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Christina Scalera Episode Summary
JDHD | A Podcast for Lawyers with ADHD
The "Queen of Black Friday" is a Lawyer with ADHD
Christina Scalera Episode Summary
Christina Scalera is an ADHD lawyer and serial entrepreneur. They call her “The Queen of Black Friday.”
Christina has several incredible businesses under her belt, including an award-winning Shopify store. She founded and ran a successful intellectual property law firm in Georgia and Colorado. She created and co-hosted a brilliant podcast (“The Creative Empire Podcast“) and now helps lawyers turn their services into products at ChristinaScalera.com.
The secret underbelly of her “overnight” success, though, is that she tried (and failed) several times to build her dream life. Standing in her way was crippling credit card debt ($78,982, if I’m not mistaken), self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and trouble with grocery shopping (among other things).
She also has ADHD. This is her story.
Christina Scalera Episode Notes
Learn More about Christina Scalera
Two Quotes from Christina Scalera
“If you want to have a successful life or business, you have to automate everything.”
“ADHD medication broke the pattern of me feeling like I was a piece of crap. It broke the cycle and the pattern.“
Christina Scalera Show Links & Resources
|02:15||Introduction to Christina Scalera on the JDHD Podcast|
|03:19||My Interview with Christina Scalera|
|04:36||Christina's Background as a Lawyer|
|05:55||Running a Georgia Trademark Law Firm from Colorado|
|10:40||The Contract Shop|
|12:25||“If things aren't easy, maybe you shouldn't pursue it.”|
|13:11||Is the Yoga Community a “Bunch of Jerks?”|
|16:07||Why The Contract Shop Works|
|17:56||Turning Legal Services into Products and Knowing Your Ideal Customer|
|21:17||Christina Scalera is a Consultant for Digital Product Creators|
|23:56||Christina Scalera's ADHD Fuels Her Entrepreneurship and Lawyer Work|
|27:22||What Undiagnosed Adult ADHD Looked Like In Christina Scalera|
|29:39||Undiagnosed ADHD Before Law School|
|32:28||Christina Scalera's Adult ADHD Diagnosis Changed Everything|
|35:33||Using Automation for ADHD Productivity|
|37:20||ADHD and Chronic Overspending|
|38:17||Other Productivity Tips for Lawyers with ADHD|
|45:48||Christina Scalera on Content Creation for Lawyers with ADHD|
|51:54||Christina Scalera's Heart-Wrenching Warning: Law, Lawyers, Substance Abuse, and Lawyer Wellbeing|
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Christina Scalera Edited Podcast Interview Transcript
“We sweep it under the rug by saying, ‘Oh, lawyers are prone to depression and suicide.’ And that’s just an accepted thing. But I don’t know why that’s so acceptable.”
Christina Scalera is the “Queen of Black Friday” and a Lawyer with ADHD
Introduction to Christina Scalera on the JDHD Podcast
Two weeks in a row. Are you serious?
Hey! Thank you for being here. I’m glad to be here. We’re at two weeks in a row. It’s awesome. And a couple of things are really standing out to me. First of all, it’s that some habits that I’ve really been laser-focused on are really starting to pay off.
- Riding my bike every single day for at least 30 minutes
- Meditating; and
- Getting at least seven and a half hours of sleep each night.
I’ve done well on the first two. They have been really important and it feels really great. I think that’s part of why I’m back and part of why I’m energized.
But I have ADHD lawyer clients who are sharing their struggles with me.
They have struggles that we all expect:
- Processing email
- Project planning
- Project management
- Priority management
- Studying (for law students with ADHD)
I even have a client whose real catalyst for an amazing day is making sure that she takes a shower in the morning.
We’ve been working on habits to ensure that it’s really easy for her to take shower in the morning.
ADHD does come with some things that lead to struggles for lawyers. But it also comes with amazing superpowers. It comes with creativity and grit and energy and entrepreneurship.
Today’s guest shows every single one of those things. She’s a content marketing guru. She’s possibly the world’s first equine photography contract ninja, which seems like couldn’t be a thing.
It is a thing.
She’s the host of a now-shuttered, world-famous podcast. She’s a lawyer with ADHD, diagnosed later in life, with creativity and wanderlust and a record of being a serial entrepreneur. And she’s an all-around kind and thoughtful and insightful and generous guest.
We had a great conversation both before I hit record and after.
I’m really proud of this episode. It’s chock full of ADHD tips for lawyers, marketing and content creation for lawyers with ADHD, and the unending drive to create beautiful things.
I am Marshall Lichty.
She is Christina Scalera.
This is JDHD, a podcast for lawyers with ADHD.
My Interview with Christina Scalera
Hi, how are you?
Hi, I’m good. Marshall.
Great. Yeah, I’m awesome. It’s great to have you aboard. It’s so great to be here.
You are in Colorado right now.
You’re a lawyer from Georgia.
You’re a female lawyer with ADHD.
What the hell? What’s going on? What’s your story?
Christina’s Background as a Lawyer
Oh, man. Well, the story from the beginning is I picked up and moved everything I owned about 30 times in my first 30 years of life.
Part of it was me doing that. Part of it was that my dad was in the Army. He was an Army Ranger and then in sales.
It was just a life conducive to moving.
I think I got used to it, and finally settled down in Atlanta for law school. I also started to create what I thought was going to be a life there.
But a couple of years ago, I came out to Colorado on a ski trip. And it started out as temporary, but we just never left.
I’ve been going back and forth between Colorado and Atlanta over the last few years. But I’m more seriously considering permanently moving to Colorado and dropping my Atlanta ties.
Amazing. So you went to Emory for law school, graduated, started practicing in Atlanta.
Was that the law firm life? What did that look like?
No, I got a job working in-house at a private company right out of law school.
Right out of school?
Yeah. As a trademark lawyer.
It was something I’d worked on during internships and different law school jobs. I worked on trademarks, all prosecution work.
A private company recruited me for the job because of that unique background. I had done the summer clerkship thing at a bigger law firm in Atlanta (Thompson Hine), for one year. But it was a lot of insurance defense work and things that I wasn’t as interested in.
I just really love trademarks.
And that has lent itself very well to what I do today.
I have two companies.
I own my law firm, which works with just a handful of clients.
As their lawyer, I really am a partner to their businesses.
They’re all small, and most are female-owned. I’m not actively recruiting women as clients, but that’s how it has happened with my branding and my voice and everything.
So those are my clients. I do primarily trademark prosecution work for them. I also do trademark monitoring and maintenance. And I also do some other legal work for them that is just really unique to the fields they’re in.
How Christina Scalera Runs Her Georgia Trademark Law Firm from Colorado
Your law firm is a Georgia business based in Georgia, right? Your mailing address is in Georgia? But you’re not there.
How does it work to run a legal business out of Georgia when you live in Colorado?
That’s a good question.
First, that’s why I’m actively seeking licensure in Colorado.
But everything I do for my clients is based on federal law. No one has ever come to me with an issue that wasn’t based on federal law.
And I’m sure someone listening to this podcast will correct me, hopefully in a nice, kind, and gentle way. But what I understand is that if I’m doing federal work that involves trademarks and copyrights, it doesn’t matter where I’m licensed. I just need to be licensed in the highest court of my state.
Of course, I am in Georgia. I’m licensed in every possible way there.
And as I work to move to Colorado more permanently, I’m also trying to establish my license in every jurisdiction I need in Colorado.
My clients are all over the place. I would have more conflicts of interest if I worked with local clients than I do working with online marketers and course creators who are selling online throughout the world.
My clients are located all over the place and we’re always dealing with national internet laws. If we talk about something beyond the scope of their trademarks or their copyrights, we’re usually dealing with FTC disclosures for influencers.
Using Technology and the Personal Touch to Run a Remote Law Firm
Your marketing is nationwide. The website is gorgeous. It’s beautiful.
It has an aesthetic that is very… you.
You’ve curated an imprint on the digital world that is very beautiful.
It’s curated, it’s clean, and it evokes a lot of emotion that explains why people are comfortable when they come to you.
For someone who doesn’t market her law practice, you’ve built a great way for potential clients to find you and actually get legal services from you.
I assume you use a bunch of digital technology to have Skype or Zoom meetings? Are you automated? Do you use virtual reception or anything else to make that run?
I try to create a physical connection with my clients. I’ve met most of them in person at some point.
For others, I was friends with them before their businesses really took off, so I’m fortunate to know them personally.
I still try to do little physical things to take our relationships more “offline,” though. I send gifts and cards, for example. That stuff matters. It’s just a nice touch, especially when I do something for them that is so digital and so online and can be done from anywhere.
The Contract Shop: An Online Shop for Contract Templates that Makes Lawyers’ Jobs Easier
You have built your empire on some pillars that are fairly obvious, right? There is the design and beauty and creativity piece.
You also focus on marketing. And even though you’re not actively marketing your law firm, there are elements of marketing. You focus on the client experience, and it looks like you work hard to curate that customer experience.
Tell me about some of the other imprints that you’ve made in the world. Let’s start with The Contract Shop. Are you the robot that is taking all the lawyers’ jobs?
No, not at all.
I actually feel like I’m making lawyers’ jobs easier actually.
Here’s what happened: I saw something in the marketplace a couple of years ago.
I was working with a friend. She’s a very famous horse photographer. “Equine photography,” if you will. Her work has been on the cover of every major horse magazine. If you can believe this exists, it does.
I’m a horse person. So I grew up with these magazines. It was a dream to have her as a friend and work with her.
At the beginning of her career, like everyone starting a business, she had limited resources. Because we were friends, she asked me for a copy of the contracts I created for paying clients. Her plan was to fill it out on her own, and (maybe) have me give it a “once over.” But she didn’t want to hire me as her lawyer and pay thousands of dollars for a custom contract.
“I don’t want to go find a lawyer. I don’t know where to start…”
Exactly. She’s a photographer.
Interestingly enough, she quit her full-time job with a hedge fund to do equine photography full time.
She was my inspiration for The Contract Shop.
She was just getting noticed in her industry and had cultivated an email list of about 30,000 people. Those people all wanted to do what she was doing with horse photography.
She wondered if she could sell them our equine photography contract to help them get started.
I didn’t think she should sell it to them (she’s not a lawyer, after all). But I knew I could create an equine photography contract template for all the equine photographers out there to work with their clients.
Especially because I’m a horse person.
I understand what it’s like to work around horses. I know there are special liability laws related to horses and equine participation. So I was really in a unique situation to help her.
So that’s what I did. I created that template. I guess that if things aren’t easy, maybe you shouldn’t pursue it?
Is the Yoga Community a “Bunch of Jerks?”
Right around that time, I was trying to pursue an alternative path as a yoga teacher.
I left my in-house job and I was trying to make it as a private yoga teacher.
I met a friend named Kelly Newsome Georges. She lives in France now. She’s amazing. She’s got a great story.
She was featured on Bloomberg Law a while ago, but basically, she was a corporate attorney that turned her interest into becoming a private yoga teacher in DC.
And she did it really well. And I thought that if she could do it in Washington D.C, maybe I could do it in Atlanta. Maybe we could do a franchise thing or something.
That’s how I left my job in-house job.
I was also having some really bad health challenges. They were bad. I was getting hospitalized, and it all basically came down to overwork and stress and all that fun stuff.
Well, I don’t handle moderation very well. So I just went to the other extreme of being a lawyer. I became a yoga teacher, found Kelly, and started that whole thing. But everything was really hard.
I thought the yoga community was this open, welcoming community. They turned out to be a bunch of jerks. Every door was slammed in my face.
It was really, really hard.
“If things aren’t easy, maybe you shouldn’t pursue it.”
And that’s when I met Kirsty, the equine photographer.
She had this idea and I created the templates. And I knew that if she wanted to sell them to her audience, I should probably have an online store.
And shortly after I created the online store—talk about the opposite of my brief yoga thing—every door opened for me.
There was a new “society” for creatives called The Rising Tide Society. It was brand new at the time. I was nobody, but I met the two founders at a conference. I very warily asked them if I could start a podcast for them (even though I’d never started a podcast, and I didn’t know the first thing about it).
The Rising Tide Society had built to a group of 70,000 people and they were incredibly kind. They didn’t want me to start a podcast for them, but they did invite me to teach part of a new webinar series they were putting on. They asked me to teach creatives about contracts and trademarks and licensing.
Client contracts are kind of a walk in the park. They’re all about your relationship with your client. These contracts aren’t built to have intense provisions. Maybe they’re typically not as “tight” as other contracts.
I was so nervous and stressed out writing and working on licensing agreements. But client contracts for me are something that’s really fun. It’s all about establishing boundaries and expectations for each other.
They asked me to present to brand-new creative business owners, most of whom know nothing about “legal stuff” other than the parking ticket they got last week.
I did my presentation on the webinar, and I did the world’s worst sales pitch. And that weekend, I sold about $3,500 worth of product.
That’s when I figured it out. The only thing that I had been trying for the last two years hadn’t worked at all. But it does work. You just have to have an audience.
I started building a contract template shop. And about a year and a half later, I rebranded to “The Contract Shop.”
Why The Contract Shop Works
We came out with other templates, obviously, not just for horse photographers.
I was also really into calligraphy at the time. So I came up with a calligrapher’s template. That’s one of our best sellers.
I came out with all kinds of different photography templates, and all kinds of different graphic and web design contracts.
Starting with horse photography gave me the insight I needed to create contract templates for all kinds of service providers in a unique way.
Before my friend approached me, I knew LegalZoom existed. What was I going to add to the marketplace? But I’ve been four years and going strong. There really is a need for somebody who actually understands these creative niches and can talk to them where they are.
That’s the biggest problem that most lawyers have. We all want to look professional or smart or whatever. But in trying to do that, we talk over the people we’re trying to help.
Sure, if you’re working on getting corporate clients and you’re in a boutique or a mid-level or large law firm and your kind of client is looking for that, well, sure. Put up a fancy site with fancy legal jargon and terms and everything.
Honestly, though. The more I use fourth-grade level language to sell my products and services, the closer I can get. Way more people are interested in working with me.
That doesn’t shock me in the slightest.
Turning Legal Services into Products and Knowing Your Ideal Customer
You have a productized business. Do you also offer services to these folks or are you only handing them contract templates? Can they sign up for a course? Do you walk them through how they might customize these contract templates or anything?
Or is it literally just “You give me dollars, I give you a template. Thank you for doing business.”
We definitely know exactly who our customers are.
They’re typically beginners. Or they’ve never paid attention to this stuff and they’re very intimidated by it.
We include “how to use your new contract template” instructions with their purchase. It’s not even teaching them, really. It’s just giving them permission on how to use it. I give them that little tiny handholding experience. We actually call them our “Hold-My-Hand Guides.”
It really helps our ideal clients through the process and helps them make their purchasing decision. It feels good for them to know that the support doesn’t just end.
I read “Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday a few years ago. That was when I really switched from focusing on “marketing” to focusing on the customer and their experience.
Everything Ryan Holiday talks about in Perennial Seller is true. If you want to sell more services, products, or whatever, read that book.
As hard and as painful as it is to turn your focus away from shiny Facebook ads and great video marketing that’s being pushed your way…
None of that matters if you can’t make your customers and your clients happy.
And that applies to lawyers, you say?
I have more work than I know what to do with my law firm. I refer most of my work to a friend who is technically a competitor.
But I know what I want and I have these nice boundaries around that.
I just like working with the clients that I like.
One client is best friends with Tony Robbins. She’s so cool. I love working with her. I would rather spend more time working with her than finding new clients or marketing myself more.
So I try to focus on doing more of what works instead of trying new things and throwing spaghetti at the wall.
So, to go back. Do I have services in The Contract Shop? No.
The person buying my contract templates doesn’t want that. I have never had success in offering customized contract template services.
A lot of lawyers—particularly lawyers who don’t have a marketing mind—don’t understand that the people buying my $455 contract templates are not the same people who want to work with me as a lawyer and pay me $350 an hour.
There’s just no crossover there. I thought there might be some “up-leveling” to that experience. There’s not. So I don’t offer any services there.
Christina Scalera is a Consultant for Digital Product Creators
I am starting a third business, though. It is based on offering services.
I consult for digital product creators. I help people who want to turn their services into “digital products.” Lots of people want to do that (lawyers included). But a lot of people don’t know how to do that. They don’t do it well, and they don’t get sales. They focus on the wrong things.
We do twice-a-year sales that are just killer. We’re known in the creative industry. Three of my friends call me the “Queen of Black Friday” because we do a killer Black Friday sale. This year, it was a six-figure sale again. It’s just crazy.
Most people are not selling digital products like that. Most people don’t understand how to turn their service into a digital product.
I’m starting by just testing the waters to see if that’s something that people want. Sometimes you think that people want something. Then they don’t.
For example, I tried to start a business a while ago called “Ruckus.” It was aimed at helping lawyers market their businesses like me. I was selling the skills to creating personal relationships and partnerships with clients while building a great income. The idea was that I could help them build funnels and get on Instagram and use Pinterest.
I even went on Lawyerist and did an episode about Pinterest because that was a really big driver of traffic for us.
I tried to sell so many different things and had a really engaged audience.
It just didn’t take.
I know where to cut my losses. I spent a lot of time creating really great products and services for people and nobody was interested.
So, Ruckus is dead. I’m not doing that anymore.
You describe a world that many lawyers don’t have the audacity to think about. That is, you describe your law firm as one where you intentionally call your clients, you pick the best ones, and you have clean boundaries with what you’re willing to do and what you’re not. You have clean and close relationships with competitors, and you have the freedom to build other things outside of your law practice to augment your life and your creativity.
Christina Scalera’s ADHD Fuels Her Entrepreneurship and Lawyer Work
Let’s turn our attention to ADHD. I have some theories about what it is in you that helps you do some of these things.
I don’t want to be too presumptuous, but we know a lot about people with ADHD. And on this podcast, we talk a lot about the strengths of ADHD.
We will talk about your ADHD strengths and how ADHD has impacted your life, your legal career, and your entrepreneurial nature. But first, can you talk about what your life was like before you were diagnosed with ADHD?
Well, I didn’t get diagnosed until this year. And it took about eight months in therapy.
I started seeing a therapist at the end of 2018 because I really thought I had depression and was feeling overwhelmed by everything. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Opening my email was the most anxiety-inducing event every single day to the point where I just couldn’t open my email.
And if you run your own business that’s a… no can do.
So, a tip for anybody out there who suffers from this kind of anxiety: sometimes it’s good and bad, but I use Airmail. It lets me click on the inbox I want to see. And for a while that year, I was only checking my law firm inbox so I could work with my clients.
If customers had questions, issues, or complaints, I was ignoring them.
I knew something was wrong. I knew I had seasonal affective disorder (which has been much better in Colorado).
But I wanted to get help and figure out what was going on. If it was depression, you can get help for that. I hired a personal trainer. I was trying to do a lot of exercise and eat better with the hope that would help, too.
When I wasn’t making much improvement, I asked my therapist what she thought was going on. She recommended I go see a particular psychiatrist to get an evaluation for ADHD because she was “110% sure” I had ADHD.
And I was like, “What?”
Yep. That’s where I want to go.
Is that the first moment that adult ADHD had entered the lexicon for you?
I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t have endless energy. I’m not hyperactive. But she listed several things that she had been noticing. For example, I was drinking almost a liter of coffee every day.
I was just blindsided by the ADHD thing.
What Undiagnosed Adult ADHD Looked Like In Christina Scalera
Tell me some of those details, would you? What are some of the things that she had observed in you? What sounded like undiagnosed adult ADHD to her? Drinking a ton of coffee, of course. But we all do that.
The biggest thing that tipped her off, I think, was how hard it is for me to go grocery shopping. I actually enjoy grocery shopping. But I go to the grocery store and I race around to the point where I may knock into other people’s carts.
I had this anxiety that I was going to forget something. I couldn’t understand why I cared so much. It is just groceries. If you forget anything, you just go back!
My therapist noted my anxiety about grocery shopping. I was collecting everything I needed for a grocery trip, and it started affecting me and my interactions with other people.
If you have a neuro-typical brain, you go to the grocery store, you have your lists, and you’re not cripplingly anxious about forgetting something. You tend to remember where things are in your store. But for me, I was going all over the store. Back and forth, back and forth.
There were a lot of other things, too. I was overwhelmed a lot. My therapist believed that was related to my ADHD. I was stuck in this cycle. I would feel overwhelmed, so I wouldn’t do anything. And then, because I didn’t do anything, I felt overwhelmed. I would fall further behind. But then I would do even less.
It just was this horrible cycle that kept continuing.
My sales were starting to plummet. My anxiety was through the roof. Everything was not going well. And when it started to affect my daily functioning, my life, and my business, that’s when she said, “This is really serious. We do need to do something about it.”
I also think a lot of stories I had told her along the way about things I did or didn’t do in law school were pretty big indicators.
Undiagnosed ADHD Before Law School
Let’s talk about those. But before we get to law school… my supposition is that you are not a hyperactive ADHD type.
Right. From what I understand, and as far as we know right now (it’s always changing), there are seven types of ADHD.
Yes. And we’ll spend some energy on how to categorize ADHD elsewhere. What I really want to get to is this: What did it look like for you, as someone who is creative and intelligent? ADHD isn’t something that just shows up after law school.
It was a lot of misbehavior, which I think went undetected because I was a girl. I also think my ADHD went undiagnosed because I moved every year and a half. How could anyone know me well enough when I was moving in and out of their classrooms halfway through the year?
I got really, really, really good grades in high school and college. That helped to disguise it. I took almost entirely all essay classes in college and even in law school when I could. And that helped disguise it. I’m a really good writer, so I could mask my ADHD with good writing or by pulling something off at the last hour. I was a huge procrastinator.
I never completed assignments on time. And I was such a schmoozer. I would go to every office hours and like suck up to every TA ever. I did that in law school, too. I’m not like proud of it, but I totally did it. I wanted good grades and I knew that was how I could do it. People are people and they would give me a better grade if I was nice and interested. Besides, it helped me learn and they had interesting things to say, so it wasn’t all a waste…
Another indication of my undiagnosed ADHD was that when I got to law school after having great grades in undergrad, everything was tanking. I had a terrible GPA and a terrible ability to study. I’d go to Anthropologie and shopping for hours the day before a test that I hadn’t studied for. I have no idea how I passed. All of those final exams that you have for every class in law school? I got great grades on my essays again. When I could, I took essay-based classes.
That’s a lot of how it was disguised. That’s how I just didn’t notice it.
Christina Scalera’s Adult ADHD Diagnosis Changed Everything
What has your journey looked like since you were diagnosed?
You had this sense of overwhelm, that looked and felt like depression and anxiety. But by all outward appearances, you were a very successful, intelligent entrepreneur with a whole bunch of clever business interests and an insatiable desire to create and help and to do a bunch of things.
But you were kind of a mess. Did your ADHD diagnosis change anything for you?
Whether it’s good or not, I chose to go on medication. That changed everything. My ADHD medication broke the pattern of me feeling like I was a piece of crap and getting overwhelmed and then not doing anything and getting more overwhelmed because I wasn’t doing anything.
My diagnosis and my medication helped me break that cycle and it pattern-interrupted in a way that I was able to get back to life as I knew it before.
If anyone out there has started a business that they are really passionate about, you’ll know what I’m talking about. In the beginning, you have this huge initial adrenaline rush. It just lasts for months and months and months. It’s not actually adrenaline, but you know what I mean? It’s just this zeal. And you can’t get it out of your head. You can’t not do your thing.
Maybe your listeners have experienced it with something else, like a hobby. You know, a lot of people get into yoga for the first time, and, within three months, they’re booking every retreat and yoga teacher training available. I see that a lot.
When you get into something new, you have this zeal.
I had lost that zeal for my business. It was tanking. I felt overwhelmed. But I got on ADHD medication and I’ve continued therapy every week. That’s really helpful. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, talk therapy, medication… That’s what has worked for me. That’s how I was able to change and pattern interrupt and keep myself on this moving trajectory that feels much better.
I have a lot less anxiety in my life. I wouldn’t say it’s totally gone. But all the overwhelm is gone.
I feel really secure in my business. I did not before. Our profits are much, much, much better than they ever have been since I went on ADHD medication. I still need to be reminded to take it. I try to create a habit around it where I’m taking it with my thyroid medicine in the morning, but it’s on and off.
But even that sporadic ADHD medication has been really helpful.
Yes. Yes! We talk about resources, education, and learning about ADHD. We talk about what it looks like.
But we talk about tools. Medication can be a tool. Therapy and coaching and things like that can be tools.
What else works for you when it comes to productivity, for example? Are there any things that you’ve done to build scaffolding around your ADHD?
Using Automation for ADHD Productivity
If you want to have a successful life or business, you have to automate everything.
I automate how I get paid, and I automate where that money goes. I automate client processes.
For a while, when I was in Atlanta, I was automating all the cleaning, the water delivery, everything. We would run out of water at the office and I would wait two weeks before remembering to refill it. Taking a few minutes to sign up for a water delivery service and have that automated? That was huge.
As a business owner with ADHD, automating everything that you possibly can is a huge help.
Another thing is that I lose everything. No matter how important it is, I will lose it.
So I started putting things where they’re supposed to go. Right that minute, even if I was late (and I’m always late). It has also gotten better since I was diagnosed and started my medication.
There’s a place for everything. You found a home for everything and you were diligent about putting it there?
Yes. Even if I was going to be late. I put my keys back where they were supposed to go or an important paper in the file it’s supposed to be in.
I’m not sure what you call that. But setting yourself up for success in that way is really critical. If you don’t do that, your life can become a mess. And then it is easier to get to that place where you say, “Oh, I’m such a piece of, you know… I can’t do anything right.”
That’s where I was with my ADHD. So creating habits, automating, making sure things happen, and setting set yourself up for success is really helpful.
ADHD and Chronic Overspending
I was also a chronic overspender. I was a shopaholic in law school and throughout my adult life.
That’s obviously really, really bad for your finances. After my ADHD diagnosis and because of my chronic overspending, I opened up a bunch of different credit cards and I linked them to things that I use only infrequently.
I created auto payments and destroyed the credit cards that I didn’t use. Maybe the financial experts would tell me to do something else. But I wanted to keep my open lines of credit and keep my credit good.
And then I automated everything. I buy Starbucks maybe twice a month. It is automatically reloaded from one of these cards so they stay active. But I’ve consciously made it so I cannot access them.
Again, solving adult ADHD for me is about setting yourself up for success. Even in crazy ways. I think the credit card thing makes me a little crazy, but that’s okay.
I agree. That can be so important. Building scaffolding around persistent habits and building barriers to impulses is huge.
Other Productivity Tips for Lawyers with ADHD
There are tools you can use if your ADHD leads to distraction from work. Maybe you want to be working on a brief or a trademark application, and instead, you’re shopping for Christmas (or contracts) on Black Friday.
Shutting off your internet is a thing that you can do. You can literally turn your computer into airplane mode, turn it into a brick, and just type.
Or set time limits. Time limits were really helpful for me when I first started blogging for my site because I would spend seven hours on a blog post.
I started setting myself up with a 20-minute time limit. By the way, if you are really bad at this, you can just charge your computer to full, go to Starbucks, and work. Your computer is going to die at some point.
Those are helpful things to do. Just make sure you’re not spending seven hours doing something that only needs to take 20 minutes.
There are a bunch of ideas like that.
I love the idea of blocking out times when you make yourself available to be contacted. Right?
You talked about boundaries with clients before. One of the boundaries that I really like setting with clients is saying:
“You matter to me, and I want to make sure that I am here for you. The way that I am here for you is to be here for you every single day between 2:00-3:00 p.m. If you have a question or an issue, talk to me during that time every single day. I will be here for you. You can book through this scheduling software and it’ll ask you what we’re going to talk about and we will pound it out.”
Doing that gives me a little bit of time before I meet with a client to get an idea of their issue and to do some research if I need to. Then, when we do hop on the phone, we’ll both be ready to knock it out and it’s going to be fast and easy for me and the client.
It’s fast and easy for me, and I also won’t get pulled out of the work that I’m doing on your actual thing. Particularly if that happens all day, every day by clients who just have a smattering of questions.
There are tools like that that I really love to help lawyers with ADHD incorporate into their lives. We can’t help ourselves. That impulsivity and distractability are such critical pieces of that. We need to control distractions and impulses to bring that creativity out. If you’re just reacting all of the time, and you find yourself merely existing to put out the latest one, you never have time or space or “margin” to actually go create something. Or make something beautiful. Or to make something additive.
I actually give my clients more access to me. That has cut down on their communications substantially.
Two of my clients prefer Slack. I’ve joined their Slack communications and their entire teams can ask me questions. And they are absolutely thrilled with it. They can ask me anything at any time. I can answer anything at any time.
There’s not this, “Let’s schedule a call on Tuesday. Oh, Tuesday won’t work for me. Schedule it on Wednesday. Oh, okay. Well, I’m only available…” There is no back and forth. It’s immediate. They don’t have to explain anything. Their entire team can ask questions.
I am always completely abreast of everything that’s going on. I don’t have to get background from them because I’m seeing what’s going on in their #general. I’m seeing products they’re launching and they can just drop links right there.
That also gives us a record of it in Slack. I make sure my clients know Slack is about as secure as email (which is to say, “not secure at all”). I have them sign a waiver that says they understand we’re still protected under attorney-client privilege, but that it’s still Slack. Who knows how safe it is?
They’re not putting really serious questions in there. These are questions about, “Hey, is this disclosure okay on my sales page?” “Sure. Drop the link, I’ll check it out.”
Every single one of my clients, since they’re business owners themselves, actually takes Thursday to Monday or Friday to Monday off. Or at least that’s the time that they’re using to work on their own business. They don’t even contact me those days. It’s usually just Monday through Thursday, which is fine.
How do you keep yourself from being in Slack all day, every day, and just waiting for that next ping or dopamine hit or question or thing to respond to?
Easy. I just quit it. Quit the application.
I tell all of them, “This is my phone number. You can contact me if it’s an emergency, but, obviously, if you text me or call me all the time on my phone, I’m not going to run off the ski slopes at three o’clock on a Tuesday to go take your phone call anymore because I know it’s not an emergency.”
No one has ever abused that. But I do get the occasional text from clients who say, “Hey! SOS! Can you get in Slack right now?” Or, “Can you get on the phone right now?” Which is fine. That’s exactly what they should be texting me about.
Giving my clients more access to me lets me be more of a partner in their business. Just getting an email every once in a while doesn’t work for me. And it doesn’t really work for them either.
Finally, these people are small business owners and a lot of them have had amazing success. But they started out as copywriters. Or photographers. They didn’t go to law school. They know nothing about issue spotting. They don’t even know what “issue spotting” is. Clients don’t know that “issue spotting” is a thing.
They don’t know when they’re having an issue with something. But I do when I’m in Slack with them. I see what they’re up to. I see what they’re about to post on social media.
One of my clients has over a million followers on Instagram. Another has, I don’t know, 40,000 or 50,000. These are people that have big followings and are very visible. And so for me to be able to just see everything that they’re doing constantly is really helpful.
I can feel that intimacy being a really critical part of a good, healthy relationship. And I suspect it’s born a little bit of your in-house experience, right? Right out of school, you were an in-house lawyer. Your job was (and is) to help the business and help people succeed in their goals.
I didn’t think about it like that, but probably…
I think being in a spot where you can anticipate those needs and form a meaningful relationship just gives you more information, more data, more useful stuff.
There’s a tension with how close you can be and how open you can be and, as an ADHD lawyer, maintain the margin you need to think about their problem or work on their thing.
It sounds like you’ve struck a really interesting balance that probably provides some extraordinary service, both in terms of being there and being responsive and understanding their business, but also delivering on the goods, which I think is, is spectacular.
Christina Scalera on Content Creation for Lawyers with ADHD
I want to ask you two quick questions about content creation.
One thing that I believe about lawyers and about their businesses is that they need to be a lot better about sharing their brilliance with the masses.
That’s a thing that you do. You’re a marketing mind. You’ve had a podcast, a very successful one indeed. You’ve had a variety of marketing endeavors. One thing that I want you to talk about, if you would, is creating blog posts in groups of three.
Why do you write blog posts in groups of three? And how does that help you create content that is useful for a variety of people?
People, whether they’re ADHD or not, have limited time and limited attention spans. So I create things in groups of three or even four.
I learned this from a variety of different mentors, but basically, here’s why.
People have the same objections to making a purchase or booking a service or engaging your services as a lawyer.
They have a problem making that decision, especially when there’s a lot of money on the line. When you create content that helps move them closer to that goal, they get the support that they need. You help them reach their goal.
Your goal is to run a business and make money. Content can be a huge help in getting you both closer to your goals.
But for someone to make a purchasing decision, they need to know that you are the right person or product or brand for them.
You need to overcome their objection that you cannot help them. That’s what they’re already thinking in their mind.
Once you’ve overcome that objection, you have to overcome their next objection: that they are not able to be helped. They think they are a special circumstance or have a special problem that is so unique that no one could possibly understand their problem correctly or help them solve it.
You have to overcome that objection. your product or service actually can help them. They are not beyond help. But they have to trust you. They have to trust themselves. They have to trust whatever it is that you’re selling. That’s the third thing. So they have to trust that your service or your product is in fact the way through things.
If you’re able to show a potential client that your company is reputable or that you are reputable, and if you show them they can actually get a benefit from you and that they’re not beyond help…
Then the final thing is you have to show them that this is exactly what they need, and this is the right time for them to do that. Sometimes I split this last objection into two parts and I’ll do a four-part content or emailed series or something.
Remember, I’m trying to break it down to a fourth-grade reading level. I’m trying to make it easy for busy people. They don’t have time to read this. They don’t have time to consume it.
But you can do this in emails, podcasts, blog posts, and Instagram posts. You can do it for any kind of content.
Finally, the other reason I do it is that I’m a big fan of Clickfunnels and Russell Brunson and Julie Stone. ClickFunnels is just a software service company, but it has this whole culture dynamic that goes with it.
Russel Brunson talks about something that really affected me early on: the “soap opera sequence.”
I thought it was interesting. So I tried it, and it worked incredibly well. I really didn’t want it to work because he’s kind of a sales-y marketing guy. But everybody said it works, so I just tried it. And soap opera sequences worked so well well for me.
So that’s another reason I split my content into different segments. You know, Part 1 of 4, Part 2/4… And people are really interested and engaged and looking for those next parts to come out.
That’s one way for you to break up your content creation to make it easier on yourself and your readers.
You don’t have to write 2,000-word blog posts all at once. You can write 700 words today, 750 words tomorrow, and give yourself a bit more time.
Meanwhile, you can also overcome these four objections that everybody has. You always have to help them overcome those same four objections for them to make any kind of purchasing decision.
I love it. I love having a system. Frankly, I love anything that we can do to help lawyers understand that sharing content is not “giving away services for free.”
Sharing content is helping people that want to be your clients learn to know you and love you and trust you so that they can hire you and actually pay you money to help them do things.
I just love the content marketing empire that you’ve built. Any lawyer out there who is interested in understanding where you can take your content would be wise to check out some of Christina’s stuff. Because this stuff is well-tested. It’s not like you’re making this up, right?
I’ve learned this from a lot of people. I wish I made this up. I’d be a lot more wealthy if I made this up.
Right? These content marketing and content creation habits have long track records. These strategies and philosophies work. “Sharing content” helps people get the help they want and need.
Lawyers have for too long been allergic to that. But I love the point you make. There are recipes and tools that will help you. That’s really spectacular.
Christina Scalera’s Heart-Wrenching Warning: Law, Lawyers, Substance Abuse, and Lawyer Wellbeing
For fear of taking a negative turn here at the end of our interview, I believe that, for the most part, having ADHD is ultimately something that will give you great strength and help you create a life that is interesting and creative and beautiful.
We talked about some of the downsides and the stress and the depression and the anxiety and how wellbeing among lawyers is a challenge for our profession.
If you don’t mind, I understand that you have some feelings about that. You have feelings about lawyer wellness, and the impacts it can have on us and our friends and our profession. If you wouldn’t mind, can you just tell us a little bit about how that culture of denial is hurting us?
I’m wondering if you’re alluding to my story about my best friend?
My best friend in law school died at 27. I’m 31 now. He was a year older than I was. He died of an opioid overdose.
His death was published in all the papers, but his obituary said he “died peacefully in his sleep.”
Well, nobody that’s 27, unless they have an undiagnosed cardiac condition maybe, “dies peacefully in his sleep.”
I later found out he died of an opioid addiction that he was hiding. He was straight up hiding it from most people. It’s not like the signs weren’t there. But I didn’t know what the signs were.
There were a lot of staph infections, which is not normal for a 27-year-old. He was losing a ton of weight, but he told me he was working out more.
He seemed incredibly happy. Happier than I’d ever known him to be. I had lunch with him a month before he passed away.
The opioid epidemic we hear about in “middle” or “rural” America is hitting lawyers too.
My hair stylist’s best friend was a lawyer. The same thing happened to her best friend when she was 37. She overdosed on opioids.
Obviously this is anecdotal, but I really encourage any of you if you think you might have a friend with substance abuse issues or opioid addiction. You know, my friend really liked to party and have a good time. I probably should have seen that as more than just “normal law school partying.”
And in hindsight it definitely was.
There were a lot of warning signs. It’s just really sad that he couldn’t talk to people about it. Maybe it’s because he was this “up and coming” lawyer in his community. Maybe it’s because he was really active and engaged. He was not the picture of someone you would think could overdose on opioids at 27 years old.
It happens. This is someone who came from a very privileged, middle- to upper-class background. He had everything in the world going for him: an up-and-coming career, being featured as a local music artist, and going on tour with his band for a little bit for fun. He had a lot of things going for him and it just… It can happen to anybody.
I want to encourage people. If you have seen friends losing lots of weight, getting weird staph infections or weird medical conditions for their age… That’s the kind of stuff that you just have to pay attention to. Those very subtle signs could help save their life.
I don’t think there’s enough done for lawyers. We sweep it under the rug by saying, “Oh, lawyers are prone to depression and suicide.” And that’s just an accepted thing. But I don’t know why that’s so acceptable.
I think that’s right.
I really appreciate that vulnerability.
Lawyers with ADHD are 10 times more likely to have substance abuse issues. We are astronomically more likely to have anxiety, depression, and alcoholism.
We have a whole cohort of stuff that, if left unmanaged, is really, really difficult and potentially deadly.
The worst part about it is that it doesn’t have to be that way. We are a community of lawyers, sure. But you know, we’re also a community of people.
Taking care of each other and building community and being open and honest with each other and being vulnerable to each other and trying to end some stigma around ADHD or anxiety or depression or substance abuse or alcoholism is part of the process of healing our profession.
I want to thank you, Christina, for what you have done to make our profession more beautiful and creative and compassionate. And I want to encourage everybody that’s listening to do the same: to take care of each other and to get help.
You’ve got to get your oxygen mask on before you can help everybody else.
Yeah, for sure. I everybody should be in therapy. And I say that at the risk of sounding like I’m a crazy person in therapy. I just don’t care. I tell everybody. You should go to therapy. Just try it. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it.
And if you don’t like that, try coaching. Everybody’s had a coach.
Just think of a coach. It’s different. It feels better. And coaches help you with very practical things. You mentioned earlier that you have a Shopify coach. You have someone who helps you and coaches you to do a thing that you’re trying to get done.
That’s true with productivity. It’s true with being a lawyer. It is true with being an ADHD lawyer. It’s true in a bunch of other things too.
So go get some help. Coaching, therapy, whatever it is… Take care of yourself and take care of each other.
I want to wrap up with two questions. Are you more of a more of an optimist or more of a pessimist?
Definitely more of an optimist.
Then we’ll save that one for last. We’ll start with the glass-half-empty one.
If you had a magic wand and you could wave it and make one feature of ADHD disappear for everyone on the planet, what would it be?
I would stop losing stuff! Like really important things. That would be really nice. If I could remember that or stop losing stuff.
I even lost a Tile, those things that are supposed to help you find things. I lost that.
You’d like to get rid of that. That’s impressive.
All right. The flip side.
If you had the same magic wand, if you could give everybody in the world one feature of ADHD, what would it be? What’s the thing that you love about your lawyer ADHD?
Oh, definitely just the manic drive to get something done.
Sometimes that’s where our best sales and our best products come from. I’ll be kindof “meh” about about it for a while. And then, all of a sudden, something will just light a fire under my butt.
And then a week later, there’s a course that I’ve been sitting on for two years and it’s up and being sold and out there, and we’re making thousands of dollars from it.
That’s the stuff that I think is my superpower from ADHD. That would be pretty cool if other people could experience it.
Well, I will tell you—and not just because this is a clean way to end a podcast episode—you are an inspiration to folks. I love your drive to create and to make amazing things that make the world better.
And to hear you tell your story and to tell your story as a younger person who has done a lot of things can be an inspiration to all of us.
Thanks for the work that you do. Keep it up and, you know, never stop.
For everybody that’s out there, Christina is available all over the place. The best place to find her is at The Contract Shop. We have a URL in the show notes, but also you can go to the “Chuck Norris of legal products?”
Ha! That’s on our about page. That was a long time ago that I wrote that.
We’re “The Contract Shop” everywhere. It’s our handles, it’s our domain name. It’s, you know, our email. Whatever it is, if you just roughly throw that out into the Googlesphere, you’ll find us.
Right on. And if you’re looking for somebody who can hold your hand through the process of turning a service into a product or learning how to think outside of the box as a lawyer or as a service provider, Christina Scalera is a great person to help you do that.
We’ll put a link into The Owners’ Inner Circle.
Yes. That’s TheOwnersCircle.com or my name. It’s the new project we’ve been working on, and it’s exciting.
Thank you so much for having me and for everything you’re doing here and sharing about and just bringing attention to all of this.
Well, it’s my pleasure. And good luck sorting out Georgia versus Colorado. I have an inkling that the West will have won here before too long.
I think you might be right.
The best to you in all of your endeavors. And thank you so much, Christina.
Thank you. Marshall.
Isn’t Christina Scalera amazing?
This is a woman whose drive and wanderlust and creativity and clarity and entrepreneurship have driven her to amazing places. Humbling places. Places that get me so excited.
What I love most about her stories is her vulnerability. I love how she shared with all of us the many bumps along her path and the bumps that she has seen in other people’s paths, sometimes to really devastating effects. I love that she shares that she’s failed repeatedly, and that she has struggled with mental and physical health issues (some related to ADHD and some not).
She, like a lot of us, was diagnosed with ADHD later in her life.
She shared her story with us and she told us about the many challenges that she was facing before she got diagnosed with ADHD.
Through those struggles, there was this underlying pulse of creation and growth and malleability. It’s all so conspicuous if you are paying attention.
ADHD can drive us all to amazing places. I’m glad that you’re on this journey with me.
If you’d like to talk to me about one-on-one coaching for your ADHD and its impact on your law practice or your life, please email me.
We heard Christina Scalera talk about how getting her ADHD under control changed everything for her. That gives me so much hope.
If your hope is bubbling up, too, let’s talk.
See you next week.
Magically, Dr. Shawn Healy of LCL-Massachusetts and I weave together Muggsy Bogues, the itty-bitty shitty committee
Erin Keyes and Marshall Lichty talk about how law students and lawyers with ADHD to keep themselves healthy and how to “do” law school as a law student with ADHD.