The ability to unplug from your practice - to take real time off - is an idea most entrepreneurial lawyers think will never be a reality. We’ve looked at the myths and fears keeping us from taking an actual vacation, and we’ve addressed the importance of becoming proactive to start to overcome them.
What's the framework that's going to allow us to separate fact from fiction - to banish these myths and fears that are hurting us - and become much more proactive?
Before I went to law school, my background was in computer programming. This was in the dark ages of computers when we were still using reel to reel tapes and things like that. As long ago as that was, the processes of thinking we had were very useful. I'm going to explain one of them today that I think will be very helpful for your practice.
The “If-Then” Concept Explained
As complicated as computer programming can seem from the outside, it really boils down to a set of statements. IF this happens, THEN do this. You’ve got to tell a dumb machine (and remember, in the days I was doing this, computers were incredibly dumb) that if a certain condition happens, then it must do “this” - whatever “this” might be. With this simple statement of “If-Then”, combined in various ways with various commands and various triggers, you can get achieve all kinds of amazing things. You can make this really dumb machine seem really smart.
Likewise, every single business is nothing more than a collection of systems - a collection of “If-Then” statements. It may sound odd or simplistic to think of your practice in this way. You may think of yourself as a highly educated professional running an extremely complex business, but literally everything you do to run your law firm today can be broken down into “If-Then” statements.
You already have very complicated sets of “If-Then” statements when it comes to your areas of practice expertise. Through education and experience, your brain has learned this stuff and synthesized the information into a decision tree. You already have this system of "If-Then" in your head, right now.
“If-Then” Put To Work In Your Firm
At a very basic level, the operations of your business - far simpler than your legal expertise - is also a set of "If-Then" statements. IF an invoice comes in, THEN you send it to accounting. IF a client asks a particular question, THEN so-and-so takes the call. It applies to everything, right? If we realize that "If-Thens" already exist in our business operations, we can group those statements into the various parts of our business.
Now, why is it interesting to group your business into a bunch of "If-Thens"? Because if we can identify the key "If-Thens" - the key conditions that IF this happens, THEN do this - and put in place the process and right people to handle them, then we are free. We are free from carrying out these basic business operation on our own. By documenting the "If-Then” statements into a set protocol, any other person or machine can carry out those actions. It doesn’t have to be you!
By understanding and implementing this concept we can start to gain that separation from us as an employee and us as a business owner, which is crucial to achieving the freedom to unplug from your practice.