Taking studies from scientists  trying to find out what is the most effective way to promote change in people, Dr. Bandura hit upon a massive element that goes into defining success and failure:  SELF-EFFICACY!

He defines it as as “people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives.”  A simpler version goes: “People’s belief about their capabilities to produce effects.”

After coaching for almost 10 years, I have come to believe that this is the key to allowing attorneys to commit to their goals plans and actually produce results.  Looking at a goal as a mastery and a challenge and not a threat is vitally important to success. Attorneys starting to be coached come with different degrees of self-efficacy.  If they have not succeeded in prior goal plans, then their belief in their abilities will be lower than those who have achieved results however they decided to go about change.

That’s the problem simply put, so what is the solution?

Bandura suggests that mastering a prior experience is a helpful beginning.  Unfortunately this experience must come before a giant failure which undermines that occurrence. This requires some tenacity which we have discussed in previous blogs.   Also, to build on the good events the failures must be in a similar category.

For instance:  An attorney decides to start a solo practice. He/she does a lot of pre-planning and sets up a practice based on knowing the important element of starting a practice. The 3 elements are INFRASTRUCTURE, COMPETENCY AND MARKETING.  Careful research and reasonable expectations have been met and for the first year, growth is small but constant as expected. Then whamO , the beginning of the second year finds a drop in the economy and the practice starts to slide downward.  If the attorney can feed off the skills that he/she learned from the first year’s success, there is a much higher likelihood of coming back strong. Simply going back over the 3 elements of a solo practice can even be the best answer.  As you can tell even from the little information you have, Marketing is probably the area that needs to undergo change.  To see this, however, will also boost the attorney’s ability to revise and reinvigorate  the resolve to face this as a challenge and not a threat.  After all, the attorney had very few or no clients when the practice was started. So this is the very same obstacle that was overcome earlier. Sometimes the attorney needs this pointed out to him/her. That’s one of the coach’s jobs!Time after time, however, I see experienced attorneys who want to change because they are no longer satisfied with their practices.  The excuses they use for not being able to change are enormous.

  •  they are too old,
  • they don’t have the time to become competent in another area,
  • they don’t have the financial ability to change,
  • they don’t want people to think they haven’t been successful
  • and on and on.

This is,of course, all “Malarkey” as my mother would say. I have had 2 major and 1 minor career change before I went to law school at 38 years old. Since practicing the past 33 years I have “morphed” 3 times, ending up with my favorite job as a legal coach.I will probably wind up with my head on my desk when the grim reaper comes but I had fun…most of the time.

My mother was an RN and my father only got to complete the 6th grade but they both had self-efficacy. Good examples of this concept are important as well as being told you can do it by someone you respect.

There’s more to this subject. Join me next week and we’ll go on this journey even further. 


Dear Readers,

As the year comes to an end, you know I like to give advice about how to handle the new year.  Well, this year is no different. Both you and your clients have had some real difficult times and some very unique challenges this past year.  Between the stock market behavior , job problems and the election debacle, doom and gloom has run rampant.  Many lawyers have suffered significant disruption of their businesses as clients and employers try to keep their heads above water.

Now, some of the experts tell us that the recession has turned around.  Other experts tell us that there is more disruption to come as the government goes crazy.Whatever happens, guess what?  WE STILL ALL HAVE THAT PIECE OF PAPER THAT SAYS WE ARE LAWYERS! Most people in the world don’t have that piece of paper. We have infinite possibilities to use that piece of paper to not only provide us with a living but to give us job satisfaction as well.

In line with that thinking, for many of you it may well be time to review your work situation and make decisions about how you might want to change your practice in the coming year. Take a minute and do a quite survey about your present career situation by answering the following questions:

  1.  Am I making enough money to cover my business and personal expenses?
  2. Am I making enough money to fund my retirement account each month?
  3. Do I like to go to work each day?
  4. Do I like the people I work with?
  5. Do I like most all of my clients?
  6. Can I get my work done in 40-50 hours a week?
  7. Do I have enough time for my family each day?
  8. Do I exercise enough?
  9. Am I eating a healthy diet?
  10. Am I taking enough classes to keep up to date in my practice areas?
  11. Do I often feel lonely?
  12. Do I have mentors?
  13. Do I play and have fun on a regular basis?

OK, OK, you get the idea.  If you answered NO to a lot of these questions, then you need to start on your New Year’s resolutions early.  Think of change ( which is scary) as MORPHING.  Morph yourself into a more fulfilling career.

How do you do this?  Look at the “nos” above. Now decide one thing you could do today to start changing  that answer to a “yes”. Some people call that shifting your outlook. Yes, it takes work and focus but its certainly better than being whiny ( you know I hate that) and depressed. Call me.  I’d love to discuss 2017 with you.

Wishing you all a glorious and prosperous New Year…..


Unfortunately, solo attorneys don’t have a choice and have to market their services or be working at a severe disadvantage.


I know you don’t want to hear this, but there are many attorneys who don’t really want to market themselves or their firm out of pure fear.  Unfortunately, solo attorneys don’t have a choice and have to market their services or be working at a severe disadvantage.

Introverts especially don’t like to feel that they are “imposing” on others.  So let’s look at some of the reasons that solos may be afraid to even do a marketing plan for their firm.

  • they feel their services are not worthy
  • they think that they might offend someone by asking for business
  • they think that they are entitled to business without having to extend themselves
  • they are afraid of the time it takes to market correctly
  • they don’t like to plan because then they have to try to meet goals
  • they don’t buy the notion that every solo has to be a marketing guru
  • they think that they don’t know how or have the skills to market

This last one leads to real trouble because frequently solos will spend big dollars to hire someone to market for them.  Unfortunately, this only really works when the attorney knows how to market and exactly what he wants the outcome of the relationship with the “marketer” to be.

In other words, it is the preplanning of an entire marketing campaign that coordinates the various outlets (Linkedin, Avvo, website, blog, networking) with a  targeting of your specific market that reduces the mistakes and overspending.  Read my previous three blogs to get even more information.

If you are unsure how to market or your marketing is not working, it’s time to review what you are doing and to revise your marketing plan (or get one LOL). In this economic climate, the best way to do this is to not only take into consideration how you want to market, but what this diverse culture needs.  Marketing to millennials is different from the people in Generation X, let alone Y.





Well, let me show you how to do that and not only be sincere, but be seen as sincere.

  • Be certain to pinpoint what it is that you are perfect at…..and that’s not everything.
  • Narrow down anything you might be perfect at to an understandable concept.
  • Be very specific.
  • Have solid backup information if the person wants to know more.That might be representative cases you have handled or writings you have done on the subject or anything else that shows you are competent.
  • Don’t begin the conversation with how perfect you are. Find out about the needs of the person you are talking to and sculpt your skills to match (if appropriate).
  • Remember, CONFIDENCE is a magic quality which makes you persuasive.
  • If you know you can help the potential client, then let him/her know that by telling him/her you can not only be of service but your attributes and skills fit “perfectly” with his/her needs.

Let’s look at some examples and see how this works:

I’m the perfect lawyer for prosperous business clients with either significant problems or who want expert help in forming and growing their businesses while avoiding the legal pitfalls facing all entrepreneurs.

(This is following an attorney’s mission statement because he/she is looking for high end business clients who are starting or growing their business)

I’m the perfect lawyer for clients who want expert help in establishing a long term estate plan to insure that their assets continue to grow and are divided at their death according to their wishes.

(Obviously a wealthy management/probate/wills attorney who if offering services to high end clients)

I’m the perfect lawyer for clients who are facing a downturn in their resources and need to re establish their financial future.

(A consumer/bankruptcy attorney and business attorney wanting to help clients who are facing financial challenges)

I’m the perfect lawyer for clients who want advice and support when applying for Social Security benefits and want to avoid the legal  pitfalls facing all applicants.

(This attorney does not only want to help the client through the Social Security systems but wants to give advice that will keep them out of danger)


I’m the perfect lawyer for: _____________________________________.

END NOTE:  This not only works when you are talking to an actual potential client but also when you are giving information to possible referral sources.  In this way the referral source can see the kind of client you are looking for as well as exactly what service you can provide…..perfectly.


Last blog I promised you that I would add the second key this week and next week will give you the third key.  Are you on the edge of your seat?

Second key is to TAKE ACTION.  What are your action choices you ask?

  • Therapy/counseling
  • coaching
  • find mentor
  • talk to your CPA
  • talk to your friends
  • talk to your family
  • google
  • find publications to help

These are a only few of the obviously choices to look for help.  Again, if you have specifically identified the correct challenge, then the action becomes simpler. For instance, if you believe that you are not making your monthly nut, and you have paperwork to show that, your best next step may be to sit down with your CPA and find out what part of your financial picture is suffering.  You may assume that it is lack of income but the real problem may be too much unneeded expense or something you never thought of.   A good CPA who is on your side and aware of your business can be a big help here.

After you have gathered as much information as you can from your CPA, then you  plan the next step.  You may need now to involve your family to see how to cut expenses or talk with your office staff.   If you are lost as how to proceed then it is time to get a coach involved to pinpoint your next action steps.

Do you see how it is so vitally important to properly identify not only the correct challenge but to whittle that challenge down to be able to see what action can be taken to overcome it? Insight is the first step to any challenge.

When you are sure you have gotten the challenge not only properly identified but also narrowed the needed action down, then you need to start developing action tasks to get to your goal of overcoming your challenge.  Again, a coach is very useful for this step because they are aware of how to focus you on the important goals as well as take into account your entire situation.  A good coach will make your goals due able so that you can have the greatest chance of success.

Stay tuned for next blog to find out the Third and Final Key to Overcoming Any Challenge!


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.


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!)



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!   


So, there I was in front of the ATM.  I put my card in as instructed and then it asked me how much cash I wanted.  I punched the button for $50.00 (a modest sum) and the MACHINE told me that there was no money in the account!!!

Now, I know that I have bank  underdrafts, overdrafts and between drafts and that I had made a healthy deposit early in the week, so I knew this MACHINE was LYING.  I thought about trying again but I was so debilitated by the experience, I slunk away hoping that the people in line behind me didn’t see the transaction.

I felt such SHAME! Of course, when I thought about it, I knew that was silly because it wasn’t true and no human knew about the incident anyway.  So instead of taking the healthy alternative and forgetting about it, I avoided ATM machines for the next few months and got my cash with use of my card at Safeway…

We can all laugh at this now but I bet a lot of you reading this can relate.  I notice that even today I feel shame for the people ahead of me in the checkout line at Safeway who give items back because they can’t pay for them.  I have looked in the faces of these people and not one time could I say they were feeling shame.  Certainly the clerks didn’t say anything and everyone but me acted like it was a very normal occurrence. So I did restrain myself from offering to pay for the items they couldn’t afford but here I was feeling a feeling that they weren’t even feeling.

How dumb is that?  There are probably enough real shame producing actions in the world.  Like really hurting someone on purpose or cheating old people with a Ponze Scheme.  I guess this all starts pretty early on in life when your parents said “You should be ashamed of yourself” or something like that. It comes from a feeling that you have done something wrong.  So I guess in order to fight it, I need to first understand that what I did didn’t rise to the level of the kind of wrongness which should produce SHAME.

So come on…..does this make sense?  Are there a bunch of others out there feeling this useless feeling? If so, let’s admit it and start using our resources to get it out of our life!