A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Project Management - Not Project Managers

Thursday, August 09, 2012

By Guest Blogger, Steven B. Levy, CEO Lexician, author & ALPMA National Summit presenter 

Law firms who recognize the potential benefits of better managed projects often ask: "Do we need project managers?"

Better management of legal matters or files requires project management skills, but it rarely requires – or sees benefit from – a dedicated project manager, a person whose full-time job is to manage projects. Firms that see the improvements in effectiveness and efficiency from better managed projects generally gain them by training their midlevel and senior lawyers in specific Legal Project Management skills rather than bringing in additional non-lawyer (or non-practicing-lawyer) personnel. 

Nor is the goal to turn well-functioning lawyers into (not very good) project managers or, worse, some nightmare creature, half frustrated lawyer and half ineffective project manager, who’ll spread unhappiness in his wake. 

Most lawyers already have the core skills - but need to use them in new ways

The good news is twofold. First, most lawyers already have the core skills that provide a foundation for project management, although they may need to think about, extend,  and utilize those skills in some new ways. Second, the gap between what they know today and what they need to know to manage projects is not large. Legal Project Management is at heart not a hard-edge set of rules or techniques but rather a renewed focus on five sources of sustainable competitive advantage:

  • Client service
  • Time management
  • People management and supervision skills
  • Profitability/project management and process improvement
  • Client-based business thinking

It’s clear from this list that adding Legal Project Management skills strengthens client retention, reduces write-offs, and builds profitability.

Note that while this description sounds straightforward, even simple, there is no magic button, no three-step formula that will transform a practice, or turn a disorganized lawyer whose teams flee his projects into a paragon of effectiveness. It takes a modicum of time, some training, practice, and most of all a willingness to move out of the we’ve-always-done-it-that-way cul-de-sac.

Effective training will begin to pay off immediately

That said, an effective training program can help lawyers rapidly learn critical skills and techniques they can begin implementing immediately to manage their projects, their time, their team, and their fiscal responsibilities. It won’t make them brilliant at managing their legal projects overnight, but it will make a difference. It will begin a process of gradual, noticeable improvements – not just in the effectiveness (do the right things) and efficiency (do those things right) with which lawyer handle their legal matters but in the overall happiness and job satisfaction of those lawyers and of the team members who work with them.

It starts with your own personnel, building their skill base to help them better attend to their clients, the firm, and their own success.

About our Guest Blogger

Steven Levy is an widely-recognised expert on Legal Project Management and the author
of the groundbreaking 
 Legal Project Management.   

Steven is presenting a session "Legal Project Management - Building on Existing Skills" at the forthcoming ALPMA National Summit, providing simple, commonsense principles and core techniques of LPM to help you advance your practice. 

Steven was head of Microsoft’s Legal Technology/Operations Department where he drove innovation and efficiency into one of the world’s largest law departments. He now
provides LPM training, coaching and consulting to law firms.  
Steven is currently CEO of Lexician, offering consulting, training, and coaching to legal organisations in project management, leadership, and efficiency. 

My first ALPMA Summit experience

Thursday, August 09, 2012

By Guest Blogger Vivienne Storey, General Manager - BlandsLaw

Last year was the first time I attended the annual ALPMA National Summit.  I had been looking at it for a couple of years, thinking it looked quite useful, but as I work for a small law firm with a capital "S", I wondered whether I could justify the expense. 

To give you some idea, I work for a boutique employment law firm with just seven of us to manage. It might sound relatively easy, especially for those of you who manage medium and large firms, but small has it's own set of challenges, particularly around growth. I also don't have a professional services background and many of the issues I was grappling with seem to be unique to the legal industry.

Anyway, I took a deep breath, paid the registration fees, presented a business case to the partner (yes, in that order) and crossed my fingers in hope that a day out of the office, a trip to Melbourne, my time and energy as well as the expense, would all be worth it. And that I wouldn't be some odd fish out of water surrounded by highly experienced practice managers who looked at me with disdain.

My first impression was "Wow..."

My first impression on checking in was "wow, this is incredibly well organised". At the welcome drinks you registered and got all the information you needed for the whole summit. As well as that, everyone was incredibly helpful, from the ALPMA organisers through to other delegates.

So, I picked up my Summit pack and headed to the already packed welcome drinks reception, took a deep breath, a glass of wine for fortitude and approached a group to introduce myself to. I'd like to say that I was incredibly lucky at finding a friendly bunch first up, but my experience across the whole summit was overwhelmingly that attendees are approachable and welcoming.  After just ten minutes of conversation with this first group of delegates I knew I had made the right decision in attending the ALPMA summit. How reassuring to hear that they were facing many of the same issues in managing their firms, how refreshing to meet industry colleagues so willing to share their experience and knowledge.

Heaps of useful info, new contacts & a strong sense of community

Over the next couple of days, I not only gathered a whole lot of useful information at the seminars and workshops, but I made firm friends with several delegates and great contacts across the legal industry, including several of the suppliers and exhibitors who have a wealth of industry information. Rather than feeling like an outsider, struggling in isolation to manage a growing practice, I felt part of a whole group trying to do just the same. All in all a very reassuring and valuable experience that has translated into better practices in the law firm I manage.

See you there!

This year is going to be slightly different in that I'm attending as a sponsor (my other job in a marketing capacity) so will be seeing the Summit from the other side. Don't forget to come and say "hello" - I'll be at the FilePro booth, though I will still be asking lots of questions of the delegates about how they manage their practices, to take back to my practice management role at BlandsLaw.

Share Your Summit Experience

We'd love to hear from other members who have attended Summit!  Tell us about your Summit experiences in the comments area below,

About our Guest Blogger

Vivienne Storey is a member of ALPMA's NSW Branch, the General Manager of BlandsLaw and National Marketing Manager for FilePro.

Vivienne has been actively engaged in the legal industry in Australia for the past six years. She commenced in the industry by building up an employment law practice from start up, overseeing both the marketing and growth of the firm as well as the management.  More recently she has been engaged by FilePro, a legal practice management software solution, to lead their growth in the Eastern states.  FilePro is an ALPMA National Summit Silver Partner.

Senior managers and leaders – know thyself (and plan to improve thyself!)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

By Guest Blogger, Sean Larkan, Edge International Partner & Speaker at ALPMA's National Summit

While this is changing, it is still the case that many of us end up in senior leadership and management roles having had no formal or even informal preparation for the roles. Also, once appointed, there is an assumption that you are the leader or the manager and should just get on with it. Whether you are an aspiring or new leader or experienced in one of these roles I think it can prove invaluable to address this assumption and do some groundwork to put a solid foundation under your leadership or management role. 

If you cannot manage yourself, it is impossible to lead others effectively

When I started my blog a year ago I posted a summary of a talk by the former head of Toyota in South Africa and recognised captain of industry, Brand Pretorius - he and I shared a podium at the Boss of the Year Awards convention; he made some wonderful points of importance to existing and aspiring leaders and managers. One thing he said was "if you cannot manage yourself it is impossible to lead others effectively".
I absolutely agree with this statement but would adapt it to say "if you do not know yourself and cannot manage yourself it is impossible to lead others effectively ". Unless we know our strengths and work to build those, and have an understanding of areas for development (we all have them!), we are really operating in the dark from a leadership development perspective. In many cases we have no idea what makes us tick in regard to our thinking, our behaviours and importantly, how we interact with and relate to others. 

Getting a clear picture of yourself

Whenever I coach or support new or aspiring senior managers or leaders this is one of the first things I recommend they do – get a clear picture of their own make-up, strengths and areas to work on. It is a massively important and helpful starting point. It even works for experienced leaders and managers. Very often we assume things about ourselves which are not what others see and experience. Sometimes this can hold us back.

Fortunately it is possible and relatively easy to undertake some highly reputable, scientifically-based diagnostics which can provide a remarkably accurate assessment of an individual. Some clients have said they found them to be ‘uncannily accurate’! The one I work with provides detailed and graphical feedback on how one stands in relation to twelve scientifically validated styles of behaviour and thinking, backed up by what steps to take to further develop your strengths and address any areas for development. It is a powerful combination. If the diagnostic is supported by a suitably qualified and experienced coach you will also be guided and supported in building on the results of the diagnostic. The handy thing is that they can easily be re-tested each year or so after that. 

'Getting an accurate assessment of one's own style of leadership thinking, behaviours and interaction with others is an important foundational step in developing our leadership and management skills'.

Research and apply new skills

Also, one of the great things is that contrary to past beliefs, while it always helps to have some of the characteristics of a "natural born leader",  both leadership and management skills can and should be learned and developed. With the advent of the Internet and sophisticated search tools it is a relatively easy matter to locate a mind-boggling array of remarkably useful tips, techniques, methodologies and skills one can read about and quickly put into practice.

Obviously the choices and options can be huge and it can help to have some guidance on what to focus on. But for someone keen to develop and learn it opens up a whole new exciting world of opportunity and development.All leaders and senior managers, old and new, are urged to take these steps if they haven't already done so.

About our Guest Blogger

Sean Larkan, a partner of Edge International a global leader in the evolution of the legal industry, is a growth strategist, accredited master coach and former managing partner of leading law firms in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Sean will be presenting on "Leadership to Achieve Results" at the ALPMA National Summit on 14-15 September in Brisbane, providing a flexible framework of key elements and tools of leadership and strategy for success and growth.

Sean's core focus is to help law firms build strength, confidence and well-being. Sean publishes a weekly blog and is presently completing a book on brand strategy for law firms.  

Market performance for market pay – is that too much to expect?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

By Guest Blogger, Jodi Proudlock, General Manager, Watkins Tapsell

Much has been written about developing a rigorous attraction and retention policy and how to put your firm’s best foot forward to attract good legal talent.  We promise market salary, good working conditions etc etc , and we do it happily so that the lawyer will chose our firm over another firm, so that our lawyers are provided with a great working environment in which they can excel, so that our clients will be looked after and our business will thrive.

Fast track to an important part of the retention policy – the remuneration strategy. Many of us have just gone through or are soon to go through the salary review process.  As managers of law firms we dutifully use the data from the salary surveys to make sure we are paying market salary.  

My question to you, though relates to the other side of the equation – Performance.

Is it too much to expect market performance if you pay market salary?

I have had the pleasure of working with many high performers over the years, so I know what high performance looks like, feels like and how it manifests into success.  Not just financial success but job satisfaction, driving others to high performance etc. The subject of this blog however focusses on under-performers because let’s face it – most of the high achievers have an intrinsic motivation and drive that you can’t coach, mentor or mandate.

According to the ALPMA Australian Legal Industry Salary survey recently released, most employees in the legal industry can expect to negotiate a pay rise in excess of CPI increases, despite the challenging business environment, with 53% of firms indicating that this is their intent for the next twelve months. A further 37% of firms indicated a pay rise in line with CPI increases.

“This news is tempered by the fact that 10% of all respondents are planning to implement a wage freeze – with 83% of those anticipating a wage freeze employing less than 25 people,” said Warrick McLean, ALPMA National President.

We as managers use the data available to us to structure carefully thought out salary packages and conditions. This is to entice the best of the best to come and work with us, and to increase salaries in line with what others are doing thus ensuring we retain our talented lawyers.

What I have seen over and over again is a good number of talented lawyers who become comfortable and gradually drop back a gear until their performance is at a level that is below their capability and below the firms’ expectations and budgets.

I don’t know about you but I was brought up to know that you have to earn things in life, not just expect, and a salary increase is in that category in my books.

Over the years and across a number of firms,  I have heard every demand, excuse, musing from lawyers as to why they deserve more money, my all-time favourite was the a lawyer who said  she wanted more money even though she knew she didn’t deserve it!  What is that about?

The Practice Manager's Dilemma

ALPMA recently surveyed its members to identify the Hot Issues in HR for 2012 - and  revealed  “Managing poor performance” was rated by 40% as a highly important issue for law firm practice managers.  I have often thought about this and struggle with what I call the “Practice Manager's Dilemma”.

Lawyer salary expectation Retention policy Market pressure Under-performance


The Practice Manager's'Dilemma

In practice, the dilemma plays out like this - the smaller firms are implementing a wage freeze, and already have to compete very hard to attract and retain quality people.  In a market where solicitors seem to vote with their feet (with haste) if they don’t get what they want, where does this leave the firm manager, particularly at salary review time?  

Do we have to settle for under-performance and still award pay increases for fear that if we don’t our talent will be snapped up by one of the 53% of other law firms that may throw more money at them?

I often ask lawyers when they raise the issue of money – “How much would you like to earn?”, and when they give me the response I ask “And how hard are you prepared to work to achieve that?”.  Some give the most unrealistic responses that it’s hard not to respond with – “Either you need to change your expectations of how hard you need to work or I need to change your charge out rate to that of a lawyer with 30 years’ experience”.

I say to every lawyer “You can earn as much as you want – but you have to work for it, you have to earn it”

Is that too much to expect?  

It seems that gone are the days when all lawyer were intrinsically driven and wanted to impress.  Today we find ourselves having to find out what the lawyers want/need to motivate them and then make it as comfortable as possible for them to achieve those ambitions. 

What ever happened to wanting to do a good job for your client, or put in a good day’s work and be recognised for your effort?

Do lawyers still aspire to partnership and recognise what it takes to get there?

Is the aspirational element to become a partner no longer existent? 

Is Partnership old hat now anyway? It certainly seems it will be if the next wave of future partners aren’t motivated towards Partnership. 

Why does the practice manager have sleepless nights about the lawyers who are under-performing?

Why is it not the lawyer having the sleepless nights?

Practice Managers Unite!

Till then let all of us be united in expecting market performance for market salary and not outbid each other when trying to attract talent away from another firm unless we are confident in what we are getting.

It always amazes me when lawyers come in and say I have been offered more money, and are then surprised if we don’t match it – does it occur to them that there might be a reason for that?

About our Guest Blogger

Jodi is an experienced legal practice manager, having worked in the legal industry for over 17 years.  In her role as General Manager, Jodi is committed to ensuring that the people at Watkins Tapsell have the tools, knowledge, working environment and support to ensure the highest level of service to clients. Jodi achieved her Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2004. Jodi is a member of ALPMA's NSW Branch and was a member of ALPMA's National Board for two years.

Congratulations Andrew Price, Practice Manager of the Year!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

By ALPMA National President, Warrick McLean

Please join me in congratulating Andrew Price, COO of Wotton + Kearney and ALPMA NSW Committee member on winning the Lawyers Weekly LexisNexis Practice Manager of the Year Award.

As well as being an accomplished and inspirational leader at Wotton + Kearney, Andrew has made a significant contribution to advancing the practice management profession,  as an active  NSW Committee member  for the last few years.   
Andrew recently participated as a panel member in the ALPMA NSW HR Workshop and was willing participant in the recent ALPMA NSW lunch time seminar on Emotional Intelligence.  Andrew was also one of two recipients to receive complimentary registration to  ALPMA's sister assoction in US - the ALA Practice Management Conference in Hawaii earlier this year. Read his key takeaways from this conference here.

 Andrew is a great resource to have on the NSW committee practising previously as a lawyer before moving into practice management he provides great insight and a diverse cross section of contacts.  Andrew's firm, Wotton + Kearney is also greater supporter of ALPMA with a number of management staff participating as active members and the firm generously hosting ALPMA events from time to time. 

On behalf of everyone at ALPMA  - well done Andrew!

How to Successfully Make Comments About a Blog Post

Monday, July 30, 2012

We are happy to report that we have now resolved the technical issues with our Comments functionality!   

And given that we love to hear what you have to say, we thought it might be handy to provide a couple of tips on how to post a comment about one of our blog posts.

5 Steps to Successfully Making a Comment 

1. Select the Comments link under the blog post

2. Complete your contact information (or leave these field empty if you want to remain anonymous)

3. Write in your comment

4. Carefully enter the word verification (an essential spam deterrent)

5. Press submit.

Comments Are Reviewed Before Publishing

Your comment will then be sent to us for review and not posted immediately - so we can check it is not spam and ensure that your comment meets the ALPMA Blog Policy & Guidelines.  Assuming all is ok, we will then post your comment exactly as you have submitted it.  (If all is not ok and you have provided your contact details, we will be in touch to discuss).


If you get an "image verification error" please check you have entered the word verification correctly - as it is very easy to make a mistake here.   

If you still are having trouble posting your comment, please email ALPMA's Partnership Manager - who will endeavor to figure out what is going wrong and if necessary, will post your comment for you!

Technical Difficulties with Blog Comments - Share your views in our LinkedIn Group!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It seems the last blog post by Steve Sampson on the challenges facing law firms in improving performance measurement has sparked some debate within the ALPMA community - just as we are experiencing some technical difficulties with the Comments functionality of the blog!  

If the post has inspired you to comment, as an interim measure, please share your views in the ALPMA's LinkedIn Discussion Group.  

You can find the group by searching for "Australian Legal Practice Management Association" in the "Group" tab in LinkedIn. This is normally a "closed" group for members, eligible non-members and ALPMA partners - but until the comments issue is resolved, we will open access to everyone.

We are working to resolve the technical issue and will let you know as soon as it is resolved.  Please accept our sincere apologies for any frustration experienced in not being able to comment here!

Why reality prevails for performance measurement at law firms!

Friday, July 27, 2012

By Guest Blogger, Steve Sampson, General Manager, Hunt & Hunt

Performance measurement in law firms has come a long way from the once common practice of weighing files and assessing the "due care, skill and judgement" involved in managing matters.  From there, our seemingly revered 'time costing' and hourly billing systems have become common place.  

David Maister has implored us to drive our firms according to the active management of hourly rates, utilisation, realisation and leverage with multitudes of firms having dedicated themselves to measuring and driving performance and rewards based on those 'profitability levers'.  But as many of you will know, you can go blind looking at the minutia associated with these measures.

Surely there has to be more to the topic of 'performance measurement' than merely 'rates' and 'leverage'? 

Surely, the topic of value billing and the call to 'kill the billable hour' must be incorporated into our thinking in terms of managing our performance!  Surely, our balanced scorecard, environmental footprint and 'health' measures around succession, inter-generational change and all manner of client measures must also be considered!

So, why is there so much debate (dare I say confusion!) about where the billable hour is headed for the legal profession and how the whole performance management topic is going to play out in coming years?

The answer is simple! There is confusion in the market because we are confused!  And, it’s not all our fault!  Our clients are confused as well!

What Managing Partners & CEOs Measure

Ask any Managing Partner or CEO of a law firm about how they manage their firm and you’ll hear lots of words about talent management, client focus and growth.  Yet, just under the surface, and more likely the conversation that they’re having back at the office, you’d be hearing about billable hours, charge-out and realised rates as well as lock-step, partner profitability and client profit.  This is the real performance management focus of firms.

What Clients Want

Conversely, ask our clients what they want and they’ll tell you, almost universally, that they want “value”, “certainty” and anything that removes them from the vagaries of the anachronistic ‘billable hour”.  They even tell us that, quite clearly, in just about every tender that they issue that they want firms to offer "innovative" pricing models.  But, mostly, they stick with what they know (and what we know!) – they continue to buy legal services in six minute blocks.  So, we keep managing our firms that way as well!

It may not be sexy.  It may not even be efficient.  But we all understand it!  And that’s the answer!  Surely, that’s why the billable hour remains at the core of how firms manage their performance.

But, as noted, there must be so many more dimensions upon which we could base our measures of efficiency, effectiveness and plain old ‘value’.  I’ve listed some of those in the fourth paragraph.

So why too, just like the billable hour, do so many of those other performance dimensions get put aside?  

Why do they get left either unmeasured or relegated to some poor Marketing or Finance staff member to ‘own’ them for the business?

Reality will Prevail!

The answer to that’s an easy one as well!  We leave these things, largely, unmeasured because they are hard to measure!  Sure, we all have green footprint policies, double-sided printing and other tangible environmental initiatives.  They’re great conversation starters with our Gen X-ers and even with our clients.  But, do we truly performance manage our firms and measure success on the basis of those measures?  Of course we don’t!

The same is true for succession management and the other 'soft' items as well.  We know that they're there!  Our clients know that they're there!  But, until we truly start to value those things, we'll continue to relegate them to the back of our performance reports (the front pages taken up, of course, with production, billings and collections statistics.

And that really brings me to the point of this article – there is a place for theory and academic discussion, but reality will always prevail!  

But, just because we find things to be hard to measure or some of the profession are struggling to give the topic air, should we dispense with the discussion?

Imagine where we’d be as a civilisation – as a species -- if the scientific and medical advances of the last centuries had been lost, opportunistically, because we found it all too hard to have the discussion -- simply because we just focused on the easy things!

Just because the topics are hard and there’s no discernible ‘right’ answer, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the discussion.

The reality is that all of these things are important and, as the old adage goes, ‘all things in moderation'!  Their time may come but, for now, the billable hour remains as the pre-eminent performance tool for managing efficiency, effectiveness, resourcing, costing, pricing and profit in law firms.

Long live the billable hour!

What is your view?

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own and not those of ALPMA!  The writer even concedes that some of the material presented may even be somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’!

These, and so many other topics, will be put before us to discuss, consider, refute and then take that thinking back home to our respective firms at the forthcoming ALPMA National Summit: "Change & Growth - Leading Your Business."

If you haven’t already registered to attend, I’d urge you to consider doing so.  You can register here.

About our Guest Blogger

Steve Sampson is the General Manager of Hunt & Hunt, and a past President of ALPMA. Steve’s initial focus when he
joined the firm in 2008 was on financial and other operational matters. He is now focused on developing the firm’s abilities to engage with and service its clients as well as building its capability to attract, retain and develop partners and staff.  

He will be chairing the Performance Measurement Round Table at the ALPMA National Summit, with a panel including Dr Neil Oakes (FMRC Legal), Justin Bender (CFO - Herbert Geer) and Bruce Humphrys (HopgoodGanimLawyers). Check out the full Summit program.

Reinventing the Legal Industry

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

By Guest Blogger Ari Kaplan, Attorney, Author & Keynote Speaker at the 2012 ALPMA National Summit

Following the release of Reinventing Professional Services, I had the privilege of touring North America with voice productivity application powerhouse, BigHand, to share creative ideas with law firm decision-makers from 12 cities in two countries. 

Although diverse in their roles, the attendees were unified in their vision for the future of law firm progress.  They engaged in a collective conversation on realignment that captured the essence of the next decade: reinvention in the recovery.

That reinvention characterizes a dual transformation taking place in the legal industry.  Individuals are adapting to an environment that prizes creativity and collaborative communication alongside performance and leadership. Organizations are welcoming a new era of efficiency and transparency to match their already laser-like focus on results and responsiveness.  

Driven by higher expectations internally from firm management and externally from key clients, legal professionals are searching for ways to distinguish themselves in a crowded and talented marketplace. With the recovery in its early stages, they now have a tremendous opportunity to reshape the organizations with which they work by making suggestions for incremental innovations.  These include accessible changes in operations, staffing and culture.

Seek Small Shifts

While clients were once driven simply by results, they now want performance coupled with precision in its execution.  In the same way that individuals must routinely evaluate their own level of productivity, organizations must conduct an analysis of their operations.  From practice groups and administrative departments to client service teams and management, start by developing a questionnaire to uncover potential areas for improvement.

Instead of focusing on massive reorganization of your firm, seek opportunities for small shifts.  Focus on a single group or minor program and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with it.  Simply begin a dialogue with general questions about successes and failures, allowing the responses to drive the nature of the discussion.  The approach does not need to be perfect, but it should be relevant, responsive and refreshing.

Hone Talent More Holistically

For most firms to succeed, they must tap the wisdom of the entire internal community, rather than those who represent a select constituency.  As leaders manage increasing levels of time pressure and client concerns, firms must begin experimenting with crowd-sourcing potential ideas for implementation of their future goals.  From senior staff to senior associates and from experienced paralegals to accounting personnel, each individual may have unique ideas for growth and market positioning to share if given the opportunity.

That collective ownership of a firm’s success is a hallmark of reinvention.  The management committee now needs insights from leaders of administration, finance, professional development, marketing, public relations, and information technology to support novel proposals.  Firms should consider acknowledging that contribution by including staff profiles online. Those responsible for innovating billing, training, staffing, and other aspects of this transformation could materially impact future pitches.  

In an era of redefinition, an integrated approach is increasingly attractive to clients and prospects.

About the Author

An attorney and the author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace(Wiley, 2011), Ari Kaplan will be delivering the keynote address at the 2012 ALPMA Summit: Change & Growth: Leading Your Business.  ALPMA Members can take advantage of a great  Member-Only Deal to receive the audio version of his first book, The Opportunity Maker:  Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2008), completely free.

Achieving Work/Life Balance in a Turbo Charged World

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

By Guest Blogger, Dr Adam Fraser, author of The Third Space

Previously the competitive advantage was to work harder and longer, this strategy is no longer relevant. We can’t work any harder, we cant fit any more in, time management is dead and boundaries between work and home no longer exist. The fall out of this is that Work/life balance seems to be a thing of the past with a recent Forbes report showing that 98 percent of people do work in home time. 

So how do we have balance in this turbo charged world?

I stumbled across the answer in 2008. Firstly I was visiting some friends who had returned home after serving in Iraq. What I noticed is that they looked incredibly uncomfortable in their own home. It was like they didn’t even know where to stand. When I asked them about this they told me of the difficulty of trying to come home after being away as a soldier. They struggled with the transition from being a soldier to a parent/partner/civilian.

The second one came thirty minutes before I was about to present to 5,000 people, I was blindsided with the devastating news that one of my best friends had died unexpectedly. I was simply devastated, I was distraught and grief stricken. Despite the situation I was somehow able to overcome it and present well. When I reflected on it I realised that what allowed me to present under such trying conditions was what I did in the transitional space between getting the phone call and walking out on stage.

Both these experiences lead me to ask the question, maybe the secret to work life balance is how we transition from work to home.

I call the gap between work and home the Third Space. 

Psychological research tells us that one of the biggest challenges to good behaviour in the home is that we bring the baggage of the day home and take it out on the family. This is called negative spill.

I then partnered with Deakin University on a research project where we took 250 small business owners and measured their mood and behaviour in the home. The initial survey did not paint a pretty picture. Only 29 percent said that they came home in a good mood, with a positive mindset and exhibited constructive behaviour. 

We then asked them to perform three simple behaviours in the Third Space between work and home: 


This is where they reflected on and analysed the day. However they were encouraged to only focus on what they had achieved and what had gone well for them. 


They took time to relax and unwind. Being calm and present, allowed their physiology to recover from the stressful day. 


This is where they became clear about their intention for the home space and articulated the specific behaviours they wanted to exhibit. In other words how they wanted to ‘show up’ when they walked through the door. 

After a month of the participants applying this principle, we saw a whopping 41 percent improvement in behaviour in the home. When interviewed they conveyed that the improved interactions they had with friends and family led to a greater feeling of overall balance. 

If you want more balance stop trying to push back against the world and control it. Rather focus on how you transition from work to home and ensure that you Reflect, Rest and Reset.

About The Author

The Third Space Book
Dr Adam Fraser has been an educator and researcher in the area of human performance for the last 18 years!  In this time he has worked with elite level athletes, the armed forces and business professionals of all levels. In the last 4 years he has delivered more than 600 presentations to over 50,000 people in Australia, US, New Zealand and Asia. In 2005 he was runner up in the young investigator of the year for his PhD research. 

In addition Dr Adam is the author of three best selling books, the latest one is "The Third Space".  Adam is a regular presenter on TV and Radio and has appeared on Today Tonight, Sunrise, Today show, Kochie’s Business and What’s good for you! Also he has been profiled in the Australian Financial Review and BRW

He is married to a woman who is far brighter than he is and has a daughter who has him completely wrapped around her finger and a dog Tilly who routinely outwits him.

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