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What Keeps Me Awake at Night?  It’s Not What You’d Guess

Posted Jun 11, 2014 2:51 PM CDT
By Don Estes

What keeps me awake at night is thinking about what I will get to do in the morning. Notice “get to” and not “have to”. Even after 46 years of practice, I look forward to what I do–because I have the right systems in place and the right tools available.

Twenty-five years ago the notion that “the office is a system and not a place” was novel. Today it is commonplace. Think about putting the right tools together: MacBook Pro with 1.5 terabytes of storage-1 T of which is solid state, Parallels 9 for Mac to support Windows 7 and 8 on my Apple “Mavericks” OS, Time Machine to keep me constantly backed up, Fujitsu SnapScan 1500 to put incoming documents on my hard drive, etc. Keep yourself intellectually curious, keep your skills and tools sharp and you, too, will have sleepless nights. The joy of doing the things that you love without the tedium is a good thing!

Last week was spent in Jackson Hole attending a meeting of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division. It was a treat to take the time to meet highly experienced lawyers from all over the country, knowing that I had the office “covered”. All the while, I was also taking in the view of the Grand Tetons and an abundance of buffalo, elk, and bears. Clients called and emailed;I responded by calling and saying that unless it was an emergency, the joy that came with my being in Jackson Hole was going to trump their immediate need. They cheered me on, largely due to my habit of being immediately responsive no matter where I am. (I serve as “outside general counsel” for a limited number of clients.)

Alas, it couldn’t last forever. Client Number Uno called about putting a very complicated services agreement together to provide sophisticated communication services for a Houston-based company doing business in “the Bakken”. The photo shoot of the Tetons would have to wait, but not for long. A service that I subscribe to called Practical Law provides legal know-how and practical guidance for business lawyers large and small. Essentially, it gives me a better starting point.

A quick search there and I had the template for a “Professional Services Agreement” that permitted me to respond two hours later with a draft that the client thought was ready for me to send to Houston. Back out to Signal Mountain to wait for the sunset on “The Grand”.

Two days later I had a “hurry case” inquiry regarding a “conflict minerals” issue which had been foreign to me, as in, “what is this all about?” A quick search on Practical Law and I could respond as an expert and summarize the law for the client that this related to gold, wolframite, tantalum and other minerals sourced from certain war-torn African countries as specified in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. All too vivid are my memories of asking associates to respond on items such as these and waiting a day or two for responses, if lucky—stress producers that keep one from enjoying life.

It has taken a while to get here, 46 years of law practice, but, after 25 years as a sans-staff solo, I am getting there. I have two very complex joint venture LLCs that I am working on now and a huge estate planning-succession planning matter, using other products and services. I don’t feel the drag of research and drafting the way that I used to. My turnaround time is thought by my clients to be remarkable, but they don’t know the tools available to me. How I could enjoy practice so much after all of these years can only be explained by the tools that I use. So far to go….as I have to get started on that website at www.esteslaw.com (coming soon). For this venture too, I look to trusted sites to teach me WordPress. I am grateful that the “money-maker tools” are so easy to work with. Now let me see if I can get to sleep early tonight.

Don Estes (Robert Donald Estes) started Estes Parsinen & Levy P.A. at the end of 1981 and left in 1989 to work for a limited number of clients in pursuit of being a solo lawyer, and more importantly for him, moving away from managing a firm. His practice has been very broad and very client oriented. He considers himself to be “that battle scarred, grizzled lawyer that has been through the wars”. He knows what he doesn’t know.” Don is admitted to United States Supreme Court, US Tax Court, the International Court of Trade, Federal Court District of Minnesota and Circuit Court of Appeals in addition to the Minnesota bar. He was certified as Trial/Defense Counsel as a Navy JAG officer.

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