A July 4th Debt

In 1968 I was sitting in the bleachers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, watching what was to be the biggest and best fireworks display ever.  In other words, the military had a chance to shoot off some huge rockets and make lots of noise to celebrate the day off.    There was to be the launch of the mightiest  rocket ever.  The stands were full.  I was 19 years old, homesick, pregnant and the last thing I wanted was to be there on a hot day waiting to watch the proverbial ‘rocket’s red glare’.

Next to me was a much older woman.  Each time there was a boom, she would jump and tremble.  Occasionally she would grab my arm.  If there was anything I noticed was that she wasn’t enjoying the  day.  After one particularly noisy display of sirens, drums, and guns going off, I looked over and she was silently crying.  I asked her if she was okay and she told me this.

She was from Germany, married to an American serviceman.   She and her family had lived through The War in Europe.  She had migrated to America with her new found husband at the age of twenty.   She had applied for and received her citizenship.  Each year she honored this country by attending the nearest celebration.   But for her the celebration was bitter sweet.  She told me that when she was growing up, the sound of sirens and guns meant that someone was going to be taken away.  It meant that your home may be destroyed. It meant you lost your parents to evil of the highest nature.   You couldn’t stand for anything because no matter what you stood for it was against someone else’s principles who had more power than you.    There was only survival.

I asked her why did she put herself through this each year; the flashback of the worst of times than most of us can imagine.   She said she owed a duty to this country to repay it once a year for the one thing it gave her above all.  I asked her if she meant freedom and she said no.  The one thing she loved about this grand country of ours was the feeling of being safe.  She wasn’t taking about  physical safety but about mentally  feeling safe.

We Americans are safe because for right or wrong we have built a system of laws, a system of government, and a system of beliefs, that allows us to go to bed at night knowing we can still try to make this place better.  We are safe because others are willing to lay down their lives for us at all costs to protect the right to freedom for all.   It can take us a week, a decade or a generation but sooner or later it seems we get it right about human equality and human freedom.  We are safe in knowing that.

I owe this woman a debt of gratitude.  As a young 19 year old military wife I simply needed a lesson that the world is not as I see it but as it really is.  At a different time and a different place, a young woman at the same age I was then  had to run, hide and pray that she would survive one more day.

We held hands that hot day in Oklahoma and as we say one patriotic song after another, I felt this burst of pride that I was an American through and through.  Each year on this glorious birthday of ours, I set back and think about her.  She gave me a gift far too precious.  She gave me the gift of understanding what it really means to be an American.

 

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This July 4th let’s stop the hate

There’s so much to be thankful for on the Fourth of July, and so much to celebrate: friends, family, and most importantly, the freedom we have to determine our destinies, pursue our dreams, and put great ideas into action. There are many things that prevent us from realizing our dreams and most are related to fear. Fear is one of the primary paradigms of self-mastery, Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat which causes us to react, usually negatively. This year we, at Catalyst, are focused on living the unbalanced life with joy and hopefully you have been following our blog post and Tweets. Our first book “Soaring Eagles” (http://amzn.to/15hX30N) was the first of a set that we will be publishing this year.
Our message is that we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to live for. This July 4th, as you celebrate with friends, remember all your lessons from Self-Mastery. Too often, we allow fear, worry, and doubt to dominate and define our lives. We allow them to steal our joy, our sleep, and our precious dreams. I have seen people react with such negative emotion over perceived or outright false information. I have seen children locked in a culture thinking there was no escape and no way to achieve their dreams. John F Kennedy once said “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Starting today let’s stop the gossip, exaggerations, and false stories that perpetuate fear. Instead let’s be part of the solution. We can stop the hate. We can help that child that is lost, a veteran with needs, a family frozen in time and we can be responsible for our own actions. Starting today let’s be more positive and joyful in our speaking, our thoughts and our deeds. When you see that hateful E-mail, just delete it. Find a way to give back, express your compassion and become part of the solution.

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Profitability starts with your most valuable resource, your most costly resource, and the least understood resource in a law firm.  Firm Members are coming to work each day with little or no proactive development of their skills and their performance. We call these individuals “eagles in a cage.” Because of outdated, ineffective management thought process, the cost of employees keeps going up. Absenteeism, lack of productivity, and lack of motivation is keeping the cost of doing business far too high.

The 21st Century law firm is changing rapidly.  It is impossible to keep your head above water. Technology is a big part of your budget and drives the efficiency of your work. Employees are now four generations working side by side. They aren’t into the old style work environment. Clients are more demanding and they want…get this…SERVICE with a RELATIONSHIP! Your peers, those people who tell you to your face they want you to succeed, are out competing against you on every corner. And all of this with firm income down and costs going up worse than the Dow-Jones ever will.

Yet out of all of this, the truly innovative, free-thinking law firm has a clear chance to become a pro-active keeper of the flock and make a statement that the firm’s most valuable resource is the employees. By creating employees that are energized, motivated, and feel like they are a strategic partner in the success of the firm, the law firm simply cannot fail.  This is the high performance concept.

It took us a while to figure out that while everyone was enthused when the hard work of implementation was going on, when accountability arose, the leadership was not ready. There has to be accountability to the firm by every member, leadership, lawyer and non-lawyer.  We have since learned to start first at the top and work down. There has to be a buy-in from top to bottom.

In our opinion most law firms are disorganized and chaotic for a reason.  It is because the on-going day to day grind of delivering the work product and the client service in a highly competitive, assertive environment takes priority.  There is no visible room for change. It is easier stay in the comfort zone and put up with the stress.  Change cause positive stress. Where you are now is negative stress.  The problem is as the saying goes if you stay the way you are you will always be the way you are.

There truly is a better life out there for everyone, not just the leadership.  It doesn’t happen over-night but as the thought processes change, the right people get put into the right seat on the bus.  There is renewed energy, synergy and a new way to make clients happy and who want to be involved with your firm.  Work productivity goes up and the management of employees is less of a concern as you start to develop them into high performance employees.  There is less turn over.  There is less additional staff needed because the work delivery is delivered in such a fashion that firm members are taking responsibility of getting the firm to a profitable state.

The only reason we can give you to change is this.  What do you feel like as you get ready to go to work.  How do you feel at the end of the day.  If it is one of dread or lack of enthusiasm, if it is with a sense of being over-whelmed, and if throughout the day you grit your teeth, something needs to change; either you or where you work.

Out of chaos come changes.  Out of change comes growth.  Out of growth comes wisdom.  And with wisdom comes profitability.

From Soaring Eagles by Favor-Leone available as an E-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashword.  We believe employees are locked in invisible cages through no fault of their own. The purpose of this book is to help open the cage and provide an environment for your flock that will allow them to soar higher than you ever dreamed possible. This book is going to teach you to throw out the rules, forget everything you think you know about employee management, and help you create a very simplistic but workable environment that helps you drive your firm practice.

 

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ALL KINDS OF DADS

Dads come in all shapes and sizes.  They can be big and tall, small and mighty. They can be all sorts of shapes.  They can be funny, wise, sad, serious or just be.  They may be the kind that spends lots of time at home or have a hard time getting home.   They can be stern or compassionate or funny or serious.

There are Dads out there who do not have children around them but have had the opportunity to witness the miracle of pregnancy of their child but never saw their child. Or maybe they lost their child before their time.   These Dads seem to know how special it is to be a Dad.  They need honoring the most.

There are Dads out there who are serious Dads to their pets, from dogs to cats to well, just about everything. Amazing how the animal population can seem to know a Dad.  Being a Dog Dad or a Cat Dog or a Whatever Dad is just about as serious as it can get.

There are Dads who yell  and shout(seems someone did not teach them an ‘inside voice) and Dads who don’t have to say a word.  There are Dads who let you stand on their shoulders to reach new dreams and those that hold your hand to help you cross dangerous roads.  Even Dads who let you ride roller coasters so you know that even the scariest things can be safe.

There are All Time Dads who are Sometimes Dad.  These Dads get blessed with children in their lives from other people whom they love.  They accept them as if they are their own and hold them close to their heart.  These Dads are special.

There can be Dads because of time and circumstances  didn’t  do the job that you wanted them to do.  That is perhaps where we learn that Dads need to be forgiven as well.

There are Dads who don’t know how to be dads because no one taught them.  They don’t know how to show they love their child but it is there in their heart.  They know it is important but can’t let it out.  Those are the Dads you really feel bad about and want  to say it is okay, we love you just the same.

And there are Dads that no one told them they had a child or who have been denied access to their child . Those need special hugs because they have lost out on so much.

There are Dads who go to church every Sunday and dads who play golf on Sunday.  There are Dads who know the importance of learning to be a good person no matter where you spend your Sundays. These dads are pretty special.

There are even Republican Dads, Democrat Dads, and some ‘not sure Dads’.  They may be a bit conservative or a bit liberal or down the middle.  Those Dads are really just trying to make the world a better place for us in their own way.  These Dads are okay just as they are.

I know there are Dads out there that say they don’t want to be a dad but have no choice.  I really think they do but it is easier to say they don’t.  Maybe you love them a bit harder and forgive a lot more.

There is no such thing as a perfect Dad.  In fact maybe that is what makes Dads special because they are just enough imperfect for the child who might be a little imperfect also.

There are Dads who have gone before us.  They are the ones whom seem to catch your heart at the oddest times because they seem to be the best Dads.   There is security in knowing those type of Dads are waiting up for us  when our time comes.  Because that is what Dads do.

There are all kinds of Dads and no matter which kind your Dad was, he is your Dad.  He may cause you to smile, shed a tear, or give you a catch in your heart but when all is said and done he is still your Dad.

 

 

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On March 13, 1946, Dad began his 27 year career with the Ohio State Patrol.   What started out as a way to raise a young family in hard times became his life-long passion.  Three generations in our family have grown up on stories from Dad that were really lessons of life learned from his service to the law.   And I believe my love of the law and service to others came from him and I hope I have passed it on to others.

For three years, ending in 2008,  Dad fought cancer that defied all odds, amazing his doctors, his family, and friends.  In  January we learned that the cancer had returned with a vengeance.  And as the word spread that “the Captain’s” time was short, Dad was flooded with calls and visits from family and friends who wanted one last story and one last talk, and dad made many calls himself to tell more stories.  It was as if he wanted to make sure we knew how important it was to live life with these values that he learned as a patrolman.

On a warm beautiful North Carolina morning in May our entire family had gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina to celebrate the marriage of my daughter to an Ohio State Buckeye grad (which Dad was extremely grateful for).  Dad insisted the celebration go on despite their inability to be there; the first family gathering they had missed.   And as if in anticipation of the inevitable he talked to each one of us daughters the week before and told us again how much he loved us. He told us not to be afraid and to do what was right and to take care of each other. It seems quite fitting or perhaps planned that Dad left us that Memorial Weekend with the same dignity he had lived his life.

We three sisters firmly believe his plan was for us all together as a family so we could strengthen each other.  Just as I am sure he imagined, we spent the day re-telling his stories to each other about The captain, the patrol, and the men and women he served with.  Dad also taught us that laughter can make the unbearable bearable and despite our grief, the house rocked with laughter throughout the day.  We all told our favorite patrol stories and what it was like growing up as children of an Ohio State patrolman (not an easy feat then or now).  For the next two weeks each of us struggled to find some peace in our loss of this man who so influenced us and our families.

On June 8, 2008, I sat in an over-flowing church in Ohio for his memorial service. All of our family and Wilma’s family were there, his many friends, his beloved state patrol family, and the troopers who turned out to make the final journey with him made our family complete. I took strength as the troopers slowly raised their white gloved hand in final salute

Dad taught us by stories and exposure to men and women who serve others through the legal profession that the law is first and foremost about a sense of integrity that you do the right thing.  It is easy to forget this when you get into the day to day workings of your career. You have to hold true to your own core value that you will do what is right even when others don’t.  To do less is to dishonor what you and thousands of others do day in and day out.

He also taught us that the law is about having a strong sense of fairness, righting a wrong, and of allowing the road to justice to start with you. What matters is that you understand that justice can’t be measured and that your role is to make sure that in the end it survives.  It does not matter what your legal career is, it doesn’t change the fact that you are part of the laws that make this nation work. Don’t underestimate what you do.

Finally he made sure we understood that the law is about admitting wrong when you are wrong, taking responsibility for your actions, and allowing others to do the same.   The law only works when it works both ways.  We can’t be all right and we can’t be all wrong.  The law simply demands that we understand and make it work.   And what matters is the act of responsibility not the action that precipitated the event.

Because you get  caught up into the daily efforts of getting the job done in spite of over-whelming odds I think it is easy to forget how privileged you are to be part of the law.  It is a path or a journey that will define you in the end.   You might never know what one thing you did that righted a wrong or made a difference but trust me, you cannot be a part of the law and not have this happen.  It means you have to keep yourself focused and your pride centered.

The week before Dad died, I wanted to make sure he understood how much we admired who he was and he simply told me being a part of the law and service to others made him the man he had become.

As the group of solemn state troopers led the procession from the church and stood guard over his remains, I felt a sense of peace that what was begun for Dad with his beloved Ohio State Patrol should rightly end with them standing by his side and ours.

I now realize that my dad had no choice but to be who he was.  If you are truly into doing what you do for all the right reasons then you too have no choice as well. You must honor the law and hold yourselves to the highest standards of integrity, honor, and commitment to be the very best you can be.  It is a duty imposed on you by a higher authority.

I see the law changing daily.  I see good men and women become great men and women simply by being a part of the law.   And I have seen some who never quite get it, but those that do seem to have a passion for the law. They wear the cloak of justice with a great deal of pride and they refuse to allow others to tarnish it. And they understand that if you have a passion for the law then you did not choose the law, the law chose you.

Inscribed on Dad’s grave marker are the Ohio State Patrol Flying Wheel and a simple phrase which has carried his family through thick and thin.   We believe it honors all of those who have gone before him, who now carry on the tradition, and who some day may choose an area of the law as a career.  The marker simply has his unblemished name,  Dwight M Carey followed by: Pride in the Past, Faith in the Future.

Presented at the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Ohio State Patrol, Columbus, Ohio, 2008, with all three daughters present.

 

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Should I change my ways?

Should I change it or not, that seems to be the question. Let’s say for example, that you have been doing business for several years and you have your ways. Over time you discover problems with your business and you bring in a consultant. That consultant will of course come up with a new way for you to do business. The question is, should you change or are your ways so set that it will be very difficult to change. The odds are good that the new way is better.

This is a common concern. If you keep doing it the old way you will reach a limit in the number of cases you can handle, so you should consider the new idea. Part of that consideration has to be what it would take to really surrender to it. The other part of this would be the strength of your belief that the new way is actually better. I believe that it is fair to bring both of these topics into the discussion. If you are leaning to trying the new way of doing business you need a solid transition plan. You probably will not be able to implement every new idea instantly, so plan how you will introduce the ideas.

There is always a temptation to fall back on the old ways, so plan on not doing that. Figure out a way to prevent sliding back into old habits. I have seen many well thought out strategic plans (and very expensive plans) get thrown in the trash can as the old ways are reinstated. There is no easy way to stop the business while you introduce the new ideas. For a period of time the old ways are fresh in your mind and the new ways are foreign to you. When the big push comes it is easy to take the path of least resistance and fall back on the old ways.
So far I have made the assumption that the new idea is a better idea. That is not always true; it could be that it is just an idea to do it in a different way. Frequently I have found that there is more than one way to do something and both ways are just as good. So don’t just accept every idea that is presented without looking closely at it. Getting into the technical aspects of this, we are talking about looking at the return on investment. The investment can me something other than money, it could be time or talent. Look at all aspects of the new idea. Will it take a new skill, some kind of new support, or even more space to implement? All of that must be factored into the return on investment formula.

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LAW FIRM BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE

Having spent almost a half century working in and with law firms, I feel I have had a front row seat in watching the evolution of the law office practice.  The last ten years have forced lawyers to see that there is the practice of law and then there is the business of the practice of law.  To sustain a profitable law firm you had to change or be left behind.  You have to embrace the fact that the law firm is a profitable business and adopt best business practices to make it succeed.

Today’s technology is tomorrow’s obsolete.  Client demographics are changing.  Client needs are expanding.  A generational workforce diversity is creating new ways to manage and operate at work.  New issues of law can drive different scopes of practice.  Social media has changed the face of marketing forever.

If the downward economy taught us anything it is that you must redefine how you operate today’s practice to a futuristic practice starting now!  Catalyst started taking a hard line look at what was or wasn’t working to achieve a sustainable profit about seven years ago.  We start running many financial and practice projections putting in many variables going forward.  We then added in the factors we thought would come into play fifteen years down the road.   We realized that for our clients to be successful in say 2025,  that they had to let go of the past, recognize that today is fleeting, and begin to transition to a law office practice that will be ready to meet the futuristic needs of the then 2025 law firm.

With the firm’s permission, I want to tell you about Brinkley Walser, a law firm in Lexington, North Carolina.  In 2007 the firm was over 120 years old, steeped in rich history and tradition.  The firm itself was stalled.   If ever there was a traditional law firm that practiced in a traditional, well respected and conservative way, it was Brinkley Walser.  Walt Brinkley was in his early 80′s.  Highly respected by his peers, he had held the course for the firm.   After one partner meeting when the discussion seemed to go nowhere about how the firm had to change, Mr. Brinkley took me aside and assured me that the changes recommended had to happen.  And he said to me If they don’t change they aren’t going to be here in fifteen years.”  He went back into the meeting and said the same thing to the partners.  To the credit of the partners they have embraced the need for future strategic planning.  I thought it interesting that someone in his early 80′s saw what was happening now.

Today Brinkley Walser in my opinion stands in the forefront of law firms that are making the change to meet a long term tomorrow’s needs.  They created progressive management .  They appointed a managing partner. They embraced social media but with small town traditions.  They updated their website.    They changed their succession practice to meet tomorrow’s life styles.   They started looking at alternative billing practices.  And they started to expand where their practice areas were needed.  They have and are researching new futuristic practices of law that our environment and culture may need.  They keep an open mind and welcome all new ideas.   And they still retained their identity and their desire to be of service to their community and their clients that was begin over a century before.

We found that most lawyers believed and with some accuracy that technology was going to drive the future and they tended to focus on what investment to make.  We continually caution that today’s shiny nickel is probably tomorrow’s throw away penny.  We instead recommended that we create a vision of the law firm in 2025.

Before you can plan how to change you have to know what the vision is for the law firm.  For example, will the area practices be the same or do you anticipate new areas of law that you can get ready for now.  Will the client base that the firm has now change or be different.  What kind of needs will the firm have to meet the rapidly changing way the Courts will operate.  Will the partners want to transition to different roles based upon personal needs and desires for retirement.  What will your workforce be like to support the needs of the firm.

And with the building of a defined vision for how the leadership of the firm wants its 2025 law firm to look like,  you should then do a Needs and Assessment (SWOT Analysis) of the firm.  This hard look at where you are along with  is the beginning of a strong strategic plan for the firm.  The strategic plan will be a fluid, changing plan based upon events going forward.

From the strategic plan, you will develop short term business plans (one to two years in length) with benchmarks and accountability for change.

This is not done overnight.  Our experience has been with firms we work with that it can take one to two years to bring it together and start moving forward.  It requires a strong commitment from the leadership of the firm with a buy-in from the rest of the firm members.

The question you must ask yourself as either a active law firm owner or one contemplating opening a practice is where you want to be ten to fifteen years.  This involves not only a hard look at your firm but a hard look at the personal goals and needs of current owners.  Build the firm to meet those needs and be competitive and you will have a sustainable and profitable law firm in 2025.

CONTACT:  cjleone@catalystgroupinc.com

 

 

 

 

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Law Firm Management

In 2008, we wrote the article From Start to Never Finished and it was very successful. We decided to repeat it so that lawyers thinking of going out on their own could get the benefit of our experiences and those of the people we have met. We thought after five years the article might need drastic updates. To our surprise, we realized we only needed minor changes. We might add that we have found compelling evidence of those who enter a new practice as a business person instead of a lawyer (darn those many hats you will wear), are much more successful. More important we found that our belief in high performance principles was justified and we encourage you to go through our website which gives a great overview of HP principle.

We have defined ten stakes in the ground that you, as a potential law firm owner, need to consider. Our favorite saying is what part of “for profit” don’t you understand? If you do it right, you will be a profitable law firm that delivers a high quality work product with exceptional service, and you will reap the rewards of your dream.

Our white papers are available as e-documents free of charge to our online subscribers. If you are interested in the above, please go to our website or our Facebook page and sign up to receive our practice tips on how to manage, market and master your law firm. You can also use your cell phone and text FORPROFIT to 22828. Your privacy is always our concern and will be protected. If you are a current member of the Catalyst Subscriber Group and would like to receive our updated white paper From Start to Never Finished email cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com.

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