links I like.

This really deserves an entire post (which may happen). But the gist is this. You don’t do something just because you can do it or it’s cheapest to hire yourself to do it or even easy for you to do it. By it, I mean build your website, manage your back office accounting, draft documents that are essentially templates (and a lot of other things). You do the work under the following circumstances. You need to be Mario Batali.

Because people (clients) will notice when you do it. That might mean that they notice your presence, or they notice the unique nature of what you create (your art) or they will notice that you’ve learned something doing this when it leads to you doing something great later on. Mario Batali doesn’t cook for 99% of his customers (physically impossible), and they can’t tell. And he doesn’t design 99% (or 5%, I have no idea) of his recipes, because we can’t tell. In fact, the only thing people can tell is that it’s him on the TV, and that his decisions are guiding what his organization does next.

-Seth Godin

And here’s a list of some things that you can start outsourcing today.

And here’s another thing. Scheduling with lawyers is often a nightmare. Get some help.

I learned about “lollipop moments” from this lawyer’s blog. I love this idea.

Every lawyer should have this quote framed and on the wall. Where it can be seen at all times.

If you ever worry that you’re the only one who doesn’t measure up, guess what? You’re wrong. Way wrong. (Especially relevant for lawyers who are often prone to a superiority/inferiority complex unique to our profession.)

The EMAIL CHARTER. I’ve done 1, and now 2. You?

Back to the opening theme of this week’s links. Want to grow your practice? Be happy? Then you must learn how to delegate. Try the 70% rule on for size.

I continue to be baffled by the fact that so many lawyers are baffled by this truth. A law practice is a business. Until (and unless) you learn how to delegate and make really good decisions about the work you do (and the work you don’t do), then you’re going to spend more time running your business than practicing law. A good wrap up on today’s theme, I do believe.

Links I like is a semi-regular Friday feature on Inspired Law Blog, and like all other posts, is written by Caitlin (Cat) Moon, a consultant and coach to lawyers and other driven people who want to design inspired ways to work.

a little Evernote trick.

If you’re not using Evernote, no need to read further. Although I think you should be using Evernote. (Here’s a little post I wrote for the uninitiated.)

If you are using Evernote on a Mac, then you should know this:

HOW TO DELETE A NOTEBOOK.

No, you don’t just click on the notebook and hit the “delete” key. Which, by the way, is how you delete a note.

You must hold down the control key, select the notebook, and a menu appears. See screenshot below.

You now can do all kinds of neat things with your notebook. Including delete it. Yay!

[Inspiredlawblog is written by Cat Moon, a lawyer and coach who works with lawyers and other interesting folks who seek fulfilling, happy work lives.]

tech tip thursday: a nifty (free) PDF app for mac.

I spend a lot of time dealing with PDFs. And solving PDF-related problems.

For instance, I’ve written before about how to unlock a PDF when you don’t have the password.

Yesterday’s challenge: insert a signature (JPG file) into a locked PDF.

Preview doesn’t like to add JPG files to PDFs. (Preview, the Mac PDF app, is my default viewer/editor, by the way.)

I have Acrobat Pro and while it does a lot of neat things, it’s too much trouble to use for simple things … like quickly adding a JPG signature to a locked PDF file.

A few seconds (literally) on Google and I found the perfect solution.

FormulatePro. An open-source project hosted on Google Project Hosting (source on GitHub).

FormulatePro is a simple PDF editor that lets you easily add JPG files to any PDF. Even locked ones. Simply open the PDF in FormulatePro, go to File —> Place Image, and drop the image into the PDF. You can resize the dropped image and move it around the PDF, to achieve perfect placement.

(You also can easily add text to a PDF with FormulatePro, which makes it a super-quick way to fill out forms.)

Simply export the edited file as a new PDF or print to PDF.

FormulatePro is a handy, lightweight PDF tool that you should have in your Mac Toolbox.

let’s start designing.

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Today I launch a new vision for iLawPractice. The shift is a big one — away from a focus primarily on technology and to a focus on designing a holistic practice that accounts for all the needs that a person has: financial, emotional, intellectual, spiritual.

I started iLawPractice when other lawyers began asking me for help — specifically, how to identify and integrate the right technology to support their practices. And I really, really enjoyed it.

But what I’ve realized is that technology is but a small piece in the puzzle. What makes a law practice worth doing is a lot bigger than choosing a practice management platform or using templates to automate doc preparation.

My clients have consistently needed and wanted counsel on so much more than the tech. From day one, we’ve talked about communication, marketing strategy, emotional intelligence, client service. And so much more.

And I realized that helping other lawyers isn’t about the tech. It’s about helping them to design an inspired practice, whatever that means to them.

So today I’m launching a new website — itself an experiment in agility. I expect it to change a lot, possibly in a short period of time. But I start here.

And I invite any lawyer who seeks a change in his/her practice to join me in drawing a map, picking a path, and embarking on the journey of designing an inspired practice.

links i like.

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I’m consumed with workflow this week. So much so that the it’s inspired a transformation of the whole iLawPractice enterprise. More on that soon.

In the meantime, some links I like. About workflow and progress:

This post on A List Apart about prototyping workflows goes directly to issues we all have when trying to iterate and improve on our workflows.

One of my newest obsessions: Kanban. I’m a visual thinker and this simply rings lots of bells for me. I can see its application in so many areas apropos to the practice of law.

Turns out that progress is about ebb and flow. Not an orderly ascension. <Imagine this makes a few folks kind of uncomfortable.>

Effective workflow is a very personal thing. This guy spent a year trying different methods of productivity to tweak his workflow. Here are the 10 top things he learned.

Apparently the average working person spends 28% of the day dealing with email. Egads! Perhaps a more disciplined approach to email can help?

How, where, when you work — all part of the many choices we make. I like Seth’s advice.

How to get stuff done, and avoid burn out, in three steps.

And what to do if you’re already experiencing burn out. Sadly, I know many folks who should read this. Maybe they’re reading this post, too.

do you learn in your practice?

In my last post, I wrote about being a lifelong learner — why and how to do it. I challenged you to go learn something new — every day.

Today I challenge you to put this into practice in your practice. And I don’t mean solely by attending CLE seminars (more on CLEs in a moment).

I’m referring to a more self-directed learning process. Set the goal to learn something new, relevant to your practice, each and every day. Why? For all the reasons I wrote about yesterday. Oh, and there’s also the part about ethics and competence. An ever-learning lawyer is a competent lawyer.

It’s surprisingly easy.

Learn from the work of others. Reviewing another attorney’s document for a client? Get the work done for your client, then take a fresh look at the document (unless it’s a really crappy one). Look for any better ways to draft standard clauses or handle unique clauses. Periodically I come across some really well-drafted documents and always take time (non-billable) to review for purposes of improving my own drafting. Writing and drafting are matters of continuous improvement. This is time well spent.

Learn from clients. Other industries often have much better ways of doing things than we do. Pay attention to the differences and integrate those that make sense. An example from my practice: I work with many creative clients to create contracts. Taking my cue from clients’ keen sense of visual design, I’ve completely changed how I format and structure contracts. Paying attention to design results in a document that is more visually appealing, easier to read, easier to understand, and for all these reasons serves the client better. Design aesthetic has never been the domain of the legal profession, but is one example of something we should pay more attention to.

Learn from unexpected sources. This is similar to learning from clients. If you’re only reading legal sources (books, blogs, articles, etc.), I guarantee that you’re getting a limited perspective. Branch out and you’ll find that resources geared towards other industries offer incredibly rich resources. And if you focus on industries relevant to your clients, the value of what you learn likely will be compounded. An example from my practice: I work with software developers who use agile/lean/kanban methods in their work. I’ve been learning about these methods myself, and the benefit is at least two-fold: (1) I better understand the work that my clients do, which makes me more effective in the work I do for them, and (2) I’m integrating these methods into my own workflow, which is making me more effective in the work I do for all of my clients.

Learn in CLEs. Good CLE seminars have real value. But the proliferation of sub-par providers, in combination with the fact that many seminars are delivered by lawyers with no presentation training or skill (and who often hoard the really valuable information) make finding the good ones akin to locating the proverbial needle in a haystack. But they’re out there. And I encourage you to be thoughtful about the CLE you choose, instead of finding the cheapest online provider and paying attention only when the secret code prompt is given. Use CLE to stay current in your practice areas, of course, but also use it to expand. Go to CLEs on time management, technology, productivity. And commit to putting into practice at least one thing you learn in each seminar.

Intentionally seeking out learning opportunities in your daily work has many valuable benefits. I also believe it’s a way to stay fresh in your practice, staving off burnout, boredom and other negatives that come along with having done legal work for 15+ years (as I have). Give it a try.

No matter how much experience we have, there’s always something new to learn.

what lawyers can learn from maya angelou.

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At 86, Maya Angelou continued to be a force of nature. Teacher, writer, poet, friend, mentor, mother, activist, dancer, singer, avid reader. And so much more than we could possibly even know. Visit her Facebook page and it’s clear that she did all of these things, relished them, right until the very end.

Every single one of us should take a page from her inspiration. Lawyers, most especially. We need what Maya offered the world. And most of us are the last to see this connection between our lives and hers.

Let the brain go to work, let it meet the heart and you will be able to forgive. – Maya Angelou

Lawyers are trained to be rational appliers of reason, facts, precedence. We are told and taught in law school that our opinion doesn’t matter — that it’s all in the logic of our argument and the facts that support it. Our emotions, our hearts, are removed from the equation. Intentionally.

This is no way to go through life. Especially a life that for many of us is consumed by our profession. Let your brain meet your heart. You will do better work. You will do better for yourself. Because emotion has a place in the law, and it must have a place in our daily experience of life. To deny this is really to deny a fundamental part of the human experience.

And the “forgive” part — this is important. We lawyers tend to be perfectionists, type A personalities who expect a lot from our ourselves and from others. So much so that we give ourselves and our profession a bad name.

But here’s the thing. We’re not perfect. We screw up. We need to forgive ourselves, embrace the screw up, learn from it and move on. The same applies to others — especially the people we work with and who work for us. Don’t be the stereotypical lawyer who yells at anyone who gets anything the slightest bit not perfect. Rigidity in perfectionism does not serve us, our clients, or our profession well.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

Ah, yes, how you made people feel. “Feel” is one of those words that doesn’t have a place in the lawyer’s vocabulary. Is it surprising that our profession is mostly hated? <It was hard to pick a link for this one because there are so many great articles on lawyer-hating. It’s a popular topic.>

Essentially, way too many of us don’t give a rat’s booty about how we make people feel. Not our coworkers, opposing counsel, even our clients. We’re arrogant, ego-centric, and don’t forget about that “show no emotion” mantra that’s drilled into us from law school on.

To wit: the word “client service” is an oxymoron in the legal profession. But our service to others — how we make them feel — goes to the heart of our connections. The very connections that make a life worth living, really.

Do you really want to do great work? And feel great about doing it? Then give a damn how you make other people feel. Yes, you may have to unlearn a lot, thanks to law school and the example set by others (unfortunately). But it will be worth it.

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good. – Maya Angelou

Gratitude and its expression in our lives — such a simple concept that holds so much power. For those wanting proof of its power and importance in living a fulfilled life, it’s there. Hard science now supports what Maya Angelou knew:

  • Gratitude increases social connection – which studies show is essential for health and well-being
  • Gratitude increases altruism – which is a strong predictor of happiness
  • Gratitude decreases depression and improves optimism and positive emotions which in turn increase well-being, boost creativity, benefit relationships, and impact longevity

Grateful people are happy people. Do you really need any further encouragement?

I wager that lawyers, more than most, wield an incredibly strong negativity bias. First of all, we humans are hard-wired for it, unfortunately. Add to that a profession that keeps one mired in the negative (for the most part). What chance do we have?

Actually, we have a great chance at overcoming our negativity bias. By choosing and living with and in gratitude.

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you. – Maya Angelou

I really can’t add much here. The legal profession is rife with examples of the very bad things that happen when you make money your goal.

If you love practicing law, then do it well. Do it in a way that supports the life you want to live. I have no idea if this will also provide the financial support you (think you) need. But why would you sacrifice a life lived well for a hellish existence that paid well? Working hard doesn’t solve the core problems faced by an unhappy lawyer. It just exacerbates them.

And if you aren’t finding purpose and some sort of happiness, or at least genuine satisfaction, in the practice of law, then leave it. I have a [recovering lawyer] friend who helps people. Talk to her.

Why? Because …

If you are going down a road and don’t like what’s in front of you and look behind you and don’t like what you see, get off the road. Create a new path! – Maya Angelou