Lawyers’ Summer Renovations

Home improvement - Photo by Garry J. Wse

As coincidences go, it’s probably not such a big deal.

It turns out that both my PracticeTips partner, David Bilinsky, and I happen to be immersed in home reno projects of some note this August.

Convergence or not, I enjoy the coast to (almost) coast symmetry.

Now when it comes to home renovations, well, that’s often one of the things summer is for.  Relaxing, catching a few rays, and spending every other waking moment addressing a cacophony of questions about materials, labour, colours, patterns, high-ends and low-ends, creative decisions, intra-home negotiations, extras, costings, and the occasional legal document or two, offering a brief respite within which we can happily pretend to have at least a small clue about the mysterious matrix into which we have parachuted ourselves.

Continuing within the theme of symmetry, I can’t help but note the many parallels between working on a home improvement project and a practice-improvement project.

Both start with identifying a space in your world that just isn’t performing or working well enough.  You might live with it for a while, but eventually the gap between reality and your wish-list widens and the time for action approaches.

A careful period then follows of needs assessment, research, planning and not a little daydreaming about the better tomorrow that could lie ahead.   There are meetings, consultations, proposals, number crunching, false turns and reality checks.  But then, at some point, a plan emerges.  An actual plan, requiring only one or two key decisions to quickly move from paper to action.

Your plan gets the go-ahead.

And suddenly, change is upon you.  It could be a minor upgrade of one key area.  Or a full-scale demolition, where the old must go to make way for the new.  Or any of the in-betweens. The actual work begins and the predictable order gives way to controlled, intermittent chaos until you ultimately arrive at a new, better order again.

It should be noted that whatever the scale and scope of the change, however, anything less than precision and near-perfection in execution will fall short and must be revisited for touch-ups and fixes before the project end.  There is much follow-through – and much follow-up.

And so the cycle goes.  You address one concern.  You see improvement and enjoy the benefits.  But the change-bunnies keep gnawing at you, and before you know it…  well, there’s that other project you’ve been thinking about for a while…

There is one key difference, though, between the mindsets we bring to the typical home reno project and our typical professional practice-improvement initiatives.

When it comes to home renovations, most of us lawyer-types know intuitively that we are way out of our leagues and we welcome and actively seek professional assistance. Consultants, designers, general contractors, skilled trades – they are our crutches and our best friends throughout the process (if you find the right ones, that is).  We gladly step back and let them do their thing.

With our own practice-development initiatives, well, expert guidance…?  Uh, not so much.   Strange isn’t it.  We probably get more advice when we paint and re-carpet our offices than when we take action to improve our services or leverage our practices’ low-hanging opportunities.

Maybe that’s something worth thinking about. Before implementing changes or new initiatives in our law firms, perhaps we should consider getting an expert or two involved.  Whether they be our accountants, human resources professionals, marketing professionals, IT specialists, or even other lawyers, they may really have something to offer.

Building for the future, at home and office.  Always a good thing.

And today’s practice tip is therefore a simple one.

If you build it, get expert advice.

– Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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