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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Yet Another Post about Lawyers and Christmas

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’tis the season to write about Christmas mania, tra-la-la-la-lah, la lah… lah…. lah.

How are you feeling right now?

Are you excited about the Christmas break (if you get one)? Or perhaps you’re feeling a bit like you’re being attacked from all directions at once, unable to defend yourself from the onslaught of demands that are being placed on your time.

They look like this:

we’d really like to get this finalised before Christmas

At this point, a weary look crosses your face, knowing as you do that most clients believe that they are your ONLY clients, and that you’ve had the same request 274 times in the last week.

Here’s one response that lots of lawyers might like to say, but most don’t:

You don’t need it done before Christmas. In fact, you’ve spent the last 3 months totally ignoring me and dragging your feet on this stuff, so frankly announcing that I need to drop everything right now to get it done before a fictitious deadline that has no actual importance in relation your file is quite frankly rude.

Assuming you’re not going with that, how are you going to attack the last week of work?

Warning – this post may contain inadvertent Christmas references. I don’t apologise.

That’s Christmas to Me…

What’s the problem?

Well, much like Santa, everyone wants something. Sure, they’ll feed you unhealthy snacks and pack you full of booze along the way, but with 1.9billion kids wanting a piece of you no amount of cheap red wine is going to get you through it intact.

At least – not unless you do it right.

If you’re going to be a boss like Santa, you’re going to need some things:

  1. a map of the world;
  2. some elves;
  3. A Counterpart Clause Claus, if you have one available (Santa had Mrs Claus, if you recall);
  4. the ability to rest.

He’s got reindeer too, but they have a tendency to lock horns with each other during the festive season, and I’m not sure we need more of that.

Make a List – Check it Twice

[clickToTweet tweet=”In the lead up to Christmas your ability to keep track of things to do is going to keep you steady.” quote=”In the lead up to Christmas your ability to keep track of things to do is going to keep you steady.”]

The biggest issue that’s making your head spin like you’ve had too much egg nog is that you feel out of control.

First – breath.

Next – write a list.  Santa does it, and it works a charm.

In the days leading up to Christmas your ability to keep track of the things you need to do is going to help keep you steady.

At the very least, putting it in a least will help you feel like you’re more in control.

Even better, often after you write it down it doesn’t look quite so massive.

Once you have your list, assess the things on it and decide which things:

  1. can and should be done (the nice)
  2. doesn’t have to be done (naughty)
  3. should be done, but might need help (um… this part isn’t in the song – it’s implied).

With your list in hand you can effectively decide what to do next and do it.  Then you get the extreme satisfaction of ticking it of (don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I actually write down a couple of things I’ve already done on my list, that way I can tick them off immediately and feel like I’ve got momentum right from the start).

Add to the list as needed – keep it current, and accurate.

Now – don’t you feel like things are more in control now?

Recruiting Elves

I’m not sure whether you’ve ever tried to recruit helpful, happy and productive people just before Christmas, but unfortunately they all seem to be occupied in their second jobs somewhere.

Because law firms are often running a bit low on those traits.

However, if you’ve done your list and realised that there’s simply no way of accomplishing the tasks on it, then you’re going to need some help.

Here are the realistic options:

  1. say no to the task;
  2. delegate all or part of the task to someone;
  3. push back the timeframe;
  4. modify the nature of the task.

Saying no is powerful, but kind of difficult when it comes to the people who pay your wages.

Delegating is probably your best bet in most circumstances.  Find someone who might have a few minutes and see if they can get the task underway, or finished.

If the time for completion is not set in stone (eg – it’s “desirable” but not “mandatory”) then the sooner you tell someone the better.  Don’t get all the way up to Christmas eve having promised over and over to deliver, and have to make 27 phone calls to clients wishing them a Merry Christmas but “so sorry I didn’t get to that thing you wanted me to do”.  Manage the expectations early.

Sometimes, the task you think you have to do isn’t precisely the task that needs doing.  If you’ve been asked to draw a letter of advice, does it need to follow the normal 29 page template? Or could you just call the client and give them the answer? We occasionally blow up tasks in our own minds to be bigger than they really are, whereas with a few minutes thought we can short circuit the task, without butchering the quality.

All I Want for Christmas is You

If you’re generally struggling to keep your head above water, there really isn’t anything quite as good as some kind of support from your loved ones.

Santa has Mrs Claus.

I have Mrs Hargreaves (and she has me).

Whether or not you’re married, all you need is someone that you can share with that can respond with:

I’ve got your back.

While work might be busy and your firm might be a slightly tense space for a time, knowing that you’ve got that kind of support somewhere is a pretty awesome feeling.

Plus, by now you’ve probably heard that Mariah Carey song about 1,649 times. So you should be feeling all happy ‘n’ stuff anyway.

God Rest Ye…

Even when you feel like you have a million things to do, taking 5 minutes (10, 15) out to simply stop is extremely valuable.

If you have an office, close your door.

If not, go out for a few minutes.

Find somewhere quiet without your phone.


Then get back to it.

Oh – Merry Christmas

Find some peace – it’s kind of the point of the whole thing, after all.

What’s your trick? How are you going to get through it?

Happy Lawyering!

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