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Ed Poll
  Week of May 13, 2008

Take a Deep Breath...

Not long ago, I took a call from a coaching client who obviously needed help, but couldn't verbalize why. His practice seemed to be spinning out of control, and he couldn't decide which practice areas he should focus on, how he was going to focus on them, and whether he would make the money he needed if he did come to a decision on focus.
My first advice was that he should pause and physically take a deep breath. I used that break to explain that, for anyone feeling stressed out, the ultimate problem is fear of the unknown. Fear freezes us and keeps us from taking the necessary decisions and actions—and sometimes we become afraid to do anything at all.
If you reach this point in your practice, there are two steps that can help you regain control:

  • First, strategize what you need to do. Start at the 40,000-foot level and do brainstorming with a paper notepad or a computerized one—whatever you're comfortable with. Let's say you want to prioritize the time you spend on certain parts of your practice but don't know where to begin. Start by listing all the types of matters you help clients with. Sort them by what you enjoy doing most, or by which has the best clients to work with, or by which offers the steadiest work. Don't worry about where you'll end up with this process—by thinking through what you do piece by piece, you will be less overwhelmed by, and fearful about, the totality of it. Then you'll be able to take concrete steps: go back to old files in the practice areas you've identified, dust off old contacts, and get in touch with them.
  • Second, understand your financial position. Actually look at how much money you have coming in today compared to six months ago or a year ago. Make a list of which clients you can reasonably expect to pay you in the next four weeks, or the next eight weeks. Make another list of where your money is going—for rent, salaries, equipment, and so on. What you'll end up with is a documented cash flow analysis. If there's cause for concern, your analysis will show it. If not, it gives you a tool to keep on top of things.

In both instances, taking the time to think things through is the equivalent of a deep breath that restores perspective. It's even more beneficial to do the thinking with the help of a coach, who can discuss and explore problems and provide a resource to resolve them. Many lawyers who fear that success requires too much of them can quell their fears with help from a coach, who can show them how to leverage their own wisdom and unique abilities. Lawyers too often fall into the trap of thinking they should know what needs to be done, and that they can do it themselves if they just work hard enough and fast enough. That's asking far too much of anyone, and trying to undertake such a big task all at once, and without help, often produces self-defeating fear and paralysis.

Ed Poll

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Ed Poll
Ed Poll

Personal Commentary
The telephone is still the best, least expensive marketing and communication tool available to us. This week, in consecutive phone calls, I was hired for two separate, large engagements, both of which I'm excited about. And in the process, the teachings of my father many years ago came to mind—stay by the phone. When it rings, and you respond, you will be hired. But, if you don't respond, you won't be hired. This is similar to the adage that if you don't swing the bat, you can't hit the ball.
A corollary for me was that I can't "sell" anything to anyone. I can only hope to make people aware of my skills and availability. If they have a need, and they know who I am, they will contact me to discuss whether my skills match their needs. It is always the buyer who makes the decision, not the seller. With this mindset, then, the "seller's" obligation is to educate the buyer about the value of the services provided and the benefits to be received...not the "features" being offered by the seller.
These are lessons learned early in my career that I believe still resonate today.
Best wishes,
Ed Poll

Ed Poll
Ed Poll

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Ed Poll
Ed Poll

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