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The Importance of Embracing Vulnerability - yep, Vulnerability - when Starting and Maintaining your Law Practice.

  • By Brad Tengler
  • 31 Jul, 2016
The kind of pressure you're going to feel when starting your practice is almost unbearable.  How are you going to get clients? How are you going to pay the bills? What are my colleagues going to say and think when they see me in the courtroom? When they see me making mistakes in the courtroom?

It doesn't get any better 6 years down the road when you have a thriving practice. Did my associate get that motion on file? Do we have someone to cover that case on Tuesday when I have a conflict? We have to hire another member for our team but are we (i.e., am I) going to be able to afford it?

It's tempting in those stressful situations to use toxic techniques in the office to try to control the situation. To try to instill a fear of consequences to gain results from your employees. 

Don't.

Address - don't ignore - the issues assertively. And listen to your employees, your team, who you can't afford not to have with you on this journey, because they, more than anyone else, will have have your back. And when you are done listening to them, expect that they listen to you too - to your feelings about the situation you are addressing. 

But don't yell, name call or belittle.

If (or when) you do, don't be afraid to apologize. Sometimes, an "I'm sorry" adds a degree credibility - and integrity  - that your team can't live without. Because that's exactly the kind of honesty  you expect from your own employees. 

Hanging Out A Shingle

By Brad Tengler 23 Jul, 2017

Starting and running a law practice is hard work. You have to ensure your business has positive cashflow. Meet and manage client expectations. Ensure that employees are satisfied. Constantly continue to learn the law and practice it. And, especially in my line of business, muster the energy every morning when you walk into divorce court to zealously advocate for your clients and negotiate with opposing counsel.

 There is little time for frivolity or silliness.

 And then my partner, Loni, and I welcomed two beautiful babies into our home as foster parents.

 Sleep became the number one commodity. We did shifts of 5 hours each night for those first several months to ensure we at least got several hours of uninterrupted sleep. We set up a morning routine, designating who took the babies to day care on which mornings and who got them ready. We did weekend day shifts. If I worked Saturday morning, Loni ran errands in the afternoon. Our lives, work and personal – when we weren't comatose – had to increasingly run like clockwork, simply to ensure we could function.

 And then along the way something magical began to happen. Obviously, the first was baby-talk. Never in my life could I have imagined talking like a little baby as an adult, lawyer, and businessman, until these two precious creatures came into Loni’s and my life. And then I could hardly stop it. “Goo, goo, gah, gah.” “What are yoooou doing?” “I love you sooooooo much” all the time smiling ear to ear just wishing and hoping to extract a smile and giggle from those babies.

 Then there was the game playing. Holding Moo Moo (my silly nickname for the baby boy) high in the air and then pulling him close just because it makes him scream with laughter. Or the blanket game, the tickle the leg and arm game, or the belting out of songs game as they play on YouTube just because it makes our precious babies happy.

 I could go on with the silliness – there is no end to the love we feel helping to make these babies the happiest little creatures on the planet with all kinds of silly games and voices and singing - but you’ve probably heard enough already.

 What's relevant for the purpose of this article is the effect such silliness can have on one’s practice.

 I sat in the courtroom the other day waiting to argue my motion to quash beside opposing counsel. It was an important motion. I didn't know how I was going to need to respond if it wasn't granted. Would there be a risk of being held in contempt? Would there be a jail sentence? Would there be a need to appeal?

 Without realizing what the other was doing, opposing counsel and I pulled out our phones simultaneously and showed each other a silly picture of one of our children and we both immediately started laughing.

 As I approached the bench 2 minutes later, I had nothing but a sense of peace as I argued my motion, thinking carefully through my arguments and, in the back of my mind, having a sense of peace knowing I would see my babies that evening.

 The court granted my motion. But, even if it hadn't, all would have been right with the world.

By Brad Tengler 23 Apr, 2017

This past weekend, I attended the retirement and going-away party of my good friend and mentor, Perry Reynolds. It was both a happy and sad occasion. Happy, in the sense that I was celebrating the life of a man whom I love and respect. But it was also sad.

Sad, because we have met for dinner almost every month for the past 10 years and he has helped guide me through some of the most difficult and successful times in my personal life and career as a lawyer.  His move is sure to change our ability to do that.  

But his impact on me will last the rest of my life. 

 If you are looking for a mentor as an attorney and entrepreneur, you can’t go wrong if you connect with a person that shares the characteristics that I have had the benefit of observing in Perry.

 

Good mentors for attorneys are (generally) not lawyers.

One of the most refreshing aspects about my relationship with Perry is that he is not an attorney. He brings to the table a fresh perspective, an outsider’s perspective. His insights into business are just as applicable as a lawyer’s but he sees things from a different angle.

 As a lawyer, you need an outsider’s perspective when you are running a legal business. Outsiders can provide helpful tips about marketing, managing employees, and landing and maintaining clients that attorneys may be more likely to be blind to.

 

Good mentors have been around the block and can relate to your personal story.

Perry’s done it all. Kids, divorced, single, poor, well-to-do, married and now an independent consultant. His life has been filled with experiences that he can draw from.

Nothing has been more comforting than knowing when I have faced a personal or professional challenge that Perry probably has experienced something similar that may give him insight into my situation.

 

Good mentors are unapologetically optimistic and non-judgmental.

I could always count on Perry to have a positive perspective about life and any situation I was facing. His example helped change how I approached and perceived personal and professional challenges. Rather than allowing myself to feel mired, I began to see difficult situations as opportunities. That kind of perspective is essential when you are running a business as an entrepreneur. You have to continually problem-solve and there should be a sense of excitement and confidence that you can overcome anything.

 

Good mentors value risk.

Nothing is more debilitating to an entrepreneur and a lawyer than someone who is afraid of risk. Perry never questioned my advertising methods, the expenses related to them or risks in acquiring new hires. Risk goes along with success. Perry understood that implicitly.

 

Good mentors are are gracious, kind, charismatic, and empathetic.

Perry embodied these characteristics. Connecting yourself with someone with these characteristics is essential as an entrepreneur. You don’t have time for gossips or toxic people.

 

Good mentors see (your) success as inevitable.

Perry never questioned whether I would be successful. Ever.

Not because he was naïve. Nor was I. But because we both knew that gnawing self-doubt was a waste of time when there was so much to experience, do, and accomplish.

 

Your relationship is mutually beneficial.

Perry wasn’t just a mentor. He was a friend. We both valued hearing about each other’s experiences – even though I, clearly, was the person who got the better end of the deal.

 

Perry Reynold served for years as Vice President of Marketing and Trade Development at the International Housewares Association, a non profit trade organization with over 1600 member companies from over 40 countries that has promoted the sale of housewares since 1938. He now resides in Jacksonville, Florida, where he works as an independent consultant. He can be reached through his website at www.perryreynolds.com or email at perryreynolds4@gmail.com.

By Brad Tengler 31 Jul, 2016
The kind of pressure you're going to feel when starting your practice is almost unbearable.  How are you going to get clients? How are you going to pay the bills? What are my colleagues going to say and think when they see me in the courtroom? When they see me making mistakes in the courtroom?

It doesn't get any better 6 years down the road when you have a thriving practice. Did my associate get that motion on file? Do we have someone to cover that case on Tuesday when I have a conflict? We have to hire another member for our team but are we (i.e., am I) going to be able to afford it?

It's tempting in those stressful situations to use toxic techniques in the office to try to control the situation. To try to instill a fear of consequences to gain results from your employees. 

Don't.

Address - don't ignore - the issues assertively. And listen to your employees, your team, who you can't afford not to have with you on this journey, because they, more than anyone else, will have have your back. And when you are done listening to them, expect that they listen to you too - to your feelings about the situation you are addressing. 

But don't yell, name call or belittle.

If (or when) you do, don't be afraid to apologize. Sometimes, an "I'm sorry" adds a degree credibility - and integrity  - that your team can't live without. Because that's exactly the kind of honesty  you expect from your own employees. 
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