Doug Brown believes lawyers are uniquely equipped with the skills needed for success, but that doesn’t mean they are always able to achieve it on their own! Are you struggling to take your law firm in the direction you want? In this Legal Toolkit, Doug joins Jared Correia to talk about common career obstacles and the positive strategies you need to overcome them.
Doug Brown is chief learning officer at Summit Success International.
Special thanks to our sponsors Scorpion, Nexa, TimeSolv, and Abby Connect.
The Legal Toolkit
Taking Control of Your Legal Practice
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm with your host, Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Hey everybody, welcome back. We’ve got another episode of the award-winning Legal Toolkit podcast on tap, only on the Legal Talk Network.
If you were looking for your password for your Disney Plus subscription, I really can’t help you. I’m sorry. If you’re a returning listener, welcome back. If you’re a first-time listener, hopefully you’ll become a longtime listener. And if you’re Gordon Lightfoot, you write seven-minute long folk songs about shipping and transportation. How exciting.
As always, I’m your show host, Jared Correia, and in addition to casting this pod, I’m the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms, Bar associations and legal vendors. Check us out at redcavelegal.com.
I am also the COO of Gideon Software, Inc., which offers chatbots, a first-to-market chatbot builder and predictive analytics created specifically for law firms. Find out more at www.gideon.legal.
Lastly, because I don’t have enough to do, you can also listen to my podcast; The Lobby List, a family travel show I host with my dear wife, Jessica, which is on iTunes. Subscribe, rate and comment.
But, here, on The Legal Toolkit, which you are listening to right now, we provide you with a new tool each episode to add to your own legal toolkit, so that your practices will become more-and-more like best practices.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about taking control in an out of control world.
But, before I introduce today’s guest, let’s take a moment to thank our sponsors without whom there will be no podcast at all.
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My guest today is Doug Brown. Doug is the Chief Learning Officer of Summit Success International, an organization devoted to helping entrepreneurs and business professionals get more clients and make more money doing the work that they love. He’s also the former Executive Director of the Connecticut Bar Association.
Doug, welcome to the big show.
Doug Brown: Hey, thanks for having me.
Jared Correia: That’s great. I’m glad you’re able to come on. So before you start, like a Chief Learning Officer, I’ve actually never heard that job title before. It sounds good, though. What does that mean?
Doug Brown: Well, my background is in education and part of my work with Summit Success is not only delivering the programs we give to our clients, but designing them and keeping them up to date with the best practices for adult learners, coming out of my six years teaching in a master’s program. So we thought that was not only am I helping our organization keep learning, but I’m helping our clients continue to learn.
Jared Correia: It makes a lot of sense. Cool. All right. So whenever I do a podcast with people, I try to look up like embarrassing stuff about them online, you didn’t have a lot of stuff, though; so kudos to you.
I do want to ask you, however, you went to Syracuse in 1987.
Doug Brown: Yes, I did.
Jared Correia: Basketball team makes the NCAA final. For those who don’t remember, that team was stacked. You had Derrick Coleman, who was number one pick in the draft. Ronnie Seikaly and Sherman Douglas, who played for the Celtics for a little while, that must’ve been a pretty killer time at Syracuse. Right? Like great parties and stuff. What do you remember about that season or did you not follow it? Were you too immersed in your studies?
Doug Brown: Oh, I was there. I had season tickets all four years and the thing just the environment and the energy, and the dome at the heyday of the Big East and what that really brought to our overall community. It was just so much fun being there and being a part of that whole community.
Jared Correia: Was that your favorite Syracuse team ever?
Doug Brown: Probably, yeah.
Jared Correia: Yeah. Carrier Dome, those were the days.
Doug Brown: Very different time, yeah.
Jared Correia: Absolutely. Should we talk about legal stuff? I think we probably should.
Doug Brown: Probably, yeah, probably.
Jared Correia: All right. So you’ve had this whole distinguished career as an executive and a business coach and you’ve done a multitude of different things, which is pretty cool. Your background is very interesting. Folks can check out Doug on LinkedIn. But, regardless of that, you always come back to working with lawyers. So why is it that you enjoy working with attorneys so much or do you? Is this just all an elaborate ruse?
Doug Brown: No, it’s not an elaborate ruse, it’s interesting. First, I am a lawyer, no longer practicing, and I have find that when I’m working with lawyers, despite what, the jokes and everything people make, lawyers are really great people and I’m a purpose-driven guy and when I really think about what I got out of the profession, what it allowed me to do in my life, even though I’m not practicing, I’ve used my skills in so many other ways, I want to give something back and I do believe that our work as lawyers is really important to our society. We’re the protectors of the rule of law, whether we’re doing it in a courtroom or in a ball field.
And the other thing I love about working with lawyers, Jared, is they have all the skills they need to make their lives better. Often they just need the right guidance, the right playbook, the right partner to really transform their lives and find whatever is best for them. So it allows me to do the work that I’m meant to do and help lawyers create the lives they were meant to have. It’s really what is it they said, if you do the work you love, you’re not working a day in your life.
Jared Correia: There you go. No, that’s cool, and obviously like you’ve taken your legal degree and gone in another direction. So it’s pretty awesome that you still want to contribute to the legal field and help lawyers. Not everybody does.
Doug Brown: I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. So if I can help somebody get through those times, then that’s a win.
Jared Correia: Haven’t we all? So let’s talk about some of the issues that lawyers have and as you’re going to relay in a second, there are some sobering stats out there about the unhealthy relationship that lawyers tend to have with work, issues of alcoholism, depression, addiction.
I used to work for an organization that treated lawyers, part of what we did was treat lawyers who had mental health issues, some fairly where this is, well, I know you are, especially probably through your work with a Connecticut Bar.
Can you talk a little bit about those issues, both with respect to the stats that are out there and historically how this is looked and also anecdotally, based on like the work that you do with attorneys?
Doug Brown: Yeah, I’m happy to. In our society, we’re just now getting to recognize in a broader context that mental illness is not a character flaw, that it’s an actual treatable condition, and for so many years, the law has made it not okay, in fact until only recently, if you answered the wrong way on certain questions about mental health, you couldn’t even get admitted to the Bar.
So we start with it being forced underground and we look at the — none of your listeners would be surprised to find the results of an ABA did a recent study. 25% percent of our colleagues are problem drinkers, 14% of those say the habit started in law school. Almost 30% have some level of depression or anxiety. 25% are actually addicted to work, like physically addicted to the work, and this leads to a host of problems that give us unusually high suicide rates, divorce rates, disengagement and just disillusionment with the practice, and the problem is that it’s only now beginning to be okay to start asking for help for these things, and so what I’m finding is these are problems and we even need to break this idea that we have to admit that we’re broken in order to seek help. You don’t have to be broken to seek help. You just need to desire to seek help.
And then when I’m talking to and working with lawyers who are getting over their fear and admitting to themselves that they can’t go it alone, they can really — I guess the big message on this topic is, it’s absolutely possible to improve and be better and get through whatever your listeners might be working through, whether they admit it, they have it or not. It’s just you got to go out and find the resources to help, and that’s where I am able to help people who are trying to make change happen, figure out how they get over this fear we have, this natural fear we have of change.
Jared Correia: Right, now I want to return to that issue a little later in the podcast. But one of the things I thought was interesting is this notion of addiction to work. I don’t think I’d ever heard of that before. Personally, I feel like I could very easily get addicted to not working. So how does that function when somebody is addicted to work, like what does that look like?
Doug Brown: Well, I think there’s two elements. The first is, people don’t know anything different, they have wrapped up their self-worth in their work, and the other is, the adrenaline junkies. Sometimes you get addicted to the endorphin and the adrenaline high of doing the work, and that’s an actual thing. So if you keep going back and looking for more hits of adrenaline and it becomes something that drives you, and as with anything else, if one thing starts to take over your life, other things suffer, family suffers and ultimately, even the work you’re trying to do can suffer because you have to maintain a connection with the client.
Jared Correia: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That’s really interesting. I think a lot of lawyers probably put themselves in that category. And to what you spoke about before, like I think there’s always been this notion in legal that, like, you just work as hard as you possibly can and that’s how you win, but now there’s been this movement to law firms becoming more efficient, working smarter so that’s probably a good thing.
Doug Brown: Well, and there’s this idea that we used to believe that we’d take care of ourselves after we took care of other people and now science is showing us that self-care is essential to increasing your capacity to serve others. Anybody who’s burnt out isn’t much good to anybody, including themselves.
Jared Correia: They’ve been telling on the airplanes for years. So most of the audience for this podcast is lawyers, but let’s talk about another group of professionals who experience high stress in their jobs, and that’s first responders. Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between how lawyers work and how first responders work and what that does to them?
Doug Brown: Yeah, I’d love to. I learned about this because my son is a firefighter. Ever since he was two he wanted to be a firefighter and then he went to college and has been a volunteer for years and as I saw him growing up, I started to make the connection of, hmm, lawyers and firefighters do have a lot in common and I use firefighters, but it’s all first responders, right?
So people call us in their hour of need. They need us to rescue them when things are out of control, and there’s a crisis and everything’s on the line, starts to sound familiar to when lawyers call or clients call their lawyers because their lives are on the line, things are out of control after a DUI or an accident or a marriage is falling apart or they want to protect their assets or their CEO tells them, you better get this deal done. All of those things, they’re counting on us to rescue them, number one.
Number two, people expect us to be versatile and do whatever it takes, just like firefighters. They’re the muscle. They’re called out not just to fight fires, but to do everything from shovel snow to rescue cats from trees and the third piece of it is, it takes extensive training and practice to do what we do as it does for first responders. They have to stay sharp. We have to always be learning and practicing learning from our mistakes and always be ready to be called on right now for something. And we’re expected to magically make it all better regardless of how bad the facts are.
So that’s three and I guess the fourth one is we all carry heavy burdens of stress and anxiety from the work that we have to do. It can’t help but affect us. So I’ve been describing that sounds like it could be a lawyer or a first responder, doesn’t it?
Jared Correia: No, that’s really cool. I’d never heard that analogy before, and I think don’t think lawyers think of themselves that way and getting that kind of perspective is helpful. So I think a lot of the issue with lawyers is isolation. They feel like they’re the only ones who are suffering through whatever it is they’re suffering through. Then combine that with the fact that they don’t go out and seek help. It’s a big problem.
Doug Brown: Yeah, and there’s this notion of you’re going to tough it out that busyness is a badge of honor and that somehow there’s some special trophy at the end for being a martyr, none of which is true.
Jared Correia: Well, that was a sombre first section of the podcast. We’re going to punch it up a little bit in Part 2.
Doug Brown: Yes, we are.
Jared Correia: So let’s take a break and then we’ll come back after some more words from our sponsors.
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Jared Correia: All right, thanks for coming back. I prepared some egg in the hole for breakfast. So let’s get back to our conversation with Doug Brown of Summit Success International. We are talking about how to take control of your practice and your life.
So Doug, if we are talking about taking control, I think what we are really talking about is a mindset change probably in the first instance, right? So what do lawyers who want to make a change need to know about engaging that process?
Doug Brown: The first thing we have to do is get ourselves in the place where we accept that change is possible. I have talked to so many lawyers who are not seeking help even in their practice for marketing or time management. They are not seeking help because they simply don’t believe that it can ever get better. And so when I have the conversation, well, you realize if you don’t try to make it better, this is it, like forever. They still don’t believe.
So there is actually a formula for change that I learned back in my teaching days where you can break it down, because I find when lawyers break it down into formulas and they see a process, they can start to follow it and the process is called the change equation. And it’s quite simply you look at your resistance to change and why you are resisting change and you look at three elements, your dissatisfaction, your vision for the future and a simple first step. And you have to have — those have to be positive. And when we talk later I can point people to a resource on this.
Jared Correia: Oh good.
Doug Brown: The thing is you have to have a little bit of a vision of how it can be better and you have to know a first step. And that’s where people get stuck. It just has to be an action and that’s the first place to start.
Jared Correia: I didn’t think there would be any math on this show, but I think I can buy into that equation.
Doug Brown: I am sorry. I know, when I introduce multiplication to lawyers, people get nervous.
Jared Correia: This is exactly why I went to law school so I wouldn’t have to do math ever again, but we will let it ride for now.
Doug Brown: Yeah. Well, whether you do the math or not, it’s just understanding those three buckets, because where people often get stuck is they don’t allow themselves to see what their future is, what could be possible and they don’t allow themselves to start acting towards it. There is something keeping them from taking the first step.
Jared Correia: Right. All right, so for those lawyers who are not content to be stuck in their present forever, what’s the first step which you referenced that they should take?
Doug Brown: Through my times making change happen, being in that crucible, I found a formula that I use for myself, which is about purpose, energy, action and trust. And the most important one of those is to start with our energy. And energy, I like to think of it as a three-legged stool, physical energy, emotional energy and mental energy, because it’s not this — I am not talking about this woo-woo concept of energy. It’s if you don’t bring your whole self to whatever legal marketing process you are doing or to whatever you are trying to do, if you are just running the plays without your heart in it, you won’t get the results. You have to run the plays with your head and your heart and I have three things that I ask people to focus on to help turn around their energy that they bring, because the energy and life is pretty negative coming in into the world.
Jared Correia: All right, I thought we were going in the direction of chakras there, but we didn’t. We talked about the energy three-legged stool, which I like. So how does focusing on energy help lawyers to get more clients? Let’s put a practical spin on this.
Doug Brown: Yeah, right. We want to get practical and show me the money, right? Lawyers want to know what the answer is. So there are three things that — three marketing strategies that depend on the energy that you put out there. And if you are going out there in the world with a positive, practical, but positive, optimistic, physical, emotional and mental energy, then you are going to draw back the things that you are looking for.
One of the core strategies is to delight your clients. And it sounds kind of silly, like how could you actually delight a client, you know? It’s all about getting them the win, right? And the truth is that clients’ level of delight and satisfaction with their lawyer isn’t necessarily related to the result. You could get the client the result they desire but have treated them so poorly or not treated the whole person, even if they are a person in a corporation that they may not feel like you are really — I got the result, but I am not that thrilled with this person.
So if you want to be focused on serving the whole client and going through one of these core marketing strategies about delighting your customer and giving them an exceptional experience, if your heart is not in it, if your energy is not in it physically, if you are not into it emotionally, if you are not excited about it, or if you don’t have the mental energy about how to really solve their problems, people will know and you can’t delight your clients.
Nobody will give you a referral if you are Johnny Negative who is out there saying oh, I just need more clients. Would you give me a referral? It doesn’t work. You can’t be on a stage speaking about your practice if your heart is not in it, if your energy isn’t there.
So those lawyers who have bought the programs, who think they are running all the plays and they are still stuck and they are not getting it done, the place to start is to look at the energy they are bringing to it. And if their heart is not in it, it doesn’t mean they can’t do it, they have got to just find a way to get their heart in it.
Jared Correia: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That kind of positive reinforcement builds over time as well I would imagine and I think you are right, like a lot of legal and lot of business really is results driven and a lot of people don’t take the time to think about how they got there. But that’s helpful too.
In that case let’s take a quick break. We are going to change topics just slightly. So while I try to figure out how the sitcom Boston Common didn’t get a longer run on NBC, listen to these words from our sponsors.
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Jared Correia: All right, thanks for continuing on with us. I couldn’t find anything else to do either. We are still talking with Doug Brown of Summit Success International, who has been educating us on how lawyers can change their work habits for the better. Let’s find out more.
So we left off talking about this notion of how to bring your energy forward and to supply more positive energy in your law practice to get more clients. Now, how can lawyers bring forward more positive energy to make more money because that’s not necessarily the same thing?
Doug Brown: You are so right. So many lawyers think that all I have got to do is increase my top line and I will make more money. What they are not paying attention to is the bottom line, the expenses that are draining them. And as we have seen with recent giant law firm failures, failure to control the expense side of the ledger is just as fatal as not getting clients; sometimes it could be more so.
So when I talked earlier about energy as it relates to getting clients, absolutely true. It’s also true because there is a lot of stuff you have to do in the office of your firm, whether you are an associate in a big firm or you are a legal entrepreneur and you have got one person working with you, the energy you bring up for that, that consumes energy too, is going to drive whether you are productive, whether you are focused, how fast you get work done and whether you make better decisions to make more money.
Even the simple notion of when you schedule time on your calendar to schedule the time that — the tasks that require the most mental energy, the problem solving, the decision making at your highest points of the day, that one thing can transform how we use our day. Why would we spend our highest mental energy if it’s in the morning spending time checking email? We should be working on our stuff.
And so when you align the energy you bring, you not only get better people working for you, but you are more focused and more productive, you can actually put less hours in and get better results.
Jared Correia: Right, absolutely. And I think a lot of lawyers just — they all want revenue, so they focus on getting the most clients possible. But there are so many business management techniques that aren’t necessarily directly related to that so I think you hit that on the button.
So I think a lot of what we talked about today is this notion of getting the lawyers out of their own hats, right, so that they don’t have to feel isolated. So we talked previous about this issue that lawyers have, which is like they are hardwired not to get help and we know that’s a thing. We talked about that previously. So how can lawyers start to change that dynamic? What steps could a lawyer take to get help if they need it and from whom?
Doug Brown: I think there are two steps. The first is something that we call head trash, and that is the stories that we tell ourselves that we are not good enough, that this is it, that people are going to find out I am a fraud if I ask for help and all that is head trash. And if we can just get the courage to challenge those assumptions and take out the head trash and try to think more clearly about — we tell ourselves stories to ourselves, but if we said it out loud to someone, we would A, feel silly and B, they would tell us we were nuts. So trying to take out the head trash and question the assumptions that you bring and the self-talk is number one.
And number two is very tactical. Start making what I call a stop doing list. This is making a list of the things you continue to do to yourself or for others that no longer serve you. And if you can take out the head trash and make your stop doing list, then you have got something on paper in front of you. It’s out of your head and you can start working with it.
And then the third thing is to enlist an accountability partner. This is probably not your significant other, but it’s someone who is qualified, who you know, like and trust that can actually come into your world and help you hold yourself accountable, because I can’t tell you how many people I work with who say that I know what to do, but for some reason I am just not doing it. Well, that’s an accountability problem. So when you enlist an accountability partner and you could even be one for someone else, then your likelihood of success increases dramatically.
Jared Correia: I like this notion of a do not do list or stop doing list. I am afraid mine would be like just insanely long, like everything.
Doug Brown: Well, the fact is they are very long and the thing is not to get overwhelmed, but just to pick one thing, pick up one easy thing and try to stop doing that.
Jared Correia: Doing work is at the top of the list. I feel like I should stop doing that.
Doug Brown: Well, you have to talk to your family about that one Jared.
Jared Correia: All right. So crazily enough we are near the end of the show. So I have got one more question for you. So what’s one more tip that you can offer for lawyers who want to take control of what they do?
Doug Brown: Practice being mindful. And what I mean is not necessarily meditation, although that’s been very helpful for me and many others, but being mindfully aware that all we control in the world is our reaction to the world around us. And when we act with intention, aware of our situation and don’t just get sucked into reacting to all the crap that’s coming our way, then you start to take control because then you can see things clearly.
And that’s exactly what we do for our clients when they are in chaos. We try to get them to understand the situation and see it for real. So what would happen if we did it for ourselves just to be mindfully aware and act with intention? What kind of difference would that make?
Jared Correia: I am going to plug here and say a lot. So people should call you. Sadly however we have reached the end of our questions. We have reached the end of yet another episode of The Legal Toolkit Podcast. This was the podcast about Taking Control of Your Life and Your Law Practice. And we have been talking with Doug Brown of Summit Success International.
Now, as you know I will be back on future shows with further insights into my soul, the soul of America and the legal market. If you are feeling nostalgic for my dulcet tones however, you can check out our show archive, our whole show archive, every episode, anytime you want at legaltalknetwork.com. Binge this show. It’s even better when you listen to like eight episodes in a row.
Thanks again to Doug Brown of Summit Success International for making an appearance as my guest today.
All right Doug, can you tell everyone how they can find out more about you and about Summit Success International?
Doug Brown: Yeah, that would be great. Thank you. I am on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/douglasbrown. And our website is summit-success.com. And it will also be in the link in the show notes. And if you would like to know more about some of the strategies I talked about, you can go to summit-success.com/5keys. So thank you very much.
Jared Correia: Thanks again. That was Doug Brown of Summit Success International. Go find this man.
Finally, thanks to all of you out there for listening. I really appreciate it. This has been The Legal Toolkit Podcast where Brenda and Eddie are still going steady.
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