links i like. July 11, 2014 edition.

Louis CK and the downside of hype in how we promote ourselves.

Can you relate to this at all? Why we get angry. I see glimpses of most (all?) of these triggers in the anxiety-ridden, stressed-out professionals around me. Or the clients they deal with. Or both.

"Unless you are extremely well capitalized, you should not attempt to offer the lowest prices in your market. Bragging that you are competitive on price does not gain more customers." Pretty much everyone I know should read this: 3 strategies for raising your pricing

Need to know something about any Microsoft product/platform? Check out this huge list of free e-books spanning the Microsoft universe.

Mammoth: Evernote meets Tumblr? 

Going paperless on a Mac with Eaglefiler.

Google, take down requests, and “searching for the right balance.

So true. To solve big [and small] problems, change your process. [video]

For a quick shot of happiness, spend just a few moments doing one (or more!) of these easy things.

Think beyond the next five minutes. Consider the foundations for flourishing.

links i like. July 4, 2014 edition.

The cost of continuously checking email? Your productivity, and quite possibly your sanity. Often one of the first issues I address with consulting clients.

Good, clean failure has many virtues.

I know many lawyers (and other business folks) who should follow this advice: raise prices without losing clients.

For a creative, socially-minded lawyer (or anyone else, for that matter), here are some thoughts on adding social impact to your business model.

"Superb service is not limited to out of the ordinary circumstances. It can be incorporated into the very fabric of your business, showing up in even the most common of instances." 10 stories of unforgettable customer service.

I’ve never been a fan of early morning meetings, myself. Why you should rethink them.

Good design solves real problems. This is about much more than the value of an effective logo, but it’s about that, too. [video].

Are you a high performer? Or a workaholic? 7 subtle differences.

I’ve been helping business clients with succession planning for years. I’ve started asking my consulting clients (lawyers) if they’ve planned. Like most small business owners, many haven’t.

"I believe that for changes to take long-lasting effect, they have to influence your identity, your core picture of yourself." This is as much about how to change as it is about how to be a writer.

hard lesson learned. or, what to do to prevent Tumblr [or any other platform] from screwing up your hard work.

The moral of yesterday’s lesson: when you create a process for ensuring the safety and sanctity of your work, do not vary from said process.

Perhaps it’s a reminder we all need every so often, given how so much of our knowledge work is created and lives in the cloud these days. I just wish it weren’t such a painful reminder.

So yesterday I drafted a quite nifty little post for this blog. I think it was titled “lawyers should study copywriting.” (I was so frustrated when I realized the posted post contained only the title and one sentence that I deleted it yesterday.)

I’m working out of another office, in another state, this week. I was pressed for time when I wrote the post. I didn’t follow my typical process for making sure I had a back-up before posting the draft. 

I’ve gotten so used to writing directly in the Tumblr editing window that I created a process for saving a copy of the content in another platform to make sure that a random event (browser or network crash or Tumblr screw up, etc.) didn’t destroy my work. 

The back-up process: I view the draft post in “Preview on blog” mode within Tumblr and save to Evernote periodically. If Tumblr screws it up, I can simply pull it up in Evernote and copy/paste into a new Tumblr window. I’ve had to do this more times than I can count on all of my fingers so far.

Sadly, I failed to do it yesterday. The post was flowing, I was pushing myself to finish. And when I opened the draft to edit and hit “post,” the new post contained exactly a headline and one sentence. The other 700+ or so words I wrote? POOF. Gone.

So. From now on, no matter the circumstances, I shall not vary from my process. A somewhat excruciating reminder of the importance of a process, but one I will take to heart. Choosing to believe that such things aren’t unintentional in a karmic sense is often what keeps me from going over the edge.

So, if you’re working on important stuff that relies solely on the smooth functioning of one app or one platform or one machine, ask yourself these questions: How can I not rely solely on the ONE? How can I create another copy or another way to access, in case the ONE fails?

The time to create and use a process that backs up your important work is NOW, and not after tragedy strikes. 

And it bears highlighting that I’m focusing here specifically on work you may be doing that is ephemeral if the ONE fails. This isn’t solely an issue of backing up your Word files via a server/external HDD/online service. This is also about backing up the work you do on any platforms that “live” other than on the hard drive you’re backing up, e.g. Tumblr, Wordpress.com, Blogger, and a plethora of others.

Spend a few minutes to create a thoughtful back up process. And then follow it. Each and every time.

And now I shall go follow my own advice.

Google Apps ups the ante in cloud storage and email services for business. Vault is a nice extra.

Google Apps ups the ante in cloud storage and email services for business. Vault is a nice extra.

links i like. june 27, 2014 edition.

A method for beating procrastination. (It shares many attributes with my agile process.)

Here’s another way to kick procrastination’s ass.

A must-read for anyone who feels constantly behind: escaping the time scarcity trap.

Use Evernote? Have an iPhone? Check out these apps for getting content into Evernote even faster.

Want Google to forget you in search results? Visit forget.me.

I rely on Alfred (app for Mac) to get things done, more easily and more quickly, every day. Go here for a beginner’s guide on how you can, too.

How to go from working 60 hours a week to 40 by sending two emails a week. Why not try?

How to make hard choices. [TED talk. Lawyers, especially unhappy ones, should watch this.]

Take fewer photos. Make more memories.

The most important rule about productivity.

Loving what you get paid for.

tech tip thursday: a nifty (free) PDF app for mac.

I spend a lot of time dealing with PDFs. And solving PDF-related problems.

For instance, I’ve written before about how to unlock a PDF when you don’t have the password.

Yesterday’s challenge: insert a signature (JPG file) into a locked PDF.

Preview doesn’t like to add JPG files to PDFs. (Preview, the Mac PDF app, is my default viewer/editor, by the way.)

I have Acrobat Pro and while it does a lot of neat things, it’s too much trouble to use for simple things … like quickly adding a JPG signature to a locked PDF file.

A few seconds (literally) on Google and I found the perfect solution.

FormulatePro. An open-source project hosted on Google Project Hosting (source on GitHub).

FormulatePro is a simple PDF editor that lets you easily add JPG files to any PDF. Even locked ones. Simply open the PDF in FormulatePro, go to File —> Place Image, and drop the image into the PDF. You can resize the dropped image and move it around the PDF, to achieve perfect placement.

(You also can easily add text to a PDF with FormulatePro, which makes it a super-quick way to fill out forms.)

Simply export the edited file as a new PDF or print to PDF.

FormulatePro is a handy, lightweight PDF tool that you should have in your Mac Toolbox.

links i like. june 20, 2014 edition.

image

I highly recommend adding TED talks to your self-development routine. (You do have one, don’t you? A routine for developing yourself?) TED playlists make it easy to find the ones you’ll most enjoy.

Looking for a way to organize all of your favorite online rabbit holes? Try start.me to organize social and other sites, as well as RSS feeds. Organize with different pages (e.g., one for work, one for play). The neat freak in me is enjoying.

The Internet is deep and wide. Everything you need to know? It’s out there. You just have to know how to find it. Become a master information excavator with these courses: Power Searching with Google and Advanced Power Searching with Google.

On the other handle, Google is not the only game online: some other “search engines” you shouldn’t ignore.

Do two or three of the things on this list and you will find yourself with more time for things other than work.

In the spirit of life-long learning, I’ve started using lingua.ly to brush up on my Spanish. I like the word monsters.

Are you a replication creator or a skilled creator? Which one do you want to be? How to let your brain do the work. And create, instead of replicating.

Some practical tips on using codes and naming conventions for digital files.

A little inspiration for today: how to be lucky.

*YOU* should be your biggest cheerleader: read this and find out how to be your own PR person.

Does empathy play a role in how you practice? In how you market your practice? It should.

let’s start designing.

image

Today I launch a new vision for iLawPractice. The shift is a big one — away from a focus primarily on technology and to a focus on designing a holistic practice that accounts for all the needs that a person has: financial, emotional, intellectual, spiritual.

I started iLawPractice when other lawyers began asking me for help — specifically, how to identify and integrate the right technology to support their practices. And I really, really enjoyed it.

But what I’ve realized is that technology is but a small piece in the puzzle. What makes a law practice worth doing is a lot bigger than choosing a practice management platform or using templates to automate doc preparation.

My clients have consistently needed and wanted counsel on so much more than the tech. From day one, we’ve talked about communication, marketing strategy, emotional intelligence, client service. And so much more.

And I realized that helping other lawyers isn’t about the tech. It’s about helping them to design an inspired practice, whatever that means to them.

So today I’m launching a new website — itself an experiment in agility. I expect it to change a lot, possibly in a short period of time. But I start here.

And I invite any lawyer who seeks a change in his/her practice to join me in drawing a map, picking a path, and embarking on the journey of designing an inspired practice.

links i like.

image

I’m consumed with workflow this week. So much so that the it’s inspired a transformation of the whole iLawPractice enterprise. More on that soon.

In the meantime, some links I like. About workflow and progress:

This post on A List Apart about prototyping workflows goes directly to issues we all have when trying to iterate and improve on our workflows.

One of my newest obsessions: Kanban. I’m a visual thinker and this simply rings lots of bells for me. I can see its application in so many areas apropos to the practice of law.

Turns out that progress is about ebb and flow. Not an orderly ascension. <Imagine this makes a few folks kind of uncomfortable.>

Effective workflow is a very personal thing. This guy spent a year trying different methods of productivity to tweak his workflow. Here are the 10 top things he learned.

Apparently the average working person spends 28% of the day dealing with email. Egads! Perhaps a more disciplined approach to email can help?

How, where, when you work — all part of the many choices we make. I like Seth’s advice.

How to get stuff done, and avoid burn out, in three steps.

And what to do if you’re already experiencing burn out. Sadly, I know many folks who should read this. Maybe they’re reading this post, too.

do you learn in your practice?

In my last post, I wrote about being a lifelong learner — why and how to do it. I challenged you to go learn something new — every day.

Today I challenge you to put this into practice in your practice. And I don’t mean solely by attending CLE seminars (more on CLEs in a moment).

I’m referring to a more self-directed learning process. Set the goal to learn something new, relevant to your practice, each and every day. Why? For all the reasons I wrote about yesterday. Oh, and there’s also the part about ethics and competence. An ever-learning lawyer is a competent lawyer.

It’s surprisingly easy.

Learn from the work of others. Reviewing another attorney’s document for a client? Get the work done for your client, then take a fresh look at the document (unless it’s a really crappy one). Look for any better ways to draft standard clauses or handle unique clauses. Periodically I come across some really well-drafted documents and always take time (non-billable) to review for purposes of improving my own drafting. Writing and drafting are matters of continuous improvement. This is time well spent.

Learn from clients. Other industries often have much better ways of doing things than we do. Pay attention to the differences and integrate those that make sense. An example from my practice: I work with many creative clients to create contracts. Taking my cue from clients’ keen sense of visual design, I’ve completely changed how I format and structure contracts. Paying attention to design results in a document that is more visually appealing, easier to read, easier to understand, and for all these reasons serves the client better. Design aesthetic has never been the domain of the legal profession, but is one example of something we should pay more attention to.

Learn from unexpected sources. This is similar to learning from clients. If you’re only reading legal sources (books, blogs, articles, etc.), I guarantee that you’re getting a limited perspective. Branch out and you’ll find that resources geared towards other industries offer incredibly rich resources. And if you focus on industries relevant to your clients, the value of what you learn likely will be compounded. An example from my practice: I work with software developers who use agile/lean/kanban methods in their work. I’ve been learning about these methods myself, and the benefit is at least two-fold: (1) I better understand the work that my clients do, which makes me more effective in the work I do for them, and (2) I’m integrating these methods into my own workflow, which is making me more effective in the work I do for all of my clients.

Learn in CLEs. Good CLE seminars have real value. But the proliferation of sub-par providers, in combination with the fact that many seminars are delivered by lawyers with no presentation training or skill (and who often hoard the really valuable information) make finding the good ones akin to locating the proverbial needle in a haystack. But they’re out there. And I encourage you to be thoughtful about the CLE you choose, instead of finding the cheapest online provider and paying attention only when the secret code prompt is given. Use CLE to stay current in your practice areas, of course, but also use it to expand. Go to CLEs on time management, technology, productivity. And commit to putting into practice at least one thing you learn in each seminar.

Intentionally seeking out learning opportunities in your daily work has many valuable benefits. I also believe it’s a way to stay fresh in your practice, staving off burnout, boredom and other negatives that come along with having done legal work for 15+ years (as I have). Give it a try.

No matter how much experience we have, there’s always something new to learn.