Lawyers, Lawyering, and Law Coaching - Part 4
Charlotte Lawyer and Master Coach Chris Connelly joins Law Talk with Bill Powers to discuss reviewing your law practice, life, and profession during the Coronavirus Outbreak.
Chris Connelly: I think people don't have the urgency of court looming over their shoulder so they're not going to be anxious to pay you and they're also worried about do I need this money to pay for bills now or three months from now because the recession is going to hit? So it's going to be a tough time to try to collect receivables, but this is a great time to be working on relationships, calling existing clients that you have, calling referral sources, calling past clients, getting an email list going or a social media following where you keep people in touch. I can't say I'm the only lawyer doing this and I'm certainly not the first one to think of it, but there's a lot of lawyers out there who are posting a lot of things on social media just so they could make sure that their client base knows, "Hey, I'm still out there. Something happens, I'm still out here. And when something does start happening in a couple of months, when the world reopens, you're going to need me. So don't forget about me."
Chris Connelly: So this is a time for growth. It's also a time to realize that there's more important stuff going on than your law office. How is your family going to remember you during this time? Are they going to remember you as being like the stressed out jerk who was worried about how much money you're not making, because frankly nobody is, and how the bills are piling up? Or are they going to remember you as, hey this is my mom, my dad, my son, my daughter, my brother or sister who was there for me. We had fun during this time or we did some adventures, we did some stay at home kind of work and there was a lot of fun and we got a lot closer. That could be the message for this time.
Bill Powers: Right. And just to point out for lawyers that are listening, you don't have to necessarily be full-time marketing, foot on the gas, doing all these other things because the thought of not doing something may instill a higher level of stress. I think what you're trying to say is, and correct me if I'm wrong, this may be a time for you to do things that you previously have always wanted to do. And the reason I think you probably believe that is that I was a beneficiary of something you hosted on MCCDLA, the Mecklenburg County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association where the takeaways were maybe it's a time if you want to spend more time with your family or read Tolstoy or get into painting or to do something other than things that we never have been able to do. Is that right?
Chris Connelly: Yes. This is a great time to start working on that hobby or that passion project that you've been putting on the back burner, that thing that's been tickling your mind saying, "Hey, what about this? I always wanted to try to do this." Now's the time. You've got two and a half months off. No one's going to pull you into court now unless you've got somebody who's in custody. Use this time to learn another language or read a book or spend time with the family or find that hobby that you always wanted to do and didn't have time for it. Now you've got the time.
Bill Powers: Right. And there still is time. If people say, "Oh, we're about to open up," we're like yeah, sort of, and sort of not.
Chris Connelly: We're kind of at the two thirds mark. Court's are not reopening until June 2nd. So there's about another month plus of time to work on these things.
Bill Powers: Right. And even with court opening, I think it may be open for administrative matters, but I don't see any litigation going on anytime soon. And I think if there is any litigation-
Chris Connelly: No, I don't-
Bill Powers: Go ahead.
Chris Connelly: I don't either. I think there's going to be a lot of catch up. Because all these administrative court dates for two and a half months that have been continued, and there's a massive backlog of stuff. I think they're going to be spending a lot of time doing that as opposed to saying, let's monopolize a courtroom for a week with a jury trial. I think they're not going to do that, although they may do some of that, but I think they would use that courtroom time to say, let's resolve a couple dozen cases and get these out of the system so we do have time to do the jury trials and the heavy duty litigation later on.
Bill Powers: Well, for several different reasons. First, I don't know if people don't realize this, and I occasionally tell clients, you have a ticket and your ticket is the most important thing in your life, or your DWI in Charlotte is the most important thing in your life. Not necessarily so with the court system. There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of matters. And hats off to DA's office because they have been going in and moving cases and it's moving upon moving or we call them continuances in district court. And superior court as a practical matter, and you have to think about this, if we phase in two or three phases that the governor's talking about, a jury trial is not conducive to social separation. You've got 12 people sitting literally on top of one another.
Bill Powers: You've got documents and evidence that you're passing back and forth between witnesses and the jury room is a tight quarter and just going into the jury pool, venire rooms, people are on top of one another. And sitting next to a client, how are you supposed to speak to a client, communicate to a client quietly, confidentially and maintain a level of separation? So I think there's that aspect. And I don't know, I think there's going to have to be some changes. There may have to be some rule changes regarding how these things take place. More than that, I think there's going to be a focus necessarily on the in custody people, the people are in jail, to handle their matters first.
Bill Powers: So getting through the backlog of all these other cases, there's going to be an assessment of where are we? Have we received discovery on these cases? Have there been plea offers? Is there anything that we can work through and just pound through stuff administratively? And then when we start doing trials, I think there's going to be a focus on people that are in custody to help them.
Chris Connelly: Yeah. They're not going to start empaneling juries on June 1st or June 2nd. There's a big backlog of stuff to untangle. All these cases that were supposed to have been heard during this two and a half month period, they're going to be first in the hopper. Plus whatever cases came in that were initiated during this time, those cases will have to stand behind the cases that were older than the cases that started the end of last year. So there's been a massive backlog that's been created here.
Bill Powers: Right. So the point being, not just to our clients who are wondering when is my case going to be tried, but to your potential new lawyer, client, and counseling, you got a month. You probably have some more than that. And even if you do have some matters, like it or not, I don't see things transitioning very, very quickly. You're going to still have time to do these different things. Now, Chris, we've gone over and gosh, I've got at least another 50 or 60 questions I'd like to ask you here. So maybe I can talk you into doing another one of these episodes some point.
Chris Connelly: Sure.
Bill Powers: But let's do this. First, if I am a younger lawyer, a newer lawyer, and I don't like to say old lawyer, but a more seasoned lawyer, how do I get ahold of you for coaching?
Chris Connelly: You can call me on my cell phone. The number is (980) 263-8366, again, (980) 263-8366. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Powers: And you also have a website for your coaching. Is that correct?
Chris Connelly: That's correct. And that gives some more information about coaching services and that is connelly-coaching.com. So my last name, hyphen, coaching.com.
Bill Powers: And it's C-O-N as in November, N as in November, E-L-L, Lima, Lima, Yankee. So Connelly, correct?
Chris Connelly: Right.
Bill Powers: And I really encourage people during this time, during this transition as lawyers, new and seasoned, to give Chris a call. I've known the guy for 30 years and I cannot think of a better person who has real world in the trenches experience, who has run a business. Someone I've always admired. And Chris and I aren't law partners, we're actually technical competitors in the business. I try not to use that term because I see us all as friends in the profession. But this isn't some guy who just decided to do this willy nilly. This is a person who has spent literally more than three decades helping people in court, navigating the court system and the calendars, navigating the work life balance, navigating staff and all that. You are a fount of information. So I highly, highly recommend Chris and his-
Chris Connelly: Well, thank you.
Bill Powers: Now, we talked about work life balance and I can tell from your West Gastonia accent ... Tell me about the horse thing, brother. I got to ask, how did you get into horses? I know one other attorney in Charlotte who's a horse person, but I've always seen these incredible pictures and videos of you riding a horse. I think that's an amazing thing that you do.
Chris Connelly: I love it. Some lawyers have golf, some lawyers have tennis, some lawyers have yoga. My horse is all three of that. It is my time. I'm alone and I'm in the woods and it's just me and God and nature and it's quiet time. I get my best thoughts when I'm riding my horse. As a matter of fact, I've done some coaching sessions with clients while riding a horse. I put on the Bluetooth ear phones and I just dial them in and we have a phone conversation. I have done some of my best coaching sessions with clients while I'm riding my horse through the woods because my mind is quiet, it's still, I'm in my happy place, and my best coaching happens when I'm on it.
Bill Powers: That's amazing. And I was joking, Chris is not from Gastonia. Chris is from north of the Mason Dixon line.