♫ I ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone
Ain’t gonna do you wrong ’cause I don’t wanna
All I’m askin’
Is for a little respect…♫
How can you fully advise the client who may have diminished capacity or who may be someone with differing abilities? There are many aspects to this issue, such as advising the client who may:
- Have a diminished mental capacity due to age, disease, injury, psychological or other condition which may change or vary from day to day or perhaps during the day, such as being better in the mornings than they are in the afternoons;
- Have different physical abilities, such as being confined to a wheelchair or be unable to read, hear or move in one or more ways;
- Be under a legal disability (such as a minor);
- Be dependent on the physical or mental support or guidance of another (whether or not there is in place a power of attorney or other legal document authorizing such support);
- Be in a situation where they are facing a quickly declining physical and/or mental capacity;
- Be someone who does not speak, read or understand English;
- Be someone from a different culture with different cultural norms and experience with a different legal system;
- May have the ability to only be able to focus for a short while or only comprehend issues when they are expressed in their simplest terms;
A lawyer presupposes that they are dealing with a fully competent individual who has the full mental and physical capabilities to comprehend her or her legal affairs, who can appreciate the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their decision or lack of a decision, who can fully comprehend what is communicated to them and who can provide instructions to the lawyer sufficient to allow the lawyer to act in their best interests. Where these assumptions are placed in jeopardy, the lawyer has to assess if he or she is in a position where they are incapable of getting instructions from the client or entering into binding legal relationships.
There is much that can be done for someone under a physical disability. Your office can be designed to be accessible with an elevator, disabled parking, accessible washrooms and have accessible private meeting spaces where the client can use any aids that may assist in their reading, listening or comprehending your instructions with dignity.
For those clients who do not identify within the binary male-or-female system, then consider increasing gender-inclusive terminology and gender-neutral facilities. Fill-in forms can use terminology such as “Male”, “Female” and “Other”. Clients can be given the space to choose their own pronouns. Steps such as these would go a long way towards creating an inclusive environment to a community struggling for acceptance and provide them with the assurance they need to seek legal advice.
When it comes to a possible mental capacity, the lawyer must determine if the client has sufficient capacity to properly instruct you as their lawyer. Capacity can vary with any number of factors from medication, to physical conditions that affect mental acuity, cognition issues relative to the time of day and the like. You may need to enlist the support of family members and/or the Public Guardian and Trustee to ensure that the interests of the client are protected (and that the client is not subject to undue influence).
Comprehension of our legal system as compared to other legal systems that the client may have experienced must be gauged on a case by case basis to ensure that your client fully understands the consequences of taking a decision or failing to do so under our legal system to ensure that they are not operating from a mistaken belief or misapprehension of how the law is applied in any particular situation.
Legal disabilities can be addressed by seeking litigation guardians, committees and the such to serve as people legally designated to make decisions on behalf of your client, always guarding against the possibility that this legal representative may not be always acting in good faith or with the best interests of the client in mind.
If your client is facing an anticipated quick decline in physical or mental capacity, then if you accept the retainer, you would wish to ensure that you could compete the retainer such that your client’s wishes are fully carried out prior to the loss of capacity.
If you have a client with a limited ability to comprehend or focus, then to as great a degree as possible you would want to simplify the issues while still being able to receive instructions that allow you to protect the interests of the client. Furthermore, you may be dealing with a client who is fearful that their costs would escalate due to the increased time they require to process information and make decisions.
Ask yourself: When it comes to advising the client who may have special needs and/or capabilities, as lawyers, to the greatest degree possible, are we able to give them what they are asking for, namely a little bit of inclusion and respect?
-Hat tip to my daughter Lauren, medical student, for collaborating with me on this column.
Cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca.
♫ Their habits, I confess
None can guess with the couple…♫
Lyrics and music by Sammy Cahn and Neal Hefti.
Look at your desk and office. Whose office does yours resemble? Oscar Madison’s or Felix Unger’s? Is your desk neat and tidy or more a hodgepodge of piles of paper, old coffee cups and files stacked everywhere with food wrappers interspersed? Of course The Odd Couple accented the extreme personal differences between Oscar, who is perhaps the world’s most famous slob and Felix, the extreme clean freak, as a way to create an underlying comedic friction as the backdrop for the show.
But according to George Rains, your desk says a lot about you and your work habits. George states that there are at least 3 reasons to keep a clean work space:
#1 A clean work space projects a Professional and Personal Image
#2 Your office reflects on the image of your firm
#3 A clean office can help maintain personal health
George is not alone in advocating for a clean and tidy workspace. Pat Heydlauff states:
According to the National Association of Professional Organizations, paper clutter is the No. 1 problem for most businesses. Studies show the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing concentration and creative thinking.
Renae Nicole states that a clean workspace reflects on the overall morale of the organization. A clean and tidy desk reflects on how someone views their job. She also reinforces that a chaotic workspace can hinder efficiency.
So look at your desk and office. Are you more like Felix or Oscar? Fortunately it isn’t too late – salvation is at hand – all of us can aspire to better habits – starting today!
(if you want to take a short online test to see if you are more Felix or Oscar, click here).
(concurrently published on tips.slaw.ca)
♫ Love was out to get me
That’s the way it seemed.
Disappointment haunted all my dreams…♫
I have a confession to make. While I love technology, I am not quite sure the feelings are mutual. You see, technology has come to disappoint me so many times that I am questioning its intentions. In fact it causes me concern when thinking of the rise of artificial intelligence. You see, if technology at its current level of development can be so confounding, what lies in store when technology reaches some level of self-awareness? It could be that we would move from our present epoch of relatively benign technology and cross over to the world of self-aware machines, we move into the state of “Artificial Malevolence”.
Now I am aware that I am not the first to think of these things. In fact, being named Dave, the words of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey haunt me. Hal was supposed to be ‘foolproof and incapable of error.’ However, when asked to take action that would save Dave’s life, he states, devoid of emotion: “I’m sorry Dave – I can’t do that…”
In fact,Wikipedia states that:
“Siri”, Apple’s natural language voice control system for the iPhone 4S, features a reference to the film: it responds “I’m sorry I can’t do that” when asked to “open the pod bay doors”
Well what happens when you ask your favourite technology to open a file and (since it mostly hasn’t – yet – reached the point of communicating by voice), simply displays text stating: “file not found” or words to that effect. ARGH!! Renting of garments, gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair!
What is a mere mortal to do? Well my standard remedy when dealing with malevolent technology is to have a data backup. In fact, not just one, but rather..three.
If you put all your eggs in one electronic basket there is a consequential rule that you should watch that basket very, very carefully. Accordingly, making copies of your electronic data and ensuring that this data is stored in at least two locations, one on a hardened hard drive (such as the ioSafe line of hard drives that are designed to withstand fire, flood, temperatures, immersion etc. for extended periods of time) and the second being a cloud storage system is not only prudent but well advised. In fact I am now advising that you have a third backup. The third is a cloud-based backup that is not connected 24/7 to your network.
Many firms that the writer has spoken to have been hit with various variants of ransomware malware. These malevolent applications encrypt everything they can find on your network and demands a ransom to be paid – otherwise they disappear taking the decryption algorithm with it…leaving your data …useless.
In once case, fortunately, the firm’s cloud backup – which only backed up on a schedule and was not continually connected to the network – was left untouched by the malware and they were able restore their data without paying the ransom. This is perhaps one of the best arguments for backing your data up into a secure cloud backup that can remain isolated from a malware attack such as the ransomware nasties.
It is important that you have a multiple layer redundant backup system. Don’t depend on a sole backup system…if that backup fails … you are left totally vulnerable. It is important to test your backup system and ensure that it is operating properly so that you can restore your data as needed. I have seen situations where the sole backup system seemed to be functioning fine until the time came when it was needed – and then the realization hit that the backup was corrupted and useless. In one such case what had been backed up to Dropbox was recovered … all other data was lost.
The benefit of having a local hardened hard drive backup is that you can restore your data quickly in the event of a loss. Cloud backups…while wonderful for preserving your data in a safe location…will take considerable time to restore onto your network since you are limited by your download speeds. However, if your system is hit with a system-wide problem, such as ransomwear malware, a flood, fire or other disaster or a failure of your primary backup, you will be thanking your lucky stars for having a complete cloud backup no matter how long it takes to do the restore.
Believe me, I have had to restore data from the cloud after a system-wide failure (did I mention that technology seems to hate me?). A fast Internet connection can never be fast enough when time is money. But ultimately, having a cloud backup made the difference between sheer inconvenience and absolute disaster.
After all when technology is out to get you, you don’t want disappointment to haunt all your dreams.
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends…♫
On Thursday April 14 between 1-3 pm pacific time, a world-first happened. Chief Judge Crabtree of the British Columbia Provincial Court hosted a Twitter Town Hall. Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun wrote about it: “Chief Judge hashes issues out on Twitter for first time.” The Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch storified it and you can read the tweeted questions and answers here.
With a bit of humour (allusions to the TV Show Night Court were made) along with quoting music lyrics, the Chief Judge did something that no other judge or court has done: he answered questions from lawyers, law students and the public on social media in real time.
There are several remarkable features about this event. One is the openness that it symbolized along with the importance of being transparent to the public. The second is that a social media platform such as Twitter (with its 140 character limit) could be used quite successfully by the Judge to engage in a lively and responsive dialogue. As Colin LaChance noted in his Slaw post in advance of the Twitter Town Hall, the Court via social media is delivering “useful and often fascinating content in a very human voice.” The third is that an institution such as the Provincial Court has indicated that it is open to change and moving forward in new and interesting ways.
Personally I believe that these innovations help make the Court, law and legal resolution a bit less imposing and formidable. The Chief Judge, while being totally professional, showed that he is also approachable and real. This Town Hall has helped put a real human face on the Court . That is the power of social media and I for one am proud that it happened here first. I am looking forward to further innovations from the Court as it seeks ways to improve access to justice. As Chief Judge Crabtree stated, the Court will get by with a little help from its friends.
(cross-posted to slaw.ca)
♫ Go, go, go New Justice Team
Go team, go team, team team team
Who’s that newest Justice Team…♫
Music by Christopher Tyng, Lyrics by Ron Weiner, recorded by The New Justice Team.
This is a cross-post with SlawTips.
Changes are coming to SlawTips! I would like to introduce our new enhanced team of practice tipsters.
Our team will now include:
- Michael McCubbin, Vancouver
- Andrea Cannavina, New York City
- Stacey Gerrard, Halifax
- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
- Mark Morris, Toronto
- Elizabeth Mah, Vancouver
- Bjorn (Barney) Christianson, Portage la Prairie
- Ian Hu, Toronto
who will be joining Garry Wise and I in posting all the best tips that we can think of to assist you in practising law.
A little about each of our newest team members:
Michael owns and operates a small firm with a broad focus on civil and administrative litigation and corporate-commercial law. In recent years, he has increasingly focused on regulatory compliance and risk management for businesses. He has run a paperless practice since its inception in the fall of 2011 and is a regular speaker on legal technology matters.
Michael says that the things that he would like to write about are:
- Integration of practice technology with hearing preparation
- Adopting business practices from outside the legal profession to improve service quality and efficiency
- Remote working arrangements and business/employment structures
- Jurisprudential “catch up” with technology (Equustek Solutions?!)
Andrea Cannavina is the CEO and founder of LegalTypist, Inc. the premiere legal transcription, secretarial and administrative service to US based law firms. She helps attorneys and other service based professionals upgrade their business processes to digital in order to get more done with less – less cost, less time and less stress!
An executive legal assistant, Andrea worked in various sized law firms in and around New York City since starting her career in the 1980’s. Andrea has been a professional legal secretary/ assistant for 20+ years and a Virtual Assistant since 2001. ALL Andrea has focused on since opening her virtual practice is help lawyers and other legal professionals upgrade to digital in all the right places.
Her site, LegalTypist.com specializes in providing experienced cyber secretarial services and has serviced law firms of 1-120+ attorneys along with private investigative firms, insurance agencies and other high volume reporting companies.
After putting together LegalTypist’s tech, people and processes, and speaking with 100’s of attorneys, law firm administrators and legal IT types, Andrea expanded her focus in order to help any size practice. In 2005, her site LawFirmSolutions.com went live to help larger firms looking to incorporate the web into their processes and solos looking for secure technology to use in their day-to-day practice.
Andrea is passionate about digital security and has frequently presented on this and other topics, including e-mail overload and etiquette, website how to’s, projecting a professional image and upgrading to a digital workflow.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Andrea’s family moved to Long Island, New York during her teenage years. She graduated from Glen Cove High School, attended Nassau Community College and SUNY Old Westbury.
Andrea lives and works in Hicksville, New York, is married with two children, and has Rosie, the office dog as her constant companion. Along with making things work, Andrea enjoys camping, cooking and spending time with family and friends in the great outdoors.
Andrea says that she would like to write about:
- Systems, processes and organization of the office – people and tech.
- Law practice management.
- Getting Things Done.
- What’s it’s like being on the other side of the desk.
Stacey Gerrard is a practicing member of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and joined the Lawyers’ Insurance Association of Nova Scotia (LIANS) as LIANS Counsel in 2010. Graduating from the University of Ottawa’s National Program with bilingual degrees in both Common and Civil Law, Stacey relocated back to Halifax and pursued her interest in civil litigation first in a private firm and then with each of the Federal and Provincial governments until joining the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society in 2008. In her current role, Stacey manages and handles assigned claims or potential claims against insured lawyers and provides professional support to the Risk and Practice Management program.
Sandra Bekhor, MBA, BSc, is a professional practice consultant focused on growing and enhancing Canadian, small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, healthcare and other professional practices. A senior marketing professional since 1992,
Sandra has helped take leading entrepreneurs to a new level in the global marketplace with the introduction of business and marketing strategies as well as the enhancement of company structure and process. In September 2005, Sandra founded Bekhor Management with the intent to apply this acumen in a manner that would enable professionals to realize their vision for their practices.
Sandra Bekhor speaks, teaches and writes about practice development for various professional associations and publications, including: The Lawyers Weekly, The Bottom Line, Investment Executive, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND), Ontario Society of Chiropodists (OSC) and Canadian Vet.
Sandra says that what she would like to write about, basically, her area of expertise, would fall into these categories:
- Online marketing
- Offline marketing
- Firm level marketing
- Personal marketing
- Planning -strategic plans, succession plans, retreats, marketing plans
- Performance management
- Human resources management
- Partner / management meetings
Mark began his career working as the Attorney General of Ontario’s Senior Policy Advisor. Following that, Mark founded Slatewood Retail Advisors, a retail consulting firm primarily focused on the restaurant and apparel market space. In that capacity, Mark transformed small local brands into national chain operations and worked to assist growing international businesses with their legal franchise work, their core branding and their operational workflows.
Presently, Mark is a co-founder of Axess Law, one of Canada’s leading retail law firms with 10 locations in the GTA. Last month, Axess Law was selected as one of the Top 5 Canadian Innovative Law Firms by the Financial Times newspaper.
Mark frequently lectures on Real Estate law and regularly teaches Real Estate Law Courses at the Ontario Real Estate College. In 2014, Mark was selected as one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers and was recognized as one of the top 5 Legal Change Makers as rated by Canadian Lawyer magazine.
Mark was called to the Ontario bar in 2002 and has an M.B.A. from the Rotman School of Management, a Law Degree from McGill University and a B.A. from the University of Toronto.
Mark says he likes writing about how Law is changing as we move towards a volume based model of service delivery and about the new entrants that are making their mark on the practice. On a purely legal level, he likes writing about consumer based legal services (developments in real property conveyance, wills etc) and ways that those changes affect consumers.
Elizabeth Mah is the owner of Paperclip Law, a different kind of law firm that helps families and businesses make the best (and biggest) non-litigation decisions of their lives. In her life before her 2 little girls, she enjoyed cooking and eating hot meals, reading and running without interruption, and throwing darts at a map and then travelling to them.
Elizabeth says that since having her 2 little girls, she is most interested in:
- Time efficiency: in making my (and the team’s) time the most effective and productive that it can be
- Business development/networking
- Firm administration and strategy
Bjorn (Barney) Christianson:
Bjorn (Barney) Christianson is the managing partner of the Christianson TDS offices in Portage la Prairie, MacGregor and Gladstone, offices which have operated with the Christianson name since 1970. His current practice is focused principally on transactional matters in the areas of Farm Real Estate, Corporate, Commercial, Estates, Municipal Law, and litigation relating to those matters.
Bjorn frequently presents on practice management and office technology topics; some of the victims include the Law Society of Manitoba’s CPLED and MCPD programs, the Law Society of Upper Canada SSF Conference, the Lawyers Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, the Manitoba, Central and Western Manitoba Bar Associations, the CBA’s Skilled Lawyer Series, and the ABA TechShow. He provides practice management advice to the members of the Law Society of Manitoba in his spare time. Twitter @Bjornqc
Barney says that the topics that he finds interesting and wishes to write about are:
- time management (many sub-topics)
- creating impressions for clients
- managing expectations
- importance of clarity in emails
- breaking bad news
- blunt a.o.t nice (and therefore vague)
- planning to buy and replace tech
- staffing issues
- sharpening your axe
- anything to do with running a law office.
Barney has named himself as the curmudgeon of the group; I am not quite so sure about that but I am looking forward to his wise postings!
As the face of Claims Prevention and practicePRO at LAWPRO Ian speaks, writes and blogs about practice management, claims prevention and lawyering issues. His mandate is to help lawyers succeed in the practice of law and avoid malpractice claims. Having had experience in private practice under his belt with various sizes of firms, Ian has seen some of the trials and tribulations lawyers go through.
As a former Vice President of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers he has mentored young lawyers and advocated for hundreds of lawyers and students as a group. Ian also has an interest in promoting diversity in the profession and has sat on various advocacy committees.
Ian tells me that the things he is interested in writing about are:
- cognitive bias
- new and young lawyers issues (being a professional, building career, soft skills, survival tips, managing time, etc.)
Of course Garry Wise and I will also be continuing as contributing authors and editors at tips.slaw.ca to this amazing team of thoughtful minds. I am very excited about this new phase in SlawTips and I (and I believe I can speak for Garry as well) look forward to seeing the thoughts, ideas and tips from our New Justice Team!
-David J. Bilinsky, Editor, Vancouver BC.
♫ I know that something has changed
Never felt this way
I know it for real
This could be the start
Of something new…♫
Music and lyrics by: Matthew Gerrard, Robbie Nevil, recorded by Vanessa Hudgens.
(Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0)
The American Bar Journal on April 1, 2015 posted an article on “100 Innovations in Law” by Jason Krause. It is an interesting review (admittedly from an American perspective) of how law has changed over the last 100 years or so. It makes for an intriguing read, but with all due respect to the author, I would list most of the innovations as evolutionary innovation rather than disruptive innovation. I love Twitter, for example, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it has proven to be highly disruptive on the legal profession. Even LegalZoom.com hasn’t really opened up new markets; it may have made more services affordable to more people but at least so far I don’t see it having a hugely disruptive effect on the profession.
Why is innovation so hard in Law? Many factors can be cited here, such as law is a very conservative profession, that lawyers are not risk-takers, that lawyers have been taught to rely on precedent (old lawyer joke: “The Managing Partner wants the firm to be innovative, to do things differently” to which the Management Committee asks: “Well, who else is doing it?”) and the like. But the true story is that innovation in most professions is difficult. In fact it may be more difficult in law than other professions due to the structure of law firms.
My friend Jordan Furlong put it this way in an article entitled “Why Lawyers Don’t Innovate“:
So when managing partners ask me, “How can I get my lawyers to change?” I have to respond: You can’t make your lawyers do anything they don’t want to do. They’ll do something only if they decide they want to do it, and they’ll want to do it if encouraged by those they like, respect and trust. In a number of law firms, I’m sorry to report, building a culture of “like, respect and trust” among lawyers can be considerably more difficult than getting lawyers to adopt a new innovation. It requires a level of effort and openness and generosity that many lawyers these days feel they can’t afford. But I’m coming to think it’s the key to successful, long-term, sustainable law firm innovation. And it can be done.
I think that really the Fundamental Attribution Error is at play here. Wikipedia states:
[T]he fundamental attribution error, also known as the correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the tendency for people to place an undue emphasis on internal characteristics (personality) to explain someone else’s behavior in a given situation rather than considering the situation’s external factors.
In other words, lawyers are reluctant to innovate since the system in which they operate (the modern law firm) does not create a situation of trust that fosters innovation. They behave as they do since that is a rational response to the culture inside law firms.
I have had the great good fortune to be part of a small group tour of Google and Facebook’s campuses in Palo Alto California. There is no question that innovation is almost palpable in the air at these locations. They have crafted an environment where innovative thinking is expected and fostered.
If we truly want lawyers and law firms to be innovative, we need to change the culture. We need to know that when we enter an innovative firm, we all know that something has changed, that this could be the start of something new…
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end..♫
Lyrics and music by: Bruce Franklin, Eric Wagner, Rick J. Wartell, recorded by The Doors.
Garry Wise, my co-author in our SlawTips.ca weekly column, had his mother pass away this past weekend. Extending condolences and sharing his grief is only natural; but it started me thinking about whether there were anything we can take away from the grief and try to find meaning in the loss.
Another friend of mine stated that lives are represented by the dash that appears between someone’s birthdate and the day they passed away, as in  – . Entire lives, loves, joys, marriages, births, heartbreak are contained in that dash. When someone close to you passes away, can you learn something from the grief? Marsha Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC in an article entitled “Finding Meaning in Your Loss” stated that there are lessons to be learned from grief. She stated:
Losing someone you love teaches you to:
- Stop, examine and appreciate what really matters, what’s important, what’s truly valuable in life.
- Live fully in the present, knowing that the past is gone and the future is not yet.
Appreciate the value and wonder of every precious moment, without taking them for granted.
- Accept the freedom and joy of spontaneity, to play, to relax and to have fun.
Find valuable insights buried in the give and take of daily life, to slow down, daydream and fantasize.
- Simplify your life, so you have more time and energy to share with those you love.
Accept what’s happened to you, roll with the changes and keep on growing, believing that you’ll make it.
- Be patient with yourself, allowing the grieving process to happen in whatever way it will.
- Keep and develop your connections with others, knowing that you are not alone.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with others openly and honestly, and sooner rather than later.
- Rethink your attitude toward death as a natural part of the cycle of life.
- Be grateful for the love you shared, however briefly, and appreciate what you have left.
- Define yourself as a survivor rather than a victim.
- Share what you’ve learned with others. At some point in your grieving process, you may feel the need to channel your pain, as well as the time and energy once devoted to your relationship with your loved one, into something productive and meaningful. As one who truly understands the grieving process, you may feel ready to reach out to others who are suffering the pain of loss. Once you’ve found your own way through grief, you will have a great deal to share with other grievers: you can identify with their struggles, empathize with their sorrows and doubts, and offer valuable information and support.
Joel Readence writing in The HuffPost on “Death, Dying and Finding Meaning in Loss” stated:
For those of us left behind, it’s important we ask ourselves what our loved ones would want for us after they die. Would they want us drowning in the grief and despair of their loss, or would they want us to mourn, make peace with and move past their deaths? We also need to remember our time here is limited. We need to stop putting off until tomorrow, those things that will add value and meaning to our lives today. Don’t let fear of failure, success or judgment by others keep you from realizing your full potential. Give yourself permission to be all that you can be and unapologetically move in the direction of your dreams.
When someone near and dear to us reaches that final end point, realize that we still have some time left. The passing of another can be used to find meaning and to push beyond the pain to find greater value in our lives.
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ But the plan won’t accomplish anything
If it’s not implemented…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Built to Spill.
(image used pursuant to Creative Commons CC0 licence)
There are many questions to ask yourself and to think about before you reach your decision as to whether or not you would like to open a law practice. In talking to other lawyers, they will have some very helpful questions that will be very insightful and provide guidance as to whether you are making the right move or not. Owning a law practice is a huge responsibility, so you want to be very sure of what you are getting yourself into. You want to make sure that you are ready willing and able to do what it takes, and most importantly, you have what it takes to run that legal practice.
Ask yourself – are you are a good decision maker? Part of owning your own business means that you have to be that voice of reason and the ultimate decision maker. The buck, as they say, stops with you. You have to be the one to see that the best interests of your clients are always first and foremost. You also need to do what is best for both your clients, as well as for the practice.
Ask yourself: are you organized enough to run the business? You need many skills including a high degree of organization in order to be successful. This does not mean that you necessarily have to be equipped with those skills yourself. It is quite acceptable to hire someone to do tasks on your behalf, as long as they are going to effectively get the job done. So if that means hiring an extra secretary and an accountant, then so be it. But you are the one doing the management for the practice and as such you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your practice.
Ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice what it takes to properly run your practice? You will be putting in long hours and as a result, have much less of a social life when you are starting a new practice, at least at first. You are going to want to dedicate your time concentrating on your new firm – managing it, marketing it, checking the finances and all that. You need to realize that when a person opens a new law practice, it does take away some of the time that they have with their family and loved ones. You have to be sure that this sacrifice is something that you have thought through, and accept and that your family is willing to make their own sacrifices as well.
Once you have mentally prepared yourself to run a busy law practice, there are more things to think about. You have to organize your office! After carpet and wallpaper combinations are worked out, client seating is considered, office equipment ordered and qualified staff are recruited the legal professional’s office is open for business. Bookkeeping must be done and cheques written.
As time passes, increase in business volume strains the practitioner. Even though managerial ability should be increasing, there is no time to manage effectively. Gone are the days when legal professionals handled every aspect of the day-to-day business. The accountant says business has increased but profits are down. Staff members sometimes do not get along. Information systems do not break out pertinent details of the business. The expensive marketing costs do not seem to be hitting the mark. The community begins to wonder why this educated and apparently capable individual never seems to support enough local projects. At the end of the day, there is very little time for considering the business, let alone family. Often the step overlooked when building a new practice is to develop a practical business plan from the outset.
Planning is perhaps the fundamental function of a manager. It requires understanding the components of a business and how they are interconnected. Planning begins with understanding the value a practitioner brings to their client and how best to satisfy the client’s needs. There is no better use of your time before you open your new practice than planning what it is going to look like, how it is going to operate, how it will be financed, what tools and technologies will you incorporate into your workflows and how will you manage to find time for yourself in order to avoid burnout.
Having a well drafted strategic business plan at hand means that you have a roadmap that governs not only the business direction in which you wish to proceed, it also serves as a governing document, guiding your efforts towards the clients, files and type of practice that you wish to have. It serves as the place where you have listed your business goals (in both qualitative as well as quantitative terms) and when you expect to reach them. It is an analysis of your business from many angles, including how to run the practice (Management), how to reach your chosen markets (Marketing), what systems you will need to make your practice work (Technology) as well as how you expect to be able to raise the necessary capital to start up and run your practice (Finance).
Along the way, you must learn the systems that must be incorporated into your practice to and how to properly run them to ensure that you are practicing professionally, profitably and ethically. You must also decide the legal entity under which you will practice.
Optimally you should do all this planning by crafting a well-thought out business plan before you open your doors. That is foresight. But the plan won’t accomplish anything sitting on the shelf. You must give life to the plan and seek to implement its goals and objectives as well as monitor and evaluate the results of your efforts to make maximum use of your plan.
After all your plan won’t accomplish anything unless it is implemented.
(posted concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)
♫ So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time…♫
Lyrics and music: Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Glenn Lewis Frey, Donald Hugh Henley, recorded by The Eagles. Thanks Glenn for all the great music.
(image by Wade M – CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)
This is a new year’s resolution of a different sort. All of us resolve to get healthier, to live better lives and to do better this year than last. How many of us resolve to keep our minds sharp and agile? Here are some suggestions:
- Learn something different: Take a course that is completely removed from anything else that you have done. The more you learn the better your mind learns to rework its neural pathways. Taking on the challenge of the unknown is more beneficial than doing the same thing over and over.
- Start an aerobic exercise: There is a mind-body connection and the fitter the body the fitter the mind. Keeping your cardio system strong can lessen the chance of system health concerns which in turn, reduce the effects that the passage of years take on them mind. Keeping a daily aerobic exercise has been shown to beat depression, increase mental sharpness and bolster the immune system!
- Get enough sleep: Chronic sleep depravation is linked with the build up of proteins in the brain that are linked with reduced learning and cognitive decline.
- Drink your coffee: Studies have shown that two to four coffees a day may decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s by 30 to 60 percent!
- Eat a healthy diet: There is evidence that brain and heart health may contribute to warding off dementia. You have heard it all before: stick to fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and a moderate amount of alcohol,
- Use your mind: Don’t resort to a calculator or computer. Do it in your head (you can always check it using the tech). Math strengthens reasoning and problem solving skills.
- Don’t stop learning: Evidence shows that the best classes are those that are both mentally challenging as well as socially demanding. Photography is great here!
- Do puzzles: There is a correlation between doing puzzles and increased scores on mental tests. Hey, it can’t hurt!
- Engage: When in a situation, try to turn on all your senses. Notice scents, tastes, feelings, sounds, sights in situations around you. This activates different areas of your brain at the same time.
- Use your left *(or right)* hand: My father was ambidextrous. For those of us who are not, trying to use your “other” hand challenges your mind and senses!
- Be Positive!: Maintaining a positive attitude not only helps you mentally, it also increases your social skills!
- Be Creative: Take up writing, a musical instrument, poetry, quilting or something that challenges to come up with something original.
- Help Others: No truer statement was ever written when someone said “When you help others, you help yourself”.
- Adjust: As we age, we won’t be running marathons as we used to (or whatever it was that defined your peak). Runners World magazine advised seeking new goals as we age that adjust to our life conditions such as running different runs or seeking new running partners. Redefine what is success to you.
- Give thanks: So many people are caught up in the race of comparing themselves against others. Stop. Take a breath. Now think about what you have and how fortunate you are compared to many others. Practising gratitude can be a very affirmative habit that increases your life happiness and satisfaction.
- Carry a notebook: OK your memory isn’t as good as it used to be. So write things down in a notebook that you carry with you. Albert Einstein said: “Paper is to write things down that we need to remember. Our brains are used to think.”
- Repeat things: When you meet someone new, repeat their name several times in your conversation. This will help you remember their name. Use this for other things you need to remember.
- Meditate: A lawyer that I have known for a very long while sent me a CD with meditation music saying that this was one of the best things he has ever learned. I pass his advice on to you.
- Ask for Help: Who said we need to do it all ourselves? Lawyers don’t want to seem incapable; my advice: give it up. All of us can’t possibly learn everything we need to learn in life. Mentors are worth their weight in gold.
All of us age – that is inevitable. The effects of aging however, are (somewhat) optional. By exercising our mind, we are encouraging it to stretch and in effect, challenging it to take it to the limit one more time.
♫ We made our resolution for our brand new year:
No more letting days go by…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by The Limousines.
So many of us resolve to do things better in the New Year even if we don’t make formal New Year’s Resolutions. Problem is that good intentions die hard. How can you increase your chances for a positive change and outcome? Here are a number of suggestions put forward to increase your chances for a real positive change:
- Start Small: Rome wasn’t built in a day and changes take time. By starting with a small change you can reap the benefits of achievement early and reinforce the knowledge that change is attainable.
- Start with One Goal: If your list is as long as your Christmas gift list, chances are you will get discouraged with the daunting nature of what you have taken on. Change is hard: Don’t overwhelm yourself.
- Slippage is Inevitable: Perfection is an abstract concept. By picking yourself up after a wee break, you can get yourself back on track.
- Choose New Goals: Avoid trying to achieve the goals that you previously set that may not have worked. Giving yourself a fresh goal can be invigorating and empowering.
- Keep Working at It: Change is a process and processes take time. Babies learn to walk by taking tiny steps. But they lead to big things.
- Seek Support: Don’t do it alone. Friends and family can be the positive reinforcement that you need and help get you through a dark spot.
- Reward Yourself: Reward behaviour to celebrate your success!
- Keep Trying: Keep at your new behaviour until it starts becoming part of your routine and personality.
Most of all don’t give up! We all know that change is hard but determination can overcome resistance. You made your resolution for the brand new year; now no more letting days go by!
(published concurrently with tips.slaw.ca)