Practicing law is hard. There's a lot to get right.
We must—first and foremost—help our clients in the best way possible. The medical profession has its Hippocratic Oath (“First, do no harm.”)
We swear our oaths, too, though less succinctly:
- We support the US Constitution and the states' counterparts.
- We'll abide the rules of professional conduct.
- We'll respect the courts.
- We will never counsel injustice.
- We'll maintain confidences.
- And we will never “delay unjustly the cause of any person.”
These things are true for the itty bitty baby lawyers, the most accomplished lawyers in the largest firms, and the busiest district attorneys in the tiniest counties in the land.
We bear nagging fears about disappointing clients. And losing revenue. Or stature, associates, clients, points in the compensation equation, and origination credit.
We manage unrelenting pressure to bill time and generate revenue.
We close files, cut deals, manage case loads, find more clients, and rove the community looking for ways to be “active” in it.
We knock out CLE credits (just under the wire). Ideally, we find courses that don't inspire self harm with compostable plasticware.
There's that whole business of being an actual human being, too.
- Family time.
- Friend time.
- Faith time.
- Meditation time.
- Sparkling wine time.
- Those golf lessons you meant to grab this year.
- Your horseback riding obsession.
- Walking the dog.
- Mowing the lawn.
- Planning dinner.
- Signing the kids up for camp for next summer… (you *did* sign the kids up for camp next summer already, didn't you!?!?!).
We have competing interests and priorities. Our clients are hungry for help. Our would-be clients need wooing or meeting or attracting. Our partners demand action. And we have new work and clients and matters to understand and plan and project manage.
There are late nights.
Email. Voicemail. Slack. Facebook. That blog you've been meaning to start. Your podcast queue. That Insta account you just can't get enough of (@weratedogs, anyone?!?!).
And there is always another lawyer somewhere in the universe—one paid real money on behalf of real clients—trying to find every last mistake you made. Or to take advantage of something you forgot. Or failed to optimize. Or never discovered at all.
Believe It or Not, Law Is Even Harder Than 👆 for Some Lawyers
If law is even harder than 👆for you, get ready.
You're going to know exactly what I'm talking about.
Because, as it turns out, you are, in fact, the only lawyer in the whole world who can't start things (at least not until the absolute last possible minute).
You've tried (then completely abandoned) approximately 143 techniques to track your billable time.
Today, you'll spend all day (it seems) in your email inbox and never actually get any work done. You'll later realize that you have no meaningful idea where today's nine hours of “work” went.
You'll ignore your Outlook alarms and reminders. You'll “snooze” them for another day (or week). “I have to concentrate,” you'll say.
Later, you realize a deadline passed. You “snoozed” your way right into another late assignment or missed deadline.
You've got 93 tabs open in your laptop's browser (and another 122 on your phone). You struggle to focus on the “right” projects at the “right” time. You're locked in a never-ending battle with time management.
Almost nothing in your life is “proactive.” In fact, sometimes it feels like you're in a lifelong fire drill. You jump from one emergency to the next (and the next) (and the next).
This year (or week or month or quarter or new job), you're going to “really buckle down to set the tone for a great rest of the year.” But your performance is unsteady. The patterns return.
Your coworkers seem like they just don't trust you to follow through. Ditto your clients, your spouse, the other Girl Scout volunteers, and your kids. You know you can follow through, though… you'll just really buckle down on it today. It'll be fine!
But you're running out of ideas for how to fix it (whatever “it” is).
You have forearm-long todo lists. You pull the occasional all-nighter when those deadlines get a little toooo close. Maybe you work way too much; maybe you're afraid you aren't getting things done quickly enough.
And all this “try harder” talk in your head isn't moving the needle.
You know you didn't capture all your billable time and work last month. And, even if you had captured it, it almost certainly didn't matter.
You probably erased a bunch of time from your prebill. (“That took me way too long”).
You gave the client a gratuitous discount again. (“No one, least of all me, is worth that much for this kind of a project”).
You haven't even sent a bill in months. (“I'll get to it this weekend. In fact, I'll get the last three months' worth of time entered and bills sent… this weekend. Definitely this weekend.”)
Worse, there's the shame of it all.
- You're the worst (probably). What are you even doing here?
- Man, if they only knew just how much you actually know about this thing… they would fire you immediately.
- If your partners really knew how inefficient you are, they'd drag you into a vote and oust you from the parnership posthaste. You wouldn't even have time to tell your husband.
- Your clients will rain down onestar reviews on Avvo when they learn how much time you waste on their files, right?
- If your colleagues on the bench knew, they'd give you the worst docket. If the regulators knew, you'd lose your license.
- If your wife knew, she'd divorce you.
- If your kids knew, they'd think you a deadbeat. They'd look for love and structure and followthrough and reliability elsewhere.
- Any day, the New York Times will (finally) publish that exposé that reveals to the world that you don't belong.
- That your law school never should have admitted you in the first place.
- That you had the lowest bar exam score of any single person in the entire universe ever in the whole wide world since the very dawn of time.
The thing is, you're trying So. Fucking. Hard. Why can't you just figure it out? Why isn't “trying harder” working?
Who the hell do you even talk to about this? Friends? Coworkers? Your spouse?? The partners?
Nah. This is your cross to bear. It probably isn't even a “thing.” You're just lazy. Or crazy. Or stupid. You should quit and become a bank teller.
Or maybe this is what “normal” feels like. Maybe everyone else feels this way, too… they are (all) just (way) better at dealing with it. Chin up, kid. This is #adulting.
- Another late fee? Awesome.
- Left your purse at home again? Sweet.
- Car keys locked in the car (alongside the spare set you hid in the glovebox just for moments like this)? Magnificent.
- Forgot the wet clothes in the washing machine for the last three days? OF COURSE YOU DID. AGAIN.
It Can Get Shittier
Do you want to hear a nasty little secret? It can get even shittier.
When you finally run out of grit… when your procrastination and perfectionism finally catch up with you… when you've run completely out of “margin” in your work life and your home life and your emotional life and your social life…
It can get shittier. Not because that imagined New York Times article finally drops. Nope. It gets shittier because you have to pay the piper. The welldocumented, natural consequences of the struggle you've lived through for a very long time have come home to roost.
When does the ethics complaint show up?
When does your best client finally give up and move on to another lawyer they might not like as much, but on whom they can rely?
What about the selfmedication? When do you start drinking more? Does THC make it better? Food? Cigs? Chew? Something harder?
How visible is anxiety's ugly head? How deep or persistent is your sadness? Your confidence, drive, and joy are resilient, but not eternally so. You know this.
The “Itty Bitty Shitty Committee” in your head convenes its meetings evermore frequently. Your margin evaporates.
When are you reduced to a statistic?
And all of this is to say nothing of your career… Do something for me, would you?
Write down the average number of billable hours you have collected on over the last 12 months. (If you don't bill hours, use some metric or proxy to decide how productive you've been lately… cases closed, revenue generated, etc.)
Then write down what you *want* your average number of collected billable hours (or other metric) to be.
Let’s say you average 125 hours per month, and your goal is to collect for 150 hours.
The delta between right now and later is 25 hours every single month. At an hourly rate of $250, you’re paying more than $6,000 every month you fail to vanquish this mysterious assailant.
What's the value of your headspace? What is your relationship with your spouse worth? What does the ethics complaint cost? What happens when you're drinking too much or exercising too little or getting a little too snippy with the kids?
I Am You. You Are Me.
I’m sitting in an office on the sixth floor of an historic office building on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. The building itself is beautiful. Ornate. Important.
Inside, it looks worn. Paper and files and books clutter the expansive and wellused office I'm sitting in. It is a working person's office. There's no pretense here.
My sevenyearold son, who is clever and amazing and compassionate and kind, is upside down on a worn leather couch. This is not unusual for him.
His ass is resting where his head should be. His head is resting where his ass should be. He's gently (but rhythmically and persistently) banging his feet against the office window. One of his shoes is over there. By the door. He's gnashing on candy his psychologist gifted him a bit too gratuitously (if you ask me). His goopy fingers snake their way into the creases and crevasses of that beautiful and aged couch.
“That couch has seen thousands of asses and heads and goopy fingers,” I think to myself.
I'm annoyed and embarrassed. I'm anxious about what will happen. I'm anxious about what it will mean. For him, for me, for us…
I'm aware I shouldn't be “skipping” work. I have shitloads of work. I always have shitloads of work. And I'm always anxious about it. I mean… always. I haven't had a worryfree day or night or weekend or vacation in a decade.
This is not unusual for me.
My wife sits quietly, waiting patiently for someone to make words.
She has accepted Everett's head and ass and feet. She has accepted my annoyance and embarrassment.
She's wearing a colorful scarf. Her hair is curled at the bottom. At the end of some days, like this one, it looks a little flatter than it did this morning. She looks peaceful, if a little tired.
She, too, has shitloads of work. She always has shitloads of work. She is not anxious. This is not unusual for her.
The psychologist is completely unfazed. As we later learn, this is not unusual for him.
The good doctor looks carefully into my son's (upsidedown) eyes and corrals Everett's full attention. He leans in and lowers his voice. Pointing at his own forehead, Dr. Johnson shares gently, “Everett, you and I? We don't do boring very well. Not very well at all.”
And then that psychologist diagnosed my boy with attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder. We knew this, of course. We had known it (without actually knowing it) for years.
What we didn't know was that I would be back in that same psychologist's office six months later.
My feet and my ass and my head would be at more customary latitudes and longitudes. But the outcome would be the same: “Marshall, you and I? We don't do boring very well. Not very well at all.”
I should have known this, of course. I should have known it for years.
I'm Marshall, and I'm a lawyer. I have ADHD. I was diagnosed shortly after my 42nd birthday.
Before I was a lawyer with ADHD, I was just a lawyer with promise and potential. I was a big firm lawyer. I was a small firm lawyer. I was a transactional lawyer. I was a litigator. I was a trial lawyer. I was a law firm founder and a law firm partner and a managing partner.
And, much of that time, I was a bored lawyer.
I was an enthusiastic advisor and consultant. I was a passionate business owner. I was creative and energetic about what we could build and how we could grow our business and serve our clients and love our team.
But doing the work of practicing law was almost alwayas really, really boring to me.
Before I was a lawyer with ADHD, I owned a flat and uninspiring law business with a partner who had lost faith in me. Like me, it had real potential. I had clients who loved me (but who were frequently annoyed with my timeliness and execution).
My partner wanted me to do more legal work. I couldn't blame him. I wanted to do less. I wanted to run away.
And in a fit of desperation, I did. My generous and patient business partner bought me out. I went hunting (again) for a thing that let me feel like I was actually good at something.
I tried a new job that seemed like a brilliant fit. And for a while, anyway, it worked. I learned new and exciting things every day.
But I didn't feel any better. Somehow, despite having left my law practice behind, I felt more frazzled and more anxious. I had crippling self doubt and unrelenting imposter syndrome.
I worked harder than I ever had before. And I still couldn't get things done. My output slowed to an embarrassing trickle.
I had a cute little “starter” panic attack. While I was on vacation. I collapsed into a ball. I cried. In front of my kids. And my wife. And my mom.
I went to see a guy. He diagnosed me with anxiety. He sold me therapy. I tried medication for anxiety. It was fine.
On a desperate hunch, I talked to a charlatan who claimed to help adults with ADHD. In her wisdom, Roberta quickly concluded that I categorically did not have ADHD. After all, I had graduated from college and law school and passed the bar exam and practiced law and how could someone with ADHD do things like that? “Don't be dim,” she (probably) said (to herself).
I believed her, of course. I was being dim. ADHD is what lazy parents call their hyperactive 7-year-old boys who have never seen a day of discipline in their lives.
I left that appointment a desperate man. I felt the exasperation in my chest. My sadness and helplessness were a second pulsating heartbeat. But instead of pumping life and oxygen, this heartbeat siphoned my soul, beat by beat.
No one in Everett's psychologist's office that day—least of all me—knew it. But in the moment my son's doctor diagnosed him with ADHD… In the moment my son started on his path to a lifetime of happiness and fulfillment despite (and, hopefully, because of) his ADHD… everything in my life had completely unraveled.
ADHD, the Catalyst to (Finally) Designing My Life
As I write this, I have 56 milligrams of a controlled substance called methylphenidate coursing through my veins.
There is a physical timer, called a Time Timer, that I have carefully set to show me how much time remains for this critical task.
I have incorporated a powerful labyrinth of practices and habits and tools and apps and hacks and resources and automations and systems to help me be my best at work and at home.
I have recruited a team of people dedicated to helping me live the life I want to lead: a psychologist or two, a primary care provider, an ADHD coach, a mastermind group, a support group for lawyers with #ADHD, and a handful of carefully selected private Facebook groups.
I subscribe to every ADHD podcast I can find, several about productivity in general, and have quickly built a library of blogs and websites and books and articles about ADHD that I lean on almost daily.
I’ve been to two ADHD conferences already, and I’m headed to another one (with my wife) in a couple of weeks.
Speaking of wives, I have one. She’s amazing. She’s also a lawyer, but she doesn’t have ADHD. Instead, she’s a mother to a kid with ADHD, spouse to a husband with ADHD, lawyer to clients with ADHD, and coworker with professionals who have ADHD.
She’s a spouse who has done everything in her power to understand who I am, how my brain works, and why it is so fun (and such a pain in the ass) to live with me.
And here’s the thing: I am finally living the life I want to lead. It isn’t perfect. I stumble, often daily. I still have doubt and perfectionism. I still struggle with time management and project management and prioritization. I still don't get finished and don't get started and navigate emotional turbulence and imposter syndrome.
But I have also unlocked a boundless creativity and entrepreneurship and enthusiasm. Daily, I put my grit and charm and perceptiveness to work. I inspire people and plan ways for them to build better businesses and lives and practices. I learn new things every day, which my allergy to boredom demands. I connect—I mean really connect—with people who find hope and energy in my passion and my knowledge, big-picture thinking, sensitivity, and inventiveness, which are now on full display.
And I’m building a life that makes my strengths primary (and finds ways to banish my weaknesses to the smallest little corner of the universe).
I’ve build JDHD for me. And I’ve built it for you. I’ve built JDHD for every single lawyer on the planet with ADHD, whether they know they have it or not.
I built JDHD because I longed for worry-free nights and weekends and couldn’t understand how to have them.
I built JDHD because, together, we’re going to bring 1 million worry-free nights and weekends to lawyers. I built JDHD because perfectionism should be burned to death with fire.
Because abundant systems need people at their best.
Because our jobs and lives and businesses are better when we know our strengths and we use those strengths as often as humanly possible.
Because we all need margin in our lives, and the way to build margin is to maximize our strengths, minimize our weaknesses, and learn to put on our own oxygen masks before we go out and try to help anyone else.
Lawyers with ADHD
Here's the thing about lawyers with ADHD: we're everywhere.
The research says 12.5% of us have the diagnosis. I'm pretty sure it is more.
The research also says that at least 75% of people with ADHD don't know they have it and have never been diagnosed.
High IQs make diagnosing and treating ADHD particularly difficult. And our profession is loaded with high IQs.
Our profession is weird about vulnerability. After all, we're supposed to be perfect. Our clients need us to wear capes and wield superpowers. The partners can't tolerate weakness. The regulators can't risk incompetence.
We suffer. Almost always alone.
Not Me. Not Anymore.
I'm on the hunt again. I'm uncovering the language that lets us talk about this with people who have it. People who don't. People who don't understand it.
I'm uncovering doctors and therapists and coaches who will help us. I'm bringing clarity to what ADHD looks like in lawyers.
We're talking about what it feels like.
We're talking about how to diagnose it. And treat it. And plan around it. And minimize its grossest parts. And maximize its best ones.
What Is JDHD?
JDHD is a podcast, website, and community for lawyers with ADHD.
It's where we learn about ADHD. It's where we get practical, hands-on advice about how to bill our time. And manage our inboxes. And plan for projects. (And finish projects!) And keep interruptions at bay.
It's where we earn CLE credit. It's where we raise awareness about ADHD in the legal profession. It's where we help people understand what they can do next.
It's where we end the stigma around mental health and ADHD.
Where we help each other get unstuck with practical strategies and habits and advice. Where we help people start to stop suffering.
Where we learn and grow and evolve together. We get clear.
We find peace. We find margin. I have.
I'm putting on my cape. I'm building a place to coach lawyers with ADHD. I'm building a voice to power organizations run by people with ADHD. And businesses staffed by people with ADHD.
I'm taking to the stage. I'm taking to the airwaves. I'm taking to the blogosphere. Let me be clear:
I still forget things. I still get bored and can't relax and have a temper sometimes. I'm still on the hunt for dopamine. Starting, managing, and finishing projects is difficult. I'm still emotional and self critical and struggling with perfectionism.
But I'm on a path. And I need you here with me. I feel better knowing I'm not alone.
I'm less reactive and more proactive. I listen more carefully.
I take things less personally.
I work toward deadlines intentionally and (largely) avoid embarrassing time-related miscues. I'm using my creativity more, but now I'm using it more wisely and less impulsively.
I have taken back my margin. And I've been able to help others do it, too.
Now I want to help you.
Here’s Exactly What You Get When You Join the JDHD Community
- Weekly emails with the best thinking about productivity, ADHD, and lawyering, and practical tools and tips to get your productivity, perfectionism, and procrastination under control.
- An optional text message newsletter that lets you ask my podcast guests your burning ADHD and productivity questions.
- A closed, confidential, and private group filled with people who have been where you are and who can help you overcome your hurdles.
- A 10day email course to help you understand ADHD and start learning how to talk about it and vanquish its shittiest parts.
- Priority access to ethics and elimination of bias CLE credits that don't suck and actually make your life better while helping you keep your license (coming soon!)
- A sticker. But not just any sticker. A really badass sticker. And a handwritten note. (If I can just find my pen).
- You'll get a ready-to-use label for yourself and people like you (“I've got JDHD!”) so we can start to get rid of the stigma and raise awareness.
- Twice a week, I'll whisper gently into your ear on the podcast. One episode will be a long-form conversation with a really cool and inspiring and educational person. And one episode will be little old me giving you super-fast, super-tactical, super-easy, and super-actionable tips, tricks, hacks, and apps to help you get started right now.
- You'll get access to an ever-expanding library about ADHD diagnosis, treatment, medication, superpowers, co-morbidities, and mysteries.
- You'll get advice and community and support from me, from our podcast guests, and from other lawyers like you around the country.
- Some day soon, you'll get the opportunity to work with me for one-on-one coaching focused on actionable, measurable strategies and tools to help you build the career you're dreaming about.
- You'll get priority availability and pricing for my speaking engagements with your firm, staff, lawyers, conferences, and organizations about ADHD in our profession.
- You'll immediately have access to guest blogging and podcasting opportunities.
- And much, much more.
And you'll get all of it for the low, low price of $0. That's it. It's all free. (at least for now).
Listen. If you're all the way down here, you've now read more than 4,000 words about ADHD. That's incredible. I bet some of what I've written has resonated with you.
You’re at a decision point. You know this.
Continuing down the path you're on leads you right back to where you've been. You can expect the same things (or worse).
If you want something different to happen, you need to do something different.
If you want a fresh mindset. Or a new grip on your margin and your priorities. If you want to build scaffolding that will help you realize your potential. Or build your firm. Or grow your practice. Or kill the shame with fire.
Make a new choice. Let's chase your new outcome. Let's make ADHD easier. Law is hard enough.
Click the button below. Fill out the form. And you will immediately enter an ecosystem of lawyers with ADHD who are passionate and excited and generous and willing to help you discover everything you need to get started.
- How do I try it out for free?
- What if I need more from you?
- Do you need my credit card information?
- Does it cost anything?
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