VIEWS: 154 PAGES: 162 CATEGORY: Self Improvement POSTED ON: 3/16/2010
In an age of competing demands on attorneys' time, where one is never truly unreachable from the office, Kevin Houchin has written a short but insightful guide to becoming the lawyer that you want to be, instead of merely being the lawyer that circumstances have molded you into. Houchin blends his principles with practical tips on how to regain control over your professional life, from the importance of "showing up" and making yourself known, to the need to know thyself and determine what is it that YOU want yourself to be. It is a short read, but it may be helpful in becoming the reflective practitioner that you want to become." Jed Sorokin-Altmann, Esq.
"Such a quiet, yet profound missive. I am encouraged that legal practitioners will be able to avail themselves of this gentle aid to wake them up and live consciously at such a critical juncture in their personal and professional lives." Idara E. Bassey, J.D., LL.M.
In an age of competing demands on attorneys' time, where one is never truly unreachable from the office, Kevin Houchin has written a short but insightful guide to becoming the lawyer that you want to be, instead of merely being the lawyer that circumstances have molded you into. Houchin blends his principles with practical tips on how to regain control over your professional life, from the importance of "showing up" and making yourself known, to the need to know thyself and determine what is it that YOU want yourself to be. It is a short read, but it may be helpful in becoming the reflective practitioner that you want to become." Jed Sorokin-Altmann, Esq. "Such a quiet, yet profound missive. I am encouraged that legal practitioners will be able to avail themselves of this gentle aid to wake them up and live consciously at such a critical juncture in their personal and professional lives." Idara E. Bassey, J.D., LL.M.
an imprint of Morgan James Publishing, LLC., New York © 2009 Kevin E. Houchin, Esq. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the Publisher. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to Wooden Pencil, Inc., if needed, 425 West Mulberry Suite 105, Fort Collins, Colorado 80521. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and speciﬁcally disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or ﬁtness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of proﬁt or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. Library of Congress Control Number 2009922854 Kevin E. Houchin, Esq Fuel the Spark: 5 Guiding Values for Success in Law School and Beyond ISBN: 978-1-60037-599-6 Library of Congress subject headings: 1. Law/Ethics 2. Professional Responsibility Published by: an imprint of Morgan James Publishing, LLC 1225 Franklin Ave. Ste 325 Garden City, NY 11530-1693 Toll Free 800-485-4943 www.MorganJamesPublishing.com Design by Toolbox Creative: www.toolboxcreativelcom. Photography © 2008 TK Gujral: www.tekayegujral.com Edited by Kari Palazzari. In an effort to support local communities, raise awareness and funds, Morgan James Publishing donates one percent of all book sales for the life of each book to Habitat for Humanity. Get involved today, visit www.HelpHabitatForHumanity.org. To Ron Brown—Marine, Attorney, Counselor, Office Mate, Mentor, and Friend. Your early retirement became permanent before you expected. Even in death you were teaching. Rest, you more than earned the day off. In an age of competing demands on attorneys’ time, where one is never truly unreachable from the office, Kevin Houchin has written a short but insightful guide to becoming the lawyer that you want to be, instead of merely being the lawyer that circumstances have molded you into. Houchin blends his principles with practical tips on how to regain control over your professional life, from the importance of “showing up” and making yourself known, to the need to know thyself and determine what is it that YOU want yourself to be. It is a short read, but it may be helpful in becoming the reflective practitioner that you want to become. Kevin Houchin’s book is a perfect blend of rules you need for your practice of law and for the human spiritual practice. His work not only teaches how to excel in your career, but how to use the ethical rules of practice to make a better life for yourself and your family. Such a quiet, yet profound missive. This book provides such a framework. I am encouraged that legal practitioners will be able to avail themselves of this gentle aid to wake them up and live consciously at such a critical juncture in their personal and professional lives. Kevin Houchin is the real deal. Kevin’s stories are entertaining offering a message of hope and inspiration for lawyers and the legal profession. I wholeheartedly recommend Kevin to any organization considering hiring a speaker. Since graduating from Georgetown University Law Center in 1999, I have frequently found myself wondering whether I made the right decision to go to law school. I loved law school so much that it was a total shock to my system to leave the nurturing environment of idealism and enter the world of practice in a big law firm. I knew I had gone to law school to make a difference in people’s lives, to be a shining light in the world and empower people around me. Being a big law firm lawyer seemed to have no relationship whatsoever to that ideal. Because I didn’t have a clear handle on my values back then, I struggled internally. I spent a lot of time thinking there must be something wrong with me because I couldn’t appreciate the amazing job I had, at one of the most prestigious law firms in the country, making six figures per year, serving the most successful people in the world, including Warren Buffett. How could I not be happy? Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of law students would kill for the opportunity and I was seemingly taking it for granted. Because I didn’t have a clear handle on my own values, I convinced myself there was something wrong with me. It took me several years of deep, internal, personal work to begin to discover my values and step into my own truth. Ultimately, that work led me out of the big law firm into starting my own firm where I would be able to do things my way. And that led me to revolutionize the broken business model that leaves so many of us and our clients wishing there was something more. As I left the big law firm, I hired a coach to help me make the transition and I remember when I began to tell him some of my radical ideas about how I wanted to run my own law firm. He told me I would fail if I tried those things. He told me my best bet was to continue working with him and get my law firm set up the way all the other “successful” lawyers he coached had set their businesses up. Fortunately, by then, I knew enough about my own values to be able to say, “No way, you’re wrong. You might have been doing this a lot longer than me, but I’m not going to keep doing things the same old way they’ve always been done.” and fire him. Time and again as I was building my law firm under this new model I call the Personal Family Lawyer ® way, I heard from naysayers who thought what I was doing was impossible. Fortunately though, I was living by the guiding values I had discovered over several years and that allowed me to stay on my course and now I’m blessed to understand why I went to law school in the first place. I did not go to law school to help rich people save more taxes, to bill my time in 6-minute increments, or to prepare form documents for people that they would sign, take home, and never look at again. I went to law school to make a huge difference in the world, to empower people to understand more of who they are and think bigger about that than they ever thought possible, and to shine the light of truth and awareness. Ten years ago I couldn’t understand how that fit in with being a lawyer. Today, I do. Perhaps, if I would have had Kevin Houchin’s 5 Guiding Values to guide me, I would have gotten there much more quickly than I did. To learn the lessons Kevin shares in his illuminating book, I had to work with several coaches, make a huge number of errors, and experience a lot of struggle. But, you don’t need to take as much time or experience as much pain as I did. All you have to do is read Kevin’s book, block off some time, and complete the exercises at the back. By completing the exercises, you will understand yourself, your motivations, and your own values so much more. It is a sad reality that the profession you have chosen can increase your risk of disease and despair. This reality is part of what has driven me to write this book. I hope to inspire you to see your practice of law as part of your divine purpose. Not simply your work, but a life fulfilled. Not simply a profession, but a calling. When you began your journey in law school, you may have been filled with excitement, looking forward to a career that was rewarding, fun, and distinguished. Law school is notorious for taking bright, idealistic, values-inspired young (and not- so-young) people and turning them into something else. Actually practicing law usually doesn’t do much to reinvest attorneys with those values or inspiration. This process of removing individual inspiration doesn’t happen to everyone, and it didn’t happen to me. But it takes some conscious effort to avoid the common pitfalls of a life in law. What separates those who end up unhappy and those who find satisfaction? Context. I’m definitely no smarter than any of my peers, and probably no smarter than you. But I was older when I started law school. I wasn’t learning life out of a case book. I’d been married and divorced. I’d been through civil litigation. I’d worked for and been fired from companies. I’d started companies and failed. I’d started companies and succeeded. I’d bought and sold houses. I’d negotiated hundreds of contracts. I’d spent the previous three years traveling on business. When I quit my job to start law school I had plenty of time to do the work, but I also had time to think about the context within which I hoped to apply what I was about to learn. And, I was able to use law school as a springboard to a very rewarding career as an attorney. That’s the key to a successful and even fun legal career: context. No matter your age or experience, there is always room to improve. My goal in this book is to give you that context through a short list of five simple, memorable values that will guide you to well-rounded, joyful success in your practice. If you keep the following 5 Guiding Values in your mind (or even better, taped to the top of your laptop, or as part of your computer screen background image) you’ll be far more likely to keep the challenges of practice in balance with the rest of your life and your ideals. I guarantee it. In fact, if you follow these guiding values and they don’t help, just send this book back to me and I’ll refund your money. This book is short for several reasons. First, I want you to actually read it. You know how to read well, fast, and with high retention. You should be able to breeze through these chapters in short sittings. Second, you probably read a lot of material at work and I don’t want to add to that burden. Third, I believe shorter books that get read again and again are more powerful than large tomes. Fourth, there are only 5 Guiding Values, which fits right into most people’s short- term memory capabilities. I want these values to become second nature to you, and they won’t if it takes too long to read the book. We could argue about the words that describe the values – we’re lawyers after all and questioning how other people classify thoughts is just part of our collective personality. We could add values to the list, and I’m sure you will. We could probably even reduce the list (NOT a typical lawyer trait). But I like having five principles because it’s easy to remember the list by looking at the fingers on one hand. Finally, I believe everything you face in practice, and more importantly in your life outside the office, fits nicely into one or more of these categories. I asked the ABA for permission to include several citations of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Responsibility, but they said I had to print the Rules with the entire set of notations. That would have made this book huge and gotten us bogged down. Sure, I could probably have just used the Model Rules anyway and claimed “fair use” but I thought it would be better and easier to just cite Rules from Colorado, my home state. The Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct are very close to the ABA Model Rules, and since they are part of the Colorado Revised Statutes, I do not need permission to reprint them here. If you’re reading this book, you’re probably a practicing attorney and know that you have to check the PR Rules in your own state if you have any specific questions. So, don’t email me about the minute differences in the language of the Rules listed in this book compared to the ABA Model Rules, or the Rules of your state. You know better. You’ll also notice a conspicuous lack of any footnotes. That’s because I didn’t want to footnote. I’ve had enough, and we don’t need them here. This might be shocking to your lawyer sensibilities, but trust me, you’ll be OK. Your life is a series of profound choices. There was something in your life that you didn’t accept as it existed, so you accepted the personal responsibility to change that situation, and ended up practicing law. Similarly, something in your life led you to pick up this book. It may seem silly to even think about this, but it’s not. Many times we unconsciously and mistakenly “choose” to accept something the way it is when we really would rather have accepted the responsibility to change it. Those unconscious “acceptances” happen when we buy into assumptions. Do you assume you have to bill a certain number of hours? Do you assume you have to land a certain number of new clients, win a certain percentage of cases, or make partner in a certain number of years? The legal profession is full of assumptions. Some are subtle and reinforce stereotypes about who can be successful and who cannot. Some are blatant and define the role of lawyer in society. The first step toward avoiding the disease and despair common to our profession is to consciously recognize the assumptions before you. Then you can begin to evaluate which ones you will accept and which ones you will reject. You don’t have to accept the underlying premise that the only way to be happy as a lawyer is to work yourself to death, take every client that walks in the door, or be a partner in a multi-national firm. I’m here to tell you that happy lawyers are often the exception rather than the rule in those circumstances. Do you know the real costs of billing too many hours? It could cost you your health, your relationships, and your emotional stability. It’s no wonder lawyers suffer from more mental health and substance abuse issues than the rest of society. Many of us literally work ourselves to death. Of course, there are lawyers who are still happy on this track and lots of young lawyers learn a great deal in busy, high-power firm settings. My point is the choice of career path is up to you. I never intended to work for a firm. I planned to be a solo- or small-practice lawyer from the day I decided to accept my admission to law school. That made it easier for me to reject the assumption that the only acceptable definition of success is to land a job at a big firm. That, in turn, made it easier for me to find balance and harmony in my life as a practicing attorney. You don’t have to accept the premise that making seven figures each year, or being a partner in a big firm, or even a small firm, is the only way to be happy and helpful in your practice. Don’t get trapped into unconsciously accepting that notion. First and foremost, you decide what will make you happy. Go ahead. Think about it. Why did you decide to go to law school in the first place? Why did you choose your current job? What were your hopes when you began your professional journey? What did you want to achieve? Do you still want those same dreams, or do you have new ones? Write them down. Reconnect with the desires that drove you to become a lawyer. Look for the spark within you. Do you feel better and in more control already? You are in control. Nobody else is going to accept the responsibility for your life. That said, there are still many things you cannot control about practicing law, like the deadlines set by the court, the surprise calls from clients at 4:30 on Friday, lawyer jokes at cocktail parties, and the ability of most CLE presentations to keep you awake. No matter how much you complain, you will most likely have to just accept these aspects of your legal work. Nevertheless, you do have control over how you deal with these things. You can change your social groups, your level of involvement outside the firm, you can change your employer, and most importantly, you can change your outlook about life as an attorney. Changing your attitude may be the hardest part, but it is also the most crucial. The first step toward a balanced and healthy practice is to figure out what you want to get from it. Once you have a clear picture of your personal goals for your legal career and your life, it becomes easier to sift through the things you must accept and the things you accept responsibility to change. So take a second to think about your goals. What do you really want? I was raised in a strict, traditional Christian family where questioning any form of authority was discouraged, so it took me a while to start questioning the important areas of my life. For the past several years, I’ve been intensively studying both Western and Eastern spiritual practices, because we all base our unconscious assumptions on these religious and cultural traditions. As I spent time peeling back layers of this savory onion of thought, it became apparent that Western traditions tend to teach a philosophy of “make it happen,” while the Eastern traditions tend to teach “let it happen.” Movies including “What the Bleep Do We Know,” “The Secret,” and even “The Matrix,” “Star Wars,” and many others explore the concept that ideas are all of life. It’s what we do, or don’t do, with ideas that matters. The Western idea of the law of attraction asks us to visualize what we want and let the universe manifest that vision as we act in our lives. This is a “make it happen” idea. The Eastern traditions say to step out of our visualization, empty our mind, and receive or “let it happen.” While studying, journaling, and meditating (thinking & praying) on these topics, the words “surrender” and “receive” kept coming up. I have a hard time surrendering – I’m a “never give up” kind of guy. I grew up on a hog farm outside Gravity, Iowa. Yes, “Gravity.” (I achieved escape velocity.) Like many small boys in Iowa, I enjoyed wrestling and started pee-wee wrestling practice in second grade. One of the things my coach said has stuck with me: “Never surrender, never give up, you don’t even sleep on your back.” I still have a hard time sleeping on my back, and I still have a difficult time with the concept of surr
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