The recent Depression (2008, not 1932) has dashed the hopes and expectations of many lawyers. A recent survey reported by USA Today in its March 7, 2014 edition says that 58% of those between the ages of 54 and 64 years of age will retire later than the originally planned.
Postponement generally comes from a reduction in the value of the assets that were to be used to fund the retirement and the fear that the current value of the asset pool (stocks, bonds, 401K, real estate, etc.) no longer will be sufficient to sustain the lifestyle of the retiree, given the extended life expectancy of our population.
There is another reason. As noted in the recently published book, Life After Law: What Will You Do With the Next 6,000 Days?, most lawyers don’t know what to do with themselves after they leave their practice. While the law practice has value, the price for the practice is seldom the issue … it’s what will I do with myself? Until you can answer the question of "what will I do" and "where will I go," one is likely to stay put. Only coincidentally, this postpones the time when savings accounts must be used.
The pressure is increasingly being felt by our Baby Boomers … sell the practice or "die in your boots." The latter option is not attractive and deprives one’s family of the money that could have been paid for the value of the practice before it (the practice) dissipates and/or the lawyer dies.
In a recent article, the writer describes a twist in medical fees. A specialist, in this case a cardiologist, is charging a premium retainer fee for accessibility. That’s access, not treatment! The levels of service created by the cardiologist are $7,500 per year for “concierge” service, $1,800 for “premier” status, and $500 for “select” status. The differences among the levels range from priority to get an appointment to 24/7 access by phone or email. Medicare or private insurance still pays (or doesn’t) for the actual service. But this doctor says that Medicare reduces his billing rate and this is a way to earn the money he can and wants. This is brutally frank. But, as in other areas, economics control.
Dr. Oz, the popular television medic, recently said that high blood pressure is the "silent killer." Stress, he said, is one of the major causes of high blood pressure.
Lawyers I talk with almost universally tell me about the stress under which they labor. Because of this, I am on the lookout for ways that my advice about improving the lawyer’s operations may also have the impact of reducing his/her stress level. Thus, I am always viewing the practice from a holistic perspective, addressing revenue improvement, operations changes that impact profit, and stress reduction that improves both the professional and personal life of the lawyer. Just knowing that you now have an accountability partner (me as the coach) goes a long way to reduce the stress. For the first time, you really have someone to talk with who can be objective and with whom you can show vulnerability.
In the February 13th edition of the L.A. Times, an article featured a lawyer who clearly is a workaholic. But, she has a marvelous and somewhat unusual perspective of her workload. As the headline says, "stress can hinge on attitudes about work." In other words, if you love what you’re doing, it’s not work; if it’s not work, you may be exhausted at the end of the day, but you won’t be stressed out and unable to cope with your environment. Clearly, this lawyer enjoys what she does. Of course, the feature article didn’t hurt her publicity efforts either.
With this article, came a new word or label, at least for me: "engaged workaholic." Said differently, if you are engaged with what you’re doing, if you love what you do, then it’s not "work." It’s play … and how can you get too stressed when you’re playing.
Or, as my father used to say about his work, "… This is my hobby. This is what I love to do."
My hope for you (and therefore your clients) is that you love what you do … and enthusiastically show your clients how to successfully address the challenges they bring to you.
There is much talk about how competitive the legal market has become. And this reminds me of an old Chinese proverb: “He who doesn’t turn runs far. “
In track and field events, the coach tells you to look at the tape in front of you, not who is behind you. Likewise, in running your law practice, do the best you can, focus on your skills (and improve them), on the efficiency and cost of delivering your legal services (use technology to improve your efficiency) … and, of course, on your clients and their needs (and wants). Then, you will have given it (your profession) your best shot.
John Wooden said, “The scoreboard? Championships? A sales quota? The bottom line? As goals, predictions, hopes, or dreams to be sealed up (in an envelope) and filed away, fine. But, as a day to day preoccupation they’re a waste of time, stealing attention and effort from the present and squandering it on the future. You control the former, not the latter.
“An organization – a team – that’s always looking up at the scoreboard will find a worthy opponent stealing the ball right out from under you….” Coach seldom scouted the opposition, focusing instead on what needed to be done to improve his team and prepare them to be the best they could be.
How do we get from here to there? Jim Collins, in his Good to Great, describes CEOs with many different styles, but all successfully leading their companies to the pinnacles of success. How do we do that for ourselves? Is wanting something enough? Is the intention to be great, to be successful, to be rich enough? Is imagining or visualizing the "there" enough?
I suspect not. First, we must identify where we are. Then we must honestly address what our current state or condition is. And finally, we must develop new approaches to deal with the troubling challenges we face. As Dr. Phil might say, in the popular vernacular, "How’s this working for you?" And if what you’re doing now isn’t working for you, you’ve got to change your pattern, your actions … and not merely wanting the change. You’ve first got to think it through and, then as my coach, Alan Weiss, might say, develop the "Resolve" to change.
Are you in a good employment situation, do you have a good law firm partnership, do you have the kind and number of clients you want? If not, what are you going to do to make the change you want? One approach might be to engage a coach to provide you with meaningful feedback.
From time to time, we will have a guest on our blog. This is something new for LawBiz Blog and we hope you find value in the expertise of those who will join us on occasion.
This week, Erik M. Pelton with Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC is our guest blogger.
Creating and managing a successful solo or small firm is no easy task. But given the tools available today, it is easier than ever. And more and more clients today appreciate and even seek the personal relationships provided by boutique firms. Here are ten keys areas which every small or solo firm can master to propel it to greater success, growth and profit.
Our travels have taken us over 8,000 miles thus far. We finally turned the corner in Cleveland and have begun our trek back west. Today, we left Chicago for Madison and will go to Minneapolis and Omaha before boogeying back home. We will likely have traveled more than 11,000 by the time of our return.
Despite the diversity of our geography and of our people, I have found that lawyers are facing the same issues irrespective of whether they are in small communities or larger cities, in solo practice or in major law firms, in general practice or in a specialty boutique. Are there differences? Yes, but I like to view it in terms of nuances rather than differences. In other words, the "differences" are smaller in nature than many contend.
Oh, I know, we all think we’re different. We all think we’re special and face special circumstances. My experiences in both industry and in law tells me different, that all commercial enterprises, whether professional or trade, have the same basic characteristics. In other words, we all have to get the business (marketing), do the work (production) and get paid (finance). Each of us excel in certain areas and need guidance and support in others.
My travels has renewed my energy to coach and to produce more material (audio and electronic) that will guide lawyers to improve their connection with their clients. Though our trip has not yet concluded, it’s never to early to thank those many lawyers who’ve attended our programs and been generous with their comments of support. I look forward to continuing our work together.
I’ve talked about internships for lawyers. We’ve discussed articling in Canada. And now I find out that the State of Georgia has a mandatory mentoring program for brand new lawyers. Perhaps we’re not so far away from the internship process. On the other hand, since Georgia has been working this path for quite a few years and others have yet to follow, perhaps it’s still a pipe dream that even the current recession won’t make happen at either the law school or Bar level. It may still take the combination of law firms and client demands to create an effective post-law school education program for learning how to become a lawyer.
I competed in two events at the Senior Olympics held this week in Los Angeles. I previously reported my results. I’ve been thinking further about the process of the competition and came up with ideas about how the competition relates to my life, and the lives of many people in our profession. Below is how I see the Senior Olympics on the one hand and how they are a metaphor in real life. If you have other events in your life that you care to share, please write me.