Eat more veggies!

Happy New Year! Every January, millions resolve to make all kinds of lifestyle changes, like eating more vegetables, exercising more, eliminating vices, and re-connecting with family. I’m one of those people who enthusiastically embrace the annual tradition of New Year’s resolutions. I know, shocker.

You may already have some personal resolutions, but what about some resolutions for your law practice? With a little tweaking (that’s tweaking, not twerking), you can modify these classics to make this year your best yet. Here’s how I’m doing it.
Eat your vegetables

The stern message has been clear since childhood: Eat your veggies! What’s the equivalent in your practice — in other words, something good for you you should be consuming more of?

Prepare to groan, but I’m a big fan of what I call Rules Boot Camp. Every week, I strive to read one or two rules plus annotations in the Rules of Procedure. You’d be surprised what you find in there, trust me. That baby is useful, but you have to know what’s available to get the maximum advantage for your clients. I haven’t done Rules Boot Camp recently, but I’m going to start again this month.

If you think that’s too keener, try this: I have a colleague who reads the new cases released on the Ontario Court of Appeal web site most days during her lunch. How broccoli is that? But there’s a reason I go to her with some of my toughest questions — she really knows her stuff.

A less intense version of eating more veggies could be committing to at least skimming the industry publications we all receive. I’m always surprised at how useful some of the articles are (particularly in the LawPRO publication and, of course, Canadian Lawyer). It’s an easy way to know what’s happening in the profession, and a somewhat justifiable way to procrastinate getting started on that factum.

I leave it to you to determine what your best “eat your veggies” resolution will be, but consider something you know you probably should be doing, and then do it.
Exercise more

Have you become chained to the desk, buried in so much work you’re not getting any practical opportunities on your feet?

Make 2014 the year you seek out more chances to get out there. Even if you’re not a litigator, there are ways to get active in your area of law. If you’re not in a work environment where juniors are handed those opportunities, ask for them!

If you’re looking for more experience outside the office, Pro Bono Law Ontario, or your provincial equivalent, can provide several ways to volunteer and gain practical skills. You could also consider joining a not-for-profit board of directors (though if you do, read this first

I’ve been “exercising” a lot this past year, so rather than add more, I’ll maintain those habits.
Eliminate vices

We all have them, so ’fess up. What’s your practice habit akin to smoking, drinking too much, or excessive shopping?

Your desk looks like the inside of a goat’s stomach? Consider putting aside five minutes every day to tidy it up and put files back in the cabinet. Is your virtual desk a cluttered mess? Figure out an e-filing system where you can strive to have an empty inbox every day.

Are you a procrastinator, to your detriment? Maybe this is the year to work on that.

My practice vice is checking e-mail at inappropriate times and places — in bed, during meals, on the treadmill, on early weekend mornings — it’s just a habit. Turning off the flashing red light indicator helped me manage this vice to an extent, but I’m still not where I want to be.

It’s a fact of law practice now (at least mine) that checking e-mails during evenings and weekends is required. But during dinner? Really? My dining companions deserve better. So I resolve to quit being such a weirdo with the BlackBerry and check it at regular intervals outside business hours when it’s not rude and I’m not going to face plant off gym equipment.
Prioritize relationships

No cheesy practice-themed modification required here, thankfully.

Make 2014 the year you focus on your relationships. We can all think of at least two people that we’ve lost contact with lately, whether from law school, other workplaces, or life in general. Why not suggest a coffee or lunch date with that person?

What about that lawyer you sat with at your last CLE? He seemed interesting. Invite him for a coffee to discuss your latest projects. How about a handwritten note to congratulate a colleague on a recent job change or to say thank you for the referral (which we should all be doing anyway)?

If you haven’t already gotten rid of your holiday cards, check to see who is sending you greetings. Did you send him or her one? When was the last time you saw that person? How about a quick note to check in and ask about his or her holidays?

Building and maintaining relationships is key to business development, yes, but it’s also a way to foster a sense of community and belonging in our profession. My network of colleagues, both at Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP and elsewhere, is one of the most treasured parts of my job. I find everything feels easier when I can share my victories and struggles with others.

Good luck with your resolutions, and all the best for 2014.

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