Attorney Brian Glass shares outstanding advice on work life balance for lawyers. Personal Injury Marketing Minute #58 will cover why is it important to disengage and create work-life balance, how can a lawyer structure their time to create a more balanced lifestyle, what happens to this structure when things catch on fire at the office, and how lawyers can they break the cycle.
Brian Glass on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fairfaxpersonalinjury/
Time Freedom for Lawyers Podcast: https://www.timefreedompod.com/
Great Legal Marketing, LLC’s GLM Tribe: https://www.theglmtribe.com/
See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/.
Lindsey: Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute where we quickly cover the hot topics in the legal marketing world. I’m your host, Lindsey Busfield. Over the past 10 years, there has been a major shift in the mentality of work where society used to glorify the 100-hour work week. We are now embracing having some semblance of work-life balance. While there are some industries where employees can fairly easily put in natural work-life boundaries, lawyers often struggle with this concept.
When your clients are in crisis mode, there are deadlines to meet and big money is on the line, it might feel as though everything is going to fail if you don’t just power through and burn the midnight oil. Well, you don’t have to. Brian Glass joins us today to discuss how you can be a great lawyer and still have a life. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Brian: That’s such an introduction, and I really hope that I can live up to the stage that you just set for all the listeners.
Lindsey: Well, I know that you will. You have a lot of experience putting together a great law firm, but also putting in some of those natural boundaries, and I can’t wait to get your thoughts on how you make it work. So tell us a little bit about your background and about your practice.
Brian: So I’m a personal injury lawyer in Fairfax, Virginia. I’ve been practicing for 15 years, and so hearing you talk, Lindsey, about the shift over the last 10 years away from 100-hour work weeks is like, “Wow, I predate the shift.” But more importantly, I’ve got three boys and a wife who I want to make it home to for dinner and for soccer practices and baseball practices. And so we structured all of our practice around that first, and I’d love to talk to you about that today. But so our practice, we have five lawyers in the firm, three of them are in an auto accident practice with me. The other two are in a nationwide long-term disability appeals practice, which is different than SSDI. We’ve got about 15 staff members now and we’ve grown 4x in the last five years.
Why Lawyers Don’t Trust Anyone:
Lindsey: That’s phenomenal. That is some great growth and clearly you’re putting in the infrastructure to support that. And we see lawyers struggling all the time to pull away from the office and they get glued into that. Why do you think that’s going on?
Brian: Largely because lawyers don’t trust anybody else to do the work, right? Lawyers, we got to where we are because we were the smartest people in high school, so we went to the best colleges. We were the smartest people at those colleges, so we went to the best law schools. We were the smartest people in law school, and that’s how we got the job. And then we don’t trust our team to do any of the work for us. And so the practice that we designed, Lindsey, really has the staff doing the 80% of the work that gets all the results. Our job as lawyers is to create the framework where your team can operate knowing what the vision of the firm is, knowing what the goals for the clients are, and knowing where those guardrails where you’re not allowed to touch that because that’s actually legal advice.
But then elevating ourselves into the place where we’re making the 20% of decisions that move 80% of the results. And so in my firm, that means I do a lot of the intake and the sales to the clients, but then once they’re onboarded, all the onboarding is automated. We integrate with an app that sends them updates throughout the course of their case about what’s happening now and what’s going to happen next. And of course there are human touches in there also, but clients forget about that. And so then having the app on your phone that says, “Here’s the most frequently asked questions in this part of your case stage,” gives them the place to go and look and see where those questions are answered.
So all that is deliberately designed to create a great customer service experience, which then reduces the number of phone… Like how many times do you get a phone call from a client saying, “What’s going on in my case?” And you’re like, “I told you three times already,” right? Because we don’t always hear what the lawyer’s saying. And so having it and hear it and have it in writing and then have a video that’s available to them about what usually happens in this stage and what’s going to happen next, all that makes the client journey easier and reduces the number of times that they’re calling to ask you for an update, because often our clients are just kind of lonely and bored and they don’t have anything better to do.
Lindsey: Right. And they want to feel like they have some sort of control over the case and they want to feel like they’re still being involved in it. So, picking up the phone or writing an email, and the automation process that there are so many great tools out there that you can incorporate that the client can still feel like they’re being engaged in the process without necessarily having to take up your time as a lawyer that needs to be focused on actually working the case or driving the 20% of the decisions and letting everybody else still be working on that 80% without having to follow up with a million emails. But let’s get back to this concept of that 20%, 80%. Why is it so important to let go of that 80% rather than trying to take it all on yourself and having to trust other people?
You Don’t Have Time To Do It All:
Brian: You don’t have time to do it all, or if you do have time to do it all, the firm will never grow outside of your umbrella and the space that you take up. And so, one of the rules in our firm is, I don’t get on a phone call with anybody on an unplanned, inbound phone call adjuster, defense lawyer, client, and I don’t get on a scheduled call unless I know what it’s about. And we communicate all of that to the clients in the initial stages, because it’s not fair to have them sign up for a lawyer they think they’re going to be able to call, text, email all the time, and then they don’t get that.
So we set these guardrails up in the beginning because I need to be focused on making the highest level decisions in your case. I can’t be focused on, “I got a bill in the mail, do I pay it or not?” So we empower the staff to do that because the cost of mentally switching between your file and Jim’s file and Bob’s file doesn’t allow me to do any high-level thinking on any of those things. And it wouldn’t be fair to you, Lindsey, for me to pick up the phone in the middle of writing a demand letter or an expert designation in your case and answer somebody else’s question. And so I don’t let you do that to them when I’m working on their files.
Lindsey: And that’s great that you set a reasonable expectation at the front. There are so many law firms that get negative reviews because they feel like their attorney isn’t being responsive, where it might not necessarily be the case that they aren’t being responsive. They just haven’t set reasonable expectations for what that response should be and how often it should be and who it’s coming from. So that is a great point.
Brian: That’s the number one thing that leads to legal malpractice complaints and ethics complaints, is lack of communication. And so messaging from the beginning, you’re going to get all the communication that you want and need, but it’s not always going to be from me.
Lindsey: Right, exactly. And they still have those touchpoints. They still have those automations, but they are in touch with the right resources for the problems that they’re having and the information that they need. What other structures are you putting into place that can free up more time for you and allow the other members of your team to focus on what they’re supposed to be doing?
Freeing Up Time:
Brian: The largest structure is blocking off time on my calendar. So during spring and fall when my boys are playing soccer and baseball, four o’clock on, is blocked off. You can’t schedule anything there. Thursday mornings I block off, except for today. Thursday mornings I typically block off for deep thinking. So I’ll go to a coffee shop without internet and I’ll turn the wireless off or turn the internet off on my phone so I don’t have disruptions and do deep thinking on a handful of things and prioritize those things.
But any of those other available blocks of time that are on my calendar, the staff can schedule them. Or we have a Calendly link which is wider and wider used now, so most lawyers I think know about this. But that cuts down on all of the back and forth. Like, “I’m not available on Tuesday, but could you do Friday?” “Well, I could do Friday at 3:00, but not at 1:00. Just look at my link and go ahead and schedule it.” And then we cut out three emails and we’re onto the next thing.
Lindsey: That makes it so much more efficient, and I love the intentionality that you’re putting into creating that structure. It doesn’t just happen by chance. You don’t just mentally think, “Oh, well, maybe on Tuesday afternoon I’ll take an hour to do that deep thinking, break out the legal pad and sketch down some thoughts.” It’s actually a very structured, using the tools that you have at your disposal, and again, communicating with anybody who needs to be in touch with you the expectation of, here is when I’m available as opposed to, here’s when I’m not available.
Pick a time that works best for you, and it makes that collaboration work within your framework for establishing those boundaries. And it gives you accountability for holding yourself available to do the things that you’re needing to do. And that’s great I would assume about 90% of the time, but obviously things come up. So what happens to this structure when something catches on fire at the office?
Putting Out Fires:
Brian: In theory, nothing should catch on fire. Things catch on fire because we’re up against a deadline and I heard somebody say this great line the other day, “We all procrastinate because we don’t want to do the thing, and then you have these fire drills at your firm.” Why? Because the pain of missing the deadline is worse than the pain of actually going to work on the thing. And so now we switch over and we go, “Okay, I got to file this, or I have to run to the courthouse to meet the statute of limitations.” But ideally, there should be no emergencies in a personal injury law firm.
Now, it’s probably different in criminal law. It’s probably different in family law where you’re dealing with custody. But in a personal injury law firm, every emergency is one of my own creation. Either we got too close to the statute of limitations or I took a case that I shouldn’t have taken, so I’m scrambling now to find a doctor, or I took a case three days before the statute of limitations, so I’m scrambling to work the case up to get the lawsuit filed. Those are all problems of our own creation.
And so I think internalizing, as the law firm owner, that all of this is your fault, then lets you create these frameworks where you go, “Okay, I made that mistake. I’m not going to have another case like this.” And so you asked, “Okay, but what do we do when it actually sets on fire?” I think most of us, we get through it and then we figure out on the backend, “How do I put a rule in place in my life to make sure that that doesn’t happen again?” And maybe it’s, “I’m not taking cases with less than 30 days before the statute, or I’m not taking cases unless I see the medical records.” Putting those rules in place in your life because things are going to go bad, it’s your job to make sure it doesn’t happen twice.
Lindsey: Right. And clearly, we are all human. We all make mistakes. I know, daily I’m making probably about 10 of them, but if I can learn from seven of them, then great, they probably won’t be happening again. But with those mistakes, it is so easy to get sucked back into that work overload. And if you’re not learning from those mistakes or you feel like you’re up against different challenges coming every day because that just happens, how can a lawyer break that cycle mentally?
Breaking The Cycle:
Brian: How can you break that cycle mentally? I think the thing for me has been that it’s really hard to be an entrepreneur and a law firm owner because it’s isolating. So I love the team, but the team has different problems than I do and I can’t take my problems to the team often, or I have a mental block with taking my problems to the team because they don’t want to hear Brian complain.
But having an external framework, both of coaches and of mastermind groups and of a peer group who’s maybe not necessarily the other guys who practice law in Fairfax County because you don’t want to tell them your problems. But having that external framework where you can take ideas to and you can ask them to hold you accountable, that, “Don’t let me go outside of this box again,” that’s been really helpful to me. And then finding good coaching along the way so that as you have these problems, you have somebody who can help you work through them.
Lindsey: And clearly having these people in place and having these networks in place is an important part of the structure, and carving out time to make sure that you are participating in these networks of individuals and these support groups and coaching should all be built into that calendar and not necessarily an afterthought of, “Oh, no, I have a problem. I need to go run to this group.” So building that into your framework seems like it would be a really important step as well.
Brian: And not only for problems, but I think often as entrepreneurs and as high achievers, we have a hard time finding a peer group where we can share our wins. I know a guy who sold a company for $14 million and wasn’t able to tell anybody what he’d sold the company for, because who can I share this with that they’re not going to say, “Well, lucky you,” or some slight thing. And so having a peer group of people who are doing the same big things that you’re doing is just so critically important.
Lindsey: Right, because you’re not going to be able to go out to your kid’s soccer game and tell another parent, be like, “I just made $14 million this week.”
Lindsey: They just can’t relate to that.
Lindsey: So having those people in place, as you said, it can be so isolating when you have a different set of life expectations and there are different hurdles as well as different wins that you’re facing on a regular basis, finding people that you can connect with and relate to and support each other is just another huge part of that work-life balance. And I know you have so many more thoughts on this concept as well as what you coined the term as time freedom. If listeners want to hear more from you about this concept and more tips to build in these boundaries in their lives, where can they get more information?
Finding Brian Glass:
Brian: On social media, I’m most active on LinkedIn. You just search Brian Glass. I have a podcast where I talk about this called Time Freedom for Lawyers where I interview highly successful entrepreneurs, and then I have solo, kind of my thought of the week episodes. And then if you’re interested in finding a coaching or a mastermind program, you could check us out at glmtribe.com. It’s a great legal marketing tribe. We’re building an organization of entrepreneurial lawyers where you can share these wins and you can share your problems and get them solved by other people.
Lindsey: Well, that’s great. Well, thank you so much for sharing these resources with us. We will make sure to put links to all of that in the notes for the podcast. And again, thank you so much for joining us today.
Brian: Thank you, Lindsey.