2012 July | Jan Copley Atticus Blog
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Jan Copley
Certified Practice Advisor
Atticus, Inc.

530 South Lake Avenue, Suite 250
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 696-3145
(626) 421-6747 (fax)
jan@copleycoaching.com

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Are You Listening?

July 25, 2012

Filed under: Listening Skills,Practice Management — @ 1:20 pm

Do you find yourself frustrated because you think no one is listening to you? I think this is a very common experience in all of our lives — at parties, at the office, at home (how many of you have spouses who seem to interrupt you all the time?).

Worse, people may complain that you don’t listen to them. That’s a problem. As lawyers, one of the most important things we can do is listen to the people around us. By listening, we have a better chance of retaining new clients, figuring out what’s really bothering a client so we can effectively represent him/her, learning how to deal with opposing counsel, and discovering weak spots in an opponent’s position.

I don’t know about you, but I think true listening skills in the legal profession are rare. We’re too busy to slow down and actually pay attention to what someone is saying. As a result, we miss a lot.

That’s why I was interested when I ran across an article, “A Lawyer’s Recipe for Better Listening,” on the Legal Productivity blog. According to the article, consider the following four steps to improve your listening skills:

1. Stay quiet. Don’t interrupt. Let the other person finish.

2. Don’t think ahead while someone is speaking to you. Don’t let your personal filters get in the way of hearing what the other person is trying to tell you.

3. Wait for the speaker to note that he/she has made his/her point. If the person doesn’t explicitly say so, ask (nicely) if the person is finished speaking.

4. Repeat the speaker’s point back to him/her. There are two reasons for doing this: (1) you can make sure you’ve really heard what the person is saying; and (2) you let the speaker know you’re paying attention. When I was practicing, I found this technique to be especially useful in meetings with prospective clients.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Upcoming Speaking Events

July 20, 2012

Filed under: Speaking Engagements — @ 8:00 am

What good is a blog if the writer can’t engage in a little publicity on his/her behalf?

I have some speaking engagements coming up.

First, I’m really excited about the series of webinars about law practice management, which we’ve titled “Practice Fundamentals,” that I’ll be giving with Ashish Karvé, my fellow Atticus Practice Advisor. We’re going to be teaching four webinars, starting August 2, covering:

  • How to Attract and Retain Quality Clients
  • Gaining Control of Your Time
  • Creating Your Great Team
  • Cash Flow: What It’s Really All About

If you want more information, click here.

Second, I’m teaching a webinar titled, “How to Find, Hire and Train Great Staff” for the Ultimate Estate Planner on August 8. To register, click here.

Finally, on October 11, I’ll be teaching a webinar, “How to Get Paid a Fair Price for What You Do, for ElderLaw Answers.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Book Review: The Happiness Advantage

July 18, 2012

Filed under: Book Review — @ 1:15 pm

There are statistics to the effect that lawyers are not happy people; according to a year-old blog article, “The Depressed Lawyer” on the Psychology Today website, “lawyers lead the nation with the highest incidence of depression.”

That’s not surprising! The job is stressful; it’s competitive, and, I found when I was practicing, the law demands perfection, which just isn’t possible all the time. We lawyers are saddled with hyperresponsibility, and the liability exposure that goes with it. Because most of us are very conscientious people, we lose sleep worrying about things. And what do we get for all of this? Reputations for being sharks!

So, when my friend and colleague Steve Riley suggested reading Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work (Crown Business 2010), I was intrigued. According to Achor, the traditional wisdom, “I’ll be happy when I accomplish…” has it backwards: you’re more likely to accomplish something if you’re happy. Waiting for something to happen to make you happy is a pretty good recipe for putting off the happiness you want in your life.

So, what do you do about it? Achor outlines seven interrelated strategies to lead you to a more successful career and a happier life:

  • The “Happiness Advantage” (happiness give you a competitive edge)
  • The “Fulcrum and the Lever” (change your performance by changing your mindset)
  • The “Tetris Effect” (train your brain to capitalize on possibility)
  • “Falling Up” (use failures to build forward momentum)
  • The “Zorro Circle” (break goals into manageable steps)
  • The “20-Second Rule” (remove barriers to productivity)
  • “Social Investment” (your support system keeps you happy — don’t push it away)

I like Achor’s thesis for a couple of reasons:

  • First, I believe that a lot of our recent national discourse — and the current presidential campaign — has focused on, and, to a certain extent encouraged — a sense victimization and helplessness. Achor says you don’t have to be that way; by focusing on the happiness advantage, you can take more control over, and be more contented with, your life.
  • Second, I think giving lawyers tools for happiness can only help our profession. We’ve allowed lawyering to become what is sometimes a miserable job; if we can focus on our happiness, we’ll do better work and improve the good that we do.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Top Ten Mistakes for Public Speaking…or For Client Meetings

July 13, 2012

Filed under: Meetings,Public Speaking — @ 8:00 am

Recently, I came across an article, “Top 10 Mistakes Speakers Make.” According to the authors, the following are the most common ways you can ruin a speaking presentation:

    1. Not giving enough value to the members of the audience.
    2. Focusing too much on content, rather than on the people in front of you.
    3. Being more concerned about you, the speaker, than about the audience.
    4. Thinking the audience is scary, rather than a group of nice people.
    5. Sounding canned.
    6. Speaking too fast and trying to convey too much information.
    7. Not pausing so a listener can absorb what you’re saying.
    8. Not making an offer that looks like a compelling opportunity.
    9. Speaking to people who aren’t in your target market.
    10. Not being yourself.

What struck me when I read these rules is that they apply not only to public speaking — whether in court, at a professional meeting, or during a retail seminar — but also to client meetings.

When I first started my own law practice, I struggled with running an initial client meeting successfully. I eventually got to the point where I could go into a meeting with confidence that I was likely to be retained by the potential client, but I think it would have taken me a lot less time for me to get there if I had been aware of these rules.

So, I suggest that the next time you have a meeting with a potential new client — or with anyone, for that matter — try to keep these rules in mind. Remember to focus on the client and respond to his/her questions; remember to bring value to the conversation; and, above all, remember to be yourself!

Please let me know how this helps you!

Just Say No

July 11, 2012

Filed under: Focus/Time Management,Practice Management — @ 1:38 pm

My job as a law practice management coach is really about helping my clients create the businesses and the lives they want. So, I talk to my clients about making time for themselves and turning down the “D” clients.

I think all practice management gurus say the same thing, in one way or another. But, I recently ran across a posting on the HBR Blog Network, “If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will,” that says it more eloquently than most. The idea behind the article is to take control of your life and your business, rather than letting unreasonable people put you in situations where you shouldn’t be/don’t want to be.

In other words, saying yes just to please someone — or because it’s easier than saying no — is not a good business practice!

I also like the article because it gives three rules to determine if you are saying yes for the right reason:

    1. Don’t let your relationship with a person cause you to say yes unless yes is the right answer. No matter how well you know someone, don’t let that person take advantage of you.

    2. Don’t do something just because you “have” to. Unless it’s something such as court-order mediation, you probably don’t “have” to do it. Instead, choose to do something or to work with someone.

    3. Don’t work with people who don’t respect your priorities. If someone pressures you to do something you don’t want to do — such as schedule an appointment at an inconvenient time or cut your prices — that’s probably not someone you want to work with.

Please let me know how this helps you!

Ethical Technology – Part Two

July 4, 2012

Filed under: Legal Ethics,Technology — @ 8:00 am

In my previous blog, I wrote about proposed changes to ethics rules relating to new technology. The ABA is considering rules about protecting client confidentiality in light of lawyers’ increased use of outsourcing and cloud computing.

There’s another new technology that intersects with legal ethics — Social Media. The State Bar of California even has a special link on its website with information about the proper and improper use of Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.

I recently sat through a webinar about ethics and Social Media. The presenter, Mari Frank, spoke about pitfalls arising from use of listservs and Social Media outlets. She made the following points:

• Client confidentiality

  • You may be breaching client confidentiality if you post a question about a case you’re handling on a listserv, even if you don’t mention any names! So, before you do so, get your client’s permission.
  • A safe procedure is not to post anything on a Social Media site if it involves an open case.

• Improper communication

  • Has it ever occurred to you that a judge may be a participant in one of the listservs you use? Or opposing counsel? Be careful what you say about active cases.
  • If you don’t know someone who asks to follow you, be sure to learn who it is before accepting that person. You don’t want to be accused of improper communication with a judge handling your trial, a party represented by other counsel, or a juror.

• Practicing outside your jurisdiction

  • If you receive a request for advice through a link on your website or a Social Media outlet, how do you know that person is in the jurisdiction where you’re licensed to practice? If you blindly respond, you might be practicing law in a state other than your own!
  • Of course, some Social Media outlets — i.e., Avvo — encourage lawyers to answer consumer questions. If you choose to do so, be sure to include the caveat that you are only licensed to practice in a certain jurisdiction, that your answer is based upon your knowledge of the law where you practice, and that the person asking the question should be sure to consult with local counsel.

Please let me know how this helps you!