In recent years I have published some New Year’s resolutions in my first column of the year, and many of you have contacted me to share feedback about my suggestions. In light of the positive responses, I am going to do the same this year. However, instead of calling them “resolutions,” let’s call them “aspirational goals.” I sincerely hope that one or more of these aspirational goals will resonate enough to prompt you to adopt them.
This new year has dawned with a COVID surge that has caused many of us to pull back from working in our offices and from social engagements and crowds. Frankly, even before the surge, I observed that many lawyers were still working from home and avoiding in-person meetings and events. Part of that isolation was due to COVID and part was attributable to the convenience we have all experienced of staying home and having virtual hearings, depositions, meetings, events and seminars. It remains to be seen whether that will become the new normal, but the reality is that none of us are as connected to one another as we have been in the past, and our firm cultures and bar association cultures have been impacted. So, some of these goals are targeted to getting us to reenter society, and others are somewhat related to our recent COVID experiences. Here goes:
Take care of your health. Story after story has been written about people who have had their health decline during COVID because they have not gotten annual checkups or routine tests that they used to get in normal times. It is time to get back to the doctor for an annual physical, and it is time to get other types of blood and cancer screenings. Furthermore, if you have gained weight from staying home from the gym or even the lack of exercise that comes with being out and about, it is time to start getting exercise again. If you can get back to the gym, great. If not, take a walk once a day or climb some stairs. When the weather warms up, pump up your bike tires and get out on your bike. Believe me, COVID has caused some serious health issues related to sedentary living and lack of medical treatment. Don’t let it happen to you!
Get your contacts list in order and start reaching out to them. It has never been easier than it is now to maintain a contacts list and then use it to stay in touch with your important friends, colleagues, clients and referral sources. Many of us feel like we have lost some contact during the pandemic. However, with various social media platforms, Zoom and the old-fashioned telephone, it is easy to reconnect. Prioritize your contacts and create time in your schedule to begin communicating with them. Invite people to Zoom, give them a call and you certainly want to pick up the pace with thoughtful social media posts. When the pandemic subsides, contact someone you have not seen in a while and meet them for coffee, breakfast, lunch or drinks after work. I assure you that your contacts will enjoy hearing from you and you will experience benefits from reconnecting.
Reconnect with your co-workers. If you have been working from home and you are back in the office, you may still be staying in your office and keeping a social distance from your co-workers. However, as you return to the office, take a moment each day and walk around to say hello to others. Bring your lunch to the office and have a socially distanced lunch with a co-worker at opposite ends of a conference room table. When the virus subsides, get back out to lunch and beer after work. This will be a first step toward restoring your firm or office culture.
Renew your bar association memberships and get involved. I realize that I am a broken record on bar association involvement, but those who are engaged in bar association activity reap countless rewards. They get leadership opportunities, writing and speaking opportunities, and they cultivate friendships and referrals. In addition, they get cutting-edge access to the latest information in their substantive areas. We owe it to our profession to promote and support our bar associations. Please get out of the office and come to bar events and meetings.
Volunteer and contribute to community organizations. Even before COVID, the need for reliable volunteers within community groups was a big issue, but COVID has made it more pressing. Further, the community needs that are served by community groups have been multiplied exponentially. Lawyers are problem-solvers and leaders. Community involvement will serve your community and allow others to meet lawyers who represent the best in our profession. We all win when lawyers get involved in a community group. Find one that interests you and call to see what you can do for them. And don’t forget to donate.
Save for retirement. This one is easier said than done. As a senior lawyer, I can tell you that retirement age will catch up on you. Start today by creating an account and start putting as much aside each month as you can spare. If your firm or company has a 401(k) program, participate, and if you can put the maximum allowable amount aside, do it. Identify a financial planner and take the time to have them offer suggestions on how to save for retirement through saving options that minimize taxes now and in the future. The younger you start, the better. And take my word for it, do not assume that your health will remain good and that you will be able to work forever.
Be a mentor to someone. The legal profession is changing rapidly. The so-called “Great Resignation” is occurring everywhere. Hearings and depositions have gone virtual. Corporate clients are applying “metrics” to grade the performance of their lawyers. Lawyer marketing has become more complex as social media has taken hold. There never has been a time when mentoring was needed more than it is right now. If you are a senior lawyer, mentor a younger partner or a new associate. If you are a young lawyer, mentor a law student. If you are a law student, mentor a high school or college student. Everyone can use advice, and the act of mentoring may cement a friendship that will last a lifetime.
In summary, now is an excellent time to snap out of the COVID malaise and make a difference in your health, your practice, your firm, your profession, your community, your savings and in the life of someone else who is coming up behind you. Take a moment and think about these ideas and get started today.
• John Trimble (@indytrims) is a senior partner at the Indianapolis firm of Lewis Wagner LLP. He is a self-described bar association “junkie” who admits he spends an inordinate amount of time on law practice management, judicial independence and legal profession issues. Opinions expressed are those of the author.