Three Lessons Lawyers Can Learn from The Muppets

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Unless your law practice is located in a cave somewhere without television or internet, you probably know that the Muppets have a new movie in theaters. The film follows the Muppets as they try to reunite and save their old production studio. The movie has several great messages that any lawyer or law student can learn from.

Follow Your Dreams

A large portion of The Muppets is about Walter, Jason Segel’s puppet brother, who has always idolized the Muppets. He lives in Smalltown, USA, where he is completely happy. But his long-time dream of meeting the Muppets has gone unfulfilled over the years, so he travels to Los Angeles to tour The Muppet Studio, only to find it completely desolate. His dream is dashed. The movie follows Walter as he seeks to reunite the Muppets for one final show.

Like Walter, many lawyers find themselves in careers they don’t love. Sure, things may be fine at your job, and hopefully you like it. But there is a difference between liking your job and having your dream job. If you’ve always had a passion for family law, you will always be somewhat miserable at a corporate law firm. If you dream of being your own boss and opening your own firm, you’ll never be completely happy working as an associate somewhere.

It’s time to do something about it.

Now is the perfect time to work on a plan for 2012. It may not be easy to switch practice areas or leave the comfort of your firm. It probably won’t be an overnight switch, and may take a substantial amount of time. But if you make a plan and dedicate yourself, you can do it. It will be hard. But if after the hard effort you’re doing what you always dreamed of doing, isn’t it worth it?

Maximize Efficiency

After collecting the first few Muppets, the characters decide to speed things up by using a montage sequence. Later, to travel from the US to France, the Muppets travel by map. Both were much more productive ways of getting things done. Lawyers, for the most part, can’t travel by map or litigate a case using a montage. But there are still plenty of ways you can be more efficient.

Look at your desk. Is it cluttered? Covered with papers? Maybe you should implement David Allen’s Getting Things Done system to stay organized. How about your digital inbox? If you’ve got hundreds of e-mails piling up, it’s time to strive for inbox zero status. Finally, take a look at your budget. Your financial efficiency is extremely important, but may get overlooked. Are you doing everything you can to reduce costs? For example, are you using free search alternatives to cut down on legal research fees? Even small changes can help you maximize your efficiency, so make a few small changes and you will be better off than you were before.

Make Time for Your Personal Life

It seems obvious that you should make time for your personal life but, like Jason Segel’s character, many of us forget. We take our spouses, friends, and families for granted while we work long hours at the office or go to multi-day CLE conferences. In the movie, Segel’s character almost loses the love of his life.

This holiday season, make sure you do a proper balance of your work and personal life. Set time aside for family and friends, and stick to it. If you say you’re leaving the office to be there, do it. These are things we all know we need to do, but sometimes forget. Consider this your friendly reminder.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frikitiki/4668044130/)

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  • I’m glad to learn I’ve been following the muppets’ sage wisdom! In 2011 I followed my dreams by leaving the firm I co-founded, and where I worked as a litigator, to start up a new firm specializing in litigation graphics and consulting, which is more in line with my interests. I maximized efficiency (sort of, or at least am trying) by implementing new systems for my office and trying new apps. And I made time for my personal life by hiring a personal trainer to force myself to go to the gym twice a week, and by often leaving the office mid-afternoon to help my wife care for our kids after school. Seriously, thanks for this article — it’s a fun and silly premise but has a serious and inspiring message that I hope more attorneys can follow in 2012.