How Lawyers Work: Eric Johnson, Divorce Attorney & Aggressively Reasonable

In this week’s edition of How Lawyers Work, we hear from Eric Johnson. Eric is the founder of  Utah Family Law, LLC, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and practices in the areas of family and divorce law. 

You can follow Eric on LinkedIn and Twitter

What’s your elevator pitch?

Think like a judge, not like a spouse. After two decades of practice I realized: (1) what the divorce client wants and/or feels is fair does not matter nearly as much (if at all) as what your judge wants to do and what your judge feels constrained by the law to do, and; (2) divorce clients don’t know this instinctively.

So much worry, effort, and time is wasted on the question: “How do I get what I want out of the divorce?” My mantra is that what you want: (1) is not within your control, and; (2) is not a question that either your judge or the law cares about.

So rather than ask your attorney, “How do I get what I want?” ask these questions instead:

(1) “Given the circumstances of my case, what should I expect to happen in my divorce case, and why?”

(2) “What can and should I honestly do to improve the odds of the case treating me as favorably as realistically possible?”

(3) “How do I do this as quickly and inexpensively as realistically possible?”

(4) Even if you tell yourself and your lawyer, “I just want what’s fair.” The truth is that “what’s fair” bears a striking resemblance to “what I want.”

What apps or tools are essential to your daily workflow?

G Suite—Google Chrome, G-mail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Drive—is essential, as well as Messenger (Facebook) for SMS messaging, and Microsoft Word.

For calculating future dates, deadlines, counting backward, etc., I use I also use an electronic filing portal (Utah State specific).

For hardware, I have a hands-free telephone headset, my cell phone and Bluetooth headset, and three monitors (one for email, one for word processing, one for online search, research, and miscellaneous—like listening to the radio or podcasts).

What does your workspace look like?

One man band. I’m a solo practitioner, but I use Ruby Receptionist to handle my call overflow when I cannot answer the phone myself.

How do you keep track of your calendars and deadlines?

I currently use my Google calendar and a client task list spreadsheet.

I have tried to use a practice management system. I even have a Clio account (I was among the first to use Clio), but I just found them to be more trouble than they are worth from a complexity standpoint. My bookkeeper uses Clio for bookkeeping purposes, but I don’t use Clio for anything myself.

I am going to check out Clio’s current setup to see if it’s worth investing the time and effort to use it more in the management of my practice.

What is your coffee service setup?

None. I’m a Mormon, and Mormons don’t drink coffee, so that’s why I have no coffee service.

What is one thing that you listen to, read, or watch that everyone should?

 Keane. It’s underrated. Tom Chaplin has a voice for ages. Tim Rice-Oxley is a talented composer and lyricist.

The Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck has it all—great writing, great story, great staying power.

The Sting. The Sting is the kind of movie I’ll watch at any point it comes on, even if it’s in the middle or just about to end. If you haven’t seen it, you’re deprived.

What is your favorite local place to network or work solo?

Networking is not for everyone. Networking is for those who have the talent for using people without people either feeling used or resenting being used. I have no such talent.

So my networking is my Seth Godinesque: “Here, I made this. I hope you like it.” allows me to reach out to those who feel I can help them, and when it works best the people who find me are those I want to help and they want to help me.

What are three things you do without fail every day?

(1) Contact my clients. Contacting my clients is actually weekly, but I really do contact every client no less than once a week, without fail. It often goes unappreciated, but I know I’m doing something important for them.

(2) Blog—the only way to eat the elephant.

(3) Check my Client Task List. This was not my idea, but it has been one of my most important tools that I use to keep track of all open cases and deadlines (both external and internal). Checking it daily allows me to remember the work I have to do, which helps ensure I do it. As a result, I end up getting twice as much work done as the average lawyer.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

Joel Osteen. He’s so perennially positive and upbeat, and it appears to be genuine. If so, I could learn a lot from him. Being a divorce lawyer is hard even for those like me who like the work. Learning to stay positive, yet clear-eyed appears to me to be something Joel Osteen has internalized.

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