Category: Resources

ResourcesTime Management and Productivity

Has It Become Too Late Too Soon?

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   by Sheila Blackford   ©2012

Happy New Year!

I was joking with my husband about running out of time to get something done before it was too late: “I hate when it’s too late too soon!”  Maybe I’m on to something here.  Running out of time may have been part of 2011. Maybe it has even crept into 2012. Well, luckily, goals are something we set for ourselves and often achieve with great enthusiasm. Other goals we hit a couple of times and then miss a couple of times and give up, discouraged. You may be confusing goals with resolutions because ’tis the season to be confused about setting goals in the new year when we likely are expressing our resolutions. Goals are measurable – “My goal is to lose ten pounds.” Resolutions are for our continuous effort, “My resolution is to eat healthier. ”  For more on Resolutions, see Rod Ibrahimi’s January 2, 2012 post on Lifehacker, “The Science Behind New Year’s Resolutions (And How to Use it to Achieve Yours!)” and to get more clarity around the difference between goals and resolutions, I like David Galloway’s December 31, 2011 post on Lifehacker, “Differentiate Between Goals and Resolutions to Aid in Personal Achievement.”

Now, has it become “too late too soon?” It is the start of a new year. Make it your resolution to learn better strategies for managing your time.

Here are some of my favorites.

1. MindTools. You can do some serious self-improvement on this website! Here is the link to their excellent Time Management Toolkit. I recommend you take the Time Management Quiz to understand what can best help you. Time to get honest.

2. Pomodoro Technique. If you struggle somedays with wasting more time avoiding doing something than the something would take, you may be having some anxiety about getting it done. You think?! Time management gurus advise breaking tasks down into smaller chunks. Very helpful. What the Pomodoro Technique can do is take it one step further, a timer that ‘tells’ you it is time to work in a sustained fashion for just 25 minutes. You are ‘supposed’ to put a checkmark on a piece of paper. I have an iPhone App that tracks my completed pomodoros. Forget the paper – just more clutter on my desk! Then ‘tells’ you it is time to take a break for 5 minutes. After a set of four pomodoros, you take a longer break. Simple. Now try to stick with it. It certainly is a tool for tackling that tough one that you shuffle off to the side of your desk. Try it. It may work. Carol Wilson was Oregon’s first Practice Management Advisor. She used to kindly advise breaking down tasks into small increments. I don’t know if she was a fan of the Pomodoro Technique. But the principle is the same: break it into doable portions. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

3. Getting Things Done! ®David Allen.  He has quite a following. A favorite place to begin with the idea is to take the Getting Things Done Quiz which is called,  GTD>Q  and available free. More good assessment. There is a  G T D® Starter Kit that may interest you if you want to leap into the program with both feet, complete with CDs and exercises and other content for $79.98. But I would cautions some of you to be careful to not avoid tackling something that needs tackling by getting focused on doing the G T D® Starter Kit instead of just working on one piece of what needs to be done. You know who you are!


4. Get some personal one-on-one or group coaching. Those of you reading this in Oregon can contact the Oregon Attorney Assistance Office and ask Meloney Crawford to include you in her, Getting It Done 2012 ® program.  Don’t procrastinate now, as it starts the second week of January. And you can even attend by online method. What I really appreciate about Meloney is that she doesn’t believe in one-size-fits-all. She will share a number of tools to help you dig in or dig out!

Well, these are my four. What are yours?

Happy resolutions to you!




Gifts Aplenty

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   by Sheila Blackford   ©2011   Here in Oregon, new lawyers are beginning their professional life working with their new mentors according to the desired goals of Oregon’s New Lawyer Mentor Program. I have seen many of these new lawyers who are seeking help with launching their own law practice. Likely this is a situation being repeated in many states as more law school graduates take and pass their state but don’t find a position with a law firm or government agency or in-house counsel.

My advice to these new lawyers  is to get more mentors to work with. There is no “One-Size-Fits-All” mentor. But there are talented lawyers who are experts at closing statements, drafting clear contracts and compelling motions. Others have mastered the fine art of working the room at a networking event or meeting with a prospective client. Still others are excellent at numbers and managing law firm financials so that clients are served at the most reasonable rate at a reasonable profit to the firm.

Where to find these potential mentors? Begin asking other lawyers and judges and judicial clerks to name the five best family law attorneys or civil litigators or criminal defense lawyers or estate planning attorneys. Watch these recommended lawyers in court. Then begin deciding who you think you’d like to learn from. You will be surprised how often these lawyers will be willing to give you tips. I haven’t heard of any of them turn down meeting with a new lawyer. Part of being good at your game is being dedicated to the profession. Realizing that, it is easy to see that you are just as important to these lawyers as they are to you.  Consider them your team of mentors and begin getting gifts aplenty.


Who Inspires Your Ideas?

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)   by Sheila Blackford   ©2010   When you are starting a new venture, you need ideas — lots of them! Who inspires your ideas? Do you have a friend, colleague, or mentor who can plug into what you’re thinking about and help you with the inspiration of new ideas? If so, try to have lunch with this person as soon as you can! Some people just seem to get animated or revved up with good ideas, whether for themselves or others. These are people with high ideation– concept people. They may be very creative, super bright, innovative thinkers, who generate original ideas that are simple and yet profound. They love opportunities to brainstorm, a way to exercise their brain, finding the process of generating ideas energizing.

Thanks to the Internet, you can connect to an idea pipeline shared by these people through their blogs and Twitter posts. Lately I have really been enjoying one in particular, Guy Kowasaki who Tweets under GuyKawasaki and has a great blog Holy Kaw! on his website Alltop. For me, getting a shot of Kawasakism kicks my brain into a more creative mode which helps me brainstorm with lawyers launching their new practice. Thanks, Guy.

Fortunately for all of us, there are a lot of really bright creative people just down the street, across the hall, or a mouse click away. I hope you plan to connect with one of them today. See if you don’t get inspired with some new ideas.


Attorney at Law not Dabbler at Law

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  by Sheila Blackford   ©2010   There are many lawyers starting up their law practice these days. Some have become unemployed by larger firms downsizing as an economic survival tactic while others are newer lawyers who have decided to hedge their bet on getting an associate position. Whatever the push for opening up one’s own law practice, the attorney should take care to devote him- or her-self wholeheartedly to the clients who come seeking legal help. No dabbler’s in the law! You’d be horrified if a doctor set about to see a patient with a dabbler-in-medicine attitude. It is just as serious. What is dabbling? Though not a term of art, we all would agree that to dabble is to engage in something without the serious study and practice required of competent mastery.

Oregon Rule of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.1 Competence, based on the ABA Model Rules, states: A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

Four Quadrants of Competence: Unconscious Incompetence is a dangerous place for dabblers
You may have heard of the Four Quadrants of Competence: Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence, and Unconscious Competence. Passing the State Bar Exam indicates you have minimum competence. The Bar Exam can’t test all areas of law practice or assess how well a candidate can deal with a specific issue facing a client. Herein lays the danger: you may not know what you do not know. This is the quadrant known as Unconscious Incompetence. Something you can’t forget if you are working by yourself without supervision by a more experienced lawyer.

Cure for Dabbling
If you have a mentor helping you, call. If not, you may want to contact the Oregon State Bar Lawyer to Lawyer Program which allows you to check in with a more experienced lawyer. You can reach the Lawyer to Lawyer Program by calling the Bar at 503-431-6408. If you want to help lawyers by participating in the rewarding program, download an application here. The Lawyer to Lawyer Program is especially helpful as more experienced lawyers find themselves feeling the need to practice out of their practice area in order to make overhead and cost of living expenses.

It takes time to move from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence – where you are aware that you don’t know something and seek advice. It takes years of practice, getting advice and guidance from senior attorneys, attending substantive area CLEs and studying to develop the mastery of a practice area with Conscious Competence where you are aware that you know it and are tuned into the process of doing the details with competence.

As you may recall, the fourth Quadrant is Unconscious Competence, where you just act with competence without being consciously aware of the many steps. You may see unconsciously competent attorneys seemingly engaging effortlessly in cross-examination of a witness. They are not just a natural giant in the courtroom; they have honed their skills over decades of hard work. Many of these members of the Bar are willing to serve as mentors. Ask around for who are the giants in a practice area; call on them for some mentoring. They can help you prevent dabbling in the law.

Law Practice ManagementProfessionalismResources

ABA Resources for a Prosperous New Year

JEL23652-Blackford, Sheila P3 (2)  by Sheila Blackford    ©2009   I am a big fan of the resources that the ABA provides. I joined while in law school and am pleased to see that law students can still join for $25 and enjoy additional section membership free for 21 different sections, including the Law Practice Management Section which certainly helps me to help Oregon lawyers with marketing, managment, technology, and finance questions. Law students can join other sections very affordable at rates from $3 to $20. It is a great way to explore professional support opportunities in substantive areas of the law. If you are a law student who is interested in joining the ABA and exploring membership in various sections, click here.

What may not be widely known is that the ABA offers free membership to lawyers in their first year of original admission to the bar. What a boost to start your professional life. If you are in your first year of admission to the bar, click here.

At this time of year, lawyers are gearing up to pay their mandatory PLF assessment and Oregon State Bar dues. As an aside, please remember that you can pay your Oregon State Bar dues by credit or debit card online. Do not get confused and think this applies to the PLF: you cannot pay your PLF assessment by credit card or debit card or online. Get your PLF payment into the mail so that it is received by the due date.

Today it may not be difficult to join the ABA on top of these expenses. In fact, it could be free!
Today I received four ABA Membership Gift Cards that will give current non-members a complimentary six-month membership in the ABA through August 31, 2010. I only have four complimentary memberships to give away and I have to give them away by January 31, 2010. First four Oregon attorneys to contact me get one of these ABA Membership Gift Cards. Happy New Year.