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Reclaiming our Six Minutes: Infusing Time with Moments of Joy and Sessions of Solace

Six-Minute Increments: Redefined

Recently, I was doing a little spring cleaning and decided to dive into a filing cabinet that I hadn’t opened in years. One of the first several file folders I pulled out contained a copy of one of my daily time sheets from my first year as an associate at a 100-person law firm in Los Angeles. Also in that file folder was a print-out of the year-end time tally sheet from my full first year at that firm. In defense practice (aka, “big law”), as is typical, my time was measured in terms of one-tenths of an hour — you know, those seemingly endless strings of six-minute increments. There they were – every billable and non-billable time segment all tracked and tallied.

In big law, no matter how many hours one puts in during a given day or evening (and there are often many), it is back to tabula rasa the next morning. Without or even sometimes with a strong center, that tends to do a number on your psyche and your overall sense of well-being. It can take a noticeable toll on your physical health as well.

Reclaiming Our Time

So, what to do about it? While I realize it’s naïve to think that billable hours will suddenly disappear altogether as a common metric, it is definitely within each attorney’s control to “reclaim their time” (to borrow a now-gone-viral phrase used by Rep. Waters during a congressional hearing last year) in ways that are more sustaining and rejuvenating, and from a place of strength and empowerment.
Now I can hear you asking: “But if I’m already packing in so many hours on cases, building a book of business, and attending continuing legal education seminars, how could I possibly squeeze in any other time for myself or any other more life-sustaining activities?” To that, I say, consider this: a lot can be experienced in six minutes or less. Ask any downhill skier or 1,500 meter runner (or person looking to catch the last remaining flight)!

You’re already capably putting in time well spent on behalf of the best interests of your firm and your clients, so why not do so for yourself? Without getting into the metaphysics of how to bend time (although that is definitely a fun topic to discuss with a friend or colleague over a glass of your favorite beverage) – let’s explore creative ways to “take back time,” and make it yours, at least once in a while.

Alternative Ways to Use Time

You can weave a number of short activities into your work day, throughout the week, or on the weekends. Here is a list to keep handy, of some examples to try, that are easy to do up to six minutes at a time:

  • Deep breathing in and out, slowly and deliberately
  • Looking out a window and focusing on an object in the distance such as a tree or the horizon
  • Standing quietly in a comfortable yet grounding and centering yoga position (such as mountain pose or archer pose)
  • Tapping your feet or dancing to an upbeat song (such as “One Love” or “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, or “Say Hey” by Michael Franti & Spearhead – heck these songs are only 3-minutes each, so in six minutes you can listen to any of them twice!)

These won’t transform your world or your law practice in an instant.  They will, however, likely shake you loose from any overthinking, fuzzy thinking, frazzled nerves, or just plain fatigue and burn-out…if even but for a little while.

What’s to be gained

The benefits to be gleaned from these brief and empowering uses of time are many, and include:

  • Giving your mind a rest
  • Giving your body an opportunity to move and change positions
  • Allowing your breath to slow down and become more even, and less erratic
  • Granting yourself the gift of returning to your law practice more refreshed and less strained
  • Seeing your case strategies from a fresh angle or perspective
  • Gaining clarity around a perceived roadblock in a particular case or cases
  • Ultimately effectuating more creative, surprising strategies and potential outcomes for your clients

A Respite from the Frenzy: Six-Minute Saturdays

To help get you started, I’m creating a series of short videos that I’m calling “Six-Minute Saturdays” (SMS).  Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be among the first to receive notifications of these videos as they are released on…yes, you guessed it: Saturdays.  You can view them of course whenever it’s convenient for you.  (I figure this way, you’ll be encouraged to devote at least one six-minute time segment a week completely,100%, to you!) The kick-off video for SMS is available for viewing now: To watch it, go here.

For your consideration:

What will you do for six minutes that are “all your own,” devoted solely (and soulfully) to your own well-being, starting today?  Pick one from the list above, or come up with one of your own, and let me know how it goes!  As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.

Okay, your turn:

When you find yourself feeling stressed and unable to focus, what do you tend to do?  What’s your default ‘coping’ mechanism?  Does that help…in the short run or the long run? If that hasn’t been working well for you, what would you like to choose to do, instead, if even for a brief six minutes?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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From Darkness Into Light: Winter Solstice Edition

From Darkness into Light

This week, in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching Winter Solstice and the turn ever so slightly toward longer days and shorter nights. It’s a shifting out from the darkness and into more light.

Now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

It’s a continuum, of course, just like the rotations of the earth, sun, and moon. Between the two polar opposites, or contrasts, lies the fluidity, the flow… It’s a rhythm and a cycle from the internal to the external, and back again. It’s a peeking out, and an emergence — from deep within the earth (ourselves) and out into the world above the surface (out into our external surroundings, relationships, etc.)

So, now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

Three Soul Starters

If you’re in my tribe, you’re likely a woman attorney who has placed a lot of emphasis on your career, on your law practice, and on serving your clients. As the year winds down, and Courts too “go dark” for a few days around Christmas and New Year’s, I invite you to devote some sacred time and space to:

1. Consider where things are going well for you in your life and career
2. Envision where you’d like to see some things change, shift, or dissolve
3. Get excited about what your “Dream Theme” for 2018 might be (no need to commit right this minute…let your heart and mind wander for a bit and explore some possible themes that resonate for you)!

To set the stage, I urge you to put in your Calendar now a date and time during the next two weeks where you will allow yourself the opportunity to do this exercise. Rather than thinking that you’ll somehow wake up on New Year’s Day, amongst the typically frenetic energy of a New Year, and that somehow you’ll magically have your year ahead “all figured out” — take advantage of taking a few days off during the holidays to honor yourself and where you’d like to take your life and career the next 12 or 13 moons.

If drafting a yearly plan makes sense to you, feel free to try that on for size. Write it out, map it out…use one of the many “planner” systems available…if that helps you get started. There are all kinds of smart phone apps and digital reminder systems available now; and I remember the days of hard copy Franklin-Covey binders, and those hand-held Palm Pilots. What I know, from my own experiences, however – is that no matter what system you use they serve only as placeholders for your intentions and not as creation generators. Like any good tool, they are only as helpful to the extent that you use them, and use them consistently, and with frequent check-ins throughout the year.

Also, remember that any plans are simply that. They are not iron-clad. And, until you start taking action to implement them, you’re really only making guesstimates, anyway. And, that is more than okay! Be comfortable with knowing and trusting that you will likely, nee nearly always, need to make adjustments along the way. As when commanding a boat as it traverses the waters ahead, you’ll need to use the rudder faithfully and consistently to keep you on course. All systems go – push off from the shore. If you take the space to do so now, at least come January you will have gotten as clear as you can “from the dock” about where you’re ultimately headed. And you’ve envisioned whom you’d like to join you on the adventure, and you’ve packed a few appropriate provisions for the journey. Then, allow the magic of the adventure with all its joys and surprises to take its course!

This will help set you, your life, and your law practice up for success in the coming year. It will help you complete this year and ease into the next one, from a place of feeling calm, centered, assured, strong, and confident.

Illumination time!

Just as with the Winter Solstice, and moving forward from there, what is ready to be revealed? What needs to come out from the shadows and into the light? What needs to be released to lighten the load? What would make for a smoother, more secure, less encumbered voyage ahead? Revisit what you wrote down in response to the Three Soul Starters above, and annotate them now by incorporating into them your “illuminations.”

For your consideration:  What’s your DREAM THEME?

As you reflect on the year to date, and as you begin focusing on where you’d like to be heading as 2018 approaches — notice what emerges for you.

I encourage you to select what I’m dubbing a “Dream Theme” to serve as a guide post and to carry you through from now until this time next year.

You’ll be amazed at what you start to notice, once you select your Dream Theme. I’m curious as to what yours will be!

Your Dream Theme may change shape over the next several weeks…allow it to do so! Right now, mine is something along the lines of strength through vulnerability (or “vulnerable strength,” for short).

Okay, your turn:

What’s your Dream Theme for 2018? What have you come up with so far?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughtsfeelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.
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From idealist to lost in the practice of law

From idealist to lost in the practice of law

I set off to the University of California at Berkeley as a budding journalist.  What better place, perhaps, than at the home of the Free Speech movement?  Along the way, I spent two college summers in Washington, DC, living in Georgetown, and interning in the nation’s capital.

And, by the end of my junior year, while I enjoyed writing and reporting and broadcasting (I was a news reporter for the campus radio station) – I came to realize that a career in law was what was really calling to me.  One of my majors was in Political Science, and I knew that I desired an advanced degree and was eager to learn more about Constitutional Law, and in particular the First Amendment.

I headed off to Boston University School of Law, where I had been accepted into their joint JD/MA program in conjunction with B.U.’s School of Broadcasting.  Overwhelmed, though, by the high cost of living and at the time even higher interest rates on my law school loans, I made the difficult decision to try to get accepted to another law school in a more affordable town.  I ended up transferring to a law school in Sacramento, California where I could save money on rent.  And, I was able to apply for and did receive an academic based California Graduate Fellowship to help fund my education.  Nonetheless, lacking any proverbial ‘rich uncle’ to assist, I still remained financially challenged.  I continued to incur tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

The topics in law school, though, sometimes thrilled me. I learned even more about the First Amendment, including artists’ rights and other constitutionally protected forms of expression.  I was ‘in the zone,’ thinking I could advocate on behalf of principles that I truly felt passionate about.

If you knew me back then, you would have called me an idealist.  I was also, though, a pragmatist.  I couldn’t end up helping anyone if I couldn’t afford to complete my law school education and pay off my law school debt. Accordingly, I found myself “chasing the almighty dollar.”

I went into what attorneys refer to as “big law,” by taking a job as an associate at a 100-lawyer civil litigation defense firm.  Unlike the plaintiffs’ side, on the defense side, your “worth” is measured in terms of billable hours.  Our time was broken down into one-tenths of an hour.  Each morning, I arrived at the office with tabula rasa – a blank time sheet to be filled out.  It didn’t matter how many hours I had billed the day before.  Each day, I was expected to prove my value to the firm, by racking up another 10-12 hours for that day, and so on, and so on.

We represented large corporations, mostly with regard to breach of contract disputes.  Why did I end up at a large firm, doing something pretty much polar opposite to what I really wanted to do? In a nutshell:  Because it paid well.

My first year as an associate, I brought in a salary that surpassed any dollar amount that my parents ever made. I bought my first-ever and only “brand new car,” right off the lot, with only four miles on it. The firm had a courtroom built right into the center of one of the two floors we occupied in a Century City high rise. It had its own jury box, and two-way mirrors, and we were provided acting classes where we could hone our trial advocacy presence and skills.

Admittedly, at times it was kind of intoxicating.  Parts of it did feed my ego as well as my pocketbook.  That feeling dissipated, though, within a short period of time.  While grateful that I had landed a well-paying job, I became increasingly disenchanted with the practice of law.

Whatever work that I didn’t complete before I left the office at 7 pm, I often finished back at my apartment, sometimes up to 1 o’clock in the morning before needing to rise a few short hours later and beat rush hour traffic downtown to appear at the courthouse in time for an 8:30 am court appearance.

My energy, my enthusiasm, and my eager idealism – the very zeal I initially brought to the practice of law – was waning, and waning fast.  Where did I go astray?  The money’s nice, I kept telling myself, but I also kept thinking that “this can’t be all there is”?  Like a line from that Talking Heads song, I kept saying to myself, “How did I get here?”  This was not my beautiful life; not really.

What was unclear then, and has become readily apparent to me now, is that I was so focused on paying off my law school debt, that I was paying a steep price of a different kind:  I was paying with my sense of purpose, my spirit, my health, and my overall joie de vivre.

Feeling as if my life had been reduced to six-minute increments, even standing in a post office line seemed stressful.  “I could be billing my time, instead of standing here,” I found myself thinking.  Day to day errands had become a source of dissonance and tension.

And the work that I was doing wasn’t fulfilling.  While everyone deserves zealous representation, and I maintained my dedication to doing quality work for our corporate clients, my heart wasn’t in it.  Instead of fighting the good fight to protect journalists, artists, and others deserving of First Amendment protections, I was drowning in the minutiae of whether certain conduct or conditions were considered breaches of contracts, and whether they would withstand judicial scrutiny.

And I was doing so in largely male governing, patriarchal law firm environments, where there were few women partners and no women serving as managing partners.  There was no attention paid to bringing anything remotely akin to a “holistic” approach to running the firm or the practice of law.

While my brain and analytical abilities were put to good use, my consciousness, like a faucet, was shut off.  All in pursuit of a paycheck.

Then even the paychecks stopped.  That firm ended up going bankrupt.  I was one of the few high-billing associates that survived the firm’s earlier lay-offs so that I could help keep the boat afloat.  One fateful Friday, the office manager came into each attorney’s office, one-by-one, and let us know that even though our paychecks had been issued – it would do no good to cash them, as they would bounce.  The bank had cut off the firm’s credit line, and there was no chance of a rebound.  Stunned, and angry, I soon also felt the sting of having to look for another job.

Ever in pursuit of an income to keep my debt from swallowing me whole, I took a job at another, smaller, law firm across town where another attorney friend of mine had headed.  I left that firm within a year.  That firm had all kinds of partner in-fighting.  And, among other things, this is the firm where one of the paralegals one day brought me into his office to show me the handgun, stashed away in his briefcase, that he’d been bringing with him into the office. The firm later fired him.  Throughout, I was billing out at a rate of 2,400 hours/year.  Walking into the office, on most mornings, I couldn’t even make it from the front desk to my office down the hall without someone at the firm needing to tell me about the latest shenanigans going on “behind the scenes.”  I couldn’t stand it any longer.  Practicing law was stressful enough, let alone working in such a turbulent and toxic environment.

One morning, after spending those middle-of-the-night hours breaking down in an emotional heap on the front steps of my local Catholic church (one of those dark nights of the soul, for sure) – I decided to give my two weeks’ notice, and to the shock of the male partners there, set out to find a more promising work environment.  I ended up leaving the practice of law, and never went back.

That was a couple decades ago now,  and I’ve since paved my own way through a creative career path that I’ve carved out for myself, and while not always quite as lucrative, has definitely been more fulfilling.

Upon leaving the practice of law, it was about at that same time that I started to revisit and deepen my spiritual practice. And, recently, through expert guidance and tuning into my own intuition, I’m now discovering that I am fully committed to helping other women attorneys stay in the practice of law.

What if, yes, what if  I had the type of heart centered support from other women attorneys, mentors and role models available to me now, back then, so that:  I didn’t feel so alone; didn’t feel so dismissed for my ‘feminine qualities’; I was valued for more than purely the number of hours I billed; and I was able to cultivate a culture that not only helped transform “big law” firm environments – but in doing so ultimately created more meaningful, heartfelt environments and results for litigants, too?

As a bit of an aside (yet, it’s relevant here!):  Little known fact about me – I’ve coordinated and participated in the painting of murals on walls of buildings all over Southern California.  One of the murals that I helped design and paint was a children’s mural in a room down the hall from the Family Law department in one of the local Superior Courthouses.  Our purpose was to create a welcoming environment for the children to have as a safe waiting room and play area, when their parents (and sometimes themselves) were scheduled to appear in court. Now, THAT was fulfilling.  My heart swelled with every paint stroke as I brought fun pictures of farm animals and cute meadow scenes to life on those walls.

As I write this, I’m remembering and recapturing that which is the true essence of me.  As I continue to listen closely to what my soul is calling me to embody next, I pledge to keep stepping forward to help serve those whom I’m most meant to serve.

Stay tuned!  I’m heading off to a remote setting, and will be “off the grid” for a vitality retreat led by one of my trusted spiritual advisors.  I’ll be taking several days to discern and envision what the “whole”-istic approach to law may look like.  And, I’m designing a program to help women lawyers do exactly that.

My idealism is back, front and center. I look forward to bringing it, and my new programs, to you!

Okay, your turn:

Where or when has your life path taken a sudden or surprising turn?  What would you like to do differently going forward, given what you know now, that you didn’t know then?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.