Monday, December 23, 2013

What Every Small Business (and Law Practice) Needs: Festivus!

"I should have objected to the hearing for being on Festivus."

So lamented my estimable colleague, who was calling today to report the outcome of a hearing he attended for our client.

That reminded me of a story reported by the L.A. Times 3 years ago.

An Orange County (CA) inmate had apparently scored some pretty fine meals courtesy of his religious affiliation: Festivism, whose chief religious holiday is, of course, Festivus.

The inmate got a judge to sign off on double portions of pre-packaged kosher meals before he started a year-long sentence in April 2010 -- citing religious reasons. When the judge asked what religion, the inmate's attorney blurted out "Festivus." The order included a requirement for "high protein no salami 3 times a day for Festivism."

(Another Festivus Miracle!)

So ends the great debate as to what one eats for the holiday, which was defined by Dan O'Keefe in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld. Mrs. Costanza served meatloaf and some kind of red sauce. However, the original O'Keefe holiday featured ham.

Here is just about the entire way to celebrate Festivus, dysfunction and all, illustrated courtesy Seinfeld:

I think an Orange County Superior Court judge trumps even the inventor of the holiday. So, High Protein Meal No Salami it is. That's my menu for tonight when we air grievances and challenge each other to feats of strength (Festivus isn't over until one of the combatants is pinned).

For those of you who will be fretting about next year's business and practice goals, take a moment with your colleagues. Make a Festivus Pole together. A homemade pole on display at Florida's State Capital is shown at left, and I'm sure one could use the beer or soft drink of choice. A more formal version, which appears to have been purchased and the local hardware store, shares Wisconsin's rotunda with a tree, a nativity scene, and a menorah. So an observance is totally legit.

Festivus Pole, WI
Enjoy High Protein Meal No Salami. Air your grievances, challenge each other to feats of strength in the New Year, and start 2014 with a new outlook.

It might be just the thing your practice needs!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The BlueBook of Happiness: Life Hacks to Find that Dream Job or Dream Client or or Dream Business

I have been writing. Yesterday, I set up a new Google+ page called The BlueBook of Happiness, and it will have the same kind of content and direction of the tumblr page of the same name. Go look for both! Now if only I could get over the mental hurdle of publishing the Facebook page.

The good folks at the Harvard Business Review are providing some good content, despite the productivity wasteland known as December. This morning's offering is no exception. Jeanne C. Meister serves up a good helping of holiday food for thought in "Make Sure Your Dream Company Can Find You," available here.

If you understand the tools companies are using to find good candidates, Meister says, you can manage your online and social media presence to bring those companies to you.

For example:

1. People Analytics. Smart new businesses are reinventing the recruitment process. Meister notes that these companies are "blending data from social media sites to create profiles of coders, programmers and software engineers so that companies hoping to hire can search for candidates that have the skills they desire."

(NOTE:   Clients have been doing this since before the Interweb started, using referrals and then search engines to find lawyers by typing in their problems.)

Meister notes that Rackspace used "people analytics" to find its newest employees: "This approach to recruitment is creating a new technical world order where job applicants are found and evaluated by their merits and contributions, rather than by how well they sell themselves in an interview."

I got recruited to teach LSAT courses for Kaplan through my Linked In profile. It can happen.

2. Got an app for that? Sodexo and other giants are using mobile technology to find their next generation of workers. This puts job descriptions and company information at candidate's fingertips. Given that some applicants do their research about 15 minutes before the interview, companies with mobile job boards are more likely to catch (and keep) the attention of good candidates.

3. MOOCs. I have never given MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) a thought as a recruiting tool. But companies are creating online courses to seek out likely new recruits. For instance, companies who want to capitalize on game technology are watching and recruiting from graduates of a MOOC called Why? Graduates know how to build an iPhone game. Other companies are using MOOCs as recruiting and advertising, according to Meister.

Meister concludes with encouraging words, and an interesting proposition:

As companies move to actively seeking out prospective new hires, giving these targeted talent communities special access to webinars, announcements of new job openings, and email invitations to engage with the company, job seekers need to reciprocate.
We’ve all been warned about how our online behavior can negatively affect  job prospects, but now you also need to think about how to build your personal brand, publicize your skills, and connect with the companies you might want to work for.
The next time you’re on your favorite social networking site, seek out employers you hope to work for one day. Build an online relationship with them now so they can find you later. Visit the company blog, like its Facebook page, join its Google+ page, watch its videos on YouTube, and follow the firm on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Vine. 
Make 2014 the year you become visible to your dream employer. After all, you may be just the person they’re looking for. (Emphasis added.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Peter O'Toole Taught Me How to Survive

For those of you keeping track, I did not write for 3 days. I was busy playing in the snow. Get over it.

The Quotidian E-mail's subject line was "Immortal Beloved."

It was from my sister, who wanted to know if I survived the crushing blow to our universe of actors who will never die. One did yesterday, and I was sad that Peter O'Toole went the way of all flesh.

A long time ago, O'Toole starred in Lord Jim, which I watched in a high school class. Based on a Joseph Conrad novel, the movie focuses on the title character's journey to redemption. Sort of like The Magnificent Seven even with Eli Wallach playing the villain.
P.O'T. in Lord Jim

Of course, my sister and I thought the coolest thing ever was Peter O'Toole being the Roman General in Masada on the TV. We decided he would have to be one of the cast members of whatever book adaptation we were casting at the time. Hence the List of Immortals.

Of course anyone eulogizing P.O'T. would talk about Beckett and Lion in Winter and My Favorite Year and A Bunch of Sad Failures in the 70's because he was sick and alcoholic. Of course they talk about Lawrence of Arabia.

I didn't see Lawrence of Arabia until I graduated from law school. Actually, I didn't see it until after I had taken the bar in Utah. I knew I had failed it. I had no life. I had failed as an actor. I had failed looking for a job. I was living in my parents' basement.

Worst, I couldn't afford to ski.

These Boots.
But there was this gorgeous blue-eyed guy who's saying "This is a dismal office. We are not happy in it." And then, he found a way to be basically happy outside that office.

I watched that movie 5 times (in a movie theatre - big screen is the only way to see that thing) in the four weeks between taking the bar exam and finding out that I'd actually passed. I began asking myself simple questions: How did T.E. Lawrence do these things? What is most effective about P.O'T's reactions? How, and why, did a tall actor get to play a man who could be Woody Allen's lost twin? And how do I relish any part I've landed with that kind of unbridled enthusiasm?

Where can I get the boots he wore in the scene where he walks along the top of the train?

How? How? How? could I apply the lessons I was trying to learn while I escaped from the drudgery of a smoggy winter in Utah?

I've spent the last 25 years figuring that out, and I haven't succeeded yet. Along the way, I've learned how to apply the lessons of the month and that movie and P.O'T's career. Someday I may teach them to someone else.

But right now, I'll just apply the lesson taught in Robert Bolt's magnificent dialogue:

(Lawrence has just extinguished a burning match between his thumb and forefinger - a trick the character's famous for, and Potter tries to do it)

William Potter: Ooh! It damn well 'urts!
T.E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
Officer: What's the trick then?
T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts. (emphasis added)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Year's Resolution: Never be a Patsy

For those of you keeping track, I posted yesterday. I have a tumblr account, too, and I'm learning to use it. Yay tech! I write over at, under the nom de guerre The BlueBook of Happiness. I did that yesterday. Trust me, or click over and look.

With 2014 mere weeks away, it's time to seriously consider what kind of NYRs will make it onto my list. I posted Tuesday on NYRs one shouldn't make.

Here's ONE resolution I intend to make, and keep:

I resolve never to work for free.

But wait, whines the little lawyer voice inside my head, I'm in a service industry. I'm obligated to give people access to justice. Also insistent is the mentor voice, which says that I have to practice on people for nothing if I want to get them to pay for my services later on.

That is so stupid. But I get that idea from the medieval roots of my profession. From the monks who wandered England with their vows of poverty and the pockets in their hoods to catch the money "clients" might donate to the cause.

So, in 2014, I resolve to throw off the shackles of my medieval past and serve like the knights errant. Somebody is bound to cough up a manor or a new suit of armor, right? I'd settle for a nice meal or a plate of cookies. Really.

At some point, I'll have to work for free. Fortunately, always remarkable Jessica Hische has done all the dirty work for me (and for FREE) to help me make a clear, objective decision. You can find the HTML version here. And don't be cheap. Buy a letterpress copy of the flow chart, frame it, and refer to it often.

Don't work for free. Don't lend your time. You're worth it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Year Resolutions You Should Never Make

So, I'm on day two. I came close to ignoring my new resolve to write every day but realized I would be grumpy and sad if I didn't.

Thanks to some great encouragement from Jonathan Malkin, I'm going to keep going and possibly build some discipline. BTW, Jonathan posted a wonderful discussion of entrepreneurial depression here.

I've been suffering from something of an identity crisis. Today's post is evidence of that. I'm over fifty, but still feel like I just graduated from law school. In many ways, I wish I'd had me for a mentor those long years ago (wait, I did have me as a mentor those long years ago - his name was Keith Jergensen and he was my dad - probably why I didn't ask him for advice).

At any rate, since we're focusing on ways to increase our chances of keeping our New Year's Resolutions, I offer this brief discussion. Kudos to Ann Brenoff, who wrote the post. It's directed to the "over 50 crowd" but buried between the lines are some important insights about meeting objectives.

Never make resolutions you cannot keep. Objectives, goals, resolutions, whatever you call them must be amenable to accomplishment. Some you simply cannot keep because they might require a third party's decision to accomplish it (get a job) or are simply beyond your remarkable abilities (win a Nobel Prize in Literature).

Make resolutions that only require one person for success: you.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Be prepared for a series of brief, but still well-written posts. If you're operating off of Bryan Gardner's Garner on Language & Writing paradigm (affiliate link), these are more madman than carpenter or judge.

I have a number of reasons for this warning: 39 to be exact. That's 18 + 21.

I've just finished the remarkable book "18 Minutes Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done (affiliate link)," by Peter Bregman. It's part of my end of year study of the best and most recommended books of 2013.

Bergman recommends prioritizing the things that will bring you closer to your objectives for the year. One of my objectives for 2014 is to write more. I wanted to get the habit started before the new year.

Getting started on your new year's resolutions in the 21 days left in the year is a great way to make sure those resolutions get done in 2014. It takes 21 days to make a habit stick.

Want to lose weight? Start exercising now. Stop eating so much sugar. Drink 1 less soda each day. By January 1, you'll have the habit that will get you in shape by the end of the year.

Want to watch less TV? Stop watching 1 hour at night, and read a book or plan a vacation.

Want to get better grades or impress your client? Listen for one new thing.

Want to love your to do list? Pick one thing you absolutely WANT to get done; write it down. Do it. Every single day. If you find yourself writing the same thing dow every day, evaluate if this is a new habit and treat it as such.

The other advantage? I just spent the last week taking inventory of my objectives for 2014, and I'll continue to do that through December. As I hone those objectives to the 4 or 5 I really really want to do, I also explore why they are important to me. That gives me ownership of the objectives.

What happens if I own them? Research shows I'm about 100% more likely to get them accomplished when I do.

What are your objectives for 2014?

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Blue Book of Happiness - Back to the Future

Last month, I climbed into my DeLorean and darkened the door of my alma mater for the first time since 1998, ready to "celebrate" the 25th anniversary of my release into the wild. I was actually eager and excited to see people I hadn't seen for more than a decade.

Fortunately, I had been prepared for low turnout by Carolyn Elefant's excellent post on her own 25th Reunion. Of the 130 or so graduating members of the class, around 15 showed up for the reunion. I'd say more than 50% of our class live and work on the Wasatch Front of Utah, yet the reunion committee was only successful in shaming 4 or 5 from the area to show up.

Thanks to the great work of Professor  James Backman I was able to learn how really entrepreneurial the my law class turned out to be. (NOTE to Law Schools: find one professor or support staffer to develop a series of online "yearbooks" for each class. Professor Backman's effort is irreplaceable.) According to Professor Backman's yearbook project, easily 30% of the Class of '88 had gone to work for start-ups, or created their own companies or firms -- right out of law school. Many of them are still at it; one has formed and sold two law firms and at least one company. Of the people who were in actual attendance, only 3 could boast a 25-year record in the same firm. The rest of us had started our own solo firms or gone into business with 2 or 3 other partners.

And there we stayed. I believe it's because Law As A Practice is inherently entrepreneurial. Young lawyers bring with them the tools to create a practice that will follow them wherever they go.

I feel bound to take up Ms. Elefant's banner: Why don't law schools prepare students for the inevitable?

Like it or not, the most successful lawyers -- those who still adore what they do 25 years on -- will be the entrepreneurs. Those that don't much care for the practice will go on and form businesses, and still be entrepreneurs. Isn't it a good idea for schools that depend on the bonhomie of their alumni to provide their students with entrepreneurial training during law school?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why Law Students and Recent Grads Are Unhappy

Okay. I know I promised to be more faithful in updating this blog. I love my work. I love that I'll be heading out to Utah to work with law students at my alma mater, the J. Reuben Clark Law School. I'll also be there to attend my 25th reunion, celebrating the fact that someone actually let me out of law school in the first place. I sort of made it a point to be as loud as possible while I was there; it assured my graduation simply because the dean and faculty wanted some peace and quiet.

As I'm preparing for the program, I came across another worthy and fun website: This week's post was enlightening. I'm part of the lost generation (neither baby boomer nor Gen Y) but the words rang true for me.

You can find it here.

It's a good retelling of the reasons young entrepreneurs and professionals are so frustrated right now. It's also a great explanation of why the sharp knives in my drawer were talking to me last winter. The gist is this: Where our parents and grandparents sought security in their careers, my stepchildren's generation seeks "fulfillment." Note, for example how the phrases have waned and waxed in popularity:

The phrase "secure career" started going out of fashion about the same time I started law school. But a fulfilling career has surged into the public consciousness:

While we're seeking fulfillment, we're bombarded with Facebook Friends who constantly brag about their fabulous careers and fancy offices and trips to Europe. This is discouraging.

The bloggers at Wait But Why have sage advice for those of us who have ditched security in favor of fulfilling:

1) Stay wildly ambitious.  The current world is bubbling with opportunity for an ambitious person to find flowery, fulfilling success.  The specific direction may be unclear, but it'll work itself out—just dive in somewhere.

2) Stop thinking that you're special.  The fact is, right now, you're not special.  You're another completely inexperienced young person who doesn't have all that much to offer yet.  You can become special by working really hard for a long time.

3) Ignore everyone else. Other people's grass seeming greener is no new concept, but in today's image crafting world, other people's grass looks like a glorious meadow. The truth is that everyone else is just as indecisive, self-doubting, and frustrated as you are, and if you just do your thing, you'll never have any reason to envy others.

For a change, I haven't anything to add. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Awaken Something!

Over the weekend, I was at a memorial service for the amazing Mary Pam Kilgore, who died after a quiet but valiant battle with cancer. Before the folk singers let me hop into their rendition of Angel Band, I sat down with one of my Six Friends, Joanne Quinn Smith. Joanne is also the founder of Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine.

"So," Joanne said, "when are you going to wake up LegalShoe? Mary Pam always wrote Planners Pointers for me and now I need content."

Inside Menopausal Me was saying: "Not yet. I'm still trying to recover from whatever depression thing laid me out last summer. I'm moving. I have to pack. No one reads my stuff anyway."

The Outside Me, the Third Child Me, said out loud: "This week. I'll do it this week. Yay."

I've been retooling LegalShoe in my head for the last year. I've been retooling me for the last 3 months. It's time to wake up LegalShoe, whether anyone reads it or not.

With the goal of helping Joanne with her content problem, LegalShoe isn't just about legal issues. It's about the problems that face lawyers and other professionals who are uniquely entrepreneurial. Problems like planning a career, building clientele, and liking a chosen path. Back breakers like depression, debt, and uncertainty.

Nobody really seems to be talking about those. It gets lonely when you're the only person who feels this way. So here are some scary statistics that make me feel less isolated (courtesy the Dave Nee Foundation).

  • Depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years.
  • Stress among law students is 96%, compared to 70% in med students and 43% in graduate students.
  • Entering law school, law students have a psychological profile similar to that of the general public. After law school, 20-40% have a psychological dysfunction.
  • Psychological distress, dissatisfaction and substance abuse that begin in law school follow many graduates into practice.
  • Only half of lawyers are very satisfied or satisfied with their work.
  • Chronic stress can trigger the onset of clinical depression.
  • Lawyers are the most frequently depressed occupational group in the US.
  • Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.
  • Depression and anxiety is cited by 26% of all lawyers who seek counseling.
  • 15% of people with clinical depression commit suicide.
  • Lawyers rank 5th in incidence of suicide by occupation.
  • 19% of lawyers suffer from statistically significant elevated levels of depression, according to a survey conducted on lawyers in Washington.
  • Over 25% of North Carolina lawyers experience physical symptoms of extreme anxiety at least three times per month during the year.
  • 37% of North Carolina lawyers suffer from depression.
  • 11% of North Carolina lawyers suffer from suicide ideation.

Entrepreneurs aren't immune either. Aaron Schwartz suffered suicidal depression and ultimately hanged himself in the face of a federal investigation over downloading documents from the MIT JSTOR library. Ecomom's Jody Sherman, Diaspora's Ilya Zhitomirskiy  and more anonymous entrepreneurs have lost their fight with depression. Sadly, LegalShoe's research department couldn't find any hard statistics for entrepreneurs. Perhaps it's because "entrepreneur" isn't exactly a profession. Oh, and most entrepreneurs don't like to talk about it.

One entrepreneur is doing a noble work to get other entrepreneurs to talk about their depression. Check out Jonathan Malkin's interviews and articles here. They are fascinating, and super helpful.

Last summer, Ben Horowitz called entrepreneurship "The Struggle." You can read that post here. It's a familiar manifesto.