constantly,  they write their cover letters for college applications, they yell at teachers and coaches for not doing enough for their child.  Obviously these kids are not going to ask for realistic, reliable help because they have been saddled with feelings they can’t do anything without Mom or Dad’s inclusion.  Or, they revolt and don’t want anyone to “interfere” in their life.

There are the reverse childhood experiences in which children receive no parental help and through neglect end up with no inner strength to succeed in lots of things.  They have had to muddle through without guidance and many times end up on the wrong paths.

How are these two experiences alike?  Both do not have any idea how to “help” other people in a healthy way.

Working backwards from this, could part of the answer be to learn how to help other people in a healthy and realistic way? This would be a huge step forward in learning how to overcome the resistance for help from all kinds of sources as we go through live.  Might this be the way to learn that people can trust you to be there for them when they need help?  To not be intrusive in their lives but to offer support, guidance and kindness when the need is obvious. More importantly, to learn how to not overdo help but have set boundaries so that the help offered is realistic and healthy.

Once you have experienced what it is to help a person in this way, confidence and knowledge that you can ask and receive help yourself will blossom.

I will be gone for the next several weeks, playing in Italy, so let me give you some homework to keep you busy.

  1. Take a look at the excuses for not getting help listed in the beginning of this blog and see if any apply to you.
  2. Write down any “help” that you have given to anyone except your children in the past 6 months.
  3. Identify at least one person who you have noticed lately that could use some help.
  4. Do one small kindness this week (could be holding the door open for someone, carrying a heavy package for someone or just giving a smile to a stranger)

I help attorneys day in and day out.  I see the resistance to help from all kinds of attorneys.  I believe that if there was  understanding of this phenomenon on an individual basis, life would be so much easier to all of us.


Sorry, I missed yesterday.  I know you are all waiting with bated breath (that’s holding your breath in fear. I just looked it up) for my new blog.  So here goes:

I asked myself as I coach more and more attorneys, what holds back attorneys from working their goals.  You have to understand that as a collaboration, the client and I set goals that are derived from what he or she wants to accomplish.  That is the client’s decision in coaching.  So if he or she and I have an agreement that working those goals will make the client richer, happier, more successful, have more leisure time, or whatever else they want, why doesn’t the attorney work them?

What happens time after time, that many clients have some reason that the goals are not even started.  Not to instill guilt because that is not healthy, but I ask myself what the heck is going on?

Now, we do know that some people don’t really like to set goals. The Myers/Briggs Temperament system can spot those people and we can work with them a little differently.  However, still if a person is scattered and not focused , it is extremely difficult to be successful.  For example if a solo is trying to practice in too many areas of the law, this can be not only unsuccessful but very anxiety producing.   Think of all the different target markets to solicit and all the different laws to learn.  It is a disaster waiting to happen.

Good time management needs to be leaned and used.  The discipline to plan a calendar out the week before seems overwhelming to some but is the bedrock of getting a lot done without a great deal of anxiety. Everyone who is a lawyer found a way to get through law school and pass the bar.  This took the same kind of time management. So why are many attorneys so resistant to learning and using time management on a consistent basis?

Probably the answer comes in very personal ways, such as:

  • To be held accountable for accomplishing something in a given time produces anxiety when its not done. Better to never start at all.
  • Better not to start something that they might not finish.
  • Better to keep putting goals off to do when there is a “better time”.
  • Better to fail so that people can’t expect more.

These are just a few of the answers I’ve come up with.  I’m sure there are plenty more.  Do you see yourself in any of this?  If so, let me know.  I can help. 


Last week we talked about work/life balance and the draw that lawyering has on your time. This week let’s talk about expectations of other folks that may also put that work/life balance out of wack.

How many people go to law school because Mom or Dad thinks its a good idea?  Quite a few.  Mom and Dad would be proud to have a lawyer in their family to brag about, even if it is not the ideal job for the son or daughter.  Many times its the line of least resistance to just accept the support they would get from your family in going to law school instead of insisting on their own choices of career.

Think about how work/life balance can really get upset when the work part is something that you hate to do. Yet, we all know many attorneys who really don’t like their work life.  In my coaching, I find that sometimes it is not actually the lawyering part they hate but the area of the law that they are practicing.  This is fairly easy to fix.  The real problem comes when one day the attorney wakes up and says, I want to be an artist, plumber, surgeon or anything but an attorney.

Usually by this time, the attorney has a student loan to pay off, maybe a mortgage and children to raise.  To make a dynamic shift in career is really taking a chance and involves great risk. This is the time that we as coaches suggest that the attorney explore his or her support system and find out what kind of back up there might be for drastic changes.  Many people have been surprised when the spouse has said “I would love to go back to work.  You can take care of the kids and save day care costs. Then you can go to school at night or explore the alternative careers you might like to pursue.”  Or they may find that there really is no support for this change other than their close friends.

Then this is the time to seek out attorneys who have made drastic changes in their professional life and find out how they did it.  These are the people that are going to give them support and ideas about how to go about a change.  They may even find groups of people who have done this and have really good advice for them.

This is also the time for brainstorming.  We, in America, have so many different opportunities that sometimes just uncovering what might be available (even from crazy advice) is a clue to how to solve our problems.  Keeping an open mind and a resolution that they deserve a happy work life is tantamount to truly having work/life balance.

So, we can all celebrate with Ma, I Did It!  I gave myself permission to make myself happy by doing whatever it takes to follow my own path!   


Many times while coaching attorneys I forget to ask if they are feeling lonely. BAD COACH!  This is really a vital question to be asking yourself on a regular basis.  Loneliness leads to doing strange things like getting mixed up with toxic people or drinking or taking drugs. Something to fill the emptiness is a big incentive to grab at the first thing that might make you feel better.

The truth is that lawyers have to go out of their way to build a support group early in their career.  Immediately out of law school, the focus is on getting a job which frequently entails long lonely hours of work.  Recreation and friends are frequently put aside. This is a recipe for disaster.  Friends and even family begin to come second.  This is one of the reason  why there are so many divorces in law school and soon after.

Or there is the scenario where the lawyer is finally established and looks around and sees that he or she is essentially just plain lonely.  There may be colleagues at work but they mostly talk business.  Nothing really personal happens with them.  Humans need personal human contact on a regular basis, not just when they are babies.

If a lawyer wants to create a family or have a life partner, he or she can’t keep putting that aside and hope that the exact right time will come along. We all know, that it rarely happens that way.

So what are some proactive things you can do to keep loneliness at bay:

  • Check in frequently to see if you are feeling lonely.
  • Look at your time and see how you are spending it.
  • See if you can determine why you are lonely. Poor work/life balance, laziness, a little OCD with your job, or whatever else may be producing this feeling.
  • Stop being a lawyer for some part of each day.  If all you can talk about is your job, then you are really limiting your ability to connect with all the other humans who are not lawyers.
  • Make a bucket list of all the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”. Start planning how to accomplish these wishes.
  • Begin to smile more.  Smile at strangers.  Make connections.
  • Locate old friends on Facebook.  Have a coffee date and see what happens.
  • Join at least one group where they talk to each other. This may be a book club, a discussion group, a men’s or women’s group, a church function or wherever you can find people to connect with.
  • Take a class that is not about law.  Colleges have all kinds of interesting classes for the community to take. I learned to paint by taking some of these classes at a junior college and met a lot of nice people.
  • Reconnect with your family( at least the members you like).

Try some of these things.  See what might work for you.  If you are an introvert, push yourself a little to start doing things that make you happy.  That is your assignment for this week.