You might consider a few therapy sessions if these simple suggestions don’t work for you.  Because, let’s face it….you can’t be a successful, happy attorney unless you can handle a lot of negativity.  Solos have it even worse because they frequently don’t have anyone to “vent” or discuss the turmoil in their practices.

Anyway, let me give you a couple of ideas that might help or at least “band-aid” your angst.

  •             First, remember that none of this is PERSONAL. It is not about YOU. Most of the people who give you a hard time are doing it for reasons that have nothing to do with reality.  It is about how they are choosing to handle the situation.
  •             Second, after assessing the situation to see if there are things you can learn from it, see if there is any action you can take.  Action means that you are tackling the problem, not letting it rest.

Now many times, action is not appropriate.  In these cases, such as when a judge tells you that your argument  is stupid, first assess the comment to see if he/she is at least partially right. After that write down what you learned and what you can do to rectify your error.  Then tear up the paper and flush it down the toilet. Then  read a really trashy book, go to a George Clooney/Brad Pitt movie or watch a comic TV show.

  •             Third, and probably the most difficult situation to handle is when you feel you failed a client.  The case is not going well for whatever reasons and you are in the dumps. Again, if you can do something about it, do it!  If not, then work on other cases that are more fulfilling because it is better to be a work- alcoholic for a short time, than to obsess on feeling bad about something you have little or no control over.  This is also a good time to have a volunteer opportunity open to you.  Those people appreciate you and want you to feel good and doing something for others can turn around your feelings quickly.
  •             Fourth, you need to prepare to have negative experiences on a regular basis.  It may help to take a class in handling angry clients or in honing your mediation skills.  Mediation is a time when you learn to handle hostility in a neutral fashion.  Again, you will learn that it is not about You, so you can remove your feelings from the tumult.

With hopes that this will help.  I’d love to hear how you handle anger directed towards you in the work place.   


So you have identified your challenge and made certain that the description is accurate.  Then you decided on some goals and tasks to start working on overcoming that challenge.  The last piece is to do those action tasks until you have the desired results.

SOUNDS ALL TOO SIMPLE?  Actually this third step is the hardest.  Usually you start out relieved to have finally pinpointed exactly what the problem is.  Then you have taken precious time to decided what steps you need to take. Now you can start worrying that these may not be the right actions and/or that you can really do them.

NOW THE HONEYMOON IS OVER.  The last step is to pull out all stops and devise a method to actually do the actions tasks and to stick with them, revising along the way until you are rewarded with the right results.

This takes ACCOUNTABILITY.  Who are you going to be accountable to?  I always say that if you at least go out to the nearest tree and tell it your action tasks, that is on the right path to becoming accountable.  Actually having a live person to hold your feet to the fire is even better!

What about FOLLOW THROUGH?  Is there something that you must do to make sure that your action task actually got done?  Simply giving someone a call but never reaching them, is not enough.  Here you need to develop your “stick to”brain cells and write these further actions down!

TENACITY is the overall talent that makes all the other steps fall in place.  This may take some support as you begin to lose your will to push forward.  Some challenges take ten minutes to overcome and some take ten days, ten months or ten years.  You need the tenacity to stick with your goals no matter what.



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!)



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.


Next Spring’s ABA Women Rainmakers Local Programing will be on the subject of Grit.  So what is it?

Some people like to lump Grit in with resiliency but it is different.  Grit is intestinal fortitude.  Grit is taking a project and having the determination to see it through to the end.  I like to think of Grit as Determination.  Websters says it is “stubborn courage” and of course, the word comes from sand which is “gritty”.

The word itself is really good however because it sounds so earthy.  If you say somebody has Grit, you know they are never going to give up on a task.

So an attorney can build up some Grit if they are lacking.  But what about the circumstances when Grit becomes inappropriate or downright harmful?  Take for instance the attorney that hangs onto a case which is a loser and puts his or her heart and soul and money into it and ends up ruined?  Remember A CIVIL ACTION? This is where the lawyer lost all perspective and essentially ruin his life trying to get plaintiffs a settlement for toxic waste.  You can still get the movie on Netflix and both it and the book are based on facts.

It would seem that grit should be tempered with common sense.  Let’s take a look at your present Grit.  On the Grit-Meter are you a “0” no Grit at all or a “10” with so much Grit that you hold on much too long?  Are you sometimes a “3” and sometimes a “9”?   What situations makes you come closer to a “10”? I’m guessing these involved emotional issues.

So it would seem that at times Grit can also be lethal.  I have seen clients of mine who have held onto legal situations which wear them down and create chaos with both their health and their career.  I see this as a greater problem for attorneys than not having enough Grit.

If you  decide that you need more Grit in your life, then there are simple tasks to keep you inspired as you tackle a project.  First acknowledge that all projects first go through a honeymoon period when things are new and very interesting.  The second stage involves seeing what work is entailed in producing a result.  Usually if this is carefully laid out, you can begin on the project with some energy.  When you get to the third stage, however, and all the unknowns pop up, this is where you have to make a decision.  It is important to realistically look at the situation and decide if it time to get your Grit meter up to a 10 and continue.  If, on the other hand, you can foresee that your tactics have to change to salvage anything out of the project, acknowledge that.  Is the path you are on the best of the client or are you just feeding your own ego?  Is the project one which will badly impact your life?

Finally if you make it through stage 3 you are onto stage 4. Usually by this time you are somewhat tired of the project. If it is still worthwhile, you might want to get some help to keep your energy up.  Outside support and review might just close the gap so you can have a successful resolution.

So check on that Grit meter of yours and let me know your thoughts.  Stay tuned for ABA local programming for more information.


OK, so just what is Mastery?  Some would tell us that Mastery is facing up to adversity and overcoming obstacles to reach a deep understanding of what you are doing.  But it takes Grit and Resiliency to do this.  Let’s talk a little about Grit.  Its something more than resiliency because it is in the here and now.  It is what it takes to keep going when it doesn’t seem worth it.  It is deciding what you want.  It is having the “guts” to just do it.

Grit requires that you don’t buy into the “carrot and stick” approach but are willing to, not only decide what that you will do something, but then to do it, no matter how hard it is.

Always ask yourself “How can I be better?” will give you the platform to start but grit and resiliency will be necessary to plan the goals and complete them.

So how do you get grit in your life and really master what you are doing?

  • First you acknowledge that grit is necessary to do anything worthwhile.
  • Next you calculate how much grit you have right now for getting things done.
  • After that you take a small task that you don’t really want to do.
  • You practice your grit until that task is completed.
  • You never stop. You intensely focus on the outcome.
  • Usually the bigger the step or task, the more grit you need.
  • Decide what you will do to renew your grit as it gets drained before that happens

With excelling in Grit, You will create Mastery in whatever you decide to do.  So today, pick out one thing in your life that will take some Grit to accomplish.  It may be cleaning out your office or leaning a new language or developing a new marketing plan.  If any of these sound like they are just too big, too boring or too scarey, start immediately on that one and really test your grit.



After reading last week’s blog, what did you learn about your personal resiliency?  Are you able to pop back quickly when struck down with a mistake, error or bad event?  I had a thought about talking about the difference between reasonable resiliency and the requirement of taking time to heal.

I’m guessing that the way to classify this is to sort the “events” into categories.  Something simple, like misstating a fact and being called on it, is a mistake or error and obviously the faster you can rebound from that the better.  If you agonize over it for 2 or 3 days you need to take a look at what’s going on.  Are you building it up much bigger than it is?

Look at how much different it is to miss a statute and cause serious harm to the client.  That’s a mistake too, but a much bigger one.  Not only do you have to do everything to mitigate that mistake, but your work life will be disrupted for some time because of it. There is a time when fear sets in because you don’t know what will happen…..all this takes time and the important thing is not to let it totally disjoint you from looking after your practice as well as your family.  This will resolve at some point.

The next highest category would involve a death, a divorce, an illness or some other significant loss or struggle you might be facing.  This will obviously take considerable time to heal from.  Where does your resiliency come in for this kind of event?  We read about people who have lost their limbs or their sight and in a year are back to almost normal life.  We can learn from these people.  They have intestinal fortitude and energy to fight their way back.

Healing from a death or divorce is sometimes a different deal.  If not enough time is given to the “healing process”, the event can hover in the corner of the person’s life forever.  On the other hand, sometimes the lawyer can lose everything while this is happening.  How many firms have been ruined by a divorce?  How much tension can the children endure when a death happens in the family?  The initial “loss” sometimes triggers untold other “losses” that could be avoided.

So what does this all tell about the steps we can be taking:


Hope this hasn’t been too much of a downer for a Monday, but I think it is worth your time and energy to take a look at your own  resiliency.


Every attorney in any career needs to work on their resiliency!   There is just no way around it.  Attorneys face mistakes, errors, goofs and downright failures on a daily basis.  The ability to “bounce back” is tremendously important in maintaining good mental health.  So let’s take a look at what it is and how we can have more of it:

RESILIENCY IS:     Being able to confront some down turn in your life and find a way out of it keeping it from influencing your future actions.

RESILIENCY IS:     Overcoming obstacles, physical, mental or otherwise, which have decreased your ability in some way.

RESILIENCY IS:     Devising methods which will create resiliency on a daily basis.

So how do you do this? 

*Acknowledge that you will have challenges which make you want to quit, give up or become depressed.

  •  *Plan on how you will confront these challenges before they come up.  Think back to a time when you made a mistake. How long did you ruminate on it?  What could you have done differently to become more resilient?
  • Read stories about people with incredible resiliency.  People who didn’t give up but made something of their lives.
  • What are the major characteristics of resiliency?
  • Write down five reasons you want to be become more resilient and how that will improve your life.

****One caveat:   Do take time to learn whatever you can from your mistakes, etc. before you use methods to “bounce back”.  You can usually learn something from past errors.  Also try not to eat inordinate amounts of ice cream or chocolate as a tool to feel better while going through this process.  Although that does help!