Work = Death?

Imagine, for a moment, a world in which a lawyer’s work and life are completely separate.

No, I’m serious.  Pause and imagine it.

When I try to envision that world, I get deeply distressed.  If work and life are separate, and if life has no part in work, what does that imply?  Work = no life, and the absence of life = death.  So, work = death.


Perhaps I’m a life coach for lawyers?  There’s nothing wrong with that; life coaching can be a valuable service.  But that isn’t what I’m about.  I work with clients on business development, career strategy, leadership development, among other issues, and we typically address life coaching issues only to the extent that it affects my client’s professional life.  In other words, if a client is going through a divorce, we may touch on how to stay focused on work when in the office, even when grief or anger threatens to overwhelm, but I’m not the coach to help with sorting through how to approach friends who stop calling because of their divided loyalty resulting from being friends with the divorcing spouses.

Instead, “Life at the Bar” derives from the concept that, to be effective advocates and counselors, we must be alive — fully present, focused, and all systems go — in practice.  While there’s certainly a separation between professional and personal life, it strikes me as sad that work and life are viewed as being divisible, separate domains that must be balanced.  And I begin to imagine conference rooms and courtrooms full of zombies citing legal maxims, just waiting to leave the office and return to life.  Thank goodness that isn’t true for most lawyers!

I’m moving more and more toward the concept of WorkLife Integration.  Integration means that, while professional life and personal life remain separate (as I would suggest they should), there’s life in work, and work and life go hand-in-hand.  Work is endowed with passion and purpose and emotion and logic and humor and relationships and all the other things that make life lively.

Most importantly, no one has to spend hours at the office, slugging through the slew, waiting for 5 PM or 7 PM (or later) to begin living again during precious non-work hours, and no one has to attach an ill-fitting mask to survive.  When work and life are integrated, we’re reasonably authentically who we are, whether at home or at work, and rewards flow in both places.  Of course, there will be times when we’re eager to leave the professional focus at work and to turn to the personal focus at home, or vice versa, but there’s life in both places.

So.  How integrated is your WorkLife?

Wednesday Shorts 3/5/08

I almost titled this post “The Bad Blogger,” because that’s how I feel!  I’ve been away from Atlanta (my primary home) for all but 3 scattered days since mid-January.  I’m accustomed to travel, but doing this much of it all at once is truly a challenge.  One thing I’ve learned is to be a little more gentle with myself on negotiable deadlines, and blogging has fit into that category.  Thus, the unusually random schedule.  I’ve started using a voice-recognition software program recently (unlike just a few years ago, it works quite well!) and so I’ll have more fresh posts appearing soon.

And, I’d like to share a celebration with you: I learned last week that I’ve received the ACC credential (Associate Certified Coach) from the International Coach Federation.  While I’m the first to admit that the path to that credential was nothing like as onerous as getting my license to practice or becoming registered to practice before the Patent Office, it’s a significant accomplishment nonetheless — especially in light of the fact that only about a quarter of ICF members are currently credentialled, and many, many other coaches aren’t ICF members at all.  I know some excellent coaches who aren’t credentialled, so I help certainly don’t intend to cast any aspersions there!  But I’m quite pleased, and happy to share the news with you.  I learned in practice to celebrate at least briefly whenever an opportunity arises, especially since those moments can be awfully fleeting, and I follow that habit today.

Now, on to the legal news!

Leading Big Law Leaders to Lead  That’s the title of a recent article from the New York Lawyer. The article offers a nice overview of some of the leadership training alternatives in which law firms are now investing, ranging from one-on-one coaching to in-hour training to multi-day programs at major universities, including Harvard and the Wharton School.  It raises a few warning bells:

Paul Zwier, a professor at Emory University School of Law [and] author of the book Supervisory and Leadership Skills in the Modern Law Practice (National Institute for Trial Advocacy, 2006), said that in some cases leadership training can serve as an “opium of the masses.”

In other words, what some firms call “leadership training” in reality is a way to get lawyers on board with a firm’s strategy, rather than truly honing leadership skills.

Dubbing it “leadership training” can make participants more willing to sign on to a program and feel more valued if they think that they are recognized as special. However, Zwier said that even lawyers without supervisory duties within a firm need leadership skills, since such skills are necessary in dealing with clients.

And, as recognized by Larry Richard, an attorney and psychologist with Hildebrandt International:

To truly change behavior, training must include much more than a few days at an impressive school, Richard said. He divides programs into two categories: conceptual education and skills-based education. Conceptual education models are the popular “boot-camp” executive programs offered at prestigious schools that use mainly the case-study method. Those programs are valuable, he said, but limited. Attorneys also need long-term training, or skills-based education, to enhance specific leadership behaviors, which are more readily measurable.

I’m a proponent of leadership development work (both training and coaching) for lawyers.  Some might question whether expenditures on such “non-essentials” can be justified, especially in today’s economic climate.  My answer is, not surprisingly, absolutely.  More on why in a future post.

It’s About Time II  The Georgia Association for Women Lawyers released its study of flexible and part-time work arrangements this week, following up on the 2004 initial study.  From the Executive Summary:

Results from this study suggest that it is about time. Few working professionals feel the “time crunch” more acutely than attorneys. Billable hours requirements render the business of law virtually all about time. Should it be any wonder then that the issue of time would weigh so heavily in attorneys’ evaluation of the work they do? Our findings indicate that the availability of flexible and part-time work arrangements is extremely important to male and female attorneys alike. Regardless of whether they themselves plan on taking advantage of such policies, attorneys place a high value on the availability of flexible and/or reduced-time work at their firm. Isn’t it about time that firms recognize that value as well?

Interest in flexible and part-time arrangements is particularly strong among women attorneys. Reduced-time work options are so highly valued that women are willing to exit employment to find more flexible work arrangements. Indeed, firms that provide formal, written policies governing part-time work arrangements enjoy higher retention rates of women lawyers and firms that maintain a successful part-time program reap the rewards of retaining highly satisfied, highly motivated, and highly committed attorneys.

The study is based on surveys completed by 84 Georgia law firms, and the results fall squarely in line with national results: flexible and part-time options are important to lawyers, many firms don’t have written policies to solidify those options, many lawyers are concerned that taking part-time or flex status is a career-limiting move, and there’s evidence to support that concern.

The full report is almost 100 pages long.  The Executive Summary is 3 pages.  It’s well worth a read.

Your personal Board of Directors  I always recommend that lawyers develop a group of mentors.  Did you notice that’s mentors, plural?  Because each mentoring relationship is unique, I find that those who have multiple mentors realize significant benefit.  And mentors need not be in your firm or city (indeed, some mentors absolutely should be “external”) or even in your profession.  Collectively, this group of mentors forms your personal board of directors.  Wondering how to fill all the spots?  Michael Melcher, author of The Creative Lawyer (which is on my list of books to review here) has suggested finding people with 25 attributes and narrowing down the nominees to a group of 6 to 10 “board members.”  Attributes include:

4.    Can give you encouragement in tough times
5.    Can talk to you straight about your weaknesses
20.    Gives good advice about office politics
21.    Gives good advice about professional development
22.    Gives good advice about how to get ahead
23.    Thinks you are great at what you do
24.    Thinks you have great talents other than your present career

Check out the whole list.  You may be surprised.

What happens to work/life issues in a recession?

The economic forecasts seem to agree: we’re in a recession.  Unlike past slowdowns, this recession seems poised to affect law firms as much as other businesses — not a pleasant thought for lawyers accustomed to growth and more growth.  If you’re among those concerned (and if you aren’t, you probably should be), be sure to visit Gerry Riskin’s Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices.  He sounded the economic warning bell early, and he’s providing consistently useful ideas on how to survive the tight times and be prepared to accelerate when the economy improves.

What about lawyers’ efforts to integrate work and life?  Does that go by the wayside in the event of recession?  Should it?

I’ve talked recently with more than a handful of lawyers who are feeling the pinch, and with associates who are sensing or even being told flat-out that they should count themselves lucky just to have jobs, to put their heads down (subtext: quit complaining) and get to work.  Especially in the firms that have just raised associate salaries to levels previously unknown, it isn’t surprising that they might get such feedback.

And yet, the shut-up-and-work mentality flies in the face of efforts to help lawyers shore up declining professional satisfaction.  Work/life balance or integration continues to be an important issue for many lawyers, but how to manage those concerns when times get tight?

Cali Williams Yost, creator of the apt “work+life fit” concept, has posted some thoughts about why smart leaders will continue to integrate flexibility.  The short version, according to Cali:

*  Even in a recession, talent will still be a scarce commodity.
*  You can’t effectively service global clients and manage global teams without flexibility that considers impact on work+life fit.
*  In a recession, more needs to be done with fewer resources.
*  Finally, companies that need to cut back will use flex to creatively downsize.

I think she has some excellent points.  My concern is that between the anger that some law firm leaders feel concerning the escalated associate salaries and the remaining somewhat rigid view that law firms sometimes have on flex time and work/life balance (to use the phrase that firms tend to use), firms may be less willing to use flexibility as a management tool.

The word is already out about some firms firing associates for “poor performance” without any warning signs.  Other firms are openly laying off associates and poor-performing non-equity partners and/or de-equitizing partners.  As much as I’d like to believe that firms will adopt flexibility in greater numbers despite the tight economy, I find it hard to believe.

What do you think?

Are law firms “cuddly”?

Or… Maybe it’s time for a change.  There’s been much discussion for the past few years about the viability of the billable hour, the high numbers of lawyers (especially but not exclusively women and women of color) leaving the profession, and the high rate of lawyer depression.  In case you missed it, Thursday’s New York Times carried an article that quickly hit the top of the “most emailed” list: Who’s Cuddly Now?  Law Firms (free registration required).

A snippet from the article:

Over the last few years and, most strikingly, the last few months, law firms have been forced to rethink longstanding ways of doing business, if they are to remain fully competitive.

As chronicled by my colleague Alex Williams in the Sunday Styles section earlier this month, lawyers are overworked, depressed and leaving.

Less obvious, but potentially more dramatic, are the signs that their firms are finally becoming serious about slowing the stampede for the door. So far the change — which includes taking fresh looks at the billable hour, schedules and partnership tracks — is mostly at the smaller firms. But even some of the larger, more hidebound employers are taking notice.

It includes a quick recap of Deborah Epstein Henry’s FACTS proposal, which suggests that:

work time can be: Fixed (allowing lawyers to choose less high-profile work for more predictable schedules), or Annualized (intense bursts of high-adrenaline work followed by relative lulls); Core (with blocks mapped out for work and for commitments like meeting children at the bus); Targeted (an agreed-upon goal of hours, set annually, customized for each worker, with compensation adjusted accordingly); and Shared (exactly as it sounds).

And sure enough, some firms seem to be listening.

“The Parent Track”

There was an interesting discussion on the Wall Street Journal blog The Juggle last week, inquiring, “When Dads Demand Flexibility Will the ‘Mommy Track’ Disappear?”  The post begins, “The idea of the Mommy Track is well worn. Perhaps too well worn. The term has always bothered me, in part, because it leaves out the many dads who actively participate in the juggle.”  And after recounting her husband’s experience in helping with their son’s care, author Jennifer Merritt muses, “I know of at least two other fathers who’ve also asked for adjusted schedules — without the repercussions a lot of moms seem to face. I’ve long wondered if the Mommy Track will go away, in theory, if more dads start asking for flexibility.”

A few of the comments address the question specifically for lawyers:

I’m at a large law firm and it’s widely-known that taking full paternity leave is far more frowned upon than taking full maternity leave. Sad, but true.

Comment by AnonymousJanuary 16, 2008 at 10:49 am


In my experience at a large law firm, I always tried to push the idea that “work-life balance” was not just a women’s issue – it had to be an issue for everyone if it was really going to work. It hasn’t fully caught on, although we did have one male associate who worked part-time (which was a big change from a few years earlier when a male associate was denied the p/t option). That said, I doubt he would have ever made partner and I think there’s still a long way to go. If I have any choice at all, I would only work for a company that has flexible schedule available to everyone. It’s just so much easier to convince the men that flexibility/part-time works when they do it too.

Comment by mamabearJanuary 16, 2008 at 11:17 am

It’s an interesting discussion, especially in light of last month’s NALP press release entitled, Few Lawyers Work Part-Time, Most Who Do Are Women.  According to NALP:

In 2007, nearly all offices, 98%, allowed part-time schedules, either as an affirmative policy or on a case-by-case basis, but as has been the case since NALP first compiled this information in 1994, very few lawyers are working on a part-time basis, just 5.4% overall. Associates are more likely to be working part-time (4.8%) than partners (3.0%), but other lawyers, such as of counsel and staff attorneys, show the highest rate of part-time work, over 19%. Nearly all associates working part-time (91.2%) are women; among part-time partners, 71.2% are women. (See Table 1.)

According to the survey, about 2% of male lawyers work part-time.

One commenter on The Juggle seems to have summarized a common view of the situation without referring to gender but also ignoring the potentially disparate views of men and women seeking to work part-time:

1) It is a “parent” track, not a “mommy” or “daddy” track.

2) Those who want/need flexibility are generally going to receive less demanding assignments, less recognition, and less compensation than those who do not. Hopefully this is in proportion to the results produced.

3) When jobs are tough to fill, due to a strong economy, a shortage of specialists in a given area, etc., flexibility will increase. The reverse is also true.

4) The higher the pay, the lower the flexibility. Deal with it.

Comment by Ann in St PaulJanuary 16, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Forgot something –
The lower the pay, the lower the flexibility, because you are easily replaced.

Comment by Ann in St PaulJanuary 16, 2008 at 3:06 pm


I’d be curious to hear readers’ thoughts on flexible and/or part-time schedules, and specifically whether there is some disparity in how men and women are viewed when working a reduced or flexible-hour schedule to help with child care.  Any thoughts?

An 18-year path to partnership? Maybe…

There’s an interesting (quite short) article today titled, Law Firms Let Women Forge Their Own Way.  The story centers on a Gabrielle Higgins, who recently made partner at Ropes & Gray and was “pleasantly surprised” to discover that 7 of the firms 10 new partners were women.  And if that 70% figure isn’t striking enough, the story goes on to recount Ms. Higgins’ path to partnership — a path that spanned 18 years and was “entirely based on decisions she made because they were the best for her.”

The article’s title hit me also: law firms let women forge their own way(s)?  My impression is more along the lines that women have been working and seeking improvement within the profession (and especially in large law firms) not to mention leaving private practice in droves, and I’m not quite sure how that translates to law firms letting women do much of anything.  But, I (perhaps) digress. 

Discovering my inner “hot worm”.. And changes for 2008

Perhaps you’ve heard this: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life!”  I’ve seen that quote, or similar ones, attributed to everyone from Confucius to Harvay MacKay.  Now, here’s my corollary:  even so, you will nevertheless sometimes need to adjust priorities, to take time off, and to shift what you do.

On occasion I’ll read something that will really stick with me and change the way I think about things.  Stephanie West Allen’s December 2006 “hot worms” blog post is one of those.  In that post and other related posts, she discusses the danger in prescribing a “one size fits all” work/life balance, especially for those “hot worms” who love what they do and choose to work more hours than “experts” consider advisable.  As I’ve written over and over, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of “work/life balance” because it implies that there is a single balance that everyone should attain, and that’s clearly wrong to me.  So, I took Stephanie’s post as more evidence that each person must find his or her own balance or, to use Cali Yost’s term, work+life fit.

I enjoyed practicing law, but I was admittedly not a “hot worm” lawyer.  Some of my clients are, though, and coaching them on work/life integration is interesting because it’s hard to reduce hours or attention to something that’s thoroughly enjoyable and nourishing.  The focus of the coaching is on finding what works best for the individual, and sometimes cutting back on work is necessary (though difficult) to achieve other goals.  The process is challenging and rewarding, and my clients generally end up with a lifestyle that pleases them deeply.  As I coached these clients, I came to discover something about myself.

I’m a “hot worm” coach.

Perhaps that’s why I work so well with lawyers who are passionate about and devoted to their practices.

You see, I often wake up thinking about an article or a resource or an approach to use with a client.  I read constantly, and until last week, I’m not sure when I last read fiction or non-fiction that isn’t related to law or business.  I couldn’t sleep one night while I was out of town and I got sucked into watching Legally Blonde, not because it’s a good movie (in my opinion, it isn’t!) but because I was mentally drafting a blog post that would discuss Reese Witherspoon’s character and what lesson she might illustrate.  When I catch up with friends, I tend to talk about my business and the ideas I’m reading or hearing or creating — to the point that a friend recently asked if my husband and I had divorced because I hadn’t mentioned him!  (Sorry about that, honey.)  I’m not unduly frazzled or bedraggled; I just love what I do and choose to do a lot of it!  I am doing what I truly love, and it doesn’t feel like work.

And yet…

I get run down when I don’t sleep enough.  I get stiff when I sit all day.  Although I enjoy the work I do, I miss seeing friends.  And I know that I sometimes come up with more and better ideas when I’m working  physically (gardening, walking, whatever gets my body going and lets my brain wander) than I do when I’m sitting at my desk and intending to think.

These are signs that it’s time for a change.

I started this blog in January 2006 and began writing regularly in March of that year.  This is post #365.  Although I never announced it, I’ve aimed to post three times a week, and I recently expanded to include a fourth weekly post.  Since I started the blog, though, things have changed in my business.  I have more clients (as well as some openings), I’m writing more articles for formal publication, I’m doing more speaking, and I’m doing more face-to-face networking.  I’m also traveling dramatically more.

It’s time for a shift.

Change #1…  I plan to post twice weekly going forward, though I may include additional “shorts” posts that will offer links and brief news items, trends, or ideas.

Change #2…  On January 15, I will be launching a new email newsletter, titled Leadership Matters for Lawyers.  Each issue will include a feature article on leadership development, a relevant book review, summaries of recent posts on the Life at the Bar blog, and information about upcoming programs and presentations.  Leadership is an important topic for every lawyer, whether it’s self-leadership, leading within a bar or civic organization, being a thought-leader in your practice area, or serving as a leader of a team, a practice group, an office, or a firm.  Leadership Matters for Lawyers will reveal insights, research, and resources that will help you to create and benefit from leadership opportunities for yourself and your practice.


Thank you for your input — and happy new year!

Happy holidays!

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas have had (or perhaps are having) a marvelous, restful time with friends and family.  I naively thought I might induce my two dogs to wear their holiday finery (a reindeer headpiece, as seen here, and a Santa hat) and get them to pose in front of the fireplace, so I could post a “happy holidays” entry complete with canines.  Suffice it to say that the dogs were none too impressed with their holiday gear, and sitting still was not on the agenda.

Many who can do so elect to take some or all of this week off, and I’m joining suit.  As we continue the 10-day Lawyers Appreciate…  2007 campaign, please take some time to consider what (and whom) you appreciate.  If you’re moved to add your comments, please do!  Sharing appreciation is good for the spirit.

For my part in the appreciation festival, I truly appreciate each person who drops by the blog and those who comment.  I appreciate the lawyers who take on cases and causes, and I appreciate the Internet and the blogosphere for making the legal community connected in a way that would have been completely foreign even a few years ago.  I appreciate the professionals who support my practice (both the legal and coaching practices), and I appreciate my clients.  And I appreciate Stephanie West Allen for sowing the seeds with me to birth a bouquet of blog-based appreciation.

I’ll have one more post to share this year, reflecting on some themes and plans for 2008.  In the meantime, what can you do to bring 2007 to a successful close?

Tuesday Shorts 12/11/07

Survival tips for new associates:  David Dummer, an associate in the Dallas office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, has written an article with 10 survival tips for new associates.  Although the tips are not particularly revolutionary, they set a good framework for new associates and might serve as a reminder for more advanced lawyers.  Some suggestions never go out of style, such as asking questions to clarify an unclear assignment, taking a long-term view of networking and staying in touch with law school classmates, and making an effort to learn the case as a whole rather than focusing on only a discrete project within the case.  And I particularly like Dummer’s final tip:

10. Your nameplate is your shingle. Remembering this mantra will help you learn how to operate in the firm setting. In many ways, you are a solo practitioner, and the partners and senior associates in the office are your clients. Think about what makes these clients want to hire you — consistently good work, value-added creativity and efficiency. Run your office so that you can deliver this type of work product to your clients every day.

How did a small IP firm build a 54% female partnership?  One of the interesting things about having practiced patent law is the overwhelming male domination in the field — though that’s changing.  So I took notice of an article about Lahive & Cockfeld, a 30-lawyer IP firm in Boston that boasts 7 women in a 13-member partnership.  Lahive represents clients such as Biogen Idec, Navartis, and Wyeth and bills over $30 million annually.  It has created a flexible compensation system that rewards lawyers for billing as well as business generation, client maintenance and associate mentoring, and the firm offers a work/life balance-friendly work structure:

“We didn’t want to encourage attorneys building their own practice in isolation,” said Giulio A. DeConti Jr., chairman of the executive committee. “We wanted to encourage being like a firm.”

Lahive fully embraces the notion of full-time flexibility, or allowing attorneys to vary their hours and office time while juggling a full workload.

Today, seven of Lahive & Cockfield’s 13 partners are women and a full pipeline of women are waiting to move up the ranks, including 67 percent of its patent agents and 58 percent of its technical specialists. Patent agents, who can represent patent applicants at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and technical specialists typically have advanced science or technical degrees and are usually attending law school part time. The firm has 18 patent agents and technical specialists.

Work/life fit:  As regular readers of this blog know, I continue to struggle with the term “work/life balance” and seek something more descriptive of the real situation — because “balance” just isn’t it.  I was delighted to discover “work+life fit inc.”, whose tagline is “It’s Fit, Not Balance.”  The company has recently sponsored a survey of 900 adults who work full time, with the following finding:

When asked what is the single most important change they would make to their jobs, respondents (51%) chose options that entailed working differently over making more money. When considering a different work style, 35 percent of those surveyed rated flexibility as most important and 16 percent rated responsibilities that better use their talents.

Of the 35 percent who chose flexibility, only 5 percent said reducing their schedule by more than 10 hours was most important. This was equal for men and women and counters previous research suggesting more people are interested in “part-time” employment. Working the same number of hours but with a more flexible schedule was most important to 13 percent, while 10 percent would opt to cut their schedule by 1 to 10 hours and 7 percent would prefer to work from a location outside the office.

“The perpetuating myths that people want to work significantly fewer hours and that work life flexibility means working less are simply not true,” said [Cali Williams] Yost [president of Work+Life Fit, Inc.].  “Most employees don’t want to work less, they just want to work differently in a way that better utilizes their talents or is a better fit with the rest of their lives’ demands and desires.”

What’s the most important step you can take?

Only 34 days remain in 2007, including weekends and holidays.  Before we know it, the books will close and another year will have passed.  What’s the most important step you can take today to ensure that you’re well-positioned as you move into 2008?

  • Business development: Perhaps you could set aside a couple of hours to evaluate your business development plan for 2007 and to lay out your strategy for next year.  Or you could make some appointments to take important contacts to lunch, for coffee, or whatever is appropriate.  If you’ve noticed that there’s something in your way concerning client development, invest some time now determining what you need to do to be more productive.  At a minimum, set aside a few minutes every day to take some marketing action.
  • Time management: How are your hours?  If they’re low, what do you need to do to get appropriate work?  (Perhaps see the business development ideas!)  Are you billing for the time you’re actually working, and are you using that time well?  Do you need to update your methods for filing, time tracking, or scheduling?  Perhaps it’s time to check in with your assistant and see what ideas he or she has for using time more effectively.
  • Professional development:  This is often a great time of year to pick up CLE.  Or check out some of the new publications in your area of practice or on practice management.  But first, check your progress on the development plans you set for this year.  What can you do to close out this year with a success?
  • Career:  If you’ve been considering a move, this is a good time to put out feelers and position yourself.  You may not have an opportunity to interview until the new year, but putting yourself “on the market” now will be beneficial.  If you’re mid-search, you may find this a busy period as employers try to wrap up hiring decisions before the close of the year.If you’re planning to stay in your current position, what can you do to improve your performance?  How successful have you been this year, and what changes would be helpful as you move forward?  The holiday season is also an opportunity to show your gratitude to support staff and colleagues who have made your professional life work well and perhaps brightened your days: don’t miss your chance.
  • Work/life integration: Are you happy with the amount of time and energy you’re putting into your personal life?  Do you need to rearrange your schedule, get some help on the home front, or turn off your BlackBerry while you talk with your spouse/partner/child?  Are you putting in time on the activities that will increase your energy, such as exercise and getting sufficient sleep?
  • Other:  If there’s an area that needs attention, you know what it is.  Spend some time putting it right, whatever that may mean.

Taking these steps will help you to realize or exceed the goals you’ve set for 2007 and carry you forward into 2008 with momentum.  Choose the most important action in the most important area and do it this week.