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Small initiatives that have a BIG impact

August 31, 2017

It can be all too easy to forget that law firm cultures are really based on a mostly silent agreement about how things should run, and what can and can’t be done.

Then someone comes along and shows us how a simple change in business as usual can have a big impact on the quality of working life in a law firm.

Picture this — the clock strikes 10 and a small group of lawyers gathers for a quick exercise break, assuming the yoga pose known as the Plank. Holding this pose develops endurance and stamina, and tones the nervous system. It’s also great for strengthening the back.

There is quiet conversation and laughter as the group works to stay in plank position for a minute, moves into side planks, and finishes with wall sits. Then the time is up. Everyone rises, stretches a little, and heads back to their offices until the next break at noon. Lunchtime exercise? A five-minute series of lunges in an athletic congo line around the boardroom.

Truth or Fiction?

Truth! These mini breaks really happen four times a day, every work day at the Vancouver office of MLT Aikins, the recently expanded giant western Canadian law firm. Their Vancouver office is housed high above the blaring horns in the top floors of Vancouver’s beautiful art deco Marine Building.

The instigator of these five minute exercise breaks is litigation partner David Wotherspoon. I caught up with David over lunch this summer where I learned about his strategy to get him and his colleagues moving while developing a collegial firm culture. Says Wotherspoon, “We’re in and out within five minutes – we get a brain break, an exercise hit, and it takes only a little time away from our desks.”

It’s working.

It’s long been proven that short bits of exercise several times a day benefit our fitness levels and mood. How often have we all read about the importance of getting up from our desks and moving around throughout the day, or going outside for five minutes of natural light to refresh and renew — taking a break from the solitude of our screens and devices.

Wotherspoon has taken this notion a step further by making movement and connection a fun, planned, collective everyday occurrence in the workplace. Being active is a great way to unwind stresses and strains from our busy schedules. Increasing heartrates through shared laughter and camaraderie among colleagues can only lead to success for the firm and its team.

One simple routine added to the work day – big impact.

What can you initiate at your office?

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Growth mindset practice – how you measure matters

July 10, 2017

Grit and Growth Mindset Retreat

With Fixed mindset we measure ourselves against others. With growth mindset we are focused on how we are getting better.

To develop your growth mindset try this:

Notice – when do you find yourself comparing yourself to others?

When you catch yourself making this comparison take a moment to pause, and think again.

From a growth mindset consider your own goals, priorities and standards and compare yourself to these. How are you measuring up? What action could you take to improve?

You can get a lot accomplished with a fixed mindset until you hit a wall.

I had fixed mindset about most areas of my life for most of my life and still managed to developed a flourishing professional career but it came at a cost: High levels of stress. A loud inner critic. A striving to be good enough instead of a focus on getting better.

Making the shift to growth mindset has had a significant positive impact on my coaching and my business. I have developed the Grit and Growth Summer Retreat in the City to pass along what I have learned and to help people make this crucial shift from fear to dare. I hope you can join me.

Posted in: Leadership, Practices to try, Reflection & Mindfulness | Tags: , , | Permalink | No Comments →

The civil in civil litigation

October 19, 2012

Here’s the plain simple truth: effective client advocates act with integrity. Resorting to tricks, deceptions, abusive language, bullying, last minute tactics and the like does not make you a great lawyer. It actually means you are a [insert four letter word here].

Thank you to Marie Henein, for her call for civility at the Bar, in her contribution to Precedent Magazine’s Big Ideas section:

“While civility is an important aspect of advocacy, professionalism and credibility, it does not make you less of a fighter, less fearless or less vigorous an advocate. When Winston Churchill sent a letter to the Japanese ambassador announcing war upon Japan, he ended it with: “I have the honour to be, with high consideration, Sir, Your obedient servant.” When criticized, Churchill said this about his unfailing civility even in the midst of a war: “Some people did not like this ceremonial style. But after all, when you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.” Fight and vigorous advocacy are not anathema to civility.”

I regularly hear from litigators about the painful machinations and bullying behavior of opposing counsel. The litigators I knows are lawyers lawyers. They are highly skilled advocates and are respected by the judiciary and their colleagues. They get to the best result for their clients while treating opposing counsel with civility. They are civil litigators in both senses of the word. Regrettably they are at risk of being outnumbered by the bullies.

I applaud Henein for her article and recommend to the legal bloggers, writers, educators, and practitioners that we continue speaking out for the benefits of civility and the ills of bullying tactics.

Next time a client tells you they are looking for a bulldog remember this:

“According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) a Bulldog’s “disposition should be equable and kind, resolute and courageous (not vicious or aggressive), and demeanor should be pacific and dignified. These attributes should be countenanced by the expression and behavior.”

The prize winning bulldogs are dignified and resolute. The snarling and snapping members of the breed are neutered.

Posted in: Client Relations, Leadership | Permalink | No Comments →

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