Wisconsin Lawyer: Final Thought: Resolutions – It’s About the Small Stuff:

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    Final Thought: Resolutions – It’s About the Small Stuff

    Laugh more, talk more, do (a little) less: this is one attorney’s prescription for a good 2014.

    Maxfield E. Neuhaus

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    New Year’s resolution columns are ubiquitous. You’ve probably seen and skipped over a fair share by now, and my hope here is that an attorney’s perspective will resonate on a more personal level.

    Max Neuhauscom max rodlibeskar Max Neuhaus, Hamline 2008, is the immediate past president of the St. Croix Valley Bar Association and an attorney with Rodli, Beskar, Krueger & Pletcher S.C., River Falls.

    We’re in the business of performing big, but this column is about the small stuff I think we can all resolve to do better.

    Lighten Up

    Depression rates among attorneys are four times that of the general population. We’re part of an elite club of white-collar professionals, but we really need to lighten up. “This job is too serious to take too seriously,” a judge once told me at a time when I was too young to appreciate the wisdom. For our clients, the fact that they’ve needed our services in the first place often comes with enough stress and anxiety as it is. Don’t replace your sense of humor with your confidence. You can provide both, and your clients – along with the people you work alongside of – will thank you for doing so.

    Don’t Text Your Text

    “Max, yes, I want U 2 sue that sob 4 me.” So wrote my client to me in a text message a few days before Thanksgiving in response to a detailed legal opinion I’d sent him about a contract dispute. I was tempted to respond in kind with a “U got it,” but I decided to pick up the phone instead. In an age in which our clients can reach us literally at any time and anywhere, the immediacy of response time is a growing pressure. Resist the urge, for our words are our trade.

    Nix the Sticks

    You’ve probably heard the expression in sports “don’t hate the player, hate the game,” or its biblical counterpart, “hate the sin, not the sinner.” By our code of conduct, we owe a duty of loyalty to our clients. The problem I’ve seen on occasion is that some of us believe that the respect of our clients can only be enhanced at the expense of our adversaries. The effect of this is that, while we may look better in the eyes of our client for a brief moment, the reputation of our profession diminishes. I doubt you’ve ever gotten a second opinion from a doctor who then exclaimed, “Well, it’s a good thing you came to see me, because your primary physician is a complete moron.”

    Take One Thing Off Your Plate

    Attorneys are usually “yes” people. Chances are you’re filling some community group’s board seat that is typically reserved for the local lawyer, banker, or accountant. Revisit your list and your priorities, and if they don’t match, think about cutting back. These organizations are populated with good people who are likely overcommitted themselves. Step down; they’ll understand and find new blood in short order. In my case, I was recently able to rotate off my position as president of the St. Croix Valley Bar Association. The question is, in 2014, will you have the courage to say “no” to something that isn’t on your list of priorities? Of course you will; you’re not a moron.




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