Five thoughts…

December 22, 2016

A New Year beckons.

It’s like watching a toddler run around a playground. Full of joy and hope, but knowing they are only ever seconds away from an inevitable trip, a grazed knee and the sound of that quite extraordinary ear-splitting wailing.

It is a time to pontificate on what the New Year will bring, however I do not intend to detain you with platitudinous clap-trap. No false hope, no fad-diet guru-ness. I just want to leave you with five thoughts I hope might shape an idea or two in your head about how you can look at the vast expanse of the year ahead and see something in it for you which is not just more work, more stress and more calls for you to embrace change.

This brings me to my first thought. Do not embrace change. Change is inconvenient, over-promised, under-delivered and rarely joyful. Change is someone else’s ill thought through, poorly consulted on and inadequately prepared bonus opportunity. If you are part of the change team you are only involved to add credibility or to keep people from doing really stupid things. If you are not part of the change team I am 98% certain there is nothing good in it for you. Does this mean you become a Luddite guerrilla fighting resistor? No, definitely not. What it does mean is that you just get smart; so for example suggest they use it as a development opportunity for someone else, or encourage more consultation with others first. If HR is not yet involved, speak loudly for their full engagement which is a sure way to kill off any project. If it needs IT then IT will ensure you have another two years at least before it can happen. By the time it comes round again, as most in-house lawyers change roles every three years, you will be more concerned about buffing-up your CV. Happy days.

My second thought is that technology generally is a poor investment. I do not want to disrespect anyone who has a contrary view, but I see it like this. When I look at people advertising home gym equipment on my TV, I believe every word they say. I know that if I follow their plan, their programme, their lifestyle, I too can have thighs that will crack walnuts and a chest that walks through doors before me. So, it’s not that I disbelieve them; it’s that I cannot be arsed. Would I rather spend money on their kit which I know I will feel intimidated to use or would I rather have a mince pie? When you are thinking about investing in IT, whether you can afford it or whether you need it are not the questions to answer; the only question to answer is whether you can be arsed.

Thought number three is guaranteed happiness and efficiency. Stop going to so many meetings. Most meetings achieve nothing useful. They are a perfect case study in inefficiency. The wrong people at the wrong time with no agenda, no clue, no ambition and no balls to change anything.  A paradigm of fake value and a self-important statement of uselessness. Don’t be rude, don’t leave people hanging, don’t disrespect colleagues, but always ask the question “Do you REALLY need me in this meeting?” …if the answer is “yes” the killer follow up questions is “Why?” I confidently predict that this will get rid of between 25% and 50% of all your meetings in a stroke. As most lawyers spend 40% of their week in meetings I have just given you back 20 hours or more each and every week. Use this time wisely. Go home earlier, read to the kids. …you know, be a human.

Thought four is not so dramatic, but is another guaranteed hit. Do less work. I will state this simply and I ask you to reflect on the truth of the sentiment. In a world of management clichés your employer’s leadership team will probably demand more for less, efficiency blah and value for money bollocks. However do they ever say to you “…and we want you to work bat-shit crazy hours at the very peak of your intellectual, creative powers all of the time, come what may?”  If they do, then leave. If they don’t, what are you thinking of when you behave like this is somehow expected of you?

My final thought is this – we are all just passing through. It is a job. It does not define you. You are not a lawyer before everything else. In the list of your corporate priorities and key performance indicators, if you have children, please put being mum or dad first, please include rest and please hold the thought that almost certainly in about three years time you will have moved on to another gang of folk with their own brand of nonsense. Tap in to what you have to do, be kind, be good and above all be you. However please don’t reach the point when you are stressed by too much work, too many emails, or too many meetings. You can deal with that stuff better if you allow yourself to be the best of all your feelings and talents, and not just the one or two things that your sociopathic boss says he values.

Take care.

Paul

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