a practicing attorney, what better time than now to reflect on the past year,
both professionally and personally, as to where you have been, where you are
presently, and where you plan to be. In
fact, this may have become an annual tradition for you or you may ask, why take
the time for a self-audit?
all lawyers are referred to as great problem-solvers. It is important, however, for the lawyer to
realize that even when they are highly successful in treating a client’s
dilemma, it is often difficult for them to address their own concerns, goals,
plans, wellness and stamina. In fact, I
refer to this as the shoemaker syndrome; recalling the tale growing up of the
shoemaker who had time to fix everyone else’s shoes but his/her own. The day-to-day pressures and deadlines of
practicing law, coupled with the ongoing responsibilities of life itself, often
do, cause a lack of time for lawyers to take time for themselves.
lack of time is unfortunate because it is important for all of us to pencil
ourselves into our calendars. Equally as
important is that we realize success takes:
foresight, patience, courage, and excellent legal skills, plus personal
wellness and stamina. Remember too,
realistically it takes planning, implementation, and management for a
successful business and life.
sit down now and ask yourself these master questions:
Short-Term and Long
Term Planning For Your Professional Life:
lawyer, like other business people, should write a business plan that includes,
but is not limited to short-term and long terms goals. This written plan allows for focus on what
you need to do today, next week and next month in order to position yourself so
you and your business are traveling in the right direction and don’t end up
somewhere else. Similarly, a lawyer
needs to have a personal wellness plan.
once you the written plan, you should implement it. Implementation is action and action converts
your business and personal visions. Call
this implementation ”action or baby “ steps. Equally as important is
management. Through both business and
personal management, you build the foundation and framework that unifies
purpose and meaning, while maintaining balance in your personal life. Bottom-line, it allows you to be aware of
great expectations vs. realistic expectations.
firms, small or large, new or old, need a written budget especially in today’s
rocky economic climate. This budget
should be implemented and reviewed regularly.
Ideally, you should work with an accountant familiar with law firms of
your size. You budget should include all
fixed expenses for the coming year on a month-to-month basis. This allows you to keep an eye on spending,
billing, etc. Similarly, you should work
with a financial advisor or accountant.
If you are a solo or small firm lawyer, your financial advisor or
accountant should be someone who works with solo and small firm lawyers.
Monitor Your Cases:
the types of cases that are most and least profitable. Stop doing work that is not profitable (This
does not include your Pro Bono work.) It
does include, however, those cases that take a lot of your time and the clients
either do not pay, will no pay, or the case is just a bow-wow. Many hard-working, honest lawyers find that
their expectations about getting paid are not shared by their clients. The result is stress, frustration and
problematic cash flow. Therefore, weed
Lawyers Planning To Protect Client’s Interest in Event of Death, Disability,
Impairment, or Incapacity:
life events happen. Most individuals
(lawyers included) will deal with loss, trauma, and change at some point in
their lives. It is part of being human. Although for many lawyers, it is a frequent
trait to ignore unpleasant thoughts such as disaster, unexpected illness,
misfortunate or even death. By ignoring
these events, we fail to prepare for the day the unexpected illness, disaster,
or even death may prevent us from executing our responsibilities as lawyers:
the law office, the clients, the existing deadlines and the staff.
Other Habits To
Consider During Your Self-Audit:
The Golden Rules Or How Not To Be A Difficult
from The 20 Golden Rules/Florida Lawyer’s Assistance Program)
most lawyers are passionate about being a lawyer. Unfortunately, some lawyers may not devote
enough time to their personal well being.
For that reason, it is not too late to review some simple personal
procedures that can contribute to time, money and the establishment of habits
that can enhance you and your professional life.
and Behavior: Tips From The Happy
no matter what, prioritize your personal wellness - if there are changes you should (or want
to) make – take small (baby) realistic steps in achieving those changes.
to that many of us love being a legal professional. Generally, the profession has met our great
expectations upon entering law school.
Most lawyers take great pleasure and pride in their work. Realistically, however, it is the planning,
implementation, management and annual self-audit that may be the difference
between success and failure.
This article was originally published in the DE-LAP Zone
Monthly Column, reprinted with the permission of the author and edited for
information on the topics discussed above call the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance
Program at 1-800-688-7859.
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Paid for by The Missouri Bar Sebrina Barrett, Executive Director PO Box 119 Jefferson City, MO 65102