Sabbaticals for the Self-Employed

Many firms now offer sabbatical programs as a workplace benefit. As long as employees meet defined criteria and plan carefully, they’re able to take a few months off without much risk. But are sabbaticals really feasible for self-employed professionals?

Given that I’m self-employed and that I work alone most of the time, I didn’t think that an extended absence was really an option. A carefully cultivated – or lucky – opportunity could arise at any moment. If I wasn’t around to respond, I could lose the work to another consultant. Not to mention, being self-employed means saving money for vacations and losing productivity time while taking those vacations (with limited amounts of human resources to delegate to while away).

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5 Ways to Make a Fast Decision

Time and money almost always need to be balanced with quality in professional work. When you’re faced with increasing project pressures, the ability to make good decisions quickly becomes especially important.

Decisiveness requires the type of confidence that comes from taking action, rather than accumulating theoretical knowledge. You might not make the best choice. You might even offend. But you’ll move things forward.

  1. Seek disconfirmation of assumptions. Ask “Is this wrong?” instead of “Am I right?”. And get the opinion of someone with relevant experience.
  2. If you’re working in a team, understand your role and the decisions you are expected to make.
  3. Speak up in team meetings. Verbalizing the rationale behind your decision is a quick way to test its plausibility. Staying quiet can lead to delays or cumbersome approval communications.
  4. Challenge yourself to beat constraints by making decisions that will help meet milestones early or within the budget.
  5. Believe in yourself. If you make a mistake, you have a choice to learn from it or dwell on it. Learning leads to agility. Dwelling leads to fragility. Your confidence will grow as you apply your experience to future decisions.

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E-learning for Lawyers, Explained

Online courses, webinars and other digital media open up a wide range of convenient, cost-effective training options for busy professionals. But there are a lot of options. Myriad combinations of technology, platforms, content and classrooms sometimes make the selection of a course as challenging as learning new subject matter.

Holly MacDonald of Spark + Co.

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Good Intentions

By March, those of us with personal practice development goals know what we need to accomplish by year-end (usually). We also know how easily the best of intentions can be set aside during daily work.

There are as many excuses to stop working towards long-term goals as there are distractions. Busy-work makes us feel productive. As Leigh Buchanan points out in a recent article in Inc. magazine, it’s also a trap.

Proven techniques help the dispirited stay on track. Why not try a few?

Prioritize

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Big data, small data

Sole practitioners often struggle to find and interpret meaningful practice data that points business-building efforts in the right direction.

New practice management software with great reporting features helps many lawyers find personalized information in an instant. But old habits – such as not bothering to look at the data on a regular basis or do anything about it – can be difficult to overcome.

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Back to (Business) School

Ah, September. The leaves are falling, the air is crisp and most of us feel motivated to learn something new.

Stanford University offers several online learning options for lawyers and legal professionals* interested in sharpening their business skills, especially in the areas of entrepreneurialism and innovation. The videos and podcasts in their Entrepreneurship Corner are professionally produced, available for view at any time and presented by top faculty from several departments. I’ve especially enjoyed the interviews with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs such as Mitch Kapor who talk about lessons learned, developing “people skills” and learning to be comfortable with business risk. Read more

Keeping Clients When A Key Partner Leaves

When a key partner in a large law firm moves to a competitor, do his or her institutional clients tend to leave too? The answer might depend on how much internal conflict there is at the firm left behind.

Michelle Rogan of INSEAD recently published ground-breaking research on the relationships between large, multi-unit advertising agencies and client firms. These relationships are very similar in structure to those between law firms and institutional clients, where services in several areas of professional expertise are provided through personal connections developed over time. Read more

Innovation in the Modern Age: Strategies for the New Reality

We’re halfway through 2014. How’s your practice strategy coming along?

If you’re feeling stuck, you might find inspiration in “The End of Competitive Advantage” by Columbia Business School’s Rita Gunther McGrath. McGrath’s framework makes a lot of sense for firms dealing with rapidly changing environments.

The new “playbook for strategy” outlined in McGrath’s research is premised on the creation of transient advantages instead of exploiting business-as-usual to sustain historical performance. Her logic will resonate with anyone preparing firms for new realities: Read more

It’s Okay to be an “Invisible”

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UPDATE – September 23, 2014–I’ve just finished reading “Invisibles”. It was a breath of fresh air amidst what sometimes seems like a lot of hot air filled with non-stop social media, amplified tweeting and frenzied calls for attention. This book is well-researched (some might say meticulously so, in keeping with the conclusions Zweig has drawn about Invisibles). If you have ever wondered how to balance career fulfillment with the pressure to self-promote, you should read this book. Read more

How to Start a Legal Project Management Initiative in Your Firm: 11 Ideas

Are firms becoming more attuned to the benefits of legal project management (LPM)? Are clients? Judging from a workshop I attended on this topic last month in Chicago, the answer is “yes”.

But many firms – including almost every firm I’ve encountered – still struggle with the question of how to encourage organizational and individual changes required to inculcate wide-spread adoption of LPM.

The panelists who spoke at the “LPM Showcase and Workshop” lead some of the firms that have been the most successful at LPM implementation – Baker & McKenzieLoeb & Loeb,Foley Hoag and Reed Smith. Their honest accounts of their experiences in getting the ball rolling, however, were common to organizations of more than 50 lawyers, regardless of practice or regional focus. Read more