This is an excerpt from my book, A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Life, Not Just a Living: Ordinary lawyers doing extraordinary things.

When I talk to lawyers about finding a niche, there’s usually an audible groan. Most lawyers want to leave their options open. They say, “I can do a lot of things, so why not make a list that says that I can do them all?” Two reasons come to mind.

One is that a long list signals that you’re not an expert at any of them. And two, it’s hard to get referrals, because no one can remember what you do. It takes courage and vision to draw a line in the sand and declare your specialty—your little corner of the world, so to speak. And it requires tenacity to become known for that niche, so you need to enjoy it.

Not many lawyers have the courage, the vision, or the tenacity to become known for a specialty like Michelle Estlund. She will tell you how she found a niche she enjoys and became an authority in the area. Michelle Estlund is the most recognized Interpol defense lawyer in the world. Yes, I said world.

Black: Michelle, what was going on with your practice when you realized something needed to change?

Estlund: I had been practicing criminal defense for most of my career when I met you, and     I really enjoyed it, but I was also feeling complacent. I knew that I wanted to add something to my practice and grow it into a very complementary part of my life, rather than just have a job or even just a career.

And I remember that in our discussions you had told me several times about developing a niche practice and to kind of be on the lookout for that. I remember you encouraged me to focus on a very specific area. And I had heard this from other sources also, but it seemed like so many things related to criminal law were already saturated with specialty attorneys.

I knew that I loved criminal law. I loved human rights and politics. But I didn’t really honestly think I could mesh all those things together in a law practice that I both cared about and would be lucrative. I thought, that will just never happen.

Black: Explain how your “aha” moment came about.

Estlund: I remember that a client walked into my office with an Interpol case and asked if I could help. This client was wanted out of Venezuela. This was at a time when the Venezuelan government was nationalizing various industries—including the banking industry. And in order to obtain the assets being held by this particular bank, the government had issued arrest warrants for the heads of the bank and the people who were on the board of directors, including that particular client.

I started researching extensively, and what I realized was that there was no real in-depth treatment of Interpol anywhere online. I saw that even the attorneys who were advertising themselves as being experienced were in fact not, once you did a little bit of digging. Nobody was looking at this on a profound level and I realized I could do better than nobody.

Black: I remember what happened next.

Estlund: I told you, “I think I have an idea,” and I told you about the Interpol research I had done and the client that had approached me. And I remember you smiled and told me I had to give you my credit card so we could buy a URL and start a blog. I remember that I did take out my credit card and hand it to you, and I did not want to let go of it because I knew that once I did, that this thing was going to start—and that was really scary for me.

I remember that you told me, “You’ll be the leading expert on Interpol,” and I knew that you were a crazy person. And turns out that kind of ended up happening, didn’t it?

Black: What were the obstacles that almost stopped you?

Estlund: I think my primary limitation at that time was a concern or a fear of criticism. And this might sound odd coming from somebody who is a criminal defense trial attorney, who should be used to criticism and used to hearing no, but this was different for me, because it wasn’t a set of facts in a case that was presented to me, for me to protect and defend another person. This was for me, which is often more difficult. It was my writing, my thoughts, and my ideas. The idea of something that personal being critiqued was very challenging for me.

I wanted to start a blog that was geared toward other attorneys, potential clients, academics, and people like that with the goal of educating people about Interpol, establishing credibility for myself, I wanted to attract clients, of course, and I wanted to advocate for reform where it was needed. Like I said, part of what I wanted to do was advocate for reform of Interpol proceedings, and I was worried that people would think, well, who does she think she is? Why would we listen to this Miami lawyer over in Europe?

This is an international, quasi-legal organization, and I just didn’t feel that I had the gravitas that I needed in order to effect change.

Also, I was worried more personally for my practice—that if I publicized myself as being a specialist or focusing in a niche practice, people would think that that’s all I could do, that I’m a one-trick pony. So those were my concerns.

Black:What was your strategy?

Estlund: In terms of strategy, I can’t say that I had a specific strategy thought out, other than I knew who my target audience was going to be, and I knew that I wanted to serve as a source of information that wasn’t otherwise readily available. And I hoped that consistent blogging about my topic would also force me to stay on my toes, and it has.

Black: So what did you learn, and how did you muster up the courage?

Estlund: I eventually accepted that no one knows everything, even experts. And I remembered my favorite, most well respected professors and mentors throughout my life all had something in common. It was that they didn’t back away from saying “I don’t know,” because they loved what they did, and they knew how to go find out the information that they needed. I knew I could do that too.

I also realized that we can’t wait until we’re not afraid to act. It’s not brave if you’re not scared. Even the most seasoned attorneys are afraid of something. For me, it’s not judges, it’s not juries, it’s not law enforcement officers, and it’s not public speaking. For me, what I was really afraid of was writing about something I cared about and having it not be perfect in public and online.

I worked obsessively for weeks to research, write, and edit my first few posts that would be used to launch my blog. I liked what I wrote, but then I almost didn’t publish, because everything would be out there, and that was really scary for me.

There is a movie called We Bought a Zoo, and there’s a line in that movie that goes like this: the lead character says, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage, just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.”

For me, simple and small as it sounds, my twenty seconds were when I clicked publish and nothing bad happened. Actually, nothing happened at all for two or three months, and then my readership went up. The Department of Justice and Interpol and universities and private individuals were reading my blog, and I knew it because I could see my analytics. People started calling me. People started consulting me. And people started retaining me.

Black: What do you find satisfying about your practice now?

Estlund: I have to say that one of the most satisfying elements of my practice is that I can provide my clients with one of the most basic human needs, and that is to be heard. When they tell me their stories, and I put the story into writing, and I back it up with evidence, we submit that to Interpol and ask for help.

Many of my clients have expressed to me that even after our first meeting they feel a sense of relief and release just from being heard. And by the time we bring their case to the attention of Interpol, they know that someone has not only listened, but is on their side in a pretty epic battle. That is extremely valuable to me on a personal level.

Black: What advice would you give others?

Estlund: I guess I would first say, you need to invest financially and invest your time in your craft, if you want to be outstanding. Nobody wants to spend money on un-fun stuff. When you spend money in targeted ways, to advance your career, it does come back to you.

I travel to seminars, even if I’m not speaking or even if they’re very small, when I know that someone I want to meet will be there, or that I will learn something, even if it’s little. Most people won’t do that.

I spend money on my blog maintenance—although you can do them for free, too—because I get better traction that way and that traction brings me cases.

I take time, aside from actually working on my cases, to write a blog, to maintain contact with people who are in the field, and to stay on top of my game, because I know that if I don’t, somebody else will.

When you’re in doubt about doing something or not, do the affirmative. Say yes. Just do it. If you take a step, or if you say yes to an opportunity, something could happen. It’s not certain, but if you don’t take the step, nothing will happen—and that is certain.

Listen, it can be easy to burn out. It can be really easy to lose steam or lose faith. The law is hard work when it’s done right. But when you seek out motivated people, or you go to relevant seminars, or you reach out to congratulate someone, or just ask a colleague to lunch to learn more about how they work at a personal or professional level, you’re increasing your level of engagement in your profession.

The law is personal, or at least it should be, in my opinion. Staying engaged allows us to stay motivated, relevant, and informed. And that’s how our practices can feel more alive and more vibrant.

Black: What does your Interpol practice look like today?

Estlund: I’ve been really, really lucky after including Interpol in my practice to be able to see that both domestic and international government agencies read my blog, that leading human rights organizations in the United States and Europe consult with me on Interpol issues.

I even was able to attend a European Parliament symposium on red-notice abuse. Not a lot of people have had a chance to do that, and that’s what this has done for my practice.

I have clients from all over the globe that I’ve successfully represented before Interpol, and I talk with journalists on Interpol matters pretty frequently, and give interviews to the media and advise about Interpol matters.

I’ve developed new contacts with attorneys who live abroad, and I have friendships that I never would have anticipated. I think that one of the best things that’s come about as a result of my Interpol practice is that I had the privilege of representing a former CIA operative pro bono in a case where the US government, in my opinion, abandoned him.

My blog readership now includes people from all over the world—think tanks, journalists, academics, prospective and past clients, and other attorneys. I’ve seen that my practice has evolved. I now am able to be more selective in the number and the types of cases that I choose to accept. And my fee structure has evolved as well.

Black: Are you glad you gave me your credit card that day years ago?

Estlund: I am. I thought you were so crazy, but yes. Yes.

The Takeaway
Michelle’s story illustrates the power of drawing a line in the sand. She found a niche that she was passionate about on multiple levels, made a commitment, even though it was scary, and she never looked back.

Michelle set out to invest her time and money to differentiate herself in her local market. What she found was a global community she loves working with and clients she connects to on a profound level. She created a life, not just a living.

If you’ve been following us for a while, then you know we offer our clients social media marketing. However, we also understand the drive many lawyers feel to try their hand at managing their business’s online persona themselves. If you’re tackling your firm’s social media presence alone, try these two proven strategies to make the process as easy and effective as possible.

1. ESTABLISH A BUSINESS PRESENCE

You’d be surprised just how many law firm owners neglect to make separate pages for their firms, instead relying on their personal social media accounts for marketing. We always recommend making separate business accounts, starting with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This will help you separate your business life from your personal life and give you a second way to reach people. For efficiency, we suggest starting with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn because you can share photos, videos, or text on all three platforms, making it easy to cross-post.

Pro Tip: Once you’ve established your core accounts, you can start building your firm’s presence on Instagram. Create a business account. Then, every once in a while, shoot a video or take a behind-the-scenes snapshot at the office. Stick with simple subjects and short captions—don’t overthink it!

2. CREATE A SHARING FORMULA

In a previous post, we shared our strategy for turning one piece of content into over 35 pieces. To do it, set content benchmarks for each week. How many times are you going to share your blog posts, links to your website, or inspirational quotes? Nail down numbers for each objective so you can just “plug and play” to stay consistent. Remember—you can share the same post multiple times on different platforms or with different captions. Aim for content balance with a mix of media types, and don’t forget to throw some fun posts, like inspirational quotes, in the mix for interest.

Pro Tip: Spend a couple dollars to boost every post you make on Facebook. More people will see your content, and that exposure is worth the price. Using these strategies, you’ll be able to put your brand on the map. If you’d like backup implementing them or want to take things to the next level, contact us today.

The following is an excerpt from my book,  A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Life, Not Just a Living: Ordinary lawyers doing extraordinary things.

Everyone knows that success in business is in direct correlation with the relationships one fosters. In the legal profession, relationships have been the foundation of building a practice or a career path. It was the only option before lawyers were allowed to advertise and certainly before social media.

Many internet marketers beat the drum about SEO and pay-per-click advertising. They have their place in a modern business development strategy, but they will never replace a good old-fashioned relationship.

So how do you build relationships that matter? One of the ways is to listen—be present. You never know where a seemingly insignificant conversation may lead. To listen is the greatest gift you can give another human being. We all know the feeling we get when someone isn’t listening. It’s dismissive and demeaning, certainly not conducive to building relationships.

There is a secret to building relationships that matter, relationships that are genuine and authentic. It’s about looking for opportunities to connect on common ground.

I spoke with a lawyer that is a master relationship builders. Clarissa Rodriguez is a shining example of why building relationships is the key to a practice you love. She’s a commercial litigator and an international arbitrator. She describes herself as becoming Indiana Jones.

Black: So Clarissa, I am dying to hear the backstory of you becoming Indiana Jones.

Rodriguez: Well, believe it or not, Indiana Jones raised me. I can recite any line from any of the first three films cold. At age nine, I boldly declared to my parents that I’d be an archeologist when I grew up. Instead of being proud or impressed, my parents were practical. They reminded me I didn’t like the outdoors. I’d prove them wrong and try to camp in our backyard, but I wouldn’t make it to sundown. Archeology seemed out of the question.

Despite the setback, I found myself taking church history courses, art classes, and getting a minor in anthropology in college. I didn’t, however, become an archeologist. I became an attorney.

My practice area has always been international. Miami being the hub between Latin America and Europe has afforded me the chance to work with international clients on cross-border investments, international arbitration, and litigation.

This focus drew me to professional organizations for international practitioners, like the Miami International Arbitration Society and the Florida Bar International Law Section. I volunteered for everything to get involved, and it paid off. Within a few years, I found myself voted on the executive council of the International Law Section, and later onto the executive board. I’m slated to become the fourth woman president of the International Law Section in thirty-eight years.

Every year, the International Law Section hosts a premier conference in Miami, titled the iLaw. The iLaw 2017 invited world renowned Donald S. Burris to be the keynote speaker. Mr. Burris’s work was characterized in the movie Woman in Gold.

As you may know, Woman in Gold is a film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, about Holocaust survivor Maria Altmann’s fight against the Austrian government to retrieve a series of Nazi-looted art taken from her family during World War II. It happens that Maria’s family had commissioned the artist Gustav Klimt to paint the portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer. He painted what would be called Woman in Gold, also known as Austria’s Mona Lisa.

Maria Altmann’s quest was to get back her family’s art collection. She hired a friend of the family, Randy Schoenberg. He was a solo practitioner renting a cubicle in the same building as Don Burris.

Black: Neither Randy nor Mr. Burris were big firm lawyers?

Rodriguez: No, neither. Amazing, right? Randy and Mr. Burris had been friends for years. Mr. Burris bumped into Randy in the elevator of his office building. He asked Randy what was going on and catching up, when Randy mentioned he had opened up his own firm and needed help with the Altmann case. Don agreed to help.

Black: So did either of them have experience in restituting looted art?

Rodriguez: No. Neither of them had experience retrieving art from anyone, much less looted art. Together they sued the Austrian government, and fought for eleven years to retrieve the artwork. They successfully argued before the Supreme Court and won the right to sue the Austrian government.

Once they had the right to sue Austria, they engaged in an international arbitration and won. The Austrian government was compelled to return the entire collection to the Altmann family, consisting of eleven pieces of art, setting the precedent for this kind of work.

The movie Woman in Gold chronicles the legal battle. And since then, Mr. Burris has become the preeminent legal expert in the field of looted art and its restitution. Hearing this, I knew I would enjoy his talk at the conference.

Black: How did it come about that you met Mr. Burris?

Rodriguez: The International Law Section was hosting an opening ceremony cocktail party for the iLaw conference, and I was asked to entertain Mr. Burris and his wife, a California couple in their seventies, and make them feel welcome. I was hooked.

Mr. Burris and his wife invited me to dinner, and by the end of the night, I had an invitation to their home in Los Angeles. We became instant friends, and he insisted I call him Don.

The next day, at the conference, his speech “From Tragedy to Triumph: Altmann, Benningson, and the Pursuit of Looted Art” was a splash of cold water on me. His work was impressive, inherently noble, and utterly captivating. For days I couldn’t stop thinking about Don’s lecture. It was an adrenaline rush.

Fast forward to a few days later, when you and I had our follow-up meeting to develop my practice. You knew I had lots of international work experience. And I remember we were trying to find the right one to explore and focus on. Casually, I mentioned the conference and began talking about Don, and suddenly your eyes widened. You screamed, and “Wait, stop!” Remember?

Black: Oh, yes, I do.

Rodriguez: You asked, “Why didn’t you start our session with this? Are you listening to what you’re saying?”

Honestly, no. I was telling you about meeting this amazing man with this incredible practice. And what you heard was me discuss the invitation to dinner, the invitation to visit in LA, and the invitation to stay in touch. It had not occurred to me that these invitations meant something. You recognized I had a connection with Don because of our mutual passion and his area of practice. It was international, historical, and unique; it was exactly what I wanted to do.

Remember how we immediately set aside the rest of the afternoon and got to work on becoming Indiana Jones?

Black: We were both so excited, weren’t we? Explain how your relationship with Mr. Burris has evolved so far.

Rodriguez: Becoming Indiana Jones has been a blast. It happens that I’m already drawn to cases involving the discovery of antiquities, the battle over the return of stolen art, and the processes used to resolve these types of disputes. With your help, we created a series of soft agenda items toward the main goal, which is co-counseling with Don on these types of cases.

The first step we crafted together was building rapport. We fine-tuned the legal and news feeds I read to focus on looted art cases. Every time I saw a case, I printed it and wrote down a handwritten note with my thoughts on the case.

When I called him, because I was coming to Los Angeles and wanted to schedule a coffee, he mentioned he received and read everything I sent him. With your creativity, strategy and support, I’ve met with Don in Miami, in LA, and recently in New York. Each personal visit has helped advance the idea of working together.

Don mentioned we should use his cases to pursue Cuban looted art, exactly what we hoped to hear. Since then, I’ve been researching this issue and how it relates to Nazi-looted-art cases. South Florida is special for this practice area because of the large Jewish and Cuban communities, both unique diasporas.

Black: Now, as I recall, you were skeptical about doing this, right?

Rodriguez: I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about our goal you and I set to have a formal affiliation with Don, but I soldiered on, so to speak. While attending a few lectures with Don, I broached the subject of my office serving as his Florida go-to office and him becoming of counsel at my firm. I was so nervous. He thought it was a great idea, because he is asked to speak in Florida regularly.

He’s constantly meeting Holocaust survivors and heirs, and thought the idea of having a local office was a good idea. Additionally, I mentioned needing his help as I pursue Cuban-looted-art cases. He is excited to see what we can do together.

As you said, if you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?

Black: Absolutely. And next is all about action, and you can’t wait for permission, can you?

Rodriguez: You, my partner, Laura Reich, and I sprang into action. We crafted a fait accompli; we updated our firm website to include Don as of counsel. We incorporated his biography, his cases, and expanded the breadth of services we can offer under restituting and restoring looted art.

During my most recent meeting with Don in New York, I presented him with the of counsel mockup of our new website together. He loved it and gave it two thumbs up. Don and I attended our first potential client meeting together. It’s a case involving a cotton mill in Germany confiscated by the Nazis. I can hear the soundtrack to Indiana Jones playing in the background.

Black: Clarissa, I am now a believer. You are becoming Indiana Jones.

The Takeaway
What did Clarissa do? She tapped into wisdom and passion with a cross-generational relationship. And I’m sure Mr. Burris was just as thrilled to find a young lawyer who was as passionate about looted art as he is, and indicated he wanted to work with Clarissa.

She didn’t wait for permission to create the prototype for the website. Her fear of overstepping her bounds didn’t stop her. What was the worst that could happen? He said no? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time someone had told Clarissa no. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I encourage you to rent the movie Woman in Gold, and you will understand why Clarissa is so excited about this relationship and the opportunities that lie ahead.

So I ask you, who is in your area of interest that you could help and learn from? Commit to finding that person and give the relationship top priority. I promise you things will start to happen that were once unimaginable.

This article originally appeared in Forbes.com.

Work-life balance is a phrase we’re all familiar with, but what does it really mean? Does anyone know?

I don’t believe in balance. I believe in harmony. We’ve got one life to live, and work is part of our life, just like the time with our families is part of our life. The time we spend running errands, driving in the car, pursuing our hobbies — it’s all part of our life.

I don’t like the word “balance.” To me, it conjures up an image of a seesaw on the playground, with children scrambling around to make sure that each side is weighted exactly the same. It’s not realistic. If, by chance, everything aligns and you achieve balance, it’s not sustainable. That’s just not how life works.

Work doesn’t fit into a neat little bundle, and neither does your family, and neither do your hobbies. Trying to “balance” it all out doesn’t make sense. Instead, I believe in creating harmony throughout our lives: harmony among your career, your family, your personal hobbies and your friends.

Here are three steps to make this happen:

1. Don’t let anyone else tell you what your life should look like. 

Too many people spend their lives trying to meet the expectations of other people. Sometimes it’s our parents or boss. Sometimes it’s our friends or neighbors. Sometimes it’s colleagues.

Here’s the truth: It’s your life, not theirs. You’re the only person who gets to define success, and your opinion is the only one that really counts. You don’t have to dedicate your life to climbing the corporate ladder if you don’t want to. You don’t have to drive a Mercedes. You don’t have to have kids. You don’t have to settle down in the suburbs. None of these are bad things. If you want some or all of that and you attain it, that’s amazing. What’s important is that you don’t spend your life trying to meet other people’s expectations of what your life should look like.

You’re the only person who gets to decide that.

2. Define the goals and priorities that truly matter to you.  

Now that we’re clear that you are in the driver’s seat of your own life, the next step is to honestly and clearly define the goals and priorities that matter to you.

What do you want to accomplish? For example, do you want to make partner at your law firm? Or maybe go out and start your own company? Raise a large family? Travel the world? Be honest with yourself: What do you really want your life to look like?

Then, reflect on your priorities. What’s important to you and how do you want to spend your time? Your priorities might be time with your family, time spent pursuing personal hobbies, time with your friends, time building your business or whatever else fuels you.

There are no right or wrong answers. All that matters is that you’re honest with yourself about what’s really important in your life.

3. Get creative and ‘integrate’ your life. 

Once you’ve defined what you want your life to look like, the next step is making it a reality. The truth is, if you’re willing to think outside the box and get creative, you’ll be surprised at the harmony you can develop.

For example, I live and serve clients primarily in Miami, but I have family in Denver. For years I struggled to “balance” those two realities. And then it hit me one day: Integrate. So I began to develop a book of business in Denver, and now I coach clients there — and also get to spend quality time with my mom.

What does this look like for you? How can you integrate your life?

I have a client who’s a licensed pilot and loves to fly. He integrates this passion with his work by flying his plane all across the state to meet with clients.

Perhaps getting involved in your child’s school is important to you, but you’re also building a business. Can you use your child’s school events as an opportunity to network with other parents and potentially develop business?

What are your goals, what are your priorities, and how can you shape your life in order to create harmony?

You’ve got one life to live, so live it your way. 

Our time is too precious to waste conforming to the expectations other people have for us. What really matters is what you want your life to look like. If you’re willing to be honest with yourself and define your goals, I believe that with some creativity, you can create real harmony in your life.

Not balance, but harmony.

That’s a goal worth pursuing.

Are you struggling to charge what you deserve? Raising your rates can be tricky, and right now, it might seem particularly tough or even insensitive to consider. That’s because, as we write this, our economy is in the very early stages of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. However, not only do you deserve to be paid well for your work, but ensuring you can charge a reasonable amount could also make the difference in keeping your own family and firm safe in the long run.

So, let’s dive right in! As I’m sure you know by now, content is a powerful tool. It can touch pretty much every aspect of your firm, and that includes your rates. If that seems impossible, consider this: Great content will build your reputation, positioning you as the expert and the go-to thought leader in your practice area. And when you’re seen as an expert, you can charge like an expert.

This outcome hinges on having a steady stream of the right kind of content. Most importantly, it has to be educational and relevant. You need to appear to be the sage on your topic, offering wisdom and advice to readers that answer the questions they’ve already been asking in their heads. Nothing is more compelling for a reader than finding all of the answers they need in one place—whether that’s your blog, your website, your podcast, or your social media platforms. Ideally, all of these spaces should be full of educational content.

That said, you don’t need to do an insanely deep dive into every topic you discuss to prove you’re educated. Remember, your average reader likely doesn’t know a lot about your practice area — you aren’t writing for other lawyers in your field here. As long as you focus on the things you do, stay on topic, and offer some useful information, you’ll effectively build your reputation and give yourself the brand boost you need to raise your rates.

Here at Spotlight Branding, we’ve had multiple lawyers we work with tell us that because of their content changes, people have started coming in to their consults more ready to move forward. These new clients are excited to work with them because of what they’ve seen about their firm online. And at the end of the day, the more in demand you are, the more you can charge.

When you’re ready to actually raise your rates, the smartest way to go is implementing an annual or semiannual rate increase. Whatever timeline you choose, scheduling these increases will motivate you to keep putting out great content and doing your best work. You’ll feel like you deserve the increase, and the more targeted, top-quality content you put out, the less resistant your clients and prospects will be.

In fact, raising your rates will soon start working with your content to improve your reputation—people expect the best lawyers to charge a bit more and could get suspicious if your services and price seem too good to be true.

We’ve seen solo and small law firms charge rates all over the spectrum, from $200 an hour to $600 an hour. We’re not saying you need to be at the top of that spectrum to succeed, or that you have to be in the middle, but you should be charging a rate you’re comfortable with. Don’t undersell yourself or listen to the people who say you need to be in a huge firm to charge what you deserve. With the right content strategy, you can make it happen — and we are here to help. To learn more about how we can build the perfect content strategy together, contact us today.

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If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t possibly take care of your family, clients and community! It’s not a selfish act… it is an act of love you have for others.

It’s a hard concept to embrace in the best of times. And now it’s not only hard but it’s mandatory. You will need all your strength, energy and clear headedness. You can’t help others from an empty vessel.

I asked several of my clients to share what they learned that could be taken into the post Covid-19 world as we all create our new normal.

How did you take care of yourself or not?

1. “Without a 2 hour commute every day, I’ve found time to exercise at home every morning using Youtube videos for the first time in a year.”  Karen Lapekas, Tax Law

2. “At first, I was less active than in the weeks before the shutdown. I had been going to gym classes about three times a week. When the gym shut down, I shut down. It took a couple of weeks before I started running outside. That helped, and then lately my fiancé and I have been walking along the beach in Fort Lauderdale at night, getting exercise and enjoying the scenery. My diet has actually improved. Because we’re forced to eat more store bought food, and because my fiancé is very health conscious, I think I’m eating better. Before, when going to the office, there was an easy temptation to eat out or get fast food. That temptation hasn’t been there during the shutdown1. James Peterson, Employment Law

3. “It became important early on in quarantine that I had to continue to exercise, eat right, and try to stay productive (even when not working).  You realize how easy it can be to fall into unhealthy patterns when the ability to live life as a “couch potato” is such an easy alternative.”Jeffrey Lapin, Commercial Litigator

I’d like to share a lesson you taught me, long ago! ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING! Karen Lapekas, Tax Law

4. “Stress and increased anxiety are quite overwhelming these days.  I often did not eat until the end of a busy day, which was not too unfamiliar to pre-COVID19. I find it harder to offset the emotional stress. More people are stressed or depressed because they are ill, irritable, or suffering a loss.  There are not many outlets available. I find it harder to stay motivated and positive.” Sheena Benjamin-Wise, Family Law

5. “It’s been a rollercoaster between self-care and total abandonment. I started off with a commitment to keep dieting and exercising and carrying on as usual. March was good. April was total abandonment. I managed to do a few things for myself but very little. So I made a compromise that May will be about doing a little better. The Zoom calls require me to get dressed and look respectable. I am trying to carve out time for myself to exercise. I’m still working on finding time to read books and do home projects. But we’ll get there.” Clarissa Rodriguez, International Law

6. “I probably haven’t done a good job at this.  With school kids at home and managing the firm, there is very little “me” time. But I’m trying.” Stefanie Deters, Trust and Estate Law

My Takeaway
 
Remember, to take care of yourself is not a selfish act… it is an act of love you have for others.

P.S. You might be wondering about the photo I used. Well, I’m a passionate amateur photographer. And have found an outlet for my passion. I hope you like the photo I took in Paris, France.

Most lawyers I know jam their calendars each day with more than two people could accomplish in a week. Is this you? It’s a vicious cycle because we feel terrible not being able to accomplish what’s on the list… instead of feeling great about what was accomplished. We literally sabotage our success and the feeling of accomplishment! Now, how ridiculous is that! Maybe it’s time to start looking at things differently. I read an article by Alex Cavoulacos (The Muse) from her Forbes article, that makes a lot of sense… One Founders Best Productivity Trick: Save time and do less.

Here are a few questions Cavoulacos proposes that will help you, as she says—”save time and do less.”

1. “Do You Say No? Most people have a deep need to be liked. As a result, we say yes to almost everything that’s asked of us, which makes it impossible to do everything well, and zaps our time and productivity.”

As a lawyer there are big reasons you feel compelled to say yes… you are asked by your partners or clients that require a yes. But there is still a way to control the load and stress. You can say… “Yes, will next Tuesday work for you?” When you do that you are able to gauge the urgency of the matter, since most people are not asking you to drop everything you’re doing to address their matter. But when urgency is needed you have let the person know that you can’t get to it until next Tuesday, so they can choose to move on to ask someone else. And you have the opportunity to drop what you’re doing to help with this matter.

2. “Are You Delegating Enough? Whether or not you’re a manager, there are opportunities to delegate to colleagues. If you’re doing everything yourself, and think ‘it’s just faster for me to do it,’ you may be a delegatophobe. Take a good look at your tasks over the last week—are all of those really your job description”

This is a never-ending cycle for lawyers. Yes, it may be faster for you to do it yourself now… but if that happens several times, not so! Often times it would be much more efficient if you spent the time it requires to teach someone how you like the task done… consequently it’s permanently off your desk, saving a a much bigger chunk of time.

3. “Is Everything on Your To-Do List Necessary? Don’t consider an endless to-do list a challenge to get it all done, when it’s in fact a challenge to prioritize. If you haven’t done a task in weeks, or it’s always what’s pushed to a later date that might be a sign that it’s not actually necessary.”

Consider NECESSARY vs. DISLIKE. Often times we put the things we don’t like doing to the end of the priority list. AND it’s usually business development activities that you don’t like doing. Figure out a different way to accomplish the same outcome… something you like doing.

4. “Are All of the Recurring Meetings on Your Calendar Necessary? Cancel any that aren’t impactful or that could be replaced by an email update. For meetings you keep, reassess if the format, length, and attendees are contributing to their effectiveness. As entrepreneur Jim Belosic explains, this saves both time and money—a one-hour meeting with 17 employees who make an average of $40,000 per year costs $232.88. Yikes.”

I would like to point out that in a law firm those dollar figures are outrageous! Six people: 2 partners, 3 associates and one paralegal, could cost you $1500 – $2000 in non-billable time. That’s a very costly meeting!

5. “Are You a Slave to Your Inbox? Speaking of things you don’t need to do: You do not need to answer every email that comes in. Give yourself permission to archive irrelevant cold emails and FYI emails you’re cc:ed or bcc:ed on. And while you’re at it, unsubscribe from anything you don’t read (no, you don’t need to read every ecommerce newsletter you get signed up for). Saying no to email is key to making time for real work.”

A key strategy for managing email is NOT to look at it every time you hear an email come in. Consider this… if you were with a client you would concentrate on that meeting and get to your emails when you finish. Why not adopt the same strategy through out your day and only review emails every 60 minutes. Imagine how much better you could concentrate on your pressing priorities.

Productivity is about setting priorities and not letting outside forces hijack your time. Now more than ever you need to make time for the things that are really important to you. Every minute you waste on irrelevant business activities take time away from the people and things you love! 

P.S. You might be wondering about the photo I used. Well, I’m a passionate amateur photographer. And have found an outlet for my passion. I hope you like the photo I took in Paris, France.

If you listen to the majority of legal marketing companies out there, they’ll likely tell you that the only way people are going to find the awesome website you have is if you appease the Google gods and do a plethora of things to get Google’s attention. But that’s only because they want to sell you SEO services which can cost you thousands of dollars every month for the hope of being on the first page of a search.

Hopefully you don’t really believe the SEO people when they tell you that, because there are other, very obvious ways people can find you online.

1. Social Media

Sharing blogs, videos, and more from your website on your social media platforms is a super easy way to make sure people find you online. If you have a good number of Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections, then your job is pretty easy.

Facebook, however, is where you can really get a lot of traffic to your website. Share the blogs and videos as we mentioned, and then boost those posts. Boosting is like creating a little ad that appears on people’s timelines. The best part is that you can create custom audiences so you can target the exact kind of people you want to visit your site.

2. Paid Ads

Whether you do this through social media or Google’s Pay-Per-Click platform (also known as AdWords), paid ads can virtually guarantee visibility and website traffic, especially if you pick the right spots to place your ads. For example, if you’re a business attorney, placing ads on your local city’s business journal website can potentially yield good results.

3. Network!

Even though we’re in an increasingly digital world, there’s still value in putting boots on the ground and meeting people. But outside of traditional networking mixers, there are things you can do to digitally network as well. Find ways to become a guest on influential podcasts or webinars. Doing so can open you up to a new audience and drive people to your website.

This is also a great way to build your email list which, if you’re sending out a consistent email newsletter, can also help people find you. For example, someone who receives your email can forward it to a friend or colleague who may need legal help, thus expanding your network by referral.

At Spotlight Branding, we practice what we preach. We don’t do SEO in our own marketing; instead, we use the three methods outlined above. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you got here from one of those three ways.

Ready to kick SEO and use new tools to help people find you online? Contact us today!

These past weeks have turned our world upside down and inside out. The silver lining in all of this is the time we have had to focus on our families. The lines have been blurred between family and work. Finding harmony has been a challenge to say the least.

I asked several of my clients to share what they learned that could be taken into the post Covid-19 world as we all create our new normal.

Is there anything you learned about managing your families’ needs? 

1.“I’m not sure it counts as something I’ve learned, but facing the uncertainties of a pandemic like Covid 19, which can be lethal, reinforces your commitment to family and paying attention to your family members needs.  When confronted in a very real way with a threat like this pandemic poses, you focus on what matters most, which for many of us is our family.” Jeffrey Lapin, Commercial Litigator

2.“Yep! I am still learning. So far, I am learning that it’s easier if I work around my family’s schedule then to force them to accommodate mine. This is still a work in progress.” Clarissa Rodriguez, International Law

3.“Patience is important.  I learned that sometimes you have to slow down and really be present. Also- I learned that my kids eat every 5 minutes and use every dish in the house- daily.” Stefanie Deters, Trust and Estate Law

4.“I learned that I could not assist my children with their school activities without help.  Without my husband and I tag-teaming there was no way the youngest child could have gotten the support she needed. Both of us had to coordinate meeting schedules to accommodate and sometimes it was just not possible to support her on her assigned schedule.” Sheena Benjamin-Wise, Family Law

5.“Kids need structure. They appreciate it and have responded surprisingly well to instructions to get off their phones and get outside! Also, setting time parameters helps them from complaining. Asking them to “Read for one hour. I’ll set the timer on my phone” gets a better response than “Go read!” Karen Lapekas, Tax Law

An unexpected impact is that my general rhythm of life is changed and now I have more opportunities to spend quality time with my children.”Sheena Benjamin-Wise, Family Law

6.“I learned to shift my schedule and be okay with it. My fiancé has really enjoyed making us lunch instead of dinner. So instead of maybe being done with work by six or seven and then eating dinner, we just have a break in the middle of the day where we enjoy our lunch together and spend time together, and then get back to work and work later, until eight or nine.

I’ve also learned to get outside of my comfort zone when it comes to relieving stress after being housebound for so long. If my fiancé needs a 7:00 PM Lambada dance party, and even though I don’t know how to Lambada, who am I to stop her? We are all dealing with this in our own way, and the smile on her face is worth any awkwardness I feel while dancing.” James Peterson, Employment Law

My Takeaway

Work-life balance doesn’t exist—it’s impossible to maintain! Rather, know what things are important in your life and keep them in harmony! Like an orchestra, sometimes the strings are featured and other times it’s the horns. But, they are always in harmony.

P.S. You might be wondering about the photo I used. Well, I’m a passionate amateur photographer. And have found an outlet for my passion. I hope you like the photo I took in the Ancient City of Ephesus, Izmir, Turkey.

Writing blog posts can be daunting, which is why so many lawyers hire third-party vendors like us to do it for them. That said, we’re ready to let you in on a little secret: Writing blog posts really isn’t that difficult. Seriously! You’re more than welcome to hire us to create your content, but if you want to try it yourself, here’s our foolproof formula:

1. CHOOSE A TOPIC
First thing’s first: Decide what to write about. If you’re struggling, think about the questions your clients ask you on a regular basis or the challenges they face, and list out the answers/solutions. You now have a list of topics! Pick one and move on to step 2.

2. CREATE A SHORT OUTLINE
To map out your blog post, choose 2–4 main points you’d like to make about the topic you picked and write them down. If you’re unsure, imagine you’re having a conversation with a client about the topic at hand. What are the most important things you’d want them to know?

3. FLESH OUT YOUR OUTLINE POINT BY POINT
To create the body of your article, simply turn each of your main points into a paragraph. As you do this, remember that you’re not writing for a law school textbook! Aim for generic, practical advice and basic tips. That way you’ll avoid confusing your readers and keep your content evergreen.

4. ADD AN INTRODUCTION AND CONCLUSION
That’s right, this is just like what you learned in school. In your introduction, make sure you include something interesting or important to hook the reader, and don’t forget to plug your firm in the conclusion.

5. TITLE THAT BEAUTY!
In today’s world, there’s a lot of pressure to come up with creative, witty titles, but in our experience, the best titles for law firm content are straightforward and to the point. You want a reader to glance at your title and know immediately both what the article is about and what you do. If you can add a little sparkle, too, even better.

There you go — that’s our secret recipe! Now, go out and win those referrals.