It’s one of the things that separates professionals, who exhibit the essence of a professional, from those who are in a profession, but have the reputation of “being all over the place.” This can be the result of having a practice where organization takes a back seat to being busy, or having a life where there’s just too much going on – too many cases, as well as too many committees, too many networking events, too much going on at home – no ability to cut out the things that need to be cut.
There is that phrase that “it doesn’t matter what happens to you, but how you react.” In other words, life either happens to you, or you control it to the best of your ability. As you go through life, especially as a lawyer, saying “yes” becomes routine. “Yes” I’ll take that case pro bono, “yes” I’ll help organize that CLE, “yes” I’ll serve in a leadership position, “yes” I’ll coach Little League. There are only so many hours in a day, yet we as lawyers are routinely finding ourselves overcommitted to both professional and community endeavors. We’ll say “no” next time, or resign from that committee in a few months….
I don’t know that there are any books out there on how to say “yes” more often. I did read a book once called The Power of a Positive No (affiliate link), and I’ve seen a few articles out there on the art and science of saying “no.” It doesn’t get easier to say “no” either as you go through your career. Assuming you actually make something of yourself as a lawyer, you are asked to do more. It’s not just the lunchtime CLE down the street, it’s the conference in another state. Cases become more complex, life becomes more complex. Saying “no” is often an analysis of many moving parts, not just whether you have the time. Saying “yes” is easy, while the thought of saying “no” often keeps us awake at night.
So as the title hinted, I’m taking a break here, and I don’t do so easily. The
comments I receive here weekly e-mails I’ve received over the last two years indicate that at least some things I’ve said here have resonated with a few lawyers. Some people even told me I actually know what I’m talking about even though I’m not a former practicing lawyer selling the dream of the internet as a basis for a law practice.
Even though I haven’t followed the critical advice of the law futurists, the last few months have found me having to spend more time with some clients and cases, and sometime next year, thanks to ABA Publishing, I’ll be releasing my first book. That project has taken more time than I expected, as I’m doing it while sitting in Starbucks and selling legal documents because that’s the future of law, practicing law, raising a family, and trying to say “no” as much as possible.
I don’t know how long this break will be. I may pop in every once in a while to spout some essential wisdom. In the interim, I trust you’ll survive. If there’s something about the future of law that I need to know immediately so that my practice doesn’t die, you can find me on Twitter @btannebaum, even though no client has ever asked if I’m on Twitter.
Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at email@example.com.