Change happens

We end the year as we began—with a change.  At the beginning of the year, I moved out of the Vaughn Building, my office home for over 20 years.  Now, I am letting go of my office space on Ben White to join the growing movement to work from home.

If only I had known, when I lost my lease at the Vaughn Building, the big change the world was about to undergo.  I took another office, because, of course, I needed a place to meet with clients.  But then the pandemic put an end to my office meetings.

I regretted moving my office out of downtown, because I liked being able to walk to the courthouse for hearings.  But now the hearings are on Zoom.

All this came at the end of a years-long project to digitize all my files. (Thanks to many, but mostly to Jane!)  Another reason to maintain an office—cabinets full of paper—was gone.

Meanwhile, Sierra, my legal assistant, was campaigning to work from home.

After a short hospital stay in September, I made the decision.  I negotiated an early end to my office lease.  And I’m out.  Working from home.  

Check out my new address.  It’s a post office box.  So it’s not the law office: it’s the law practice.  Sierra is happy, I think.

I miss meeting with clients.  I hope the inauguration of a competent chief executive will eventually make it safe to hold meetings again.  Meanwhile, I’m working out a flex office where I can meet with people when needed.

There was one more reason I kept an office.  When I left the office and went home, I left the work behind.  Now, it’s at home, always present.  But I still have the habit of mind that when I quit for the day, I’m done.

Although I’m also working out a succession plan with a lawyer I trust who can step into my place if necessary, I’m planning to live a long time.  I’m not even 70 years old, and law is a profession that allows a person to work as long as they have the desire, or as long as they have need and ability.  At present I check all of those boxes.  But change happens.

Recently, I thought about leaving law practice. I’ve never done anything so long as I’ve done this.  In the event, I was surprised to realize that I didn’t want to quit.  I have the confidence that comes from knowing what I’m doing, learned by making every mistake I could.  Practicing law allows me to make decisions and act on them.  It affords me the freedom to devote time to quixotic crusades or creative reveries.

I enjoy practicing law.  I revel in my relationship of trust and service with my clients.  The stories, and the insights into human nature, are even deeper than those I enjoyed at the beginning of my working life, when I drove a taxi in Austin.  I expect to continue for a good while.  And even in continuity, change happens.

Managing time effectively

Managing time effectively is a key to getting more done, and getting it done better.  Allocating our efforts among the many tasks demanding attention is difficult.  Employing the time allotted is even more difficult.

Allocating the time

Allocating time requires scheduling.  It goes beyond just figuring out what to do next.  It means blocking out time for tasks over a planning period.

When scheduling tasks, consider these factors:  importance; urgency; duration.  Ask how important the task is to our mission.  Ask what the deadline is for the task.  Ask how long the task will take.

Allotting enough time for a task means that you only have to pull files, set up, close down, and put away files once for that task.

Employing the time

Employing the time requires concentrating.  Most important is to avoid interruptions.  Every interruption costs time, because it breaks concentration.  It adds overhead to timekeeping.

Some interruptions are inevitable, but some can be avoided.  Avoid distractions:  give your full attention to the task at hand.  “Multitasking” can mean mistakes.  Distractions such as listening to the radio, talking on the phone, and chatting should not be indulged while working.  Punch out.

Setting aside time

Set aside concentration time for productive work.  At least three hours each day should be set aside so.  The smallest block of concentration time should be one hour.  During each block of concentration time, interruptions will be controlled.

Three simple steps:  allocate time; employ time, and set aside time, form the ladder that you will climb to your goals.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Move the earth

Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth.
Archimedes

I can’t write to you today without acknowledging the turmoil sweeping over our country.  A virus is ravaging our population.  Unemployment and financial hardship are depressing our society.  Fear and fire are scarring our cities.  The whole planet is clenched in a paroxysm of death and devolution.  Is this the apocalypse?  I don’t think so.

I do think that we are living through an era of frightening uncertainty.  What can we do?

Archimedes made his offer to move the earth based on the power of a lever.  This is a time for us to look for what leverage is available to us.

In a time of quarantine and sheltering in place, it’s natural to want to withdraw from the world.  That won’t make things better.

One thing we can do is to make our own position as solid as we can.  When the gale winds blow and the riptides flow, will we be the ones swept away and crying for help?  Or will we be the ones offering shelter to those we love?

As citizens, we have a duty to engage with our polity—to stand for civility, and justice, and conservation.  All this is best done with a settled mind.  And a settled mind is best achieved with a well-founded place to stand.

We moved the office!

After more than twenty years downtown, I’ve moved the office to South Austin. We’re now on Ben White Boulevard, just west of South First. I miss downtown, but I like the easy drive and free open parking. You should come see us some time.

You don’t have to come here to see us. One good change fosters another. I’m now offering video consultations and other ways that we can conduct business virtually. You can visit us virtually, but you can be sure that our work for you will be real. That won’t change.