Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Work Life Balance

Oct 04, 2007


Tips for Staying Energized and Productive

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

I am often asked to help law firms design and implement strategic business plans. I also coach many solo and small firm attorneys in career as well as personal and professional life balance issues. In both situations the starting point is the same.  Begin by taking inventory of your personal life goals. Only then can you effectively begin planning an effective career strategy or law practice. Unfortunately, may attorneys start with the law practice and take care of business first and fail to take care of their personal lives until it is too late. It is much easier to begin your life and career with balance that it is to try to bring your life back into balance later in life.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you find yourself spending more and more time on client and firm work-related projects?

2. Do you often feel that you don't have any time for yourself or your family and friends?

3. Does it seem that every minute of every day is always scheduled for something?

4. Do you sometimes feel as though you've lost sight of who you are and why you chose law as a career?

5. Can you remember the last time you were able to find the time to take a day off to do something fun — something just for yourself?

6. Do you feel stressed out most of the time?

7. Can you remember the last time you used all your allotted vacation and personal days?

8. Does it sometimes feel as though you have never even have a chance to catch your breath before you have to move on to the next client project/crisis?

9. Can you remember the last time you read — and finished — a book that you were reading purely for pleasure?

10. Do you wish you had more time for some outside interests and hobbies, but simply don't

11. Do you often feel exhausted — even early in the week?

12. Can you remember the last time you went to the movies or visited a museum or attended some other cultural event?

13. Do you do what you do because so many people (children, partners, parents) depend on you for support?

14. Have you missed many of your family's important events because of work-related time pressures and responsibilities?

15. Do you almost always bring work home with you?

If you answered with non-positive responses to more than five questions your life is out of balance and you need to take steps to correct the situation.

Here are some ideas:

Keys To Happiness

Tips For Staying Energized And Productive

TIP #1: Develop a Personal Life Plan and a Career/Practice Business Plan.

TIP #2: Use and work your plan.

TIP #3: Work smarter not harder. Improve your time management skills.

TIP #4: Create your life balance expectations for you clients and your superiors in the firm. When interviewing for a new job or position let your future employer know your expectations upfront.

TIP #5: Tend to your physical health. Insure that you address prevention and treatment of diseases, weight control, physical fitness and stress management. Schedule and keep annual physicals. Exercise daily.

TIP #6: Begin looking for ways to implement alternative billing. Look for alternatives to billable hours.

TIP #7: Take time for yourself and family. Take vacations.

TIP #8: Define what is important to you and define your personal-professional life balance boundaries.

TIP #9: Enjoy life and get involved in activities other than the practice of law. Pursue hobbies and other interests.

TIP #10: Know your personal and professional goals.

TIP #11: Learn to relax. Take time everyday for meditation, prayer, yoga or some other activity that is focused solely on relaxation.

TIP #12: Schedule time for relationship building and maintenance.

TIP #13: Never eat alone. Use mealtime to network with referral sources, potential clients, and other professionals.

TIP #14: Turn off e-mail notifications, pagers, and cell phones.

TIP #15: Develop a personal and business budget and follow it.

TIP #16: Network, Network, Network both inside and outside of the firm.

TIP #17: Develop your conversational skills.

TIP #18: Eliminate clutter at home and at work. Develop a filing system for your personal papers and business files and documents. Open and review your mail immediately and discard anything that you do not intend to keep.

TIP #19: Use technology to streamline your work.

TIP #20: Delegate work.

It takes 30 days or longer to form new habits. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Celebrate your successes, reward yourself, and continually strive for improvement.

Nov 21, 2006


I had a call today from a lawyer expressing the following frustration:

I have been practicing law for ten years and I feel that I am in a rut. I am working for a firm and the relationship is no longer working out for me. I don’t have enough time for my family. My kids are growing up fast and I don’t have enough time to enjoy them. I need to make a change. Where do I start?

I provided him with the following suggestions:

A balanced personal and professional life is becoming more important to everyone. Time is a precious commodity. You should:

  • Develop a personal life plan and career/practice business plan.
  • Develop skills in time and money management.
  • Define what is important to you and define your personal-professional life boundaries.
  • Enjoy life and get involved in activities other than the practice of law.
  • Take charge of your quality of life – it is your responsibility.
  • Obtain training in the business of law.
  • Become entrepreneurial – think like a business person.

    Begin by conducting an inventory of your personal and professional life. Start with your personal life. Identify your personal and family goals. Then move on to your professional and career goals. Develop both a career plan and a business plan for your practice. Some of the decisions that you will have to consider are:

  • Should you go with another firm or start your own practice?
  • Should you work for a large firm or small firm?
  • Should you go to work for a corporate law department or a governmental agency?
  • Do you need additional training or education? Should you get a LLM or a MBA?
  • Where do you want to work?
  • What type of work and working environment will make you passionate about your work?
  • For whom do you want to work? What type of law firm? What type of clients?
  • Do you want to be a partner in a law firm?
  • How much of a balance do you want to maintain between your career and home life?
  • How important is money? How much do you want or have to make?

    Once you have defined your personal and professional goals you can formulate your action plans as to how you will get there and incorporate them into to career/business plan.

    John W. Olmstead, Ph.D, CMC

  • Mar 12, 2006


    Lawyer Career Change

    Question:

    I have been practicing law for ten years and I feel that I am in a rut. I am working for a firm and the relationship is no longer working out for me. I don’t have enough time for my family. My kids are growing up fast and I don’t have enough time to enjoy them. I need to make a change. Where do I start?

    Response:

    A balanced personal and professional life is becoming more important to everyone. Time is a precious commodity. You should:


  • Develop a personal life plan and career/practice business plan.
  • Develop skills in time and money management.
  • Define what is important to you and define your personal-professional life boundaries.
  • Enjoy life and get involved in activities other than the practice of law.
  • Take charge of your quality of life – it is your responsibility.
  • Obtain training in the business of law.
  • Become entrepreneurial – think like a business man.

    Begin by conducting an inventory of your personal and professional life. Start with your personal life. Identify your personal and family goals. Then move on to your professional and career goals. Develop both a career plan and a business plan for your practice. Some of the decisions that you will have to consider are:

  • Should you go with another firm or start your own practice?
  • Should you work for a large firm or small firm?
  • Should you go to work for a corporate law department or a governmental agency?
  • Do you need additional training or education? Should you get a LLM or a MBA?
  • Where do you want to work?
  • What type of work and working environment will make you passionate about your work?
  • For whom do you want to work? What type of law firm? What type of clients?
  • Do you want to be a partner in a law firm?
  • How much of a balance do you want to maintain between your career and home life?
  • How important is money? How much do you want or have to make?

    Once you have defined your personal and professional goals you can formulate your action plans as to how you will get there and incorporate them into to career/business plan.

    John W. Olmstead, Ph.D, CMC

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