January 01, 2017

Defining Moments: A Job or a Calling?

Melanie Bragg

In many ways 2016 was an incredibly interesting year. The New Year is a chance to get a fresh start. As we make our goals and consider the path for the upcoming year, we need to look back for a moment.

Did you notice how current events affect our business?

For us solos who do wills, handle divorces, and do small business formation documents, we probably noticed that when people are nervous about the economy they tend to put off doing their wills or drafting that new business contract. This forces us to be more strategic in our marketing, pricing, and our ability to sign-up clients.

Are your clients expecting more from you?

In these challenging times, clients are smarter, and they have more resources at their disposal to educate them about their legal problems. We must stay on the cutting-edge of technology in order to stay abreast of this ever-changing environment. What new technologies will you implement this year to help you work smarter rather than harder?

Are your communication patterns and the way you do business changing?

I have been practicing law a long time. In the last five years, my business processes have changed in every area. Most of the changes I like. For example, I used to never give clients my cell phone number, but now they all have it and texting is a common form of communication. I adapt to change because as a solo, we must be flexible and receptive to current circumstances in order to survive. If we don’t have a book of business to sustain our lifestyle and our future goals, then we are toast. The current legal climate is ripe with pressure to change and do it better. Hanging on to old ways gets us nowhere. That’s why I am in a total cleaning out process. I am cleaning out my office and getting rid of whatever is not necessary. If we hang on to too many things there is not enough room left to add new things. So what about wiping the slate clean? What tools do you need to keep going? These are the things I want to discuss and explore this year.

In the beginning of the year, as we creatively visualize things to come and new goals to achieve, it is comforting and encouraging to reflect on things we have done well.

What happened in 2016 that made it a great year?

What cases stood out that took you to a whole new level? What lessons did you learn about leadership? Management? What made you most happy? Most fulfilled?

Criminal Minds is one of the television shows I record. During a segment on January 3, 2017, in which Rossi, from the FBI Behavioral Analysis Team, was teaching a group of new agents, he said a line that really grabbed me, and I knew it tied into the January “Defining Moments” column. It was so good I hit reverse on my TV until I captured it verbatim; it goes like this:

“Some cases end well and you can forget about them.
Some become a part of who you are.
This job is going to change you, and not only that, it’s going to show you who you really are.
And sometimes that’s not easy to see.
And that’s why not everybody can do this job.
And that’s why we train like we do.
Because lives depend upon it.”

The entire thought is our story, too, the story of lawyers. The practice of law is so demanding and so encompassing. Each day we juggle a variety of situations. And, in each year, we do many cases. I do not remember all of them. We compartmentalize and move on, but there is the occasional case, the one that grabs us, the client we helped and whose life we changed for the good. But in many cases it not only changes their lives, it changes us. Those ah-ha moments are what keep us going. They give us the drive to get out of bed each day and do it again. When you go out on a limb and really fight for a case, that’s when you know you are alive. And that is what makes the practice of law so great.

So as we enter this wonderful new year, let’s stop for a moment and appreciate the one we just finished, then sit down and make our goals and visualize the new things in store for us this year.

And remember, lives depend on us and what we do matters.

To each of you I wish the best in all areas of your life for the upcoming year. Questions or comments are appreciated. Reach out to me at Melanie@bragglawpc.com.

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Melanie Bragg

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Melanie Bragg has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Houston’s fiercest attorneys in her representation of children, the elderly, and mentally disadvantaged people. Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas. She also writes and produces legal education programs through Legal Insight, Inc. (founded by Bragg in 1993). Her writing credits include Crosstown Park, an Alex Stockton legal thriller, HIPAA for the General Practitioner, chapters in How to Capture and Keep Clients, 2nd Edition; Effortless Marketing: Putting Your Unique Qualities to Work, 2nd Edition; and The Conscious Lawyer: How the Practice of Mindfulness Will Increase Your Bottom Line, as well as the upcoming book, Defining Moments: Insights into The Lawyer’s Soul, to be published by the American Bar Association (ABA) Flagship Division. When she is not writing, Melanie devotes her time to her work as Secretary of the Solo, Small Firm & General Practice (GP SOLO) Division and to sharing ideas with fellow authors. She is interested in your feedback and ideas about how solos, small firms, military, and government lawyers can lead richer, happier lives and thereby improve the delivery of legal services to the public. Melanie can be reached at Melanie@bragglawpc.com.