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Goal-Setting and the Law

Having spent many years working with law firms, I’ve noticed something interesting about them. Attorneys in small practices and partners in larger firms each tend to make the same two mistakes when it comes to goal-setting, if they bother to set personal or organizational goals at all -- and many don’t. They end up spending most of their energy based on whatever happened yesterday, rather than working toward a clearly defined vision of their future practice.

The first mistake is that they start with goals that connect to the firm and not to them as individuals. What they come up with usually sounds like this: “Next year I/we should grow by X%.” The problem, of course, is that X% is just a number, and a number in and of itself is not very motivating. Not only that, I’ve noticed that attorneys rarely put in the time and effort
to write out a plan detailing what they would need to do to achieve X%! In the absence of such a plan, and in the absence of a compelling personal reason to change behaviors, lawyers do what the rest of us do: default to the routines with which they are most familiar and most comfortable. That means doing the same thing they did yesterday.

The remedy to this first mistake is to start by identifying their own most important personal Goals.  What, specifically, do they want their lives to look like six months from now? A year from now? Five years from now?  I’m not talking just about the amount of money in the bank, but also about social and family goals, educational and hobby goals, and yes, even “stuff” goals. Once this personal vision is clear, then it’s time to set goals in one’s practice that will enable him or her to achieve the lifestyle they want. The personal vision is where true motivation comes from.

The second mistake is just as likely to result in them focusing on a behavior set that is familiar and comfortable: they make their business goals too small, aiming for growth like 10% or 15%. If pushed, the attorneys I work with usually admit that they’d settle for less! (That’s a sign that a compelling personal vision has not yet been established.)
My question for attorneys -- once the personal vision is in place -- is a simple one. Why aim low? Why not aim for 50% growth, or even 100% growth, in the coming year? Before you scoff and say it’s not possible, open your mind to the possibility that it could be. (I have plenty of clients who have planned for and executed such aggressive growth plans.) Sure, you’d have to change a paradigm or two, and change your daily activity plan in such a way that it isn’t identical to what you did yesterday. But I think you will find that as soon as you open your mind to the possibility of dramatic growth in your practice that supports the direction you want your life to move in, you will start coming up with ideas and strategies that support that vision!

- by Kevin Shulman of Shulman & Associates.

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Judge: I know you, don’t I?
Defendant: Uh, yes.
Judge: All right, tell me, how do I know you?
Defendant: Judge, do I have to tell you?
Judge: Of course, you might be obstructing justice not to tell me.
Defendant: Okay. I was your bookie.

From a defendant representing himself:

Defendant: Did you get a good look at me when I stole your purse?
Victim: Yes, I saw you clearly. You are the one who stole my purse.
Defendant: I should have shot you while I had the chance.

Judge: The charge here is theft of frozen chickens. Are you the defendant?
Defendant: No, sir, I’m the guy who stole the chickens.

Lawyer: How do you feel about defense attorneys?
Juror: I think they should all be drowned at birth.
Lawyer: Well, then, you are obviously biased for the prosecution.
Juror: That’s not true. I think prosecutors should be drowned at birth too.

Attorney: At the scene of the accident, did you tell the constable you had never felt better in your life?
Farmer: That’s right.
Attorney: Well, then, how is it that you are now claiming you were seriously injured when my client’s auto hit your wagon?
Farmer: When the constable arrived, he went over to my horse, who had a broken leg, and shot him. Then he went over to Rover, my dog, who was all banged up, and shot him. When he asked me how I felt, I just thought under the circumstances, it was a wise choice of words to say I’ve never felt better in my life.

Lawyer questioning his client on the witness stand:

Plaintiff’s Lawyer: What doctor treated you for the injuries you sustained while at work?
Plaintiff: Dr. J.
Plaintiff’s Lawyer: And what kind of physician is Dr. J?
Plaintiff: Well, I’m not sure, but I remember that you said he was a good plaintiff’s doctor.

Judge: Is there any reason you could not serve as a juror in this case?
Juror: I don’t want to be away from my job that long.
Judge: Can’t they do without you at work?
Juror: Yes, but I don’t want them to know it.


A farmer walked into an attorney’s office wanting to file for a divorce.
The attorney asked, “May I help you?”
The farmer said, “Yea, I want to get one of those dayvorce’s.”
The attorney said, “well do you have any grounds?”
The farmer said, “Yea, I got about 140 acres.” The attorney said, ” No, you don’t understand, do you have a case?” The farmer said, “No, I don’t have a Case, but I have a John Deere.”
The attorney said, “No you don’t understand, I mean do you have a grudge?”
The farmer said, “Yea I got a grudge, that’s where I park my John Deere.”
The attorney said, “No sir, I mean do you have a suit?”
The farmer said, “Yes sir, I got a suit. I wear it to church on Sundays.”
The exasperated attorney said, “Well sir, does your wife beat you up or anything?”
The farmer said, “No sir, we both get up about 4:30.”
Finally, the attorney says, “Okay, let me put it this way. “WHY DO YOU WANT A DIVORCE?”
And the farmer says, “Well, I can never have a meaningful conversation with her.”

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