A Techie Spring Cleaning

It’s in the homes of spiteful old widows that one finds such cleanliness. — Fyodor Dostoevsky

mopping

From a photo by Roma Flowers & used by permission

I cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be confused with a clean-freak. My private office is kept in a state of carefully managed chaos, occasionally disrupted by a biannual reorganization of the piles, the odd vacuuming, or an irregular exposure to a dust cloth, isolated from the ravages of the cleaning crew that patrols the public spaces of my office keeping them to the impeccable standards of the attorney I share space with.

Even the physical manifestations of my digital world embody this laissez-faire approach to neatness – cables run freely along baseboards, bursting from their cable ties to add a bit of kinetic color to the drab, industrial black demarcation of the boundary between wall and floor. Printers, routers, disks and CPUs are scattered between bookshelves, desktops, and tabletops; often sitting check by jowl with books, orchids, and the occasional stuffed frog – location being determined more by the availability of an electrical outlet than any cohesive plan – it’s feng shui colliding with Thomas Edison.

But cross the digital divide, and it is a far different story. My digital desktop is a stark expanse of lovely, precise (almost compulsive) order. A few files (my most immediate matters) sit with military precision along the periphery of my monitor, leaving vast expanses of uncluttered pixels to be managed by virtual desktops – one to a file, each corralling the applications needed for that matter. Continue reading

WWCD

The holiday lull and the unseasonable winter weather can to a rather abrupt, simultaneous halt this week – seems that it takes real winter weather (snow, high temps eking their way into the teens, a northerly breezes) to make folks start to make good on those new year’s resolutions that this will be the year “I’ll see a lawyer about…” – putting an end to my brief sabbatical.

As a solo, any downtime is a mixed blessing. It’s great to have some time to catch up on all those little inconsequential chores that get put aside (things like dusting the office, rediscovering the top of your desk, or getting a jump-start on your tax returns), but the downside is that unscheduled downtime means that the ol’ marketing machinery ain’t working at capacity. So, I spent my brief break asking myself “WWCD?” (what would Carolyn do), re-reading my brand spanking new copy of Solo by Choice (my first version was reduced to a somewhat collated stack of highlighted, ink-smeared and tea-stained pages during the start-up phase of my practice – the inevitable death of all really useful books), and re-evaluating/revising my marketing plan.

So, I come back from my sabbatical with my “quiet mentor” a little chided (it is humbling to see yourself when the text describes common mistakes) and greatly invigorated – sometimes a little affirmation that, at its core, marketing is not all that difficult and that anyone can be a better marketer goes a long way. Thanks Carolyn.

Happy Law

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important. — Bertrand Russell

If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years. — Bertrand Russell

The other day I was participating in a webinar (that godsend to rural lawyers everywhere) and was struck by a comment made by a member of the live audience. He prefaced his question to the speaker by mentioning that he was in the process of transitioning his practice from family law litigation to, as he put it, the “happy law” of estate planning. While I found both the question and response that followed to be unremarkable, the phrase “happy law” stuck with me.

For those unfamiliar with family law litigation, it is an emotion-laden, stress-filled morass characterized by petty bickering, pointless arguments, and infighting and political maneuvering worthy of the US Congress – and that’s just what it’s like for the lawyers. So, it is easy to see why a lawyer would describe a transition to an area of law where there are courteous and willing clients as happy law – the hours are regular, the clients want to reach the same goals, there are no more 4 AM complaint calls; in general the work/life balance thing gets better (the work-life balance also gets better if one transitions to a rural practice, but that’s a whole ‘nother post). Continue reading

Thanks-giving

Wild Turkeys

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Living around farmers reminds one that life is an ephemeral thing, something that waxes and wanes with nature’s rhythms (today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon) but, for the vast majority of us these small reminders are merely items of interest and not something that we focus on (the chicken that provided the eggs for your breakfast was interested in it, the pig that provided the bacon was really focused on it). Yet, when a friend’s holiday letter mentions they’ve been diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma a few weeks prior, I find myself becoming a bit more focused, so this Thanksgiving, I find myself a bit more thankful for my health, my friends, and my family. I also find myself reviewing my office’s “in case of …” kit.

My “in case of …” kit is basically my backup system for me. Basically, it’s a set of documents that provide a quick guide to my filing system, mission critical software, and basic procedures so that my backup attorney has some rudimentary grasp of how to either run my practice in the short term or close it down if necessary. Ideally, I would review my kit on a regular basis (hey, I back up my computer daily, I should at least back up myself every few months), but the reality is that it takes life handing me a good swift kick before I get the impetus to block out the time. This year, it looks like I have something to do on Black Friday other than being mauled at the mall.

Happy Thanksgiving and Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh (’cause gaelic makes a nice change from latin).

Not Dressing Respectably

George Bernard Shaw said that his “main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably” – I’ve been test driving a Virtual Law Office in the hopes that, like Mr. Shaw, I could, on occasion, dress a bit less respectably (or at the very least wander about the office barefoot) and  TotalAttorneys  has been good enough to allow me to abuse their product, picking nits, and ask odd questions since mid-June. I’ve come away very impressed.

Continue reading