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!   


While watching 60 Minutes, I saw the President’s then  Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel being interviewed about his life and work. He happily told the public that he works 7 days a week and only has time to see his three kids at 5:15am during his morning swim. He didn’t even mention his wife. He went on to tell us that he has been told that Chiefs of Staff never last out their terms and that he should be interviewing his successor now ( buuuuurn outttttttt).  Of course he did go onto become governor but I don’t think he slowed down.

Hufffff, I said to myself…..Time Management’s reward is BALANCE in your life. This man is actually proud not to have any balance in his life. He simply works and stays healthy with a little exercise with an early morning swim so he can keep working.

Then I said to myself….”How many of us as lawyers have wished our family, friends and obligations other than work would just disappear, so we could WORK IN PEACE?” I certainly have. The burden of work can sometimes displace all other rational thinking and leave our lives so unbalanced that we wake up one day without a family, friends or all the other goodies life has to offer. Frequently the excuse is that I will just finish this piece of work and then I will have time for all the other things.

The problem, however, is that lawyering can become addictive because we frequently get a lot of goodies from practicing. We get money, colleagues admiration, and feelings of accomplishing something on a regular basis. Sometimes we are so appreciative of work that we have produced through our own marketing efforts that we extend ourselves way too far in trying to accommodate our clients.

So what’s the answer to “I wish I had more time to balance out my life”. As the song goes “all you have is time, time ” and choices. Perhaps it might help to not look at time but to look at the energy that it takes to accomplish something. How much energy does it take to prepare a Summary Judgment compared to taking your kids to the zoo? It might take about the same amount of time, but the energy needed to concentrate on writing and research is way more than getting in the car and spending the day at the zoo.

So maybe part of the answer is to increase your energy, not your time. If you can prepare the Summary Judgment in half the amount of time it used to take you, then you have that increased time to spend with the family, which takes less energy. Actually taking the kids for an outing might give you more energy for completing the required work because you have given your brain a rest and it can now focus better, allowing you to do the work in less time.

Certainly planning, goal setting and good time management can increase your energy, because it takes the worry out of what to do next. Just indicating what areas of your life are important is the first step. Setting goals and indicating which goals will take a lot of energy or little energy is the next step.

Unfortunately for most of us, increase in energy also has its basis in the dreaded EXERCISE. I know, I know, everyone tells you to put it in your daily calendar, just like an appointment( good luck with that one!). However, maybe if you can look at it as increasing your energy (which it does) you can look at it as giving you the ability to do your high energy tasks more efficiently and with less time. How many studies have we read that shows how exercise affects every area of your life. UGH! It’s the awful truth.

So take care and have a really high energy life …..and be sure to make that trip to the zoo so you can watch the monkeys doing funny tricks while you’re bonding with the kids.


Last week I told you we would look into ways you could “partner” with another attorney but not in a traditional way with contracts, space, etc.


One of the first ways is, of course, by sharing space.  In this scenario you simply rent a space with communal areas that you share. This is usually a waiting room, kitchen, copier, etc. You split the rent.

CAVEAT:  Be sure to keep your signage separate so that clients could never mistake the other person for your partner.

A second way of partnering is by joining with another attorney on a legal project.

CAVEAT:  Take care to have the responsibilities and fees figured out in detail before you begin. You might even have a written informal contract to lay out who will do what and who will pay costs. How fees will be collected and distributed is a major decision.

Another way to partner is to do networking and speaking together.  This works best when the two people are not practicing in the same areas(but related) and can make their talks more interesting this way.  Such as a Family Law Attorney and an Estate Planning Attorney.  Lots of cross referrals can come from this.

CAVEAT:  This arrangement also has to be talked about before undertaken.  It can be very effective but each attorney has to understand the ground rules and really want to help his or her “partner”.

Joining a support group that get together on a regular basis to discuss challenges in each attorney’s practice.  When I was practicing we had a Personal Injury Group Support (PIGS) which met monthly.  We laughed a lot and were able to keep up on the latest law while getting help with problem cases. These people act as a helpful partner would on a very limited basis.

CAVEAT: These groups take organization and on going care to stick together.  Also everyone needs to take an oath of privacy so members feel free to share. 

So here are some ideas that you can put into immediate practice if you would like to try a “nontraditional partnerships”.  The main purpose of having a partner is to be able to share and get support and each of these models do that without a tremendous commitment. Let me know how that works for you.

***Sorry, I had to give you just a beautiful picture today because I couldn’t find a cute or catchy partner photo!!!


As Steve Jobs said: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been NO for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.

This actually sounds like a great idea.  That question should give you a good idea if you are at least contented with your work.  If not, then just answering NO, even if it is only to the mirror, is not a solution.

There are several steps you need to take:

  • Determine exactly what is it about the work that you dislike. This is easier said than done.  Is it the clients? Is it the actual work? Is it your co workers or boss?  Is it the stress? Not enough income?  exactly what is it?
  • Next, determine what you do like about your work.  This is usually easier.
  • Take one of the items you have determined you don’t like about your work.  For instance, maybe it is the long hours and the stress that produces.  Ask yourself if this item could change would I want to go to work?
  • If the answer is still NO, go onto the other items you have identified and ask yourself that same question.
  • What you are trying to do with this exercise is see if small changes could make you happier or if you have to chuck the whole thing and start over again with a complete change.
  • If changing individual items could produce a better environment, then begin to work on those. If you don’t like the long hours and stress, can you re-frame that by making less income? Can you delegate more?  Do you have someone in your organization you can talk this over with?
  • If you come up against a lot of push back or negative feedback with a small item, it may develop into a large item that needs significant change but you won’t know unless you begin.

By doing this exercise you should be able to determine if enough change can be realized to allow you to stay in your present situation.  If not, then you need to start looking for another job.  Face this fact.  Don’t make excuses.

Take the time to plan exactly what will make you want to get up and go to work each morning.  Work with a coach or create a step by step plan to find a way to grow in what you want your life to be.

Most importantly, don’t let yourself get into another job where you will be doing this exercise again in a year!

Keeping up with our June review, next week we’ll look at feeling lonely and how to make a fuller life for yourself.


How many times have you heard that?  Bottom line is that you need income to live.  The manner of living is different for everyone but bottom line, it still takes money to fiance eating, housing, clothing, and other basic needs.

Let’s first find out if you presently are making enough money to fund a reasonable lifestyle.  Again, we get into questions as to what is a reasonable life style?  Studies have shown us that $75,000 a year presently can provide a suitable life style in today’s world that will provide security and less worry.  I’m not sure if that is for only one person or covers a family.  Kids in college and having a  retirement plan doesn’t seem likely to be available  with only $6,250 before taxes a month to spend. Do you buy the $75,000 idea? It doesn’t really matter for our analysis as we are going to be looking at you as an individual with certain needs.

So let’s go about this a old fashioned way.  Get out your friendly bank statements (personal and business) and take a look at your expenditures.  Look to the basics first.  How much is the mortgage? How much for food? Day care? etc.  Be brutal and honest about how much you spent on those items and more in the last 6 months.  Now add how much debt you have and what the monthly payments are. Are you saving any money each month? Then using this information come up with a monthly budget of what you need to sustain your present lifestyle.


If the answer is yes, then go on to next hurdle and find out exactly how much income you are getting each month.  And then the major question:  ARE YOU MAKING ENOUGH INCOME TO COVER YOUR MONTHLY EXPENSES?  If your debt ratio to income is more than 15% then something is wrong(unless big items like cars and houses are involved).

By this time, you should be seeing some interesting developments.

  • If you are not satisfied  because you want your lifestyle to be different, then in what ways would you change it?
  • If you are not satisfied because you don’t have enough income, then the only way to change it is to earn more money.

Seems like a no brainer?  You can’t imagine how many people get hung up here!  Even Attorneys!

NOW YOUR TASK THIS WEEK IS TO TAKE A HARD LOOK AT THESE QUESTIONS AND ANALYZE EXACTLY WHAT IS GOING ON WITH YOUR “MONEY LIFE”.  If you need some help, call me.  Next week we will get into increasing your earning and what might be holding you back if that is what you need to do.


HEY, it’s June, that’s Mid-Year. For all of you it is 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/savings 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 let’s get started right now on making those changes that will get you to the next level in your career. 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.

Now look at your calendar for this week and put a simple task that you are going to do to change that negative to a positive. Put aside at least 30 minutes to do it. Because these areas are so important to be a happier lawyer, I will be blogging about each one starting next week with #1. SO STAY TUNED!


It’s called Time Management and anyone can learn it with a little perseverance. You definitely need to take control of this now before it gets worse and you wind up burnt out. First, you need to look closely at just what your “jobs” are. You are at least a husband/wife/partner, attorney, marketer, financial planner, net worker and whatever other roles are important to you. As you work your time, you need to be aware of these roles and balance them out. By deciding each week what you will accomplish in each category, you will have an overview of that week’s time.

Now I would imagine that your “Attorney” role is bloated and swollen when you look at it beside all your other duties. So let’s cut that down. What work is Urgent and Important? What is Important but not Urgent? What is neither Important nor Urgent? Start with the last category and slash everything that can be dropped, delegated or delayed.

      The secret to Time Management is in the planning. If you take the time to organize your time, you are far ahead. Plan also for emergencies. In other words, don’t have such a tight schedule that emergencies are on top of everything else.  Be sure you plan each week ahead of time so that you can decrease your stress.  If you know exactly what you need to accomplish on Monday, you can relax on Sunday.  To start always add 30 minutes to every task and at the end of the week review how you did with your planning.  Underestimating time is the most frequent error made by attorneys.

Last, I have a few hints for Family Law Attorneys. Always have a “partner”. This is someone who also does family law and would like to have a reciprocal relationship and cover for each other. This way you can actually go on vacation. Because your clients can be highly emotional, it is important to tell them about this person and that they might be filling in for you in an emergency. You can even show them a picture of the attorney, to make them more comfortable. This actually works for all attorneys but especially important for attorneys practicing in very emotional fields.

Also educate your clients about what exactly is an emergency and when it is important to call you after office hours (which, in reality, is almost never). You need to set some boundaries and not be swept away by people who are very needy. If this is difficult for you, you might want to get a little coaching to help.

I hope this helps and remember: You, Beyoncé and President Obama have the same amount of time in each day! It’s all in how you use that time!


Onward we go with our discussion of PROCRASTINATION. Now you have all listed 5 areas of your life and at least one task you are procrastinating doing in that area. If you recall, that was your homework from the last article that I wrote and you read. If you haven’t done it because…….Oh yeah, you were procrastinating, do it now.

Next review the 7 possible reasons for procrastination. They are 1. we’re scared of doing it 2. we don’t like the task, 3. we feel overwhelmed 4. we like waiting until the last minute to feel the “rush” 5. unrealistic view of the time involved, 6. having psychological or physical problems which make the task difficult and last,7. striving for perfection,

Most of us can knock out number 6. That would be a really bad excuse unless it is true. Anyway, put the number or numbers of the reason for your procrastination beside each task. Now take a look. Are a lot of the numbers the same? Is it always feeling overwhelmed or do you not like any of the tasks? This will give you a road map for where we are going.

Next, prioritize the 5 tasks you have chosen to work on in order of most repulsive to least repulsive. Now take the most repulsive task and ask yourself. How important is this? Will my health be affected if it doesn’t get done? Will my income be affected? Will my happiness be affected? Will someone else’s happiness be affected? If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, consider whether you should do the task at all or if you should delegate it to another to do.

However, if you answered yes, then you must do it. The task won’t go away , it will be exactly the same tomorrow or even bigger. Now, can you break it down in smaller parts ( Such as getting materials together to complete the task)? If you can answer yes to this, then take out your calendar and make an appointment with your calendar to do this first step. The trick is to not calendar it for longer than 7 days ahead, preferably no more than 5 days.(caveat: if it is a time sensitive task, then you need to calendar accordingly, as we lawyers say). Be sure to give yourself enough time to do it. Now forget it and get onto the next most repulsive task you have to do and do this procedure until you have completed all five. Aren’t you proud of yourself?

Now review the reason that you didn’t want to do the most repulsive task. Let’s take an example. You didn’t want to do an Opposition to a Summary Judgment Motion because you are afraid you don’t know how. Or are you overwhelmed because it is a really big task and will take several hours? Or are you basically bored with doing research and legal writing? Can you hear the little kid screaming inside you that doesn’t want to do it period and really only wants to play.

What’s the first thing you can do to break it up in parts? Read the S J motion and mark all the fatal errors and areas that you are going to dispute. Next calendar all of your dates of service, etc. You can probably do that in less than two hours, before starting any research, so calendar just that. Next, calendar time to decide what research you have to do by looking at the areas of dispute and noting the issues. This may take a bit more time but you should come out with specific areas to research. Then calendar for that, not too far in the distant future. The actual writing will have to be calendared within sufficient time to do the proper service, so that needs to be done at some point. And then its all done and you can play.

There is one reason that needs to be address more in depth here. That is feeling overwhelmed. If you can step away and decide that you really just have too much going on in your life and can’t get anything done even by prioritizing, maybe you need to give serious thought to getting help. You could hire a law student or another attorney to do the Opposition. You can hire an organizer to clean out your closets. You can hire a housekeeper to clean your house. You can entice your children with some goodie into feeding the dog and cleaning their rooms.

None of this is easy but identifying and writing down a place in your calendar for each task is the best method for starting to overcome your hesitation. Also you can resort to little tricks, like giving yourself a gift when you complete a task on time This may work for you, or you may have to identify all the negatives things that will happen if you don’t do it…..

OK, now it says in my calendar that its time to go to the Gym…..I’m thinking about hitting DELETE …..


I was giving a seminar on GRIT at the Littler law firm in San Jose, CA last week and one of the lawyers mentioned that procrastination was one of her areas that she needed more grit in.  I didn’t have time to go into too much detail, so here’s the definitive blog on that.  Hope it helps a lot of you.

I’ve now found a hot topic that I would like to spend at least two blogs on. It’s that dirty word…..PROCRASTINATION. I am becoming an expert or perhaps I have always been an expert at doing it.

So, here goes. Procrastination is the single most important time waster we have. Guess what is the number one area of procrastination? EXERCISE. Yes, we all know it is the “fountain of youth”, etc. etc. but how easy it is to drive right by the Gym on the way home. Now, there are some people out there that really like to exercise. We see them jogging along in the mornings and know that they are happy, healthy and skinny. We long to be there, happily running along side but can never quite get ourselves worked up enough to “just do it”.

Why, you ask, do humans put off even serious stuff that they know should be done? This even goes to things like not taking medication or going to the doctor for really serious stuff. A study showed that people who are on the edge of glaucoma and need to put drops in their eyes every night to keep it at bay, are only 80% compliant. Without the medication, glaucoma will develop. With the medication, it won’t. How bad is that?

The experts tell us we procrastinate for several reasons. First, we can be scared of what we might get into by doing it. Second, we really don’t like the task at hand. Third, we feel overwhelmed. Fourth, some people get a rush from waiting until the last minute. Fifth, having an unrealistic view of the time it takes to do a task. Sixth, having psychological or physical problems that makes it difficult to get things done. And last, striving for perfectionism which is unrealistic.

As attorneys, we know that procrastination can cause untold misery and regret. How about the attorney who blows statutes or always has to clean up messes that arise because motions or other work doesn’t get done on time. Most of us aren’t that bad, but procrastination does intrude in our lives and most of us could live without it or at least minimize it.

How about people in your life that drive you crazy because they procrastinate? How do you handle them? Also, some people only procrastinate in certain areas. Their home may be immaculate and the bills paid on time, but they can’t commit ( or decide not to commit) to anything really important, like marriage, having children, buying a new car, starting a practice, or changing a job.

Now comes the homework. Before my next week article which is going to contain some ways to start overcoming procrastination, write down the areas of your life. This will be things like

  • Health,
  • Home,
  • Career Planning,
  • Personal,
  • Family,
  • School,
  • Social,
  • Work
  • and anything else you can think of
  • Then write one thing in each of those areas that you are now procrastinating on doing. For instance, my very first one is “going to the gym three times a week, every week not just when I feel like it (which might be never)”. Then look at the seven things that might be holding you back from doing the task. Mine is number two . I don’t like to exercise. I have never felt any endorphins rushing and I get sweaty.

Try to find at least 5 of these specific procrastinations that you would like to tackle. Next blog we’ll get down to the nitty gritty and offer some solutions. The first one, of course, is something you’ve already done. You have recognized and identified TASKS that need doing and have written that down. Congratulations, you are on the road to procrastination free bliss……stay tune next week!