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Get better at addition with some skillful subtraction

January 22, 2015

Happy New Year!

At the start of 2015 a lot of my conversations with clients are all about how to do more with less time. We are discussing the power of focus in all areas of life and the importance of making making choices about what goes on the plate and what needs to be off.

We all have to do lists, business plans, goals, and schedules full of commitments. We learn to be great at adding more and more to our days and proving the maxim “if you want something done, give it to a busy person.” The result is that we all feel like we don’t have enough time.

At the start of this year as you consider what you want to do and what you want to achieve, pause for a moment and reflect on this question: what do you want to let go of?

Leadership consultant and writer Margaret Wheatley once put it like this: “What do you want to walk away from in order to walk towards?” She recognised that in order to honour what is most important for us we also have to learn to let go.

William Ury puts this another way in his book The Power of a Positive No. What are the values, needs, and priorities that you wish to say yes to, and that cause you to need to say no to a particular situation or opportunity?

Everyone I know feels like they just don’t have enough time. Although we all only get 24 hours a day we pack our waking hours so full of stuff we feel stressed and anxious, and like we are always trying to catch-up.

Letting go is hard. It’s hard because our best intentions have us wanting to support others, give of our time, take responsibility for, carry-out, and follow-through. With so much going on in our lives it’s not enough to let go of the things we don’t like to do, what is also important is to let go of some of the activities we want to do but maybe just not quite as much .

I have a friend, Suzanne, who is a senior partner with a significant administrative role at her firm. After a couple of hard years she has learned that to be most effective she has to be highly strategic about what she takes on. This means paying close attention to what is requested of her, and asking herself “is this mine to do, or can it be also well handled by someone else?” This sounds easy but she has an instinctive need to help out and so when someone comes with a request her first instinct is to assist them. She has learned to stop and consider and weigh the request against all other things she has on the go.

I had a similar struggle at the end of 2013 when I considered the year ahead. I had a number of large projects starting up and a year-long training course to attend. I knew something was going to have to go. In the end I decided to let go of my role on the board of an organization I was deeply committed to. It was a difficult choice and one I have not regretted. Walking away from the board position allowed me to turn to the new projects with enhanced energy and capacity.

Effective subtraction starts with examining your priorities. What is most important to you?

Consider your commitments and priorities within these three general categories: work life, family/friends, and personal life.

Finding activities that are rewarding across two or more areas of your life is a great way to achieve more with less time. For Jason, coaching his daughter’s soccer team is a family activity, but as he also loves the sport and coaching it also fulfills an important personal need. Janet enjoys skiing and takes her clients out to the slopes twice a year in an activity that is rewarding both a personally and professionally.

Beware of your good intentions! Carefully examine the commitments that you do out of a feeling of obligation. Pay attention to what you have on your plate. Are you doing it because it feels like something you “should” do? Because this is “a good thing to give time to” even though it takes more time that you have?

Our lives are constantly changing. What is most important to us will change from year to year. Take a quick inventory of your commitments, what can come off your plate to leave you more room for what’s most important?

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A great business development guide for women lawyers

November 8, 2014

Looking for a guide to business development for women lawyers? I have found a great resource for you!

I was doing some research this week and came across  A Guide to Business Development for Women Lawyers. It was prepared by the Law Society of Upper Canada, and after giving it a quick read yesterday I have concluded this is a must read for any woman lawyer in private practice.  If you are a senior lawyer it is a good resource to share with your mentees. This guide has specific and actionable business development tips for women lawyers, and valuable quotes from many women lawyers.

And it’s free!

This Guide to Business Development for Women Lawyers covers all the most critical topics – everything from dealing with imposter syndrome to how to ask for business.

Kudos to The Justicia Project Business Development Working Group and the women lawyers who took the time to share their practical experience and insight:

  • Samantha Alfonzo, Associate, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP – Hamilton, ON
  • Ellen Bessner, Partner, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP – Toronto, ON
  • Elizabeth M. Brown, Partner, Hicks Morley Hamilton Steward Storie LLP – Toronto, ON
  • Mary Catherine Chambers, Partner, Buset & Partners LLP – Thunder Bay, ON
  • Mary M.S. Fox, Founding Partner, Ducharme Fox LLP – Windsor, ON
  • Mandy Fricot, Lawyer, Fricot Law – Thunder Bay, ON
  • Marie Heinen, Lawyer, Henein and Associates – Toronto, ON
  • Cheryl Hodder, QC, Partner, McInnes Cooper – Halifax, NS
  • Deborah A. Humphreys, Weiler Maloney Nelson – Thunder Bay, ON
  • Tanya A. Leedale, Partner, O’Connor MacLeod Hanna LLP – Oakville, ON
  • Barbara Legate, Personal Injury Lawyer, Legate & Associates – London, ON
  • Laurie Pawlitza, Partner, Torkin Manes LLP & Immediate Past Treasurer, the Law Society of Upper Canada – Toronto, ON
  • Janice Payne, Partner, Nelligan O’Brien Payne – Ottawa, ON
  • Corina Weigl, Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP – Toronto, ON
  • Heather Williams, Cavanagh LLP – Ottawa, ON

Posted in: Business Development, Women in Law | Permalink | Comments Off on A great business development guide for women lawyers

Can you successfully grow your practice if you hate networking?

October 8, 2013

Can you successfully business develop if you hate networking?  Thankfully – because there are so many of you out there who would rather endure a root canal than an hour of  schmoozing at a board of trade event –  the answer is yes.

Networking can be defined as many things.  Networking defined as attending events, meeting twenty new people, following up after the event, and steadily adding new people to your “pipeline” is not the be all and end all of legal business development.  There – I have said it! For extroverts who love that kind of thing – go for it!  For the rest of us a different strategy can be as effective – I call it getting involved.  It still means you have to get out of your office, but you pursue a purpose other than simply networking.  The purpose is to get involved in an organization that is meaningful to you.  It may be that you will learn more about an legal area you are interested in, it may be that you can help develop a professional organization, or it might be a non-profit whose cause you want to get behind.  Let your personal interests and professional goals guide you in deciding where to invest your time.

The skill to develop is the ability to ask good questions, and listen and learn about the people you are meeting through your community or professional  involvement.  It also helps if you  introduce yourself in a way that gives the people you are meeting a little insight into what you do.

New business opportunities can flow in from many different sources.  Developing a rich group of contacts who know you and trust you is what helps generate business.  These relationships can be developed through work, through your involvement in the community, and for some lawyers I know – through their regular and prolific writing and blogging.  Allow your personal and professional strengths and interests  to guide your investments.


Posted in: Business Development, Networking | Permalink | No Comments →

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