Fuel the Spark by MorganJamesPublisher

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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.

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									an imprint of Morgan James Publishing, LLC., New York
© 2009 Kevin E. Houchin, Esq. All rights reserved.

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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

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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
    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
     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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