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Unhappy Lawyers Are Everywhere, But You Don’t Have To Be One Of Them

Are you a chronically unhappy lawyer? Or are you starting your own law practice and don’t want to end up like so many of your burnt out lawyer colleagues?

I know. We have all seen them. The unhappy lawyers we see at the courthouse, at meetings, in courtrooms,  or at mediations. They are overwhelmed, grumpy, unkempt, and have no idea about lawyer work-life balance. Let’s not let that be you.

This is why I want to share some simple strategies that will result in a game-changing approach to your family law practice. When I incorporated these strategies, It changed everything about my business, my finances, my health and my relationships. It also created very happy clients. I am not exaggerating when I say that this approach saved my life.

Here is how you avoid being an unhappy lawyer and effectively run your law practice without it taking over your life:

  1. You incorporate efficiencies wherever you can by using checklists, precedents and standard operating procedures.
  2. You attract great quality clients to your law firm, clients wanting to pay you, who listen to your advice and appreciate your guidance.
  3. You protect and use your time strategically so that you always have the energy not only to do great work, but to have a life with room for enjoyment.
  4. You turn your clients into raving fans every time.

Your #1 Key to Not Being an Unhappy Lawyer:  Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency

Your key to lawyer stress management (aka not looking stupid, not going broke, not falling flat on your face, and not having immense struggles) is to reduce the number of surprises and unpredictability in your law practice. This will ensure you being the successful lawyer you want to be.

Even the most successful attorneys have much to deal with. There are client crises, unexpected curveballs, deadlines we can’t forget, talking our clients off the ledge, and dealing with bully lawyers. It is no wonder why lawyers are so unhappy. Gosh, I always joke about the fact that I am a divorce lawyer and I don’t even like conflict!

So, what do you do? You systematize everything predictable in your law practice. If you do something more than once (like client intake, for example), create a system or process around it. Create and use checklists, templates and protocols for everyday tasks, allowing you (and hopefully your team) to handle routine matters quickly and efficiently. Here are just some of the systems, checklists and templates we use in our law firm practice management system:

  • We use cloud-based law practice management tools (If you are not using Clio yet, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to start using it. It is head and shoulders above what I have used in the past. Bye bye other software companies who were not client-service based, you know who you are).
  • We systematize everything we can when it comes to law firm client communication.
  • We use law firm email templates whenever possible.
  • We systematize our lawyer agreements with clients (retainer letters).
  • We even have a precedent (thank goodness we have not had to use it often) for terminating the lawyer-client relationship.
  • We are consistent about the family lawyer cost per hour for our clients.

I know! Systematizing everything can be boring! If you are like me, you find it dull to think about systems, checklists, precedents and templates. And yet, the fact that I did this for my practice has created unimaginable freedom in my life. I am no longer an unhappy lawyer.

If you are starting your own law practice you cannot underestimate the huge impact it will have in terms of reducing your lawyer stress and lawyer burnout.

When the routine is locked in and taken care of, you not only engage in the lawyer stress management systems that will save you and your law practice, you can also then focus on the exceptional:

  • the exceptional aspects of your work
  • the exceptional aspects of your personal life,
  • the exceptional aspects of your relationships,
  • and everything else that is exceptional.

Think about this:

  • Were will your life be a year from now if you don’t systematize your world?
  • And where would it be if you did?!

Your #2 Key to Not Being an Unhappy Lawyer:  Attract Quality Clients by Making Your Marketing Process Easy and Without Spending Tons on Advertising

Did I mention that I do not spend money on online legal marketing? I used to. I used to spend a lot of money. The problem was that it was expensive and the minute I turned the ads off, the flow of clients dried up too.

There is a better way. As I write this, I have completed five different client matters in the past week. To say my clients are thrilled is an understatement. I am so glad. But guess what?! I don’t let my relationship end with my client right there. We ask them to write a review or do a video testimonial. It is part of our procedure when closing a matter.

Our request goes something like this:

Dear Amazing Happy Client!

It has been such a pleasure working with you and an honour to get to know more about you and your family.

As you know, I am very passionate about helping my clients. I also want to be able to help other potential clients who are looking for a family law lawyer.

So, here is my big ask! Will you do our firm and me a big favour?

Would you be so kind as to leave a review for me using this link?  (add a hyperlink to your message)

Your rating helps us (and our prospective clients) a lot.

BUT WAIT!!! If there is something you think we could have done better or anything at all that did not meet your expectations, please let me know! Your opinion is important!

Wishing you all the best in the future for you and your family,

Much love,

Val and your legal team at Pathway Legal

P.S. Here is the link again  (add a hyperlink to your message again)

In our successful law practice, almost every time we have a new consultation they say they came to us because either of a personal referral or because of our online reviews. The small amount of time and energy it takes to ask a happy client pays you repeated dividends of new clients coming to you because they want to hire you.

Your #3 Key to Not Being an Unhappy Lawyer:  Protecting and Using Your Time Strategically:

Protecting your time strategically is key to your successful law practice and being a happy attorney. Do you ever notice that when you are dealing with administrative tasks, you wish you could be doing client work and earning money, but then when you are doing client work, you wish you had more time to do the necessary administrative tasks of your law practice? On top of it, when you take a day off, you quickly check your work emails because you have a lot going on and want to ensure things don’t blow up with your clients over the weekend.

Why lawyers are so unhappy is because of being overwhelmed with too many things to do. The hours in your week are probably never enough to do your client work, administrative tasks, or spend time with your family.

The problem is that you are trying to pack in too many types of things to do with your time in one day.

That is why happy divorce lawyers are skilled at ensuring they do not get the types of things they are doing mixed up. They have different kinds of days where they dedicate different types of tasks and they protect those days fiercely.

At Be the BEST Divorce lawyer we call these types of days free days, leverage days, and bumper days.

A free day is just that. It is free. There is no email to check, no client calls, no client texting, nothing to do with the office, and I mean nothing. You are 100% focused on yourself, your family, and your interests. It will energize you in a way you never knew could happen. I know this was the most challenging type of day for me to put into practice because I was not used to just stopping, relaxing, and having a free day.

A leverage day is when you are working with clients, writing articles for your social media, and being overall focused. When you are doing client work, it is not the time to worry about your trust accounting audit, it is the time to be with your clients. Schedule this day with client appointments. It is all you do on a leverage day.

Finally, there are what I call Bumper days. A bumper day is a day where you get all the stuff you need to do for things not to crash in your life or your law practice. It is how you avoid having a disorganized law practice. On bumper days these are some of the activities I do:

  • I run errands
  • If I need to be trained on how to use software, I schedule it on a Bumper Day
  • I instruct my team on projects
  • I communicate with my bank,if I need to
  • I review my firm score card

Your #4 Key to Not Being an Unhappy Lawyer – Keep on Top of Your Workload and Turn Your Clients into Raving at the very same time!

Once lawyers get those quality clients, many lawyers get so overwhelmed that they do not know how to keep on top of their workload. Maybe you are one of these lawyers. You have so much work to do that at least some of your clients are feeling ignored, and this reduces their trust in you.

What if I was to tell you that two very simple and life-changing strategies will increase your client's trust in you, turn your clients into raving fans, and will reduce your workload and stress at the same time?!

Drumroll please . . . 

  1. Do your client work with your client present.
  2. Always set the next appointment. Schedule your client work with your client.
Val Hemminger, Divorce Lawyer

Avoid Being an Unhappy Attorney by Handling Your Workload and Keeping Your Clients Happy at the Same Time:

Do your client work with your client present:

Clients want their lawyers to understand them and to be heard.

That is why, from the very start of a relationship with a new client, I make it clear that we will do most, if not all of the work on their matter with the client present. Yes, that is right, they will be with me in the office, on the phone, or on a Zoom call.

By the time we walk into the resolution process such as mediation or arbitration, the client is well aware that we understand their case and will do our best to resolve it.

Always set the next appointment. Schedule your client work with your client:

What do your family law clients want? First of all, they want to get their matter resolved. Nobody likes to live in the purgatory of not having their family matter resolved. That is why clients want to see their cases move forward. So, whenever I finish up an appointment with a client, I always make sure another one is set until the matter is fully resolved.

The way to do that is to set the next appointment. It is a simple discipline that keeps you on top of your workload and has your clients happy at the same time.

I remember years ago when I first started implementing this strategy a client said to me, “You know Val, every time I come to see you, I end up with a bill, but I also know that my case is progressing and moving forward every time we meet.”

That is when I had the lightbulb moment and implemented this discipline.

Idea Icon - Lightbulb

So, there you have it. Your key strategies to avoiding falling into the trap of being another unhappy lawyer. These strategies I have developed in over 25 years of practicing law. They are all keys to the Be the BEST Divorce lawyer method.

Val Hemminger's BEST method is key for your law firm's success

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