I came across an interesting topic about the question of “Should I do stuff as a lawyer for free?”.  This is a little beyond  basic pro bono work which is almost a requirement for most attorneys.  This explores more the areas of doing volunteer work as well as free seminars, etc.

Let’s step back from this seemingly innocuous question and ask ourselves what is the motive behind doing  free work?  Is it to obtain more clients?  Is it to make ourselves feel better? Is it because of guilt? Are we looking to impress someone?  Or do we just  want to do something with our friends that isn’t straight legal work?

The reasons behind what we do each day is very important and will guide us into success or failure.  If we coldheartedly go out to try and persuade colleagues and clients that we are doing works because we are true caring individuals, this doesn’t work.  Somewhere along the line, if not done for the right reasons,  the truth will emerge, especially when the going gets tough.

Then, what should our attitude be?

  • First of all, a bit of soul searching needs to take place.  It is true that volunteering in organizations can produce clients and contacts as a by- product, but that must never be the main objective. It is also true that volunteering can relieve some of the day to day stress of being an attorney. This could be our main objective.  Now the question arises, what is the difference? The volunteer organization is getting the same commitment and outcome so why should it matter?
  • The answer is how you feel.  If you don’t get any new clients or leads, you will be disappointed and discouraged. If you get new clients and leads, you may feel guilt if that was the only reason you were doing good works and feel disappointed and discouraged.  There is a greater chance that you will come out feeling badly if you are doing this for monetary reasons as your main objective.  If, on the other hand, you have chosen the volunteer group on the basis that it will produce the most joy in your life, then more than likely good feelings will flow from your efforts, whether or not clients are forthcoming.

Now let’s talk about giving seminars or Blogging or tweeting.  In these types of setting, we need to give value.  The emphasis is not what we are getting but what we are giving. True, again we may be able to increase business this way, but just putting out self- serving tweets won’t do it.  Focus on the audience, not what you have been told you should be saying.  What do they want to hear?  What could make their life easier or give them some new important information.  This is the reason that Personal Injury attorneys need to be blogging about the safest cars and the rules concerning infant seats, not how many cases they have won.  Probate attorneys need to look to informing the public about scams perpetrated on the elderly, not on their low rates for wills.  IT attorneys about how to keep our computers out of the hand of hackers, not about the latest very expensive gadget.  And on and on….

There is also the problem of expectations.  If you go into an activity with the belief that you will get  tangible rewards from doing good work, better take time to re evaluate the situation.  The best way to approach free work is to have a very low expectation of what will be the personal result.  The most effective way to think about this is that you are very likely to get good feelings as a by-product, not a direct known result.

And remember, it is called Free Work.  It is WORK and you are not getting paid for it.  Payment may not be in money but many times, we expect that we will gain respect or camaraderie from it.  That may or may happen.  One thing you can be sure about however, is that you will gain SELF RESPECT if you come with a truly open giving heart.

How about the attorney who is on an extremely limited budget? Is it realistic to expect pro bono work as well as volunteering?  This is a large question and there has been rumors that some Bars are going to require Pro Bono work be reported.  If this comes about all the problems associated with requiring that we work for no monetary or career gains will fail. Bad attitudes will disrupt any kind of good intentions.  Let’s keep it so that when we feel able to give that we can do it with generosity and gratefulness  for our choice.


Last week we went over some ideas in how to figure out who your target market(s) is.


There are a few rules that should be discussed before we begin:

  • Always identify what your main TM’s needs are before you start.
  • Be sure to get as much information as set out last week, about your TM before starting.
  • Identify any person or entity that your TM might go for legal advice or referral.
  • Designate these “gatekeepers” as a new TMs and devise a strategy to contact them in the same way you are doing for other TMs.
  • Widdle down your TM’s description to the specifics.  Don’t worry about excluding anyone at this point.(for example- “People who don’t have a will or have an outdated one” TO “Parents  who don’t have a will or have an outdated one” TO ” Parents  who own their home and don’t have a will or have an outdated one.)
  • Ask yourself: What could I give to this TM that he/she can’t get anywhere else. (here it can be personal service like coming to their home or with the above example, it might be expert tax and wealth saving information).
  • Be creative. Think Outside the Box.
  • Decide what  tangible small value you can give to your TM right away. (example: A planning booklet to keep all the necessary probate information in and to let their heirs know what’s available).


How are you going to brand yourself????? As an expert? As an experienced attorney who can save time and money? As a parent and care giver yourself who understands the needs of his/her client?

Whatever your BRAND may be, it should reflect and answer the needs of your TM.  No client wants to hire an attorney who doesn’t know what they need and want.  Use stories of past successful results to assure your potential client that you want to take care of his/her problems. You have the knowledge and the expertise to do it!



I wanted to let you know that we are forming a Mastermind Group for Attorneys here in Santa Cruz, CA.  Below is the announcement.  If you don’t live in this area but are interested in attending a group , let me know.  We will be expanding into other regions by skype or phone shortly.

                                      DYNAMIC  ATTORNEY MASTERMIND GROUP FORMING:
Led by Eleanor Southers, owner Professional Legal Coaching and Mastermind Facilitator

Mastermind Groups were originated by Napoleon Hill author of THINK AND GROW RICH and have helped people for several generations come together to support each other in reaching greater success and happiness. “Two minds create a third person”.

The structure of the Group forming now is as follows:
• Meet twice a month on Mondays beginning Monday, March 7, 2016.
• Meetings will be 90 minutes long and will be in person or if occasionally unable to attend, then by phone or skype.
Will be limited to attorneys who want to increase their revenue through new marketing skills and more effective networking.
• Will be limited to attorneys ready to take a chance to improve their lives with the help of a trained and experienced facilitator and support of like-minded attorneys.
• All participants will sign a confidential agreement so that there can be a free discussion of needs.
• Group is limited to a maximum of 6 attorneys.
• Group will meet at my office: 1362 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, Ca 95060.
• Time will be early morning or late afternoon and will be decided after group is formed and what is most convenient for the participants.
• Participants are asked to make a 3 month commitment and the cost is $450.00(payments possible). Participants will also receive a copy of my book, BE A BETTER LAWYER: A short guide to a long career.
• Participants will commit to formulating and working on personal goals consistently for three months.
• I promise that in three months participants will be equipped to earn more dollars and have some fun along the way while using new skills/tools.
Enrollment takes place during February, 2016. In order for this kind of group to work, we need to put together attorneys who are focused and want to make a difference in their careers. Also ones who are tired of working on their own and want the comradery of a group that wants to talk about their business. Therefore, only serious applicants should apply. Please fill out the brief application below and email it to me ASAP. Applications close Feb 29, 2016 so we have time to begin on Monday, March 7, 2016 and we will only be taking 6 attorneys. Email: [email protected] or call 831 466-9132 .
Area of practice:______________________
Years in practice:_________
What results would you like to get from this
Mastermind Group?_________________________________

Have you ever been in a Mastermind Group previously?_______________
If yes, when and what were the results?______________________________________________
Which time, Morning or late afternoons, would be best for you?______________________
Anything else you would like to add?_____________________________________


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.


I wrote this outline as a possible presentation at law schools.  It occurred to me that you might know some school or organization or even a student who could use this kind of information.

As part of my coaching practice, I have seen how different the legal job market is from even just  few years ago. So, we really have to approach it differently.

If this program or coaching using this type of information could help someone or an organization,  please suggest they read this blog.  Thank you.

Since the downturn in the economy in 2008, Law School Students are finding it harder to get legal jobs right after law school. A much more aggressive and pre-planned approach is necessary these days to insure success.
Additionally, the larger debt owed by students has created even more stress in obtaining work as soon as possible. Consequently new tactics in job preparation as well as job searches and decisions needs to be made by Law Students starting in their first year of law school.
This short program hopes to give the student at all stages in law school the insight into the present job market and to help make decisions how to best get rewarding employment.
Some of the topics which will be covered are:
• What are the present statistics for the legal market place in the student’s community?
• What is the present general economic condition of the community?
• Where does there appear to be potential growth in the legal community?
• Where is there potential decline in the legal community?
• Tools and hints about how to keep abreast of changes in the legal community.
• The importance of timing in preparing for the job search
• Pinpointing the career path.
• Selecting the area of practice (can’t do this too early any more!)
• Selecting the form of practice (Associate, InHouse, Solo, Teaching, Public, etc.)
• Identifying the necessary steps to take while still in law school to maximize getting the desired job after graduation.
• Establishing a detailed plan that will support the steps outlined above.
• Pinpointing resources which can assist in the planning.
• Resume/ the good, the bad and the ugly.
• Contacts/ how to organize and use them.
• Unusual resources
• Keeping positive
• Acing the interview
• The Fundamental requirements to open a solo practice.
• Resources
• How to get started
In order to cover all of the material adequately the program necessitates about 3 hours. This can be done by one or two speakers. Written materials and participatory exercises throughout the presentation make it relevant to the students and get them motivated to start thinking about this now. This will guarantee greater success in their future decisions.

By: Eleanor Southers
1362 Pacific Ave. #216
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831 466-9132


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.


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!)



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.