Today we're talking to Jacqueline Figueroa who will tell you how to increase billable hours AND have a life.
Jackie's not just an accomplished insurance defense attorney at a national firm billing 2400 hours a year.
She's also a dedicated parent, a marathon runner, and was promoted to partner at her firm.
When Jackie and I started working together, it was a very different story. She didn't think being a partner at her firm was even in the cards for her.
Jackie's will inspire you and give you actionable tips if you're feeling overwhelmed by the demands of the legal profession.
In this episode, Jacqueline spills the beans on how she:
- got out of overwhelm and learned how to increase her billing to calmly bill her firm's 2400 hours requirement while still making time for her passions and family
- navigates the challenges of harmonizing her career and personal life by implementing effective time management techniques
- emotionally regulates in a high-stress profession: Jacqueline reveals the impact it has had on her life both professionally and personally.
Even if you don't need to bill 2400 hours a year or you have a flat rate model for your firm, you don't want to miss this episode.
Listen in because Jackie gives you what you need to help you calm the overwhelm and take control of your practice.
- Be a Better Lawyer Podcast #292: The Systems for Successful Lawyers
- Connect with me on Linked In
- Download the Busy Lawyer's Ultimate Time Management Training
- Learn more about working with me one-on-one
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Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.
How to Increase Billable Hours (and Have a Life) with Special Guest Jacqueline Figueroa
Hello. So I've got another treat for you. I have my lovely client, Jacqueline Figueroa on here today to talk to you about how to bill more hours in your law practice. And she came to me feeling really stressed and overwhelmed, and now she feels so much more calm. She is billing her hours. And the best part about it is that she did this while caring for a daughter while going after what she wants. She's loves to run and show. So she does marathons and she travels. She does all of the things that really light her up. So I want you, if you're struggling with your hours, whether you own your own practice and you bill or you own your own practice and you don't have billables, but you have packages, I want you to think about what she says because she really breaks down what you need to know to start making tangible shifts in your day to day while having a life.
And I want you to, if you work for a big law firm or any kinda law firm where you're responsible for hours, I want you to think about the mindset that she really brings to the table in this episode because she tells you exactly what you need to know in order to create the life and the practice that you want. She gives you some tangible things that you can start doing right now. So no matter whether you own your own firm or you work for someone else's firm, or whether you are calculating billables or you are doing flat rates, what you're gonna learn here today is going to help you. Alright, my friend, let's jump in. Hi, Jackie. How you doing?
I'm good. How are you?
Fabulous. Thank you for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it.
Thank you for having me.
Okay. This is gonna be a fun episode. 'cause I know just about every lawyer can relate if they, if they're not billing hours, they're having difficulty getting their work done. And it comes down to a lot of the things that you and I have talked about over the, I don't know what it been like a year and a half that we've been working together.
I think so, yeah.
Yep. Yeah, so you have tons of wisdom and I really wanted to bring you on because you have this, you have a life. Like, that's one of the things that I think is really great. You have billable, billable hour requirements where you are, and you have created a life for yourself. So can you just share with everybody a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what you enjoy doing?
Sure. so I am an insurance defense attorney in South Florida. I work for a national firm and I do mainly litigation. I ha I have to bill about 24 h 2,400 hours every year. That equates to about 200 billables per month. Outside of work, I I have a little girl who is in second grade and have to do a lot of that home or help do a lot of that homework. So that takes up a lot of my time. And in addition to that, I run marathons and I have one coming up. So I'm in the middle, well, actually towards the tail end of a training block right now. So that, that is me in a nutshell. <Laugh>.
Yeah. But you weren't always doing litigation. What were you doing? When we first started working together
I, I, I, I was doing litigation, but I wasn't geared towards trying cases. So I was more kind of backend do, doing the discovery answers all the depositions, but really didn't work with trial so much as I do now. And before I, I, I forgot to mention this also before we started working together or when we started working together, I was basically an associate of council. And since we've been working together, I have now been promoted to partner <laugh>.
Yay. Yeah. And I don't know what your thoughts are about this, but what were some of the things that you saw that you observed with the work that you did that you think may have contributed to you being promoted?
I think a lot of it was, I had a lot of, you know, confusion as to what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it. I was doing a lot of complaining about what, what I was doing in my job, about everyone, everything. And I wasn't really focused. And so a lot of that had to do with, I think just not, not focusing and actually like calendaring things and, you know, being, I guess for lack of better words, organized. And so when we started to work together, I, a lot of it was mindset. Most of it was mindset. So I was able to kind of change my mindset it to focus more on what I want. And that includes more time and what I wanted to do in the future. So I kind of took everything that I learned with you and then, you know, just applied it and decided I wanted to be partner, and I was going to figure out how to do that and, you know, put it on my calendar, everything I needed to do and just do it and ask for it and ask for it.
That's, I think that that was a big, big thing. I, you know, I wanted, I've always wanted to be partner, but, you know, I've never really, I guess the thing is I never really took the, the action steps or planned out the action steps I needed to, and then actually asked for it and, you know, was able to identify all the things that I've done, X, Y, and Z. This is why I'm partner material.
Yeah. And I think that that gets in so many of our ways when we're not organized about what we want and what we can understand. Oh, this is what a partner looks like, this is how a partner shows up. And then I just start showing up that way and I ask for it, which is what you did.
Right. And that's right. And now, now I remember it because we had multiple conversations about, you know, how, you know, how a partner would think or how a partner would handle, you know, a particular problem that I was going through. And I was still not in the, the mindset of a, you know, partner, I guess a partner. Like I was more still associate, oh, well, you know, I I'm just gonna complain. I'm not an actual partner. I'm, you know, someone else can handle this. Or someone else needs to figure out how to, you know, solve this problem. And where, where I changed my mindset was I, you know, started to think like a partner, started to think like a manager.
Yeah. You started problem solving. And that, that's something that I hear a lot from, you know, managing partners. They're like, these associates, they don't know how to problem solve. They don't know how to like, think like a partner. And that's, you transformed yourself into the problem solver and that, that obviously worked for you.
<Laugh> <laugh>, it did it, it, it, and it's been, I think it's been a big change. And I was actually just talking to my assistant today, and we were, we were talking a little bit about, you know, kind of what's happened throughout the last year or so. And, you know, she said, you know, I've noticed a huge change in you where you don't, you know, you're not constantly complaining anymore, <laugh>. And, and the, the the times you do, you know, talk about something, you, you, you, you have a, a solution to whatever problem it is, and you're able to like, pivot. And it was just a, I don't know, it was, it was an eye-opener given, you know, that, you know, my my assistant and I have been to together since I think like 2021 when I first started this job. And so she's, she's even seen a transformation in the way i, I act.
That's so fun. I love that when it's so tangible like that there was a word, like the word mindset. You mentioned it a few times, and I'm curious what mindset means to you?
I think it's just that, you know, the, the way, the way I think about things like my, my, my thoughts, right? So as an example, yesterday <laugh>, I got a text message saying, Hey, we're back up for trial for, you know, the Monday after, after Thanksgiving. And my mind immediately went to, ugh, all this could have been solved before when I was, you know, when I asked so and so to do X, y, and Z, blah, blah, blah, blah. And, you know, and then I was like, Ugh, okay. That's not the mindset I wanna be in. What I wanna do is, okay, all that has already happened. We have trial, we have that coming up. What do I need to do to, to, to make that happen, to, to solve that problem? All the problems that, you know, from before. And it, it was really, it was just a shift. It was just a slight shift. I, and I can't even put my finger on it, but I was just like, oh, I can't believe this, this is every time I blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then I said, what, what am I doing? Just this is okay, just you want trial. Everything has already happened. You can't change the past. Let's problem solve and figure it out.
Yeah. And I think that is such a beautiful story because it illustrates what is happening in our brain. And until we're coached and we can see that our thoughts are just these things floating in our brain that we need to just catch and say, wait a minute, that's not even true. Or, wait a minute, I don't like that. That's not helping me be the person I wanna be. And then understanding how to, like, you've done this work in a, in a large way of like processing the emotion. And once you learn how to do that, it's like a split second. You don't even need to process the emotion. You just recognize the thought, and you're like, that thought's not gonna be helpful. I know that that's not true. Let's move my brain into this other direction and focus in the direction I want to go. Like, that's just a nice clean explanation of the transition between our old way of thinking and learning how to create a new set of thinking so that we can get the results that we want in our life. Anything you would add to that?
No, I, I, I, I don't think so. I think that, you know, you hit the nail right on the head.
There was one story you told me, and I've mentioned it on the podcast, and but it was, it was a really cool illustration of like, how our brains can literally affect our blood pressure. 'cause Like you had like brought something where you said, yeah, something was going on in my mind, and it it was racing while I was running, literally running, and I had my heart monitor on. Can you share that story?
Yeah, no, absolutely. So when I run, I usually wear a, a, a heart monitor a heart rate monitor like a chest strap. And so I was running one day and it was like, my, my heart rate was pretty high and I was supposed to be running at a lower heart rate. But it was like, ugh, I always KI kept on thinking about work and like how, like stressed out I was at work and you could see like my, my heart rate went from like one 40 to 180 just spiked. And I was like, oh, okay, I need to keep my heart rate down. So I had to, I had to do some mental gymnastics, if you will, to try to, you know you know, kind of feel my feelings and then, you know, change my thoughts. And when I did that, my heart rate, you could see it, it went down, it went right back down.
So I mean, r for non-runners, jumping from like a one 40 to 180 back down to one 40 is a pretty, pretty significant move. A pretty significant change. And it actually happened again, I think YA couple days ago, I, I did the same thing. I monitored my heart rate and I was thinking about something, and this was unrelated to work, it was just about the race, my heart rate spikes, and it was like, oh, okay, I need to like, change my thought about, you know, the actual race. And then it went, it went back down. It doesn't always happen where it, you know, decreases like 40, 40 beats. But I mean, that's a pretty significant decrease.
Yeah. And I see this with my clients, you know, if they come to me particularly, you know, thinking about something and they're stressed out about it, you can tell physically they're agitated, maybe they're sweating. Like there's, there's stuff happening. And so when we like do the coaching work with them, they can relax. But once you learn it on your own, you can do it on your own. It, it just speaks to the impact that how we think about work has on our bodies. Like our physiology is impacted by everything we're thinking about. When we feel tense, when we feel stressed, anxiety, it's having a literal impact on our body that if you don't address it, it's going to create more health problems down the line. And so the fact that you can address it, and now you could see it so viscerally that I just thought that was just such a great <laugh> example when you said that to
Me, I was like, wow,
At that <laugh>. Yeah, I mean, it's, you know, the thoughts are, I mean, it it be, it can be a physical, you can see a physical manifestation of it. I mean, just, I mean, that, that significant, I mean, it was such an increase. I mean like 40 beats per minute, just, and then being able to like, bring it back down was just, I mean, it, it speaks volumes as to, you know, our sessions and just kind of learning how to, to really, you know, feel your feelings and, you know, change your thoughts.
Yeah. Let's talk about feeling feelings for a second. 'cause This is the, the part where most lawyers, me included. 'cause When I heard this, I was like, no, this is not something that I do. I don't know what a feeling is. And so, <laugh>, so can you just, can you describe maybe even you had this when we started working together, but can you kind of describe your understanding of, and how you have learned this practice of feeling your feelings and what it does for you?
It's still really hard for me because sometimes I, I'm like, oh, I don't know what this feeling is in my body. But for me, I, I think feelings are just you know, kind of the, the physical vibration in your body. So when I have a thought, you know, I, I don't know, you know, about trial, I get pretty nervous and I can feel it in my body. And I kind of just take a break and I feel I close my eyes and then, you know, I try to feel like what's in my body if my heart's racing, if my shoulders are open or closed if I'm kind of slumped over and there's some just feelings that I, I'm unable to describe, but I kind of, I mean, or at least verbalize, but I, I know what they are. So I sit there and I try to really, you know, tune into that. And when I do, I'm able to, I mean, sometimes it takes, you know, a few minutes. Sometimes it, I only have a few minutes and I have to kind of break away from that just, just from, you know, what I do. But I'm able to after, you know, feeling my feelings just kind of reset and, and think about, you know, what the actual problem is and a solution, or at least attempt to find a solution to that problem.
Yeah. And so for those of you listening, every time we have a thought, it creates a feeling in our body. And so what Jackie was describing, you know, heart open, heart closed, like, we can tell if we're tense, if we feel like our heart's closed, if we feel like our chest is kind of collapsing in, there's different, different physical ways to understand an emotion, even if you can't name it. But when we're problem solving, if our heart is open, that is a good indicator that we're in a good place to problem solve. Versus if our shoulders are hunched down, it's telling us, oh, we're not in a really great place right now and we need to address it. And tuning in is such a, a great way to say it. In terms of just noticing what you're feeling in your body, so much of our brain power is spent thinking about the future, thinking about the past, and we don't tune into the present moment.
And you hear all of these things. If you're in personal development circles about be present, be in the present moment, you know, all of those things. Well, that's what it means. It means tuning in, how am I feeling right now? Let me check in, take a breath. Oh, I'm having a thought. That's creating this feeling of tension or stress in my body right now, and my brain is in the future. Versus me just taking a breath now and recognizing like, the future is handled. I will handle the future. I can figure it out. Let me just be present. Do you find like you are more able to be in the present moment now than before coaching?
Oh, absolutely. 100%. I didn't even know what being in the present moment meant. <Laugh> <laugh>, I was always in the past or in the future. I didn't, I I, I rarely was, you know, in the present moment, you know, I mean, there were time few and far between, but now I do recognize, you know, you know, I, I'm able to be in the present moment and, you know, focus on, you know, what's happening right now as opposed to worrying about what's going to happen or, you know, being frustrated or angry about what has happened.
Can you tell me how that's impacted you? Like in your personal life, your professional life?
Sure. so in my, well, my personal life I've had some issues concerning I guess, you know, just a relationship issues with my daughter's father. And, you know, it's really helped me to have a better relationship with him because, you know, we would get into these little text message battles and I would feel I, you know, I'd be so angry and I just immediately rush into some text messages, <laugh>.
But now I'm able to kind of, you know, I read a message and I don't read into it. And then, you know, even if I do get angry, I kind of sit there for a moment and I think, okay, well, you know, what is this I'm feeling in my body? Okay, what, what at present do I need to do? And then, you know, do I need to respond when not need to respond? And, you know, oftentimes it's, I don't need to respond. And so that's helps that, you know, relationship with, you know, my, my daughter's father professionally, it's, it's along the same way, kind of along the same lines. 'cause I get very, very frustrated when things aren't going my way. <Laugh>,
<Laugh>. So that all of us, like, why can't it just go my way? <Laugh> <laugh>.
So, you know, I, I really focus on, you know, like what I'm feeling, what my thoughts are and, you know, and operate that way as opposed to, you know, you know, oh, so and so did X, Y, and Z in the past, and now look, look at where we are or, you know, where we're going to be. I just really try to, to focus in on, on the present and, you know, what, what's being presented in front of me.
Yeah. And this really brings to mind a story I just recently heard Gary Vaynerchuk saying about losing an account. And it was like a, you know, seven, eight figure. It was an eight figure account. And so the employee came in to tell him, Hey, we lost this eight figure account. And he just said, okay, well, we'll, we'll deal with that later. Because it's just like, in the present moment, there's nothing that can be done about it. Like you'd need to calmly strategize those kinds of things. And the employee, I guess, was totally flabbergasted. 'cause He's used to coming from this culture of where everybody would be losing their minds. People would be like trying, rushing around, you know, yelling, screaming, that kind of a thing. Versus when you can calm your mind and you're able to be present, you can see, okay, let me handle this matter. We're gonna handle what, what's on the agenda right now. That's something we will take care of, but it's not anything we need to lose our minds over. Right. Right. It's, it's pretty fascinating the difference that can be made when you can manage your mind versus not.
Right. Absolutely. No, I, I completely agree. Because, you know, I would spend, I don't know, countless hours and sometimes a couple of days just, you know, ruminating on, you know, what didn't go right instead of, you know, taking that time to say, okay, this is what happened. Okay, we'll deal with, you know, how it happened later, but let's figure out the solution to the problem now. And things get done much faster and with less suffering.
Yeah. And that friction that you can have, like all of us can have with other people, like people that we work with when we're in that, that place where we're frustrated or angry, and we might take it out on the people around us, it creates suffering for them too. Right. Yeah. Right. Okay. So, wow, we covered a lot. I have my notes here. So when you first came to me, the real primary objective that I heard was you wanted to get your time figured out, you wanted to feel organized. Can you explain a little bit more about like, why you wanted, or let me ask it this way, it's like, what made you think that coaching could help you?
I think I, so I, I was having a hard time really even being motivated to do anything at work, anything at all. I didn't want <laugh>, I didn't wanna do discovery, I didn't wanna take depositions and I would just sit around and just kind of, I feel very confused about my future, what I wanted to do, whether this was, you know, whether litigation was right for me, all I felt all these things. And I just didn't know how to move forward. I felt like I was just in such a block and I was overwhelmed with, you know, with everything I had to do at work, all everything I had to do at home so I could do it on my own. And I know that I needed guidance and, you know, from listening to your podcast, I was like, oh my God, she's gonna solve all my problems. <Laugh>, go away. <Laugh> must, must call Dina immediately. <Laugh>.
But you didn't actually sign up immediately, like you had, you had called. Right. And, and you know that that happens sometimes, right? We just don't know, like, what made you decide, like, you booked a strategy session and I think it was like a year later where you were called back and you're like, oh yeah, for sure. Like, tell me what happened in between that made you decide that, oh yeah, I need to make sure I I do this.
I think it's just like mostly listening to your podcast. I was like, oh man. She's like right on point. Like, I, like I religiously listened to your podcast and I still do <laugh>. It's like my mini like my mini session <laugh> during the week. But I mean, it was really helpful and, and I wanted to know more and how I could really, really, you know, change my mindset so that I would just at a minimum not hate my job at a minimum
<Laugh> at a minimum. Right. Like that's, that's like the goal just at a minimum. Yeah. And so when we started working together, what did you start noticing after like the first session or two?
I still had some, you know, I was really excited, but I still had some, I guess, hesitation or some resistance as to you know, whether this calendar thing was gonna work for me and <laugh>
How it was gonna work. And, you know, whether I'm the kind of person who, you know, is organized or, you know, writes in a calendar. So that, those were the first couple of probably sessions. And then I started to little by little fall <laugh> follow the calendaring <laugh> because I, I, I worked my way into it. 'cause Initially, I, I think what I did was you know, I, I just feel so overwhelmed that just writing everything I needed to do down just felt like it would take years. And it didn't, it didn't feel good. So I think the first like steps i, I took was just, okay, what are the first three things that I can do to, you know, to to, to make a difference? I wrote those three things down. And those were like the things I had to do for that particular day.
And then it, it's evolved since then into an actual, you know, time blocking and now, you know, making sure I write the details instead of just writing draft, you know, motion for summary judgment. Now it's, you know, I break it down into parts. And, you know, I was doing that for a while and then I stopped doing that and I was just then kind of fell off a little bit. And then I realized a couple, a couple weeks ago when we were talking, I'm like, oh, what's the difference? Okay, I need to put more detail into my, my calendar again. And it's really, it's been the difference between, I mean, night and day. I mean, I get so much more done. I follow my calendar and sometimes I can't follow it. And it just kind of but it, it, it's okay because I can kinda shift and move things around. 'cause I can see, okay, this is what I need to do and this is when this is due. I can shift things around and it's okay. Everything that needs to get done will get done.
Yeah. I think it's so important to know. 'cause If you're listening to this and you're like, yeah, I don't know how to use a calendar, or I put my hearings on the calendar, that's all I need it for. And I, I'm too busy to do a calendar and all. I've had those thoughts too, too busy to have a calendar. And if you're feeling any resistance to a calendar, that's okay, that's normal. Or you feel like, oh, I'm not gonna have any freedom. If I have a calendar, then it means I have to work all the time. Know that that's all normal and that is totally untrue, right? That's your brain. That's our brains like getting into the mindset of I can't do it. It doesn't work for me. I don't know how, it's not for me. I'm not the kind of person who, and so noticing that is your first step.
Like noticing any resistance that comes up for you is the first step. And that is very normal. It, you do not have to turn your life upside down. Listen to what Jackie just said. She was like, look, I had to work my way into it before I could do the whole process, right? It's just like, let me take the three top most impactful things that need to get done today for me to feel good about my day. And if I do that, I'm gonna feel good. And then she learned the skills and learned to implement. Right? And if you are, if you're struggling with this, I walk through the process that, you know, Jackie and I have gone through in the Busy Lawyers Guide. You can get that in the show notes, but it's the process. What we really coach on is like the implementation <laugh>, right? Like, like, okay. And right, and doing the evaluation. What, what do you think about that? Like, in terms of what we work on or worked on with your calendar?
Yeah. I, I, I think the implementation was pretty it, it was, I, I still have resistance to like, finally I sat down to the calendar, but when it came down to following the calendar, I still had resistance. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. But I think at the beginning of this year specifically, I can't believe it's already November, by the way. But I remember in January I, and, and so kind of a backstory, I never really contemporaneously build my time in the last like 10 years. <Laugh>,
<Laugh>. It's okay. I bet there's a lot of people listening who can relate <laugh>.
I always wait till the, you know, the end of the month and when billing is due. And, you know, I, I used to anyway and, you know, set my alarm for 3:00 AM and then just mail out billing for the month, which is terrible. For a couple different reasons. And this kind of goes back to the calendar. So when I, you know, when I wait until the very, very end to bill it all my time I lose a lot of time. I lose a lot of time, you know, with phone calls and, you know, different, different things. And you know, that, that, that was a problem. And I hated waking it up at like three o'clock in the morning to like enter in like, I don't know, 175 hours <laugh>. Right? Terrible. But, you know, you know how it relates to the calendar is that, you know, I put everything on my calendar.
And then instead of, for example, if I'm drafting a motion, you know, I draft the motion, I finish the motion, or I get to a stopping point where I can bill it, I immediately bill that and then I move on to the next item instead of, you know, drafting the motion for, you know, I don't know, 30 minutes. And then then checking my email and then doing this and doing the other thing. Just kind of everything in little pieces. I noticed that, you know, in doing my calendar, iCalendar capture more billing, I contemporaneously bill because that's kind of the signal of the close of whatever it is that I'm doing. If it's email, phone call, deposition, bill, then that task is closed, check it off. So it's been really helpful and it's created a lot more time too for, for myself. So at the end of the month, I know, okay, well I've already hit my hours. You know what, I'm gonna take that Friday off, no problem. Right? <Laugh>,
Like, that's the kind of empowerment you get when you have a tool and use the tool the way that you've learned how to use it. One of the things I remember was that every time you emailed your brain was telling you, this is such a waste of time. Like, I can't believe I have to do this. Like, why do I have to do this? Like, this is stupid. Right? But then we started adding up the point ones and you're like, yeah, I think I might like email like one or two hours a day. You're like, that's easy, easy billables. And then like, you just shifted your brain to, to recognize that every time you were in an email.
Right? Exactly. I mean, it was just, I mean, I, I, I didn't, I didn't capture a lot of time that I, I could have captured and, you know, and that affects, you know, my compensation as well. So, you know, it, you know, I think that just the calendaring and putting everything on my calendar and not just putting it on, not just the act of doing my calendar, completing my calendar, but implementing what's on my calendar. And sometimes I, I can't, like I said, you know, sometimes something requires additional work or I can't bill it, but, you know, the following morning I can add, actually, I always, you know, I have like a 30 minute thing on my calendar every morning to, to finish billing from the day before, so that, you know, it, it's always on my calendar. I mean, so that, that I can like complete all the billing from the day before and make sure all the tasks, because it does affect my compensation, it affects my time off, it affects the, the time I get to spend with my daughter. And I have to be super organized in order to help with French homework and also run marathons. <Laugh>,
Yeah. I do, do, I have, I have like a, a whole lot of things outside of work that I have to do as well. So that, I mean, I really, really have to hone in and, you know, be very diligent with, you know, how I allocate my time.
Yeah. And I do wanna just mention what you are doing is consistency, not perfection. Yes. So the, like, can you describe for, describe the difference for you between those two terms?
So I am consistently, no week is perfect. I don't always follow, well, maybe once <laugh>, maybe once <laugh>, but by and large, I mean, I, I don't always adhere to every single, you know, detail on my calendar, but I don't, you know, shame myself or beat myself up over it anymore because then, you know, I spend all that, I spend additional time that I could be doing something else. You know, talking to myself in a, you know, a negative way. So the consistency is, it, it doesn't have to be perfect. As long as I sit down, you know, on Sundays, which is my day to, to do the calendar, I sit down, I, you know, do my calendar. If it's not perfect, I'm not, I'm not super stressed about it because I have basically like the bones of of the calendar and sometimes I have to, you know, readjust and, you know, and, and before I used to be, you know, if it's not perfect, then bye-bye. That's it.
Throw it out the window. I'm
Not doing it at all.
<Laugh>. Yeah. And, and, and that's a lot different than it is now. Because even if, for example, I'll give you a a specific example. This weekend I, I, I went away with my daughter. I didn't do my calendar on Sunday. I didn't beat myself up over it. Yesterday. I was feeling a little confused because I didn't have my calendar. And I was like, oh, what do I do? What do I do? Oh my gosh, I got set for trial and I still didn't beat myself up. I said, what can I do? Oh, how about your calendar <laugh>? Just because you didn't do it on Sunday doesn't mean you can't do it on Monday. So that's what I think, you know, consistency is as opposed to perfection.
Yeah. I mean, it's just showing up for yourself more often than not. Right. I don't do everything on my calendar either. Sometimes like I look at it and I'm like, oh yeah, I'm not doing that right like that. And it's not because I like, I'm trying to think of an example, a recent one's like, sometimes you just don't sleep the night before and you're like, no, we need, we need some rest. Like, that was a little ambitious considering you woke up at two in the morning. Like, that needs to be moved, right? So if you're kind to yourself and you can talk to yourself that way, then when that thing comes, you're not telling yourself, oh my God, I'm so lazy. Like, oh my gosh. Like I can't believe I didn't do that. And when you're kind to yourself, you can readjust and it's not a problem and you get more done 'cause you're not spending time in misery. Right. Yeah. Okay. Awesome. So let's talk a little bit about, about you and the, the process of learning how to bill more hours. So one of the tools you've said has really helped you is your calendar. Tell me what you do. Like, tell me, let's get your before first. So before you started coaching, like what was your process for billing?
I did have one. <Laugh>. <Laugh>. I did not have one. So I would just, you know just look at my calendar. Sometimes I would, you know, bill contemporaneously, but not really. I didn't have a process, I guess is the, is the answer to the question. <Laugh>,
What was on your calendar?
Hearings, depositions, things I needed to do, meetings, conferences, and that was it.
Okay. And then did you try anything to see if you could like boost your billable hours before coaching?
I try <laugh>. I tried to block Bill or not block Bill. No, no, that's not what I tried to do. <Laugh>. I tried to block out my calendar for certain things. But I never followed through with it. You know, it would be one day I would put everything on my calendar and like, oh, I'm gonna do this MSJ I'll drop this answer. And I was very over ambitious with that. And I think that's part of the reason why it didn't really I didn't succeed at that because I never, I didn't put time in for breaks for lunch to drink water and just your basic life necessities. Yeah. Yeah. So that's, you know, I tried it once and then I didn't succeed and I just said, threw my hands up and said, forget it. I'll just see what happens.
<Laugh>. Yeah. I really wanna speak to this because I, I hear this from lawyers a lot. They think that that's using a calendar and then they feel hopeless because they think that there's just no hope for them. They've tried it and it doesn't work. And you know, what you did was like, you tried something and it didn't work. It doesn't mean like the next thing you do differently won't work. But now let's talk about what you do now that is so much different. Can you walk us through your practice so that you are ensuring that you are billing what you need? And, and I kind of wanna back up all the way to, okay, thinking about, Hey, this is how many hours I'm expecting of myself for the year. And then breaking it down based on the number of weeks you're going to work, like you're intending to work so that you have a target every single week. 'cause I think some lawyers don't even do that. Like then they don't calculate vacation. They're not calculating. Maybe they wanna take like an extra day off here and there and they're not thinking that far ahead so that they can think, okay, this is an average number I would like to hit. Like, can you kind of walk me through that process all the way through what you do every week?
Sure. so we don't have an annual billing annual billing requirement. It's more monthly. So what I do at the beginning of, you know, every month I take the number of hours or number of day billable days in that month, and I'll, you know, subtract out any days that I plan on taking off any vacation days or just, you know, things that I have to do for, you know my daughter for school, I, I remove all those and then I calculate how many hours I need to bill a day. And, and that includes whether, you know, I need to work on a weekend or not. And, and that's okay with me because it's incorporated into, you know, this whole, you know, determining how many hours I need to bill and when I need to work and when things are due.
And so I start by that and I look at my calendar and I look at the, I'll, I'll look at the big picture things first, right? So if I have something that's, you know, if I have trial or you know hearings on motions for summary judgment, I kind of, I, I factor in how many hours it's going to take to, to, you know, to complete those large, large tasks. And then, you know, I, I have those kind of in the back of my mind on a, on, on the side. And then I'll do like a, a weekly calendar. I, I print out my calendar for, for two weeks ahead, but I only do the, just so I can see the, the, the following week. 'cause Things change all the time where we need coverage for depositions or, you know, things, things are always changing.
So I print out my calendar for two weeks. And, and that's just, you know, with the hearings and depositions. And then I, I sit down on Sundays and I break down what I need to do for the week. And this includes also I know we're talking specifically about billing, but it, it's also incorporated in my calendar and how I bill I'll write down what I need to do for my daughter and for myself personally before I get into all the work stuff. And then, so I write down all everything I need to do that week for work, look at the, the deadlines for that week, the deadline's coming up, and then the following week, taking an account, you know, the, the larger, you know, billable tasks. And then I go through each day and just kind of figure out like how many hours each task is going to bill or take take so I can bill and then I just put it in my calendar and just kind of, I guess, organize it that way.
Okay. So a couple things I just wanna highlight that you just said. One, you put you time and your family time first, like, that goes on your calendar first. So important because if we don't do that, we can end up resenting our calendar. We can also end up overworking 'cause we're putting too much work on. And that was something that in the past you had noticed that you had done, right? So this is such a great exercise. It's just seeing, okay, I wanna run in the morning, I wanna make sure I have time to, to do homework with my, you know, child at night. Like, let me put this on the calendar and know that this is, this is my non-negotiable, right? Grocery shopping, meal prep, that kind of stuff. Those are non-negotiables. And then like, let's start estimating how long it's gonna take for me to get tasks done.
And this is so crucial, everybody who's listening, if you are, you know, come back to us, if you've kind of like zoned out with all the billing talk, it's like, this is, this is like the bread and butter. You want this, like, when you are thinking about your week, it's really easy to think in generalities, right? It's really easy to say, okay, Monday I'm gonna do this, this, and this. I'm gonna do an MSJ, I'm gonna do some discovery and then I'm gonna check my emails. Super. So you're like, okay, those three things that'll take up all day, right? But what you want to do, and what Jackie's talking about is, so for instance, if you have a motion for summary judgment, you're not just saying, Hey, MSJ three hours, because you're gonna get overwhelmed. Your brain is gonna say, oh my gosh, I have to do this thing.
It's so big instead, if you're planning it ahead of time, you're able to think straight. You're not in the moment emotional. And like your brain isn't going crazy in that moment. So you can actually plan, okay, I wanna spend about an hour doing some research. I wanna talk, I wanna put in 15 minutes to talk to a colleague. I wanna write for 30 minutes. I wanna review it for another 30 minutes. Like, you just wanna like put in all the steps you think are necessary to whatever it is that you're doing, whatever project that you're doing, it's gonna help you calm your brain. And then you kind of alluded to it earlier, Jackie, but when you get to that MSJ on your calendar, your brain is gonna do what?
It resists <laugh>.
Yeah. It's gonna tell you I don't wanna do it. So how do you handle that? 'cause You look at your calendar, you're like, I don't wanna do that. How do you handle that?
Well, I, I I, I kind of wanna go to your point about breaking the, you know, certain tasks down. I think that is really important because it, like, it gives you, or it gives me anyway kind of, you know, bitesize pieces to, to be able to handle. Because just thinking about, oh my gosh, I have to do this for like three hours and then that three hours I have to figure out how to do it instead of having pre-planned it. Because it's, it, it's so much more helpful to see it, to have like an outline of what I am going to do or what I need to do. And it just makes it so much easier to know that, hey, I have one hour and one hour alone to do this research. So the, I just kind of wanted to to say that.
Yeah. Yeah. It really, it goes, it goes with the next part, right? Because it helps you overcome that resistance. Yes,
Yes. Because it's, it's a lot easier to say, oh, okay, well I'm just gonna do this one hour of research and then I can move on and do the next thing when I don't want to do it. Which is, you know, I wouldn't say, which is sometimes <laugh>. I just, you know, I really do try to talk myself into, okay, you just have to, you know, this is on your calendar. You just have to, you know, focus. And then at the end of the day you can, you know, you can finish up earlier or whatever it is. But then I also try to, okay, what's the reason? Like what's the resistance? Why, why don't you wanna do this? Maybe it's because it's boring, you know, whatever it, whatever it is. And I'm just like, oh, okay, well, okay, this might be boring, but it's necessary, so I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna try to get it done. And you know, and, and that's it. And if I make the, and then I also say this, sometimes I just make the decision not to do it and stick with it. Because that either it's going to get done or I'm just gonna, not doing anything, not do anything I enjoy.
And still not get it done. And then shame myself and talk, you know, you know, have these negative talks with myself instead of, you know, just either just, just deciding to, to do it or not do it.
I love that you brought that up. 'cause We could've missed that. So when you learn how to talk to yourself, you can do things and not shame yourself. It's amazing. You can do things like take, say you're gonna do something on Tuesday, and then you having some drama about it or whatever's going on in your mind, and you just decide, no, today I am not doing it. I'm not gonna waste any more time or energy on this. It doesn't mean I'm a good or a bad or attorney. It doesn't mean I'm good or bad at my calendar. It just means I'm not doing it today. I'm gonna do it tomorrow. Period. And I think so many of us are, at least, at least in the coaching field, right, we're taught like manage your mind, manage your mind, manage your mind. But that is a form of managing your mind.
If you see that you're wasting like 20 minutes thinking about something when you could just be onto something else, like making a powerful decision to say, no, I'm not gonna talk to myself like this. I'm not going to beat myself up about this. I'm not going, you know, I'm either gonna do it or I'm gonna put it, put it aside. If you notice that you keep putting it aside, I will, I will add this on here because I am a coach and I must say this right, <laugh>. So like if you notice you're continuing to put it aside, then it's valuable to begin questioning, is this even something that I want to be doing? Right? If you own your own business and you notice you're putting something aside, like is it a resistance in terms of your belief in yourself, or is it that you just seriously need to delegate this? Or is it that you eliminate it completely from your life and you stop thinking about it? Those are things to really consider if you're doing this and you notice that on your calendar, but that's not what Jackie's describing. Jackie's describing something different. It's just like, no, this ist doing, I'm not doing this right now, but I will do this on another date. Is that, am I, am I interpreting that correctly?
And I, and I, and to your point about, you know, deciding also, you know, whether, you know, thinking if I keep on putting it off, I mean, there's some things that I really just don't enjoy. But now, because I can do this because I've been practicing for, for a while, I will just delegate it to someone else to do, for example, like Discovery, <laugh>, <laugh>.
I wish I could have just delegated discovery when I was practicing.
I know. And I mean some, I, I was still doing discovery, but I mean, there's some times where I'm just like, whoop, that that can go to someone else who also needs to, you know, learn how to do discovery also. So I mean, I mean, I, I like to help. I like to think that I'm helping someone. <Laugh>,
Yes, you're helping somebody learn something. Actually was talking to some a client the other day, and they were learning how to delegate their intake process. And it was, it was challenging for them because, you know, you, you just get used to doing everything yourself. You think that you're the only one who can do it. But when they were kind of placed in a position where they had to delegate a little bit, they watched this person's eyes light up. Like they were really seriously learning something they'd never learned before. And he was the one that was helping them. So like, just know when you delegate, you're doing somebody a favor,
<Laugh>. That's right, that's right. <Laugh>. And when I do, I mean, when I, you know, it is kind of just a, you know, side note, like when I do delegate the things that I, that I have, you know, it's two very, very brand new attorneys. And these are, you know, I would say simple tasks that every attorney should be able to do or, or know how to do. And then I'll, you know I will go over everything, you know, that I ask them to do, to, to, to help them to make sure they understand, you know, what it is that, you know, I'm looking for what it is that, you know, you know, could be improved upon. So, you know, even though I do delegate I, the work still comes back to me, which is, which is fine. But at least I don't have to draft it. <Laugh>.
That's right, that's right.
Oh my gosh. Okay. So we have been covering a lot here. This is really good. I'm, I'm curious if you have any tips, any insights into how else people listening can learn how to bill more hours? You, without like killing yourself, right? 'cause Everything you've talked about is while you creating more of a life for yourself. Like what can they build into their day to really help them reach their goals?
I guess first, you know, establishing what goals they wanna accomplish. And then second you know, I think that the whole, that the calendaring process really, really is valuable in terms of, you know, getting things done. And to, to, to be able to bill, you have to know your self worth also. And I, I didn't say this before, but I used to cut my own billing. I would do, you know, I, I would spend, you know, a couple hours on, on research, but I was like, oh, I don't think the client's gonna pay for it. So I think, you know, and I think this applies all, all across the board to, I work at a, i I work at a firm. I don't own my own firm, but I was still cutting my own billing. And I think a lot of people do that.
And I, I think a lot of females do that as opposed to males in a side note. But, you know, I, I used to cut my own billing. I don't do that anymore. I I bill the amount it takes for me to do something because I know my value, I know my worth. And if they wanna cut it, they can try to cut it and then, you know, we'll, we'll appeal it and things like that. But, you know, to, to really focus on the calendar, know your self worth don't cut your own bill billing and contemporaneously bill in cases where you, in, in cases where you can 'cause I, you know, I don't have experience in the, in my own practice, but in, in terms of, you know, if you're, if you're working for a firm, I think it's very helpful to, you know, contemporaneously build. 'cause Then you can capture all your time also.
Oh, yeah. And I really I see this so often with attorneys and yeah, specifically female attorneys cut hours and it's, it's the belief that they are, they're doing something wrong, right? By billing all the hours that they're not going to agree. Like they're anticipating, oh, they're not gonna see this as valuable. They're gonna think that I'm overbilling, I shouldn't have taken so long. Right? Like, beating ourselves up about how long it takes. And so much of what we've talked about in this episode is about speaking kindly to yourself and also being present in the moment. And I also just wanna add in like, just honesty with the amount of time that you're using. And if you get to a point where, yeah, somebody is, you know, disagreeing with the charges, then you can address it, right? But don't guess what somebody is gonna think. Like, do what you know is in, in, in all honesty, the work that you're doing. Like make sure that's accounted for. 'cause Our mind lies to us so often about what other people are thinking, what other people might think, what we're, you know, all of these things are going on in our brains. So if we can just stay present long enough to just bill the hours <laugh> as they come, then you're going to be able to hit your targets and you won't be undercutting yourself. Anything else that you wanna add?
No, I think we've covered, we covered a lot. I, I mean, I think that's it.
Okay. Well I wanna give you one, one like if there's anything that you could share with people listening right now, like just your words of wisdom, anything that has really come to you over time. Like what would you like to share with them?
I think coaching is invaluable. It's hard to really see what could, what you could improve upon by yourself. And you can probably do that, but it's gonna take much longer. So I think that, you know, if you're, if you're looking to improve or, you know, make changes and make changes faster, I think, you know, in enlisting the help of a coach who knows what she's doing, that's <laugh>. To really, to really help, you know, elevate your practice and, you know, in, in whichever field you're in.
Oh, well thank you so much. Thank you, Jackie. Perfect.
Thank you. I mean, you've been, I just wanna say this, I mean, you've been instrumental in, in, you know, helping me really change my mindset about everything. You know, my personal life, my, my professional life. I'm a partner now, which I didn't think was really in the cards for me. So I just wanted to thank you very much.
Oh my gosh, thank you. But you did all the hard work <laugh>. You really did. You, you really stepped up to the plate for yourself in a big way. So thank you. And you kick butt
If you're listening to this and you really resonated with what Jackie talked about, I want you to know you're not alone. There are so many lawyers who feel really overwhelmed and like nothing can change in their practice. And she is just proof that you can change, that you can create your future and design the future that you want. Like, she didn't even think that being partner was in the cards for her. She said, and now she's partner. She never felt like she could really get organized. She tried some things and they didn't work, and then she tried coaching and it worked. So if this really resonated with you, book a strategy session with me, you can go to dina cataldo.com/strategy session and we will talk about what it would look like for us to work together. Alright, my friend, I hope you have a beautiful rest of your day and I will talk to you next week. Bye.