The Twelve Workdays of Xmas, AILA Gives To You...

As you start wrapping up your practice for the holidays, fanatically getting your work into a controllable state, take a deep breath and relax. We will provide a new practical tip on each of the 12 working days before Xmas to help eliminate some of the stressors this season.

On the twelfth day of Christmas Santa said to me... “Enjoy the process not just the outcome.”

It’s finally here, Christmas Eve. All the rushing, the shopping, the stressing, has finally slowed down, leaving time to rest. Enjoy this beautiful time with your family and friends - after all, that’s what this time of year is all about. Don’t rush or ignore those precious moments that help you to achieve a fulfilling end-of-year feeling. Laugh, smile and take pleasure in everything that you have done to make this year special. Remember; “life is not a destination –it’s a journey!”

On the eleventh day of Xmas a helpful elf whispered to me…“Don’t get mad at the things you cannot change”

Along with the holly-jolly music, the holiday season can bring some very stressful and frustrating situations. Traffic jams, court postponements, flight delays, disappointing results, unexpected guests – some things you just can’t change, so don’t try. Instead of wasting time worrying, channel your energy and determination into things you can change. Breathe. Get perspective. Reflect on positive outcomes. And, breathe again. Accepting this change theory may take time, but soon you'll feel far less frustrated by this season’s unavoidable events.

On the tenth day of Xmas my child said to me… “The person who has the most toys wins!”

While you are rushing to do last minute shopping for the young ones, consider getting a toy for yourself -- pick up a yo-yo from the dollar store, or a golf-in-a-box set from the nearest Barnes and Nobles, or even splurge a bit on the latest Nintendo 3DS console. Keep several fun toys in your desk drawer and play with them when the need arises – five minutes is all it takes to get your mind off a serious task and relieve some of the pressure. Just remember to share!

On the ninth day of Xmas my staff said to me… “Can we adopt an office pet for the new year?”

Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? But, whether you are playing with a kitten, petting a dog, or staring at fish in an aquarium, the power of animals can significantly help reduce stress while also increasing motivation. Having a pet around the office not only creates a calmer atmosphere for your staff but also for those (nervous) new clients that are meeting you for the very first time. So go ahead and treat yourself and your staff this holiday with an office pet and watch the smiles multiply. Just make sure that no one is allergic to the pet you choose.

On the eighth day of Xmas my AILA guru said to me... "Evaluate the costs and benefits of representing each potential new client."

Each client comes with financial and ethical risks. During the telephone screening and initial consultation, evaluate the costs and benefits of representing each potential new client. This will help you identify problem clients before they become, well, a problem. Do they balk at advanced fee arrangements? Cancel one or more prior appointments? Not have their checkbook to pay for initial consultation? Are you the latest in a string of lawyers? Did the client show up late with an unorganized bag full of papers? Did he or she endlessly complain about the current lawyer? If the answer is “yes” to any of these, strongly consider saying "NO" to this risky client.

On the seventh day of Xmas my significant other said to me… "Let’s re-frame your diplomas and bar certificates to hang in your office."

The holiday season is a good time to give or get the gift of professional framing. By prominently displaying your law degree, bar admission, and court admission certificates in beautiful, refreshed frames, your clients will not only gain confidence seeing proof of your legal accomplishments, but so will you. Each day you walk into your office you will be reminded by the permanent frames on your wall of how hard you have worked to get to where you are. Take pride in what you have achieved as a lawyer.

On the sixth day of Xmas my personal trainer said to me... "Exercise regularly."

With all the scrambling for holiday gift giving and finishing up year-end work, you’ve probably already written off exercising as a resolution for the next year. But exercise is one of the most effective ways to combat stress and will help make this time of year a bit more delightful. Instead of waiting for 2013 to roll around, why not start today and build reasonable steps to a new lifestyle of increased exercise. Start with short exercise routines now and then in the New Year gradually build up to longer, more frequent sessions. It’s cold outside, but there are still fun activities to get your body in motion. Try a new hiking trail, or ice-skate under the city lights; speed walk through the mall while doing bicep curls with your shopping bags, or just “borrow” your kids’ Wii and get moving at home.

On the fifth workday of Xmas my receptionist said to me... "Call Your Clients Back!"

Schedule specific times now to make your phone calls because the closer it gets to the holidays, the more difficult it will be to get in touch with clients and put out any looming fires. Reduce your stress (and your receptionist’s) by curtailing the game of phone tag. Studies show the best times to reach people in the office are between 9:15am and 11:00am and between 3:00pm and 5:00pm. If you are having trouble making time to speak with clients, set aside an hour or two per day for telephone calls during these times.

On the fourth workday of Christmas my astrologist said to me “Carpe Diem!”

December 12, 2012 is the last sequential date of this century (and in many of our lives). While it might be just another boring Wednesday to most, aim to do something special today and seize the day, making this moment in time memorable for yourself and others. Consider surprising your hardworking staff and treating them to a holiday lunch. Or, take the rest of the day off to create an unforgettable romantic date or family adventure. Perhaps grasp this day for yourself to contemplate how far you’ve come and how much further you want to go both personally and professionally. No matter what you decide to do today, even if you decide to sit at your desk all day long to complete a tricky visa petition, just remember to enjoy it. It's the last of its kind for the millennium.

On the third workday of Xmas my accountant said to me … "Don't forget to bill your clients this month."

Let's face it - we all need the extra cash this time of year, especially when it's money due to us. With everything else going on, take time now to prepare and send your bills to clients. Make them clear, informative and easy to read. Be sure to make a courtesy call to the client before sending a large bill that might surprise or shock them (because you certainly don't want to be known as the Grinch who stole their Christmas). When documenting time, be sure to also include those items that you are not going to charge the client. This will impress upon your clients that you take their business and yours seriously. Your cash flow will improve and so will your holiday cheer.

On the second workday of Xmas my yoga instructor said to me… "Try a relaxation technique."

The jolly Christmas music buzzing, the persistent phone calls ringing, and the determined staff enquiring (about bonuses) can make anyone want to pull their hair out. But, don't get bogged down by the pressure, instead close your door and take a quick two-minute relaxation session. Sit comfortably at your desk and close your eyes. In a slow and quiet voice say "My face is relaxing." Then feel your face relaxing. Then say "My jaw is relaxing." Then feel the tension leave your jaw. Continue in the same manner down your body focusing on your shoulder, shoulder blades, back arms, hands, fingers, chest, hips, thighs, calves and feet. Relax for two minutes, then open your eyes and feel refreshed before starting your next task.

On the first workday of Xmas my law partner said to me … “Go home!”"

Staying late in the office night after night is counterproductive, especially during the holiday season. Make plans with friends to go shopping, take a drive with your children to see the neighborhood lights, or have a Home Alone movie marathon with some hot cocoa. Whatever you decide to do, impose a quitting time and make sure you stick to it. The level of human productivity often drops to the level of diminishing returns after 8 hours in the office. You’ll find that when you have set a time to leave the office, you will use your time more wisely throughout the day and come back the next day feeling refreshed and energized.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 12120768.