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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 you don’t want to end up deeply buried in lawyer stress and lawyer burnout. 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.

As recently as a few short years ago, I, too, used to be an unhappy lawyer. The situation was chronic. When I started out with a solo law practice more than 20 years ago, I wanted to be the best divorce lawyer I could be. Yet, I had no idea how to go about it. Although I was starting a law practice and I had some skills as a lawyer, I did not have the business skills required. I knew absolutely nothing about law firm practice management.

This is why I want to share with you a game-changing approach to your family law practice. 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.

At one time, I worked more than 50 weeks per year. I had virtually no freedom. It felt like I was always tied to my desk or sitting in a courtroom. I had crushing financial stress to boot. I had a terrible home life. You name it, everything sucked. I was so busy lawyering that I did not take the time, energy, and effort to make my law firm run well and effectively.

Now, as opposed to working more than 50 weeks per year tied to my desk or sitting in a courtroom in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada where I live, I practice law remotely. In the past 11-months I have had “workcations” as follows:

  • Austin, Texas for 13 days;
  • Miami, Florida for 13 days; and
  • Chicago, Illinois for 9 days.
  • Eastern part of my province of British Columbia twice for one period of 9 days, and another of about 11 days;

The key to avoiding becoming an unhappy lawyer is:

Systematize everything that is predictable so that you could humanize everything that’s exceptional.

~ Dan Sullivan, owner of Strategic Coach, sharing his wisdom about the Four Seasons Hotel Chain, but it applies to you too!

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 that your goal of becoming a successful lawyer will be met.

Because even the most successful attorneys have so much to deal with. There are client crises, unexpected curveballs, deadlines we can’t forget about, 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!

In order for you to avoid being that unhappy lawyer, 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, which will allow 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 (hello Clio!)
  • We systematize everything we can when it comes to law firm client communication
  • We use law firm email templates whenever possible
  • We systemetize our lawyer agreements with client (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 you can be boring! If you are like me you find it tremendously dull to think about systems, checklists, precedents and templates. And yet, the very 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. Lawyer work-life balance is a clear possibility for all of us.

From Unhappy Lawyer to Lawyer Work-Life Balance:

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:

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

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