I’m teaming up with my former high school student to deliver online training in nutrition and at-home exercise.
You’re Fighting the Robots
Lawyer marketing? Do I have to?
The landscape is changing for lawyers. Getting a law degree is no longer the “Golden Pass” it once was. There are fewer jobs, and the average student debt coming out of law school is $112,000.
In a New York Times story titled, “Law Firms, Struggling Financially, Cull Partner Ranks.” Even large, powerhouse firms are demoting partners in a process called “de-equitizing” (yes, it would take a bunch of lawyers to come up with that term)or even letting them go.
An entire firm of several hundred lawyers, founded in 1848, Thacher, Proffitt & Wood, had to shut its doors because of its focus on mortgage-backed securities work (remember what happened in 2008?). In this new world, specialization can be a trap – unless you work in criminal defense.
No matter your seniority, you could be in trouble.
It’s also not the revered career path it once was.
It seems the reputation of the legal profession has been trending downward for over a decade. Things have gotten so bad that the American Bar Association even tried to highlight a 15-year old holiday, celebrating the troubled profession. Don’t believe me? It’s here.
WHEREAS, Lawyers have consistently been the target of verbal bashing, derogatory portrayals and literature are rife with lawyer bashing dated back hundreds of years. . .
SECTION 1. The first Friday of November be recognized and celebrated as “Love Your Lawyer Day”, a day for the public to celebrate lawyers and express their gratitude to them for their affirmative contributions to the public good and the administration of justice.
My guess is that even lawyers’ family members won’t be celebrating this one. But it hides a bigger problem.
As if the bad reputation wasn’t enough, some new challengers do better work at a lower cost. They don’t even need lunch or bathroom breaks. That’s because. . .
Are you better than ROSS?
ROSS is “the world’s first artificially intelligent lawyer.”
ROSS has joined the ranks of law firm Baker Hostetler, which employs about 50 human lawyers just in its bankruptcy practice. The AI machine, powered by IBM’s Watson technology, will serve as a legal researcher for the firm. It will be responsible for sifting through thousands of legal documents to bolster the firm’s cases.
Fresh-out-of-school lawyers early on in their careers, typically fill these legal research jobs.. I was one of those lawyers oh so many years ago.
Last year, an 18-year old British coder developed a parking ticket bot called DoNotPay that quickly handles ticket appeals through a Q&A chat. The bot, which is available for free online, has successfully appealed some $3 million worth of tickets, saving drivers the cost of hiring a lawyer for the appeal, which can run between $400 and $900.
Yes, I Did That Too
I’m not gloating, and I’m not your typical lawyer bashing snob. In fact, growing up, all I ever wanted to be was a lawyer. After watching my parents fight the good fight in the civil rights movement and as pioneers in the drug treatment movement, I was determined to fight for the downtrodden.
I ended up graduating from Columbia University Law School and detoured into the world of mortgage-backed securities law. I eventually righted the ship and worked as a prosecutor, chief counsel to a U.S. Senate subcommittee, and as a defense attorney. I had pretty much covered the field.
I had hit a dead end, and the world wasn’t much better off for my efforts.
I started thinking about creating a school for students from my East Harlem community who weren’t being well-served by the existing educational system. I quit my well-paying job (this wasn’t the last time) to tilt at this windmill.
Now, my law degree was going to help me pay the bills while I created this school. I worked as the field director for an afterschool program on the Lower East Side of New York (before it became gentrified) and worked as a court-appointed defense attorney.
But I still needed to market. This was before you could do business on the Internet. Because I was working night court (midnight to 8 AM), I had zero energy for figuring out the marketing. I hired two teens I had worked with in that after school program I mentioned, and gave them flyers to pass out – hundreds of them. Those flyers got me…
N.B. (I always wanted to write this!) – The school got created, and it’s now in its 23rd year and being run by my brother.
A dirty secret is that the smartest lawyers are often not the most financially successful.
What they never taught me in law school (and they’re still not teaching it, for the most part), was how to market my services. Everyone from first-year law students to partners at large firms is trying to figure out how to keep up with the business changes – changes that require marketing. still be able to network, serve your clients, and keep from getting divorced.
Attorneys also need to network, serve your clients, and keep from getting divorced.
I had to do my marketing the old-fashioned way because it was the only way available. Nowadays, there is a world of digital marketing tools that can provide a more level playing field. Don’t let te technology scare you. Virtual assistants, legal outsourcing from businesses like Pangea3, cloud-based software, etc. can become your best friends.
Lawyer Marketing – Fight Back
You may have to – GASP – stop charging by the hour and take a value-based approach to your pricing. Or you can explore something called *productized pricing* which is taking more of a hold in the freelancing world that I now inhabit.
If you’re a solo practitioner, you’re also an independent consultant. Your goal is to become a recognized authority and a trusted advisor to your clients.
Here’s a list of more specific things you can do:
• Update your LinkedIn profile.
• Update your website. Please. It can serve as your 24-hour marketing and sales team.
• Start producing content for your blog. What? You don’t have one?!
• Make sure the local directories list you correctly.
• Have an email signup form “above the fold” on your website.
• Learn some basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
• Create an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on your website that addresses objections of potential clients.
• Get out and do some local public speaking.
• Write guest posts for trade publications and influential blogs.
• Develop a referral plan.
• Spy on your competition’s ads.
• Sponsor the local Little League team (and then do the follow-up PR for your generosity).
• Follow your state’s ethics rules when it comes to testimonials.
• Join your local chamber of commerce and be active.
There are also marketing firms that you can hire, but it’s hard to know what you’re getting. Having a whole lot of Facebook or Pinterest fans will not do much for your practice.
The Freelance Life
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller
I’m a 58-year-old freelancer, and I think Helen Keller is right. I suppose I could start by calling myself something more responsible like, “consultant,” but the pirate in me prefers “freelancer.” “Freelancer” has more of a spirit of adventure, doesn’t it? Yes, I’m part of the 1099 Workforce and I’m proud of it.
Combine this strange new world of work with the fact that my generation is hated by the other generations – particularly Millenials. Check out stories like, “Baby Boomers Are What’s Wrong With America’s Economy.” We also don’t do ourselves any favors with hashtag wars like “How To Confuse A Millenial.” It’s not easy for us more mature folks.
That hasn’t seemed to matter lately.
I’ve got approximately 126 cover letters and resumes that I’ve sent out that were either ignored, opened with, “Dear Applicant, while your credentials are impressive, they didn’t match with, blah, blah, blah,” or some form of “Dear Hans, you’ve been out of the game too long.”
I’ve done the startup thing before. I am almost officially unemployable through temperament and circumstance, so I’m doing it again.
My 10-year old was surprised that I actually do more than make dinner, meditate, and workout. That stung. It’s not too early for her to learn that there’s such a thing as “freelancing,” but there are a lot of cultural myths and head-buried ostriches in her world to make this lesson an easy one.
I intend to slip this Fast Company article under her pillow.
When she’s older, I’ll tell her about being “antifragile.” This is where stressors, randomness, and disorder make you stronger and more resilient. As a freelancer, you will need to be/become antifragile or you will fail. Nothing in your formal education prepares you for this.
I started a school in 1993. Its presence disrupted the drug trade on the block, so a contract was taken out on my life. The NYPD facilitated my getting a carry permit, and a Lieutenant suggested the type of bulletproof vest I should wear. The threats weren’t idle. There were over 2,000 homicides that year.
I was afraid. I had a few friends help me get through like NYPD Sergeant (ret.) Anthony Acosta. I stayed in an almost constant state of fear. I learned hypnosis and NeuroLinguistic Programming to help manage my emotional states. Needless to say, things worked out. Those years taught me about a certain kind of fear. I wonder if they somehow prepared me for the fears and pitfalls I’ve had to confront as a middle-aged freelancer:
- fear of failure
- fear of success
- the comfort of mediocrity
- fear of rejection
- the Impostor’s Syndrome
There is pain and struggle on the road to becoming antifragile, but the benefits are worth it. Read the news. Is there a better time to learn how to benefit from disorder?
Self-awareness and self-acceptance play a more important role in my life than my self-esteem. As I mentioned above, I learned hypnosis. I did it out of curiosity and to improve my performance. During my training, I learned that we are all in a trance. My goal was to make it a trance of my own choosing.
Part of my early trance was that I would become a lawyer to solve the world’s problems and gain some social status at the same time. Plus, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t any good at math, which knocked out medical school.
Is freelancing the right path for you? Do you live by your values or by what you’ve been told you should do? My top 3 values are Freedom, Creativity, and Service (not necessarily in that order). Freelancing holds the possibility of me being able to live by my values. “I do it for the possibility and not for the promise.” This path is not for everyone. I respect that.
The World of Work Is Changing Fast
I get it. Some people just want to turn the lights on and have someone tell them what to do. I hope that doesn’t come across as insulting. In fact, my wife fits into this category. She is uniquely talented for going out on her own and impacting a great number of people, but she has those fears.
People I haven’t seen in a while excitedly ask me what I’m doing now. They remember the award-winning school I founded and the national press that came with it, the $14 million nonprofit where I led 350 employees or the consulting I did for a major police department. When I explain that I am helping socially responsible businesses with their online marketing, they cast their eyes down and try to change the subject.
In addition to the embarrassed silence from old friends, there are a couple of other downsides. One is that it’s a lonely existence. I have really learned to like myself!
Researchers and a few legislators are beginning to study the new world of work. They are asking questions about the “gig economy” as a bridge to more traditional employment, and as a path to creativity and freedom. The lack of labor protections and the level of financial insecurity are also part of the package that comes with this new territory.
The Sharing Economy, Automation, and the End of Work
Another downside is the lack of perfect clients. Perfect clients are the ones who pay what you ask, recognize you as the expert, and who have an ego one step down from yours. I’ve found a few – mainly in Australia, strangely enough. I have lowered my rates for people who can’t afford them, and I have been burned by some of them. I’m now focused on clients who have the need, understand their need, and who have the budget to get it addressed. If I make more money, I can better support the people and organizations I care about. This has been another hard lesson. Do you also suffer from a “caretaker personality disorder?”
I have two new books on my Kindle. One talks about the *genius* of business leaders who are automating as fast as they can as they reduce their workforce. The other talks about how American workers are getting screwed because of automation, artificial intelligence, and the sharing economy.
We did the AirBnB thing when we had our Harlem brownstone and I’ve flirted with the idea of doing Uber on the side. These enterprises reward initiative and drive. They also encourage competition and redundancy.
Technology and efficiency will be pursued by businesses of all sizes, regardless of the human cost. Decreasing consumer demand and too few jobs will usher in an economic Singularity that we can choose to fear. Or not.
I don’t think enough attention is being paid to how we’ll harness AI and other technology for the benefit of the larger group vs. the benefit to the oligarchs and tech giants who create and control the machines. The social contract has been broken. Most workers are unprepared for this and the school system is definitely not providing the skills necessary for navigation in this new world.
We have national leaders arguing about the minimum wage and whether to protect jobs from “unfair” foreign competition – or not. They won’t tell you that the jobs that may or may not be up for grabs, won’t be around much longer anyway. They would do better talking about the merits of a Universal Guaranteed Income. Insitute that, and no one will question me anymore if all I do is make dinner, meditate, and workout.
Promise vs. Possibility
Most of us are looking for guarantees. As a freelancer, there are none. It helps to reframe your outlook from being anxious about the outcome to loving the process. I’ve learned to love the process. Combined with my dislike for bosses, I feel that I’m in a pretty good place, in spite of my *advanced* age. While I’m not an Ayn Rand acolyte, I dislike crony capitalism and the coercion of the State. If Soros or the Koch brothers wanted to fund me, I would have a boarding school where the students’ first job would be to learn how to be useful.
Some of this comes down to fighting against the “victim society” we’re becoming used to in favor of the dignity/honor society. Dignity and honor used to hold a special place but is now derided as primitive, hyper-masculine and tribal.
Are You Prepared?
Don’t want to make the leap to freelancing but still want to be prepared for what’s coming? I’ve got you covered:
-Start a vegetable garden.
-Develop a side hustle. Start exploring things like Upwork and LinkedIn Profinder.
-Start an exercise program that makes you stronger. Strong people are harder to kill.
-Understand that your body is not the limousine (or minivan) for your brain.
-Improve your nutrition.
-Learn how to draw.
-Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” Ask, “Why is this happening for me?”
-Develop a morning routine.
-Read about Artificial Intelligence and Aeroponics.
-Join a Maker’s Space.
-Have a fixed mindset? Change it to a growth mindset. Carol Dweck writes about this.
-When something goes wrong, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do now to make it better.” Do that every time something goes wrong.
-Track your blood sugar levels.
-Develop your creativity/idea muscle.
-If you’re the smartest one in your group, find a new group.
-Create a meditation practice.
-Change your relationship to failure.
-Learn lifesaving skills.
-Thoroughly research the alternatives before getting that back surgery.
-Learn hypnosis. We’re all in a trance. Make it one of your own choosing.
-Don’t trust experts.
-Take a reality-based self-defense course.
-Determine your top 3 values. Mine are freedom, creativity, and service.
-Take stock every day to determine if you’ve lived by those values.
-Take an improv class.
-Whether you like it or not, you’re a sales person. Get good at it.
-Learn carpentry or how to use a chainsaw.
-Scare yourself in a survivable way at least once a year.
-Learn how to shoot. You don’t have to buy a gun but it will at least give you some common ground with the Red Staters you’ve learned to shun.
-Join a homeschooling group.
-Decide where your passions, skills, and market demand intersect.
-Do a monthly fast.
-Learn the Emotional Freedom Technique
-Take a *forest bath* as often as you can.
It’s a long list. I know. Email me at email@example.com and we’ll schedule a free consultation on how to put this together or talk about why you even should.
Here are some of her secrets for staying in the fight:
“As if being a mom wasn’t enough of a challenge, I now get to discover the wonderful secrets of
menopause graceful aging and the havoc it can wreak on your body. We’ve moved upstate so that means a 4-hour roundtrip commute.
I’m up at 5:20am. I get in 30 minutes of Turkish Getups various kinds of pushups, ab wheel rollouts, bear crawls, and chinups from straps attached to a door frame.
At work, I check to see that no one’s in the bathroom stalls as I do sets of 50 bodyweight squats. I’m trying to eliminate sugar, and I know I need to be better about sleep. I have more aches and pains than when I was a professional dancer, but I hear that comes with the territory.
Sometimes it feels like I’m losing. In my better moments, I know I’m fighting the good fight. I don’t have any magic bullets (if you do, please share them with me). I’m a mother and grandmother living by a few principles. I hope that you might find some of them helpful.”
Here’s a simple formula from a guy in rural Bolivia. He’s reputed to be the world’s oldest person at 123 years of age. Carmelo Flores, Laura said his secret was avoiding sugar and pasta, long walks everyday, a local wild grain and a staple of skunk meat (with pork and mutton on rare occasions).
Preventing Early Death
This one seems a little more complicated than not getting enough skunk meat.
MISS BREAKFAST AND HAVE A HEART ATTACK!
This was a headline from mainstream media reporting on a recent study. What they don’t tell you in the story is that most of the participants who died before their breakfast eating counterparts also smoked, drank a lot of alcohol, were overweight and were old!
We Get What We Ask For
Sensationalism sells. Fear and greed always beat curiosity. So we get the hyped health and nutrition headlines that proclaim the latest finding from poorly designed studies that were paid for by Big Pharma and Big Ag.
You’ll hear about red meat causing cancer until some study claims that it’s actually the fish oil that does. There’s a new herb that will “rip the fat off your body” and another supplement that will keep your muscles hard for four hours – after which you’ll need to see a doctor. Fear and greed.
Fitness has become a business that plays to Fear and Greed as it eliminates symptoms without attempting to cultivate wholeness. You have to develop compassion for all the different parts of your body if you want to become something more than an emotional and physical Frankenstein.
The Diet and Exercise Wars hide the fact that adherence is probably the most critical component for positive results. It’s not sexy so it won’t sell.
Do you trust your gut? Intuition, the still, small voice is an important guide for us whether we’re deciding on a new job/career, life partner, a move to a new city, the best exercise program for us, or what food we should be eating.
Our intuition protects and guides us if we let it. Information overload, popular media, our data-driven culture (starting with our school system), and sensory numbness all conspire against this natural gift.
Want to strengthen your intuition? Keep a journal of the coincidences in your life. Note any images that come to mind in your waking or dreaming life. Write down the first few ideas that occur to you as you begin your day. You should also show appreciation for what your intuition does for you. Express gratitude for its protection. Notice it more, appreciate it more, and act on it more. You might find that you already have everything you need to change your luck or make the next big decision.
We Are Perfectly Good Animals
The anthropologist Margaret Mead said that “(W) omen should not be allowed in (military) combat because they are too fierce.”
Our limiting beliefs due to culture and upbringing cause us to ignore these biological and evolutionary truths. We are perfectly good animals capable of amazing physical and mental feats of survival and creativity.
Too many women and men have stopped the natural dance between their masculine and feminine sides. It’s not your fault. Women are told how they’re supposed to look and men are told how much they’re supposed to earn. We get separated from the truth of the joy that is our birthright. We live out other people’s assumptions and fantasies. Our true gifts with inside of us before adolescence.
Too many of us have become numb to our essential selves and we try to destroy our shadow sides. The numbing shows up as overeating, overworking, and an obsession with pursuing the goals that other people have set out for us. The internal fight moves us away from the pipeline of our natural Wisdom.
We are all born with innate mental health. We don’t have to seek it or find a guru to provide it. All you really need to do with your body and your mind is to press “RESET.” To paraphrase Rumi, “Stop weaving and watch the pattern improve.”
Let’s try something. For the next three days, in a spreadsheet or in a list, note your limiting beliefs – the things that you think you can’t do. Then run each of them through this filter developed by Byron Katie:
“Is it true?”
“Can you absolutely know that it’s true?”
“How do you react/feel when you think that thought?”
“Who would you be without that thought?”
If someone doesn’t have permission to touch your mind or body, then keep them out. Hurt them if you have to. I mean this metaphorically and literally.
If they do have permission to touch you, there’s nothing wrong with telling them how you want to be touched.
Feeling good all the time is tough to do. But feeling better is only one thought away.
Two Training Essentials
Strength coach and religious studies teacher, Dan John, likes to say, “The goal is to keep the goal the goal.” Read that again after we talk about why you should gain muscle and mobility.
Do you have a goal for your training?
I believe that while workouts should have a basic structure, for those of us who aren’t trying to extend a National Football League career, it is also important to have some randomness to our exercise design. Having some randomness in our training can help us deal with some of the random stressors that life likes to throw at us.
Additionally, if you’re over 35, you should probably be focusing on gaining more muscle and moving better.
Not static stretching, not running a bunch of miles – putting on muscle and improving mobility are more important for your longevity and quality of life.
Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle size, strength, and function. Medical professionals say it begins during the fourth decade. But if symptoms tell the tale, I’ve seen it in people in their late 20’s and early 30’s (also Google the “Female Athlete Triad”). Unless you’re doing something to maintain and increase it, you’ll start to lose muscle in your 30’s. It’s important, and never too late, to create that “armor” now.
Muscle is so important that it’s maintenance or loss is predictive of the life span of someone with cancer, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, kidney disease, or heart disease.
Please don’t tell me you want to avoid putting on “too much muscle” – unless you’re comfortable with derisive laughter. The only people who need to worry about this are those with access to performance enhancing drugs – and they’ll have other issues to deal with down the line.
As you probably know, you put on muscle with resistance training. The body doesn’t know where the resistance is coming from so it can happen with barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, your own bodyweight, or machines (last choice). Make the resistance challenging and progressive.
Mobility or Flexibility?
People get these two confused. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that when something feels tight, stiff, or sore, stretching that part feels good. The problem is that the cause of the pain is often not at the site of the pain. In fact, releasing tension in the neck can alleviate some shoulder pain. The lower back can be made to feel better by rolling your glutes on a tennis or lacrosse ball. Heel pain can be helped with a calf massage. The knee bone’s connected to the shinbone but…
You know how your lower back can sometimes be a little stiff? Your go-to remedy to relieve the stiffness is reaching down to your toes, going into a yoga child pose, or lying on your back and pulling one or both legs to your chest. It feels good. You get some relief but the irritation never completely goes away. For too many people, the back problem slowly morphs into other things.
A couple of years ago, you would have run for the bus before it pulled away but now you don’t want to embarrass yourself. Moving around first thing in the morning requires its own ritual just so you don’t hurt yourself. You stop yourself before you break into a trot up the stairs from the subway or to your apartment. You’d like to take a bath but it’s a hassle to get up and down in the tub so you stick with the shower.
You wouldn’t even dream of putting on socks or shoes while standing up without something to hold on to. In addition to your lower back, your shoulder, your knee, your hip, or your heel seems to be nagging you as well. Mobility and muscle are lacking.
If this isn’t you, you’re probably under 30.
Stretching lengthens the muscle that is being stretched. The muscle generally won’t maintain that length and may even cause it to shorten in a protective reflex if the stretch is too aggressive. Intelligent stretching (certain forms of yoga, PNF, etc.) can help with joint position but when time is precious, you get the biggest bang for your buck with…
Instead of just the muscle, improved mobility impacts the muscles crossing the joint, the ligaments, and the nervous system. Flexibility looks at the end ranges of motion. Mobility looks at how well you can move through those ranges of motion. Mobility work looks like Martha Peterson’s Essential Somatics,Tai Chi, some Pilates movements, certain flowing forms of yoga, the animal movements I do here, or gentle bending, twisting, and rotations at the different joints. Here’s an example of a routine you can do with limited space:
Finding Happiness Through Flow
How often are you in flow? Flow occurs when you’re engaged in an activity that’s challenging but not outside your skill set. It’s something so deeply interesting that you lose all sense of time and place and you have the feeling that, wherever this is, it’s exactly the place you are supposed to be.
Flow can occur on a job, in an athletic activity, through the creation of art, or in relationship with someone. In this state, your focus gives you access to your essential self. You tap into the source of natural pleasure that is our birthright. As we move into adulthood, this source gets polluted, blocked, covered up, diverted.
As we become adults, we’ve been clothed in “shoulds” and drugged by “must haves.” These paths take us away from the essential. Getting back may not seem easy. In the world’s oldest wisdom book, the Bhagavad Gita Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that “you are only entitled to your labors, but not to the fruits of your labors.” And I also know that you are only one thought away from happiness.
Seduction, Romance, and Food
It’s Time To Stop The One Night Stands
I’m talking about the kind of fevered, sweaty, frantic experience that many of us have with food. The times when you’re blind to anything beyond your momentary satisfaction.
I figured this might be a good one to talk about with the holidays coming up. It’s also top of mind for me because I had a cupcake a couple of days ago – actually, two cupcakes. They were small and I ate them faster than I should have. There, I said it and I’m over feeling guilty. So, anyway…
The food’s in front of you. What’s your next move? One option is to just give in to your lust until you’ve had your fill. The thing that attracted you is just a memory as you move on to the next hot thing.
There is another way…
You’re a little nervous because this kind of relationship hasn’t worked out before. It started out ok. You thought you knew what you were doing, but before too long you fell into a familiar trance. The initial excitement turned into a ritual dance where you found yourself going through the motions. The thrill was gone but, you stayed with it because it was comfortable and expected.
The seduction begins when you focus on the event – the meal – and not the clock. Slow it down! Those of us who live in urban areas have a distorted perception of time anyway. Tell yourself you’re going to linger and not rush it. You’re not trying to finish right away. Think of a hot stone massage.
Eye contact. Look at what’s in front of you. Appreciate its beauty. If the presentation is a little plain, you can still find something that brings you in.
When you’re involved in seduction, how much awareness do you have of scent, fragrance? Spend more time here and you’ll be in the top 5%.
Sometimes there’s too much spice. You like a little subtlety, don’t you? It’s a surprise that arrives after a little delay.
When you’ve taken your first bite, don’t think about the next one until you’ve paused and purposely slowed it down to take in the flavors, smells, textures, and feelings it brings you.
What emotions come up for you when you slow things down? Do you really need to rush things? Are you afraid to take your time? I’ve got a lot more to say but I might have already scared you off.
Are you 50+? Let me know what your struggling with.