Tomorrow I am presenting before the annual meeting of the Bankruptcy Section of the North Carolina Bar Association in Pinehurst. The topic will be on the intersection of family law and bankruptcy. I’m told one of the topics that will be of interest to attendees is whether domestic support obligations (child support, spousal support and alimony) are subject to modification. The modification of alimony was my topic of presentation last week before a meeting of the Family Law Section, so I’m primed for that discussion. I posted my manuscript on alimony modification last week. Here is the manuscript for tomorrow’s presentation. Making presentations this year has been a great way for me to gain mastery of the material, to make and deepen connections with colleagues, and to be of service to my profession.
The American Bar Association presented on Lawyers as Leaders at the Peace Center in Greenville on October 23rd, 2015, and it was a good refresher for me to attend. Presentations focused on personality traits of lawyers, and how those traits impact leadership; lawyers as leaders within their firms; lawyers as leaders in client relationships; and, lawyers as leaders in our communities. One presenter suggested that perfection is the ideal aspiration for a firm to adhere to. That means going all in, in every case, great and small. Ideas to beat the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) and to move to 100 in the client experience were discussed and included maintaining consistent situational awareness; maintaining open, diverse and deep social networks; and operating from a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset that is bound by an unhealthy ego.
Maybe the perfectionist mindset isn’t all bad, I found myself wondering. Personally, I believe that to beat the commodification of the legal profession, which is happening, lawyers must meet the leadership challenge. For one, that means collaborating with your client in a way that ensures that he or she can see, hear and feel the difference a lawyer committed to leadership can make. The call to leadership has my attention. As my firm’s leader, the goal of Siemens Family Law Group remains to exceed client expectations while positively impacting the legal profession, the Courts, and the community at large.
At some point in your professional career, you need to step forward and offer to give back to your colleagues and your profession. Lots of good lawyers care about the quality of their work, their practice areas, and the law and policy that affect their clients. Leaders of the North Carolina Bar Association Family Law Section put those best intentions into action. Year after year, they present the best continuing legal education to lawyers of all levels of experience. And, they work to educate the North Carolina General Assembly in an effort to make family law and policy in North Carolina work better for the citizens of the great North State. I’m humbled to participate in these good efforts this year. My contribution comes in the form of a presentation on the law of alimony, and in particular, alimony modification. Here is the manuscript that I will be presenting from next week:
A few months ago I posted about a Covey Leadership training the Siemens Family Law Group attended. I have watched the group practicing the habits since, and I think we have all gained personally and professionally. I know everybody has practiced the 7th habit, because we have all taken some time off this Summer.
This week, I have taken a couple days at the beach. Before I return to the office, I want to post about that 7th habit of re-creation, what Covey calls “sharpening the saw”.
The metaphor goes like this: you can’t saw wood all week and expect the saw to perform the same way Friday as it did when you started Monday. The saw needs to be maintained, it needs to be sharpened. You might say you have too much wood to cut to take time to do the sharpening, but that will only make the saw dull and ineffective.
I have encouraged every member of SFLG to take time off this Summer, for good reason. Time away from the job allows for re-creation. An opportunity to rediscover talents and interests. An opportunity for fresh perspective and insight. I know I am coming back sharper, with more ideas and a renewed desire to care for clients.
But the real message here is for clients and prospective clients. Separation and divorce are some of the toughest life experiences humans endure. In the past 24 months, I have known clients, and their former partners, who have become so overwhelmed by the circumstances and events of their lives that they experienced tragic consequences. I believe they forgot to care for themselves along the way – they neglected to sharpen their saw.
You can’t afford not to take care of yourself. Take a day off and take more if you can. Go for a ride, a run, a hike. Read, paint, play music. Do whatever it is you used to do that brought you joy. Re-create yourself. You will be happier for it, and better able to manage whatever comes your way.
We want our clients to do their best to take care of themselves. Clients who know how to sharpen the saw are better able to follow our advice, make better decisions, and help us to get better results.
Stay sharp and count on us to do the same.
The Siemens Family Law Group attended a FranklinCovey 7 Habits Signature Program in April, 2012. We thought the program was important enough that all present members of the group were in attendance and active participants. The training was premised on the 7 Habits paradigm that Stephen Covey has created.
The first three habits are habits are foundational. The first of these is proactivity. Proactive leaders work from the circle of their own influence and are not distracted by outside influences over which they have no control. Proactive leaders respond to stimulus proactively, rather than reactively. Proactive leaders recognize that they have the freedom to choose their responses.
Effective leaders approach tasks with the end in mind. They envision their end point and survey the route that will get them there. If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t lead. Beginning with the end in mind is the second habit.
Putting first things first is the third habit. Leaders adopting this habit identify and sort out truly important tasks from those tasks that consume time and energy, but which are not truly important. Stephen Covey encourages identifying and eliminating distraction. Leaders who are distracted are not effective.
With these foundational habits engrained personally, Stephen Covey suggests moving toward interaction with others from a win/win mindset. The fourth habit of an effective leader, then, is to think win/win. This type of thinking calls for the achievement of your goals, but also the achievement of the goals of those with whom you interact.
The fifth habit is that of empathic listening (as opposed to autobiographical listening) as you interact with others. Empathic listening does not involve advice giving, probing, or judgment. The goal of an empathic listener is to understand the feeling and substance being expressed by the speaker before the listener responds. When that understanding is reached, rapport is established and one can then seek to be understood.
The habit of synergy is the sixth habit, the natural culmination of the previously described habits, and the ideal outcome of relationships with others. Synergy is something Covey refers to as the “third alternative” which emerges when people collaborate. When leaders synergize, they can create outcomes that are greater than the sum of the resources applied.
The seventh habit is the habit of recreation or re-creation. He calls the habit “sharpening the saw”. What he emphasizes is that effective leaders have a responsibility to take care of themselves mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Only by doing so can leaders expect continuity of leadership.
We came away from the training committed to applying these habits in our work for clients. We see the potential for continued professional and personal growth as the 7 habits are applied. A mission statement for the Siemens Family Law Group was borne out of the process: Justice through proactivity and effective communication.