There’s been a lot of talk about how 2016 was the worst year. Maybe it was. I’m not just talking about dead celebrities and election results. Maybe you were one of the thousands in California who did not pass the bar exam or maybe you are pissed about your bonus. I am eager to move into 2017 with new vigor and be a better lawyer and a better person. Last year, I put together a short list of goals we can set to make a better year. Here’s my list for 2017.
Use Your Down Time Effectively
How do you spend your commute to work? Are you listening to music? Enjoying the silence? Talking to others on the subway? Maximize your down time and learn new things. Download the Audible app on your phone and listen to audiobooks. I have mine set to 1.65 speed because I don’t need all the dramatic pauses when I’m listening to nonfiction. You’ll learn more about being an effective lawyer with audiobooks than you ever will in law school. Power through books that teach you how to better persuade like Thinking Fast and Slow, The Art of Explanation, Lead with a Story. If you have a 30-minute, one-way commute and work 5 days a week, that’s 250 hours you have of down time. If you spend half of that time listening to audio books, that’s 15 eight-hour books a year you could finish without any extra time. I have a subscription, so I get a book every month for $15. They even offer a free trial period if you want to try it out.
Learn Better Shortcuts and Better Lawyer Skills
If you’ve never heard of Lynda.com, it started out as a website that offered tutorials on software that were broken down into beginner, intermediate, advanced categories, and each lesson had chapters with short segments that lasted a few minutes each, so you could drill down on specific things you wanted to learn, or learn a new software program from scratch by watching the entire lesson. Lynda was bought by LinkedIn, which in turn was bought by Microsoft. Over the last few years, Lynda.com has really transformed into an invaluable learning resource. You don’t know how to format a table of authorities in Word? There’s a lesson for that. You want to learn how to use OneNote because you heard it’s the best free tool lawyers can use? There are several videos you can watch no matter your experience level. Are you a trial lawyer and you want to work on your presentation skills or maybe incorporate some trial graphics? They have classes for that too.
When you finish a course, you get a certificate of completion. I promise you that there are everyday things that you are doing wrong. Learning shortcuts for everyday tasks like automatic numbering the paragraphs in your complaints or your special interrogatories, or learning to use styles in formatting your pleadings can save you hours (usually late-night hours or hours before a deadline) in the long run.
Keep Disaster at Bay
John Podesta’s password was p@ssw0rd. That’s how his email got hacked, possibly causing Hillary Clinton to lose the election. He had one of the most common passwords in the world. Don’t be that man. Don’t have his problems. If you are like any of the 90% of the people on the internet who reuse some variation of the same password on every site, get a password manager. I discussed how to set them up and what they do here a few weeks ago. Change your passwords. Enable two-factor authentication where you can. If you access email from your phone, lock your phones. Password-protect your computers. There are few things worse that could happen to a lawyer than having to explain to a client that you exposed all of his or her confidential data to the world. Most of the time, the exposing happens because of careless security policies.
Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s have an awesome 2017.