Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sometimes a door is opened with a single referral

Let me give you an example.

With our first apartment rental in Minnesota in 2004, the apartment complex suggested we contact Mark Stangler (who was with a large insurance company at the time that I will not name) for renter's insurance.  This was to be our first insurance together as a couple.  (I think I still had auto insurance through my parents at the time.)  So I contacted him.  He came out to the apartment and signed us up and soon added car insurance to the bundle.  I still remember that first time he contacted us saying that he could get us a better rate by changing certain coverage options.  I was shocked that my agent would call me up offering to SAVE me money!

When we learned he left said large insurance company that I shall not name, we searched him out and followed with him.  He had moved on to being an independent insurance agency able to sell insurance through a variety of providers.  He continued to be proactive and so we have since referred others to him.

He now has a business partner, Tiffany Uran who is just as good and his firm is called Willow Insurance Agencies, LLC.  Here is a link to the agency's website.

Years later, we no longer live in Minnesota but we still do insurance through him and can't imagine it any other way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


This morning I read Dr. Travis Bradberry's article titled "Signs You're Burning Out (And How To Stop It)" which is very relevant to me at this time because I have been experiencing symptoms of burnout and been focusing on stopping it.  The article is well written and applicable to absolutely anyone as it also discusses how to avoid burnout.

I whole heartedly agree with Dr. Bradberry when he talks about scheduling relaxation.  Our bodies and minds need that down time.  My mornings are focused on just that.  I get up early so that I can exercise and then have time for just me to read a book, listen to music, write, or just sit and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.

I have also been trying to take more breaks at work.  I have the tendency to work right through lunch and breaks.   I recently purchased a Fitbit and so have set alarms for 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to remind me to get up and stretch.  I usually try to find an empty conference room and do some yoga poses.  I am also trying to get out and walk during my lunch break at least a couple of times a week.

Focusing on the above mentioned things has already improved my feelings of burnout.  But it is not enough.  I deal with chronic pain and it is a tough cycle to break.  Stress increases my pain.  Increased pain adds to me stress.

Fortunately, I work for a firm that appreciates what I do, values my contributions, and understands.  All of that can go a long way towards beating burnout.

Monday, March 14, 2016


When I left working with victims of domestic and sexual violence, VINE was just starting to become a reality in most counties of Wisconsin.  At the time, it focused on providing information on perpetrators that were in custody.  And in most counties it seemed to provide timely notice.

Since then it has added service of restraining orders as well.  So now, a victim can sign up to receive alerts when her perpetrator has been released from custody or served with an injunction.  It is an amazing tool.  But it has it limits.

I signed up to receive notice via e-mail when a client of mine's husband was served by the temporary restraining order.  Her husband was served on a Tuesday and I didn't receive the e-mail that said he had been served until Saturday.   That is a huge lag time!  How is that a benefit to a victim of domestic violence?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Put your cell phone away

It seems that those in my generation and younger are tied to their phones.  Many even take them to the bathroom!  (I don't want to know what you would need to do on your phone while in the bathroom.)

Let me give you a very valuable piece of advice - When you are at work, put your phones away!  Unless your mother is in the hospital or your wife is due to have a baby, they don't belong on your desk and you shouldn't constantly be on them at work.  Leave them in your purse, coat pocket, car, etc. and only pull them out when on break.

Why, you ask?

  1. It looks terrible to your supervisor who is noticing how often you interrupt your work to check your phone.
  2. It effects your efficiency and productivity which your supervisor is noticing.
  3. It likely will affect your job security.
  4. It likely will affect your ability to get good references when you choose to move on to a new position.
  5. And it's just not good to your mental health to be so dependent on it.

Friday, December 4, 2015


I love Christmas!  The smell of the evergreens that just make me stop for a moment, the lights, the carols, the crunch of snow beneath my boots, spending time with family, and finding that perfect gift.  And it follows another wonderful holiday, Thanksgiving.  It is so easy though to get caught up in the superficial, completely missing the peace that this time of year brings.

So stop.  Take a moment to smell the evergreen and appreciate those who mean so much to you and who make this time of year special.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


The person most affected by change is the one who lets it affect them.  I will refuse to allow it to negatively affect me.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Getting in Trouble vs. Criticism

Just because someone gives you criticism or feedback does not mean that you are "in trouble".  In order to grow as individuals we have to consider feedback that we are getting constantly throughout the day, whether it be from clients, colleagues, supervisors, and even ourselves.  If we are so focused on not getting in trouble, we completely miss the opportunity.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

What does it mean to truly listen?

Have you ever caught yourself in the middle of a conversation where you are "listening" passively as you formulate your response?  Unfortunately, I do this all the time.  But what am I missing?

I don't remember who shared this piece of wisdom with me, but to truly listen, is to focus all of your attention on what the other person is telling you without even considering your response.  When the person is finished talking, that is the moment when you formulate a response.  This way you don't miss anything and you don't make assumptions.

So try it.  Focus all your energy on what someone is saying until they are finished.  Allow the silence to fill the pause.  And then respond.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Look deeper

Legal professionals (and probably many other professionals) need to pause and look deeper.  Rarely that which is on the surface reflects the truth below.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Meaningful, Timely Feedback

The lesson for this week is meaningful, timely feedback is critical.  This is very true for relationships outside of work, but my focus today is work related.

All to often, the annual review is the only time feedback is received.  Unfortunately, then the feedback is not timely nor meaningful as it is so far removed and too intertwined with compensation and job security.

With positive feedback from their colleagues and managers, an individual's confidence increases.  With critical feedback from colleagues and managers, an individual has the opportunity to grow.

This feedback doesn't have to come from the individual's direct supervisor.  Take time to support your colleagues and employees.  The stronger they are, the more successful your team will be.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Don't miss the good.

When you start looking for all the bad, it's very easy to miss the good.

This is true when it comes to relationships both in and out of the work place as well as situations, projects, positions, etc.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Integrity and Attorneys Seem an Unlikely Pair

Lawyers have a bad reputation for being arrogant, confrontational, unscrupulous, and contentious, just to name a few.  They get that bad reputation because as in any stereotype some attorneys fit that description quite well.  The good news is they are not all like that.

I work for a law firm whose core values include honesty and integrity.  We will fight for our clients' rights while making sure we don't lose sight of working towards an outcome that will be fair to all parties, focus on the children's best interests, and however possible, be the least destructive to important relationships.

When I see examples of honesty and integrity in the attorneys I work with, it reminds me that I am right where I am supposed to be.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Settling a Case at Trial can be a Big Let Down

Any client focused attorney hopes the matter can be resolved in a way that is satisfactory for both sides.  Settling a case through negotiation allows for the opportunity to a party that may have done wrong to save face.  It also avoids the confrontation that can destroy relationships that often comes out of trial.  And it gives the parties a chance to reach a compromise.

That said, as a paralegal that spent days upon days analyzing discovery materials, records, financial information, etc. and preparing exhibits, it was little bit of a let down.  In a conference room at the courthouse, as I witnessed the parties reach a great resolution, in the back of my mind, I only could see all my hard working going straight into the shredder bin the second we got back to the office.

Reviews from the Perspective as a Supervisor

Recently it was time for one of my employee's annual review.  This was the first formal review I participated in as a supervisor.  What surprised me most was how much it caused me to reflect on my own job performance.  How could I criticize someone else's faults without looking for ways to correct my own?

What I discovered was that I need to listen more and spend that time actually listening, not formulating my response to what I anticipated they would say.


Fireworks have changed over the years.  I remember when I was young, being awed by each individual firework set off, one at a time, giving the spectator a chance to appreciate each on its own.  Last night watching the fireworks from my in-laws' boat, I experienced something quite different.  It was a constant race to the sky with many overshadowing others.  And then when it came to the end, I couldn't even guess how many they set off at one time.  It was a mess of lights in the sky with no definition or unique character.

Have we lost the time to recognize the various stones of an archway?  Do we even notice when the archway crumbles, lacking a key stone as we race on to the next task?  Has the push for quantity overcome the importance of quality?  Has the push for quantity driven us to forget and fail to appreciate the crucial contributions of others?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Technology Has Made Us Very Inefficient

Throughout each day, both in and out of work, we are always plugged into outside disruptions.  We carry cell phones with us that give us instant access to people, through not only phone calls, but also text messages and e-mail.  And with just a ring or tone on our phone or an alert on our computer we are constantly interrupted.  Every time you switch gears, you lose valuable time doing so.  Any time you return to a project, you waste time trying to figure out where you left off.

When suggestions of unplugging or only checking e-mail and voicemail at certain times of the day are brought up, the number one response always is, "But what if it is important?"

I believe there is a huge gap between what we perceive as important enough to interrupt our productive work and what truly is important enough to do so.

I challenge you to give yourself uninterrupted blocks of time each day both at home and at work.

Edit:  After posting this post, I discovered this article (posted on written by Travis Bradberry) that is very relevant.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


People are more pleased at a compliment 
if you praise them for something 
that is not glaringly obvious. 

~Les Giblin

Sunday, March 15, 2015


After an adversarial and lengthy divorce, with mounting legal fees, many are tempted to take short cuts in the days that follow.  One shortcut that can result in a costly result is trying to handle the transfer of retirement funds, which often require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).  In general, this is an area of law most family law attorneys pass off to a financial expert as it can be complicated depending on the type of retirement accounts involved and the specifics of the the agreement.

Let me share with you two stories that will highlight the importance of letting an expert handle this final step in the divorce process.

First, the a portion of the funds in Husband's IRA was to be transferred to Wife.  The plan administrator of the IRA had very specific and unique requirements to complete this transfer which was further complicated by the financial expert receiving incorrect information from the plan administrator.  Wife became anxious with the delays in completing this transfer, as she was watching all the missed opportunities in the market, that she made her own calls to the plan administrator to "help speed up the process".  What happened instead was that the plan administrator stopped all work, refusing to try and figure out whether they should listen to Wife or the financial expert.  We eventually got it resolved but the process took much longer than it should have.

In this second story, Husband had various retirement accounts including 401(k) and IRA accounts from which Wife was to receive a portion of funds.  Husband's attorney was responsible for finding out which transfers could be done internally and initiating the process with the financial expert for the transfers that could not be handled internally and would need a QDRO or other similar documents.  Wife's attorney followed up after hearing nothing from Husband's attorney.  Wife contacted her attorney stating she was handling this on her own.  She asked that her attorney do no further work on this matter.

A year later Wife contacted her attorney, stating that funds from two of the accounts had finally been transferred but two accounts still remained.  Wife argued she should be entitled to all gains on the account she was awarded in its entirety and gains on the fixed dollar amount she was to receive from the final account.  Husband argued that Wife should receive the amount she would have received in the months following the divorce as if the transfers had been completed as anticipated based on the calculations to equalize property division.  There had been some delays on Husband's part but Wife had also refused to use her attorney to see the process to the end, encouraging completion of the process in timely manner.  So Wife found herself in the position, a year and a half after the divorce, of the process still not being complete and the loss of any gains she may have earned in the months since the final hearing.

Had the parties let their attorneys handle the two examples above, the transfers would have been complete in a reasonable amount of time, with the parties having the ability to appreciate the gains of their retirement investments.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


An attorney leaving the firm, especially a very small firm like ours, brings a lot of uncertainty.  How many clients will leave with the attorney?  Who will take on the caseload of the remaining clients?  How will support staff be affected?  How do I reassure and support my legal assistants in this transition?  How many hours will I have to work a week to keep up?

Change can be difficult as most of us are individuals that prefer the routine and the known.  Change can also lead to growth, show us what we are made of, and give us confidence.  So buckle your seat belt, hang on, and let's enjoy the ride.  I choose to embrace the change.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Everyone is NOT Replaceable!

Liz Ryan, her LinkedIn blog post titled "'Everyone Is Replaceable' and Other Business Lies", writes  that managers who believe that their staff are replaceable are clearly missing the boat.

My staff and colleagues are definitely not responsible.  They each play such important roles in the success and growth of our office.  I want to work with and manage people who think beyond the routine and find ways to improve the way we do things.