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Changing It Up

I had something scary happen a few weeks ago.  So scary, I didn’t even really talk about it.  But I have been thinking about what I can do to prevent it from happening again.

I was leaving the downtown courthouse after a particularly contentious hearing.  I represented mom, who had told me that dad was a violent abuser when they were married.  We even had the deputies arrange the whole separate exits thing.

When I left, though, I noticed dad standing on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse.  I crossed the street and headed to my car.  Unfortunately, that was a busy morning at the courthouse and the garage right next to it was full when I arrived.  I had parked about 4 blocks away.

As I walked to my car, I realized dad was about 20 feet behind me.  Not only that, he stayed 20 feet behind me for the entire walk to my car.

It was horribly intimidating, knowing this man’s history and knowing he was right behind me.  I got to my car safely and went on my way.  But the whole thing was a wake up call.  This wasn’t the first incident like that this year.

I’ve ultimately decided to no longer take on divorce or child custody cases, and to withdraw from the majority of my pending cases.  My children do not deserve the risk this work involves.

Does this fit into my why?

I didn’t become a lawyer to worry about whether or not I would come home at night.  I don’t own my own firm to purposefully put myself in harm’s way – in fact, I purposefully started my own firm so that I would have more time with my kids – or at least more flexibility of time with my kids.  I had to really think about what was more important to me – representing clients in a particular area of practice, or knowing that there is higher likelihood of me returning home safely.

This is bigger than just me

The fact that I’m changing up my business and stopping a particular practice area (divorce and child custody) because of these incidents makes me mad.  It particularly makes me mad that somehow, we as a society, have tacitly said it is ok for men to intimidate or terrorize women. It makes me incredibly angry that I felt unsafe walking in broad daylight, in a populated area of town. The very fact that we have courthouse protocols for this behavior lets me know how often it occurs.

I’m also angry on behalf of my clients.  I can’t be the only attorney out there who isn’t willing to risk personal safety to engage with crazy, threatening people.  But if attorneys aren’t willing to stand up to abusers, how will women get their day in court?  How will they get justice and protection?

Safety Measures

I’m adding this in for those readers who want some practice steps.  These are things I do to increase my personal safety.

As a guardian ad litem, I am often required to visit people’s homes.  I have a number of things that are part of my safety protocol in doing this: I rarely visit new places after dark.  I never visit people I have never met before after dark.  I always put the names of the child I am visiting and the address of the home in my google calendar so my husband can access my planned location if for some reason I don’t come home when planned.  I always use maps on my cell, and keep my location services turned on, so that theoretically I can be traced.  I always take my phone inside with me. And I always let my husband know when I plan to be home.

At Juvenile Court, after an incident in the summer, I changed where I park.  I talked to the security people and the deputies and determined the best location to park so that I am always on camera. This lets me know that even if I am surprised by a disgruntled opposing party or client, I am always on camera – and help should be on the way. Inside the courthouse, there are always deputies on hand, and they take their job of protecting the public and eliminating mayhem very seriously.

Conclusion

I am no longer working divorce and child custody cases.  I AM still working in the areas of intellectual property, trademarks, copyrights, contracts and small business advice and consultation.  I am also accepting juvenile court appointments.

These incidents, together, have been a huge lesson in letting go of what no longer serves me, and knowing as a business owner that it is okay to say no to certain types of cases and work.  There are lots of other people who can and will say yes to this representation.

 

 

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The Results Are In

Last weekend, I shared a bit about my health and fitness plans for the week.  This is a follow up to those posts on social media.

The results are in!  I’ve lost just over 2 pounds since Sunday — and more than 15 pounds in the last five weeks.  While I still have a ways to go to get to a healthy weight, I am moving in the right direction — not just on the scale, but also in terms of other healthy habits.

One of the big keys to my success has been including my doctor in the process. I have struggled for well over a year, trying to lose the weight with this program or that.  In September, something clicked — as in “it shouldn’t be this hard.”  I knew I was following plans that other people were having fantastic results with — and I was getting nothing.  After including my doctor, I realized that a few routine medical issues were impacting my ability to maintain a healthy weight.  And by combining healthy eating and exercise, along with prescribed medications for those issues, I suddenly saw results.

As I thought over the phenomenal turn around in my journey, I (of course) saw the tie in to business ownership.  How often do we, as business owners, try to solve a problem ourselves?  Sometimes it works — and sometimes, it just doesn’t.  It can be easy to point the finger at ourselves and assume we aren’t capable of whatever the desired result was…. instead of thinking we can get there if we just add in a little professional help.

Some of the other things that were in play in my health journey:

  1. Fitness Watch:  I averaged between 4,000 and 5,000 steps each day this week.  Now that I see how much less I am moving than at other points in my life, I know that one of the things I need to incorporate is more movement — more walks, less sitting.
  2. Bento boxes and meal prep:  These were a success!  No more thinking about what to make.  No more thinking about portions or anything.  Just grab a box at meal times.  I would add that next week I need to put the crackers / pretzels in snack bags so they don’t get stale by the end of the week.  And that apples and peppers weren’t the best items for long term food storage, but grapes, carrots and celery did great.
  3. Stationary bike:  More than a few people have suggested other workouts to do in the morning.  For right now, I’m trying to firmly incorporate the morning exercise habit, before I switch up the workout itself.  I managed the bike every morning except Friday — I consider this a win!
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Putting My House In Order

Have you heard the phrase “the shoemaker’s children have no shoes”?  It goes right to the heart of being a small business owner — whether you’re a lawyer or a doctor or a plumber or a website designer. Sometimes, the hardest client to get to is yourself.  So the doctor may ignore his own healthy living advice, and the plumber may have a leaky faucet for weeks and the website designer may not have touched their own design for years…. and the lawyer may not be following all of their own advice either.

Over the course of this year, I have focused on bringing my own house back into order.  From correcting things on my own business license, to streamlining processes, to — here it is — filing my own trademark.

Late last month I finally trademarked the tagline I have been using for almost five years — “Creating Dreams Into Reality.” There wasn’t a big eye-opening, earth shattering moment… but it did make me think about how often we as business owners put ourselves and our business last, thinking we are best serving our clients.

The truth is, having your ducks in a row — whether it is using contracts and client agreements, trademarking your logo or tagline, updating your website with a picture of you that’s less than 2 years old, and refreshing your social media content will all serve your clients as well as your business.  Your clients will have a clear idea of who you are and what you are like to work with.

If you’re thinking about your own business or organization, and want some ideas of where you might want to create more clarity and alignment, these are the areas I have truly thought over in the last few months:

  1. Website
  2. Advertising
  3. Practice areas — what kinds of projects do I really want?
  4. Trademarks
  5. Staffing – including hiring a receptionist service and changing the duties of my part time admin
  6. Reviewing LLC and business license issues to ensure compliance
  7. Reviewing insurance policies and thinking about what may need to be implemented next
  8. Pricing and Fees
  9. Expenses – Do I need everything I am paying for?  Do I need something I haven’t been paying for?
  10. Space and organization

If you would like to schedule a time to talk about your business and how we can update you, so you can focus on your clients — knowing the legal background is handled, let me know.