Nothing But the Ruth!
Sabotaging Your Practice? Just Stop It!
Last month, I attended TBD Law, an invitation-only lawyer unconference. The purpose of the event was to take a step back and look at the future of law practice. For me, it was a chance to reflect and strategize about how to be more effective and efficient as a practitioner. It also gave me the kick in the butt I needed to focus on a big goal for me this year: bringing my first online course to market.
Toward the end of the event, we were given a worksheet to write out our schedule for putting our plans into action. At the bottom of it was the prompt “I commit to stop doing these three things” — and three blank lines. Although challenging and painful, I resigned myself to writing “Watching YouTube and crap web surfing in the office.” I am the master of thinking “I’ll just take a quick brain-break,” and then losing hours of productivity to mindless videos. But I have too many projects and too little energy to waste bandwidth watching Fails of the Week or Irish People Taste Fritos (and I enjoy both those channels).
Since returning from the event, I’ve stuck to my guns. I look to my to-do list on the Wall of Pain instead of YouTube when I need to refocus my mind. When I really need a brain-break, I walk a lap around the office or step outside for a few minutes; getting the blood flowing helps calm my restless mind.
What Lawyers Say They Need to Stop Doing
In an anonymous survey, I asked my fellow legal eagles, “When you consider your future plans as a lawyer and a person, what’s the one thing you need to commit to stop doing?”
There were some obvious themes in the responses I received.
There were several responses about managing interactions with others. These lawyers said they need to stop:
- “Saying yes to more work when my plate is already overflowing.”
- “Completing tasks that I can delegate to a member of my team.”
- “Entertaining crazy. I let my bleeding heart rope me into helping people long after my brain says they are bad news, crazy or unreasonable, and to get out. I need to listen to my brain more, and my heart less.”
One of the best pieces of advice I heard early in my own career was, “You never regret the client you didn’t take.”
Like me, several respondents said they need to stop doing things that waste their time, including:
- “Meeting with people for coffee or lunch who do not add value to my personal life, practice or clients.”
- “Checking my emails more than four times on any day.”
I agree with that email comment. When I travel and don’t have 24-7 access to email, I see how fast I can clear new messages in batches. Looking at emails as they come in wastes time because it’s not just about reading the message — it takes time to figure out where I was in my other project, or to get back on track.
Multiple people reported they need to give up time-sucks related to clients who balk at paying. They said:
- “I’m done giving my time away for free. Oh, really? You want a consult with me to review your documents and give you advice? That’ll be $250.”
- “I don’t work for people who complain about paying me, won’t pay me, or want to use my time for free. If someone doesn’t want to pay for what I do for them, I will redirect that time to my family or something I find more rewarding and beneficial.”
Interestingly, a few respondents said they need to stop denying their professional competence, saying they need to stop:
- “Triple-guessing my abilities as a lawyer and editing everything to death.”
- “Feeling like I’m not a real lawyer.”
As lawyers, we are part of a profession. Yes, we have tremendous responsibilities and many of us are stricken with perfectionistic thinking (myself included). But it’s just a job. Being lawyers doesn’t mean we stop being human.
So, what about you? What will you commit to stop doing?
Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. She is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing her practice on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal 2012 Legal Rebel, Ruth is author of the ABA book “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her practice. She blogs at UndeniableRuth.com. Follow her on Twitter @rbcarter.
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