Best Business Advice for Lawyers

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I was listening to after-show of Episode 10 of Back to Work. Merlin Mann has what I consider the best and simplest advice for anyone in business.

Here’s Merlin is voicing some people’s problem with Apple.

‘I don’t understand: why does Apple only make this costly stuff that only people who like Apple buy? It’s crazy, it’s almost like they don’t care about the people who don’t buy their stuff. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. Don’t they understand that I’m never going to buy their stuff?’

And that, I think, is a pretty good summation of how a lot of businesses see the world.

‘Why don’t you care more about how much I’m never going to buy your thing. Why doesn’t that bother you as much as it bothers me? You should care so much more about how I’m never going to buy your thing.’

And instead they’re not going to burn cycles on that. They’re  gonna go like, “Yeah, we’re a company! Yeah, we’re gonna do lock in. Yeah, we’re gonna do dumb shit. But, yeah we’re going to do that for people who have a fuck ton of money who are really happy to give it to us instead of making 35 tablets who don’t run that well and then make you feel bad about it.

What does this have to do with running a law practice?

Don’t try to make people who are never going to buy your services happy.

And, if you are blogging, you see this every day!  Read the rest of this entry »

Permission to do Cool Things

Filed under: Editorials | Tags: , , , , |

I was listening to Episode 5 of Back to Work. A brief summary: Dan and Merlin discussed how to let people give you a shot, a break, an opportunity to work on something cool and meaningful.


Stop whinging on about not getting opportunities. You haven’t gotten a shot because either:

  • You’re not good enough yet (but you don’t even know enough to realize it). Or,
  • You haven’t proven yourself capable to your immediate supervisor who doesn’t want to stick his or her neck out by giving you something cool (e.g. something valuable, which could get them fired if all goes pear-shaped on your watch).
  • You are a real pain in the ass because you constantly go on and on about not getting cool projects and/or have to be kept on to get your current work done.

Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. It is all a matter of how long it takes to get it together and start doing stuff well enough to get noticed.

Merlin offered a “ask not what your country can do for you” suggestion on getting to do better projects.

  • Keep in mind that your boss isn’t there to please you. Your boss has to please his boss.
  • Instead of asking to do something that helps you, ask if there is something you can do help your boss.

Making your boss’ life easier is a good way of showing your value and it is fairly certain to be on something that your boss will pay attention to (so your work will not go unnoticed).

Some people are not going to like this since it is a brown-nosing approach. Well, in a way it is. You are paying attention to you boss. However, it is not about getting ahead by being a sycophant and not producing anything (you are being a sycophant and producing something). Seriously though, it is about showing that you can listen to a supervisor’s needs and then meet them – which is what getting ahead is about.

Another option is to just wow your boss with something they are not expecting. Which is great, if you can figure about something that actually will wow them and not result in the following response:

You were doing WHAT on company time?

This gets to the topic of permission which was to be the main thrust of this post. The earlier section certainly still applies to many lawyers; especially those in big law. After 19 years of education and dog-eat-dog competition for a starting position, you find yourself in a position akin to an Egyptian slave moving blocks for Pharaoh’s pyramid. Figuring out what to get noticed is what it’s all about.

For solo attorney, this is the reason we left the rat race. Being a solo also means not having to prove things to a supervisor. It also means we are free of the main thing holding back attorney who are not their own boss: you don’t have to ask for permission.

  • Want to write article? Go for it!
  • Want to dive into class action cases? Why not!

There is no one stopping you. You may not be qualified to handle that yet. However, there is nothing stopping you from starting down that path.

I can’t just choose to be Gary Spence!

Lame example? Fine. You pick someone. Got it? Ok, let’s move on. Of course, you cannot choose the result. The result is what happens in response to your action and in response to the actions of lots of other people. For example: you can choose to get into politics, but you don’t get to “chose” that you will be elected. That outcome is out of your hands.

Another thing that holds people back is mistaking the first step for the outcome.

Lifting these tiny dumbbells isn’t going to get me bench-pressing 300 pounds.

Really? Because sitting on the couch has been getting you there? Obviously you are not going to go from 20 pound dumbbells to lifting massive plates. However, you will never get to lifting 300 pounds without starting much smaller. And you will never reach the goal by stopping after the first step. Or worse, never taking a step at all.

So, if you have the freedom to do thing, get out there and do it! Just keep in mind that you cannot control outcome and don’t blame the first step for not taking you all the way to your goal.

Creative Commons License photo credit: noaha

Each Minute Costs The Same

Filed under: Editorials, Podcasts | Tags: , , , , |

I love Merlin Mann. He’s an irreverent business guru: he is just as likely to drop some amazing wisdom on you as to make a bathroom joke. However, he will provide insight on why you are not achieving what you want. I recently started listening to Merlin’s new podcast with Dan Benjamin, Back to Work on the 5by5 network. Half way through the most recent show, I had to stop, and download all the prior episodes to start listening from the beginning.

This section from Episode 1 made me stop in my tracks:

Merlin: I want to talk to people who do ship. And everyone out there who thinks they have to live in San Francisco to do something cool to realize that we have all had to carry our own box of t-shirts around Scotland. And the only thing that’s stopping you for doing that [shipping], on some level, not on every level – you don’t get to just push a button and have a TV show tomorrow, but neither did those folks, they had to do a bunch of stuff and then not do even more stuff to make it happen.

I want people think about why they couldn’t ship because of whatever. Because of their pen, because all they have is iPhone 4. Because they are really curious about how this whole Verizon / Android thing is going to shake out. Why couldn’t you ship?

Dan: But in a way, it almost sounds like you are talking about the regular human process of procrastination or making excuses.

M: Yes. I think procrastination is… an effect and not a cause, in my opinion.

D: What’s the cause of procrastination. Read the rest of this entry »

Death Bed Career Counseling

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Reality doesn’t have a resort button.

– Merlin Mann

Merlin could just as easily say, “life doesn’t have a reset button.” You got what you got. You make with it what you make with it. You’ve heard the stories about the person born in the third world who travels to another country, starts a business, works their pants off, and becomes a success. Yeah, I hate them too. They completely blow the curve, don’t they?

Ok. But here is the thing. There are things you want to do. Things you think of from time to time, between driving the kids to school and trying to remember where you stuck that motion. Read the rest of this entry »