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practicing law

Day 72/90 – Fixing Problems

Day 72 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I think I found the answers to some of my clients’ problems.

The Fix Is In by JD Hancock from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The Fix Is In by JD Hancock from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

One of the things I like about being a lawyer is I get to solve problems. I get to fix things. I get to be an intellectual engineer that combines statutes, with case law, and my client’s situation to find a viable solution. In several aspects of my practice areas – like social media law and internet-based businesses, the law isn’t black-and-white. There are a lot of gray areas, and even then, there are times where there are no definitive answers. At best, we can hedge and predict until the laws are changed or an applicable court decides a case on the issue.

Today I felt like a legal engineer – looking case law, examining it when my color-coded highlighter system, looking at similar situations, talking to other attorneys who work in the area, and coming up with recommendations for my clients. Sometimes that’s the best anyone can do – critically analyze the situation and try to draw conclusions based on the available data.

(Please say “data” correctly. In my world, it’s pronounced DAY-ta – like the Star Trek character, not Dah-Ta.)

In case you missed it: Day 71 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Helping another Lawyer be more Effective with Social Media.

Day 54/90 – Just a Good Day

Day 54 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? It was just a good day overall!

This is a photo from Ignite Phoenix #17 - yes I'm skipping. It embodies how I felt yesterday. (Photo by Joseph Abbruscato, used with permission)

This is a photo from Ignite Phoenix #17 – yes I’m skipping. It embodies how I felt yesterday. (Photo by Joseph Abbruscato, used with permission)

I had to think about what made yesterday awesome. There were so many good things to choose from. There was nothing especially extraordinary about the day but it had good flow and energy:

  • Went to the office – fourth time being the first person in where I didn’t set of the security alarm!
  • Cranked on client work – for many lawyers, summer is a slow time. I’ve had the opposite this year. I’m surprised that so many new and returning clients have asked me to do work for them.
  • Went to therapy – we’re all better people because I sit on my therapists couch every week.
  • Picked up a new water bottle at Runner’s Den – I wanted one that straps to my hand to help me stay hydrated during evening walks and runs.
  • Took Rosie with me to Fellowship Under the Stars – everyone loved her and it was a great meeting.

By the end of the day I was exhausted and I flopped into bed and purposely didn’t set an alarm.

In case you missed it: Day 53 of the 90 Days of Awesome – no cavities at the dentist!

Day 50/90 – Hitting the Ground Running

Day 50 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I hit the ground running this week.

This is the view from my desk. I'll be seeing it a lot this week.

This is the view from my desk. I’ll be seeing it a lot this week.

I knew I was going to have a busy week with client work – I mean really busy – even for me. If I didn’t have a spreadsheet of all my cases it would be hard to keep track of them all. By nine o’clock this morning I felt that if you weren’t on my to-do list this week, there’s a good chance you’re not going to get on it ‘til next week.

I’m pleased so many people want my help. This may be one of those weeks where I have to keep my door closed, put my cell phone where I can’t see or hear it, and can only schedule phone calls and let all others go to voicemail. It might be the only way I can give each project the attention it needs and to avoid other distractions.

I saw this awesome tweet today, inspired by the legendary Captain Jean-Luc Picard:

That’s going to be my week – working through my to-do list, one thing at a time.

I’ve also borrowed a tip from Jason Zook – I have a digital file of my daily to-dos that extends for weeks, but each day when I get to the office, I start by writing the list of what I want to accomplish before I leave for the day on a sticky note. (If I can’t fit my list on a sticky note, I’m trying to do too much.) There’s something about writing this list by hand that feels more organic and helps me find my focus to start the day.

Just gotta keep putting one foot in front of other.

In case you missed it: Day 49 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Simple Pleasures.

Day 46/90 – Resolution for Clients

Day 46 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I helped my clients get the desired outcome to their situations.

Scales of Justice at Lewis and Clark Law School

Scales of Justice at Lewis and Clark Law School

Practicing law isn’t as black-and-white as many people think it is. There are always more details and contributing factors in every situation, and you can never predict how a case is going to end. I wish there were more guarantees in this industry, but I doubt that’s going to happen.

It’s been a good week for my clients and me. I am close to wrapping up a few files, and so far it looks like my clients are going to get the outcomes they were hoping for. It makes me so happy to see my clients happy. Sometimes I have to be the person that tells them that they can’t do what they want or that they will not get the resolution they desire, but that hasn’t happened too much this week.

I have a few cases that are winding down on a high note, and I’m jazzed about some of the cases I’m working on. I was a little bummed when I had to leave the office today, but I know I need to get some rest so I can hit the ground running again tomorrow.

In case you missed it: Day 45 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Oden’s Happy Hour!

Day 43/90 – One Lawyer Helping Another

Day 43 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to help a fellow lawyer who is thinking about going solo.

Image courtesy of Scramble

Image courtesy of Scramble

I get a handful of calls and emails every year from lawyers who are thinking about opening their own practice. They often want to know what it takes to get started, how to set rates, and what marketing tactics work for getting clients. I was petrified when I made the decision to open my own firm right out of law school and I was so grateful to everyone who will help me along the way. Talking with lawyers who are thinking about going solo gives me the chance to pay it forward.

This summer I’ve had the unique experience of being able to meet with a few East Coast lawyers who are considering transplanting to Phoenix and opening up shop as solos for the first time. Today I had one of those experiences; I had breakfast with Bryan and his wife. He is considering giving up big firm life for the freedom of a solo practice, while moving across the country. We met at Scramble where we had an awesome conversation about practicing law in Arizona, working with the startup community, how long it takes to turn a profit, and living in Phoenix in general. Bryan seemed impressed by everything I’ve accomplished in the three years I’ve been practicing law, which I found ironic given that he has been practicing law more than ten years longer than me.

I think it’s funny when people from major cities ask me if I feel safe in Phoenix. There may be certain neighborhoods I won’t walk around in after dark by myself, however I’ve never felt truly unsafe in Phoenix. People who are new to the valley also ask me about how often I see scorpions. For the record, I have seen one scorpion since I’m moved here eleven years ago, and it was on Camelback Mountain.

In other awesome news: Rosie appears to be on the mend. We had a follow-up visit to the vet today. It looks like my baby girl has a UTI. I was so relieved when she finally started eating again tonight.

In case you missed it: Day 42 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Everyone should know Aaron Swartz’s story and his contributions to the internet.

Day 39/90 – I Love My Clients

Day 39 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I feel satisfied with my work.

I Hustled My Face Off Today (H/T to Gary Vaynerchuk for the slogan)

I Hustled My Face Off Today (H/T to Gary Vaynerchuk for the slogan)

Today was one of those days where I felt like I was doing client work almost nonstop. I’m working on a few custom contracts and I had to consultations today. During one of my consultations, I felt like I was going on mile a minute talking about intellectual property and social media legal issues. I paused and asked my client if you understood what I was saying, and he said, “Yes, this is exactly what we need.” I loved that. I love when I know what I do is making a difference in my clients’ lives.

As an existentialist, it is imperative that what I do creates significant tangible differences on others or my surroundings, because if it doesn’t, then why am I here? (Yes, these are real issues and thoughts that I grapple with on a regular basis.)

And can I say that my clients are freakin’ awesome? I love the how smart, creative, and diligent they are. The majority of them are in absolute joy to work for.

In case you missed it: Day 38 of the 90 Days of Awesome – So Happy for my Friend who Got some Incredible News!

Day 36/90 – Sitting Second Chair

Day 36 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got sit second chair for the first time in a courtroom!

Sunset Scenes, Sedona, AZ 7-30-13zzm by inkknife_2000 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sunset Scenes, Sedona, AZ 7-30-13zzm by inkknife_2000 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

When I started Carter Law Firm right out of law school, I restricted my practice to transactional work: contracts, copyrights, and trademarks. I didn’t want to take a case that could go to litigation because I was afraid, as a new solo lawyer, that I would screw up the case. I never wanted to take that type of risk with my clients. Now that I’m with Venjuris, where I have colleagues who are experienced litigators, I am expanding the scope of my practice.

Today, I made my first court appearance as a lawyer. It was a small hearing in Sedona regarding an injunction against harassment (a.k.a. a restraining order). I was there mainly to observe and learn, and it was a fantastic experience to see how the law plays out in real life. My colleague reminded me that you should never go into a court appearance thinking that anything is a for sure deal, because you always want to be on your toes and ready for anything.

One thing I’ve learned this year since joining a firm that does litigation is that the law provides a framework to achieve resolutions to problems; however, it takes a certain level of creativity and finesse to practice law exceptionally well.

In case you missed it: Day 35 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Being a Model for Bodyscaping Photography!

Day 32/90 – Raising my Game

Day 32 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I feel like I raised my game as a lawyer.

This is how I look when I'm working - me & my laptop. (Photo by Brandon Larkin)

This is how I look when I’m working – me & my laptop. (Photo by Brandon Larkin)

When I started Carter Law Firm, my work mainly consisted of client consultations, drafting and reviewing documents, and intellectual property registrations. I limited the scope of my solo practice to consultations and transactional work because I didn’t want to screw up a case that might go to litigation, and I definitely wasn’t prepared to handle a litigation case alone. Now that I am with Venjuris, where we have seasoned litigators on the team, I have the proper entity to expand my practice areas to include potential litigation matters.

Today I drafted a cease and desist letter for a client. It was a solid effort and sufficient as a first draft. I took the draft to one of our litigators who sat down with me and went through it sentence by sentence, suggesting minor changes throughout that significantly raised the quality of my writing.

I went back to my desk bubbling with energy. My first draft was covered in notes in my chicken scratch handwriting. I was excited to integrate the changes into my work.

I love working with amazing writers. I appreciate it when they review my work and they return my drafted covered, almost dripping, with ink. And I consider myself to be a good writer! Working with these people gives me the opportunity to raise my own game, which leaves me ecstatic to know that I’m becoming a better writer and a better lawyer.

I feel a little weird using the phrase “raise my game” in reference to legal work because I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t take my work seriously. On the contrary, I am always aware that when someone comes to meet with a problem, their life and/or their livelihood is on the line. I have the deepest respect for the trust they have in me and my abilities. But I felt this phrase was appropriate because it embodies the energy and desire I have to improve my skills.

In case you missed it: Day 31 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I love listening to the way lawyers speak when they analyze cases.

Day 23/90 – The Satisfaction of Helping People

Day 23 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to help people!

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams - used with permission

Pictures of me working at my desk are boring. Here’s an image that embodies how I feel about my work. (Photo by Devon Christopher Adams – used with permission)

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an existentialist – a big one. An essential part of who I am is based on the idea that what I do matters. It’s not an ego thing, but rather a why-am-I-here thing.

One of the things I love about being a lawyer is that I get help people in ways that they can’t help themselves. I love being able to tell clients, “We can fix that,” or “We can make that work.” I see my job as being an educator about the law as well as a problem solver because most people don’t know what their rights are, how to protect them, or their options for recourse are when there’s a problem.

I work on preventing problems in solving problems in my work, and lately I’ve been putting in a lot more work on the problem-solving side. I spent a good chunk of today drafting and revising a demand letter for one of my clients, and it felt really good to know that this document may bring my client the resolution he’s seeking. I am both pleased and proud of the work I did today.

One of the benefits and challenges of my work is that it’s not about me personally; it’s about using my skills and talents to achieve my clients’ desired results. So there are times that I have draft documents and negotiate on their behalf in ways that I don’t personally agree with, but are not legally wrong. On the flip side, it also means that it’s possible to have a cordial relationship with the opposing counsel when both sides are acting as zealous advocates for their clients without their egos getting in the way. Those tend to be the fastest and the easiest negotiations.

Today was a good day.

In case you missed it: Day 22 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I took my Fake British Accent to the Verizon Store!

What’s the Better Rush: Skydiving or Litigation?

Last Friday, The Namby Pamby tweeted:

Namby Tweet

My response: “You know there’s this activity called skydiving – does the trick too with a lot more fun.”

Namby claims he won’t “jump out of a perfectly good airplane,” but I think he’s denying a parachute its destiny.

The closest things I’ve done to litigation is trial advocacy classes where the final was a mini fake trial, so I can’t say whether litigation prep or skydiving is a better adrenaline rush. But here’s the breakdown of the experiences from my perspective and based The Namby Pamby’s and The Mrs. Namby Pamby’s tweets.

It’s Saturday I’m doing whatever I want You’re working
The View Amazing view from the plane and on the way down I hope your office has a window
The Company Handpicking my group, including inviting the awesome Peter Shankman if he’s in town Dealing with potentially annoying coworkers, opposing counsel, and clients
The Significant Other Can come too Has trouble remembering what you look like
The Money Paying for the experience Getting paid – but how much do you really make per hour?
The Risk I could die – but it will be fast You could be dying a slow death – due to stress, substance abuse, poor diet, etc.
The Social Good Probably minimal Righting a wrong

Created with the HTML Table Generator

I asked my legal eagle friends whether skydiving or litigation had a better rush and they agree that skydiving is better than litigation.

Mike: “Skydiving. I’ve done both, and there’s no comparison.”

Chad: “I am going to say skydiving. After several years I began to dread litigation. I can’t imagine skydiving losing its appeal because the other skydivers are unprofessional poorly trained ass hats.”

A criminal defense attorney recently told me that hearing the phrase “Not guilty” was better than orgasm and I get that given that that might be a live-or-death situation. However, I remain unconvinced that doing litigation prep all weekend has a better adrenaline rush than skydiving.

What do you think?