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?