Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : December 2007

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 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER

BY PAT YEVICS  

I am not a person who likes to look back, preferring instead to look ahead to the next task, project, adventure, gadget, vacation or year. Nor am I a particularly nostalgic person. I know that the past was as not wonderful as we think it was and June Cleaver never scrubbed the floor in high heels and pearls.

This year, I am struggling with wanting to look back to see what I learned (if anything) in 2007 while still wanting to look forward in order to plan for a really great 2008.
Little did I know (until I searched the Internet) that the tradition of resolutions goes back to 153 B.C., when Janus, the mythical king of early Rome, was placed at the head of the calendar. The first month of the year is named for Janus. With two faces, Janus – the god of beginnings, endings and doors (?) – could look back on past events as well as forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus both looking back at the old year and forward to the new. [Source: www.goalsguy.com/Events/n_facts.html]

So, while reviewing 2007, let’s come up with some ways to have a great 2008, not by improving or being better, but by being different. The never-ending quest for improvement indicates that there is something about us that is not good; that is too negative for the start of the New Year. Rather than improving this year, we are going to grow.

1. In January, start the year by looking at your finances. No matter where you are in your personal or professional life, my guess is that we all want to do more when it comes to managing our finances and resources. Regardless of how well we are doing financially, we should always know how we spend our money.

This year, create a real budget (both personally and professionally) and monitor it. It is much easier to do with software products such as Quicken or QuickBooks, or online with sites such as www.mint.com, www.geezeo.com or www.wesabe.com.

For your practice, you should set a meeting with your accountant to discuss how to create and monitor your budget.

Monitor all your expenses. Where exactly do you spend your money? It may be a revelation to learn that you could have a lot more money at the end of 2008 simply by controlling where and how you spend.

Your new mantra for 2008 when you are considering purchasing anything is, “Do I/we really need this?” Most times, the answer is, “Absolutely not.” If you do this, I guarantee that you will have more than you expected by December 2008.

2. Stop whining. It does not help. It only makes you (and everyone around you) feel worse. If you have a legitimate complaint about a particular issue/product/person, take steps to correct it. If it cannot be corrected, let it go. If you have a problem, find a solution or let it go. But no more whining.

3. Establish a written accounts receivable policy. In reality, you should establish two policies – one for current clients who are already a problem, and one for new clients. The reason there should be two policies is because it is easier to establish guidelines for clients with whom you have no current relationship. It is unrealistic to believe that you are going to go to a client for whom you have been doing work and say, “Effective immediately, no work will be performed on clients with balances over 60 days.” This is setting yourself up for failure. Most collection policies fail because they are unrealistic. (For information and policies for solos, visit www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/financial/billing.htm.)

4. Learn from other generations. We do not have to agree with each generation’s points of view, but it is important to at least listen to what both older and younger generations have to say. No generation has a monopoly on the right answers. We would do well to combine our collective knowledge, despite our differences.

5. Go someplace different. If you go to the beach every year, go to the mountains. Try something new and slightly out of character. It does not have to be extreme – just different.

6. Stop activities that you do not enjoy. Take a look at how you spend your time, both for your practice and your life. If you are taking part in activities that do not give you great joy, gradually stop them.

If you do not have the same joy practicing law that you did when you first started, try to determine why and how to get it back.

7. Be nice for no reason. It makes everyone feel good, including you. It is hard to feel bad when you have made someone else smile.

8. Breathe. A few weeks ago, I was taken to Union Memorial Hospital (don’t ask) in great pain. While waiting for the doctor to see me, I laid down on the bed, and there on the ceiling in the emergency room was a huge poster that said, “Breathe.” When all else fails, just breathe.

This year is going to be focused on just feeling better about our personal and professional lives. It is truly critical if we are to achieve any success. When you feel good, you can do anything.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday and a great 2008. You deserve it.
 
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Publications : Bar Bulletin: December 2007