In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, Joleena Louis discusses 4 bad habits that she resolved, and two new ones that could affect the growth of her solo law practice.
In January 2015 I wrote about four bad habits that, if left unresolved, could inhibit the growth of my solo law practice.
While I was mostly successful in breaking these bad habits, I fear I’ve developed a couple of new ones. Here’s an update:
Bad Habit No. 1: Hiding In My Office
In 2015 I was worried that I was spending most days in my office with the door closed. And even worse than that, I was eating lunch at my desk alone. I wanted to broaden my network, and was concerned that I was not taking full advantage of an easy opportunity to build relationships with the other attorneys in my shared law office suite.
To break this bad habit I planned to invite at least one person out for lunch every week and, whenever practical, leave my office door open so people felt welcome to stop in and say hello.
This bad habit changed for me since January 2015. After my divorce I had to re-examine my expenses. While I loved having an office, I realized that I was in court most of the time and wasn’t making the best use of it.
I ended up giving it up and using a virtual office rental from Law Firm Suites. So when I actually get “office” time I use it to focus.
Of course, now I have to make an intentional effort to network by scheduling weekly coffees other lawyers and attending events. And every time I’m physically at the LFS office, I spend time chatting with whoever I run into.
Bad Habit No. 2: Not Giving Clear Response Times
I got into the habit of telling people I would get back to them, but not saying when.
I frequently ran into situations where my clients had questions or concerns that I couldn’t address until speaking with opposing counsel, which can take days. This led to lots of frantic phone calls and emails when people did not get an immediate response.It is a poor habit to tell clients you will get back to them without saying when Click To Tweet
I used to think it was best to respond when I had an answer, but I quickly realized it’s better to let my clients know when they will hear from me, even if it’s just to say I don’t have an answer yet.
I broke this habit by always giving an overestimated timeline for my response. Even if I don’t have an answer yet, I’ll respond by the deadline with an update.
These clearer expectations have saved me from having to answer lots of calls and emails.
Bad Habit No. 3: Not Following Up Meetings and Phone Calls With Something In Writing
During meetings and phone calls I take notes of the conversation, unfortunately my clients (and some adversaries) do not. Occasionally this would result in a breakdown in communication with clients and, sometimes, opposing counsel. They would forget what was said during our conversations.
I tried to follow up meetings or calls with an email summarizing the conversation. But admittedly, I didn’t do it nearly as often as I should have.
I’ve become more disciplined about follow-up. After every meeting and most substantive phone calls I follow-up with an email detailing the conversation.
Bad Habit No. 4: Meeting Clients Unnecessarily
Whenever a client wanted to meet with me in person I would always agree. This resulted in several meetings wasting their time and mine.
Some clients need a lot of face time to feel like things are moving. For those clients, instead of scheduling random meetings, my goal was to recommend they keep a running list of things they want to discuss and schedule regular meetings with them every few weeks.
I used to meet with clients in person at their request. Often blocking off an hour of time and going to the office for a 10-15 minute conversation. Now I’ll only meet in person for things that can’t be handled by phone.
The biggest lesson I learned is to stay in control over client communication. (versus leaving my clients in control).
Client’s don’t complain, especially after explaining to them that a phone call costs less than a meeting. I save time, they save money.
New Bad Habit No. 1: Not Focusing On The Present
Many legal bloggers have written about the practice of mindfulness, and how focusing your awareness on the present moment improves work performance. While I see it’s many benefits, it’s not something I practice often.
My mind is always focused on the next thing I want, need or have to do, which causes unnecessary stress.
New Bad Habit No. 2: Lack Of Sleep
I know that to be at my peak I need at least 7 hours of sleep but I usually average 4 or 5. Like many solos I suffer from “entrepreneur insomnia.” I have a hard time sleeping because I’m working or thinking about my business.
Both of these things are inhibiting the growth of my solo law practice because if I am not at my best I can’t do my best work.