In today’s podcast episode we joined Dina Cataldo, a criminal prosecutor and coach for lawyers and small firm owners who want more success with less stress.
3:35 when chemo felt like a vacation from the legal profession
5:36 our brains work to prevent us from doing things
8:30 you can’t completely separate work and life11:12 when you think the solution to your problem is working more
14:37 perfectionism tendencies
16:38 get 5 hours a week back
21:57 not scheduling time for yourself
Watch the video here.
Jim’s Hack: Podcast – All Systems Go by Chris Davis
Dina’s Tip: Dina’s Podcast – Be a Better Lawyer episode 112 on calendar shame. Also, check out entrepreneurs outside of the legal field, like Amy Porterfield and Marie Forleo to get your brain thinking in different ways to apply to your business.
Book: The New One Minute Manager
Tyson’s Tip: Reach out and network in the Maximum Lawyer Facebook group!
If you enjoyed the show, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and leave a 5-Star review!
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Run your law firm the right way.
This is The Maximum Lawyer Podcast.
Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson Mutrux.
Let’s partner up and maximize your firm.
Welcome to the show.
Jim: Welcome back to The Maximum Lawyer Podcast. I’m Jim Hacking.
Tyson: And I’m Tyson Mutrux. What’s up, Jimmy?
Jim: Good morning, Tyson. How are you my friend?
Tyson: I’m doing well, man. It’s Tuesday morning. It’s nice outside. It’s not 95 degrees like it’s been. It’s in the mid-80s so. Actually, right now, it is 76 freakin’ degrees, so it’s nice. What about you?
Jim: I’m doing great. I went for a walk this morning. It was nice out. It wasn’t as humid as it’s been but, man, it has been humid.
Tyson: Yeah, it has been awful.
So, do you want to jump right in and introduce our guest today?
Jim: Yeah, so our guest today is Dina Cataldo. She is a podcaster herself. She’s a lawyer life coach.
Dina, welcome to the show.
Dina: Hi. How’s it going?
Jim: Doing great.
Tyson: Doing great.
So, Dina, we were all kind of chatting beforehand. We were playing around saying we’re going to grill you. And you said, you were a prosecutor, you could take it.
So, let’s get started. Talk about that. You were a prosecutor. Talk about your journey and how you got to where you are now, where you coach lawyers.
Dina: Yeah. So, it has been quite a journey. Let me tell ya. I really fell into criminal prosecution while I was in law school. I was looking for a writing job and I found a trial job instead. It was just one of those things where I started getting involved in the work and getting really interested in the peoples’ lives. We learned so much about human nature in the criminal prosecution realm and defense realms. That was really interesting to me, so I continue to pursue that.
But when I hit 29, and I was like, smack dab in the middle of that part of your career where you’re trying to impress all of the people and you really want to make a good impression, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had been working 70-hour weeks. This was just kind of one of those things where I was like, “Okay, what next?” and I had to do a re-evaluation. I really had to recognize that, “Hey, I I’m doing something that’s not working” and I had to figure out what to do from there.
Jim: A tough diagnosis. We went through that at our house. My wife had breast cancer and it’s not fun. I know that. And also, I think it makes you sort of take pause and look around. So, after you were going through that, what sort of changes to your mindset did you have?
Dina: I looked at that diagnosis as– and I don’t know if I would look at it the same way now because I’ve changed a lot, mentally. But, at the time, I looked at it as “What am I doing wrong and what can I fix?” So, I was looking at, “Well, let’s just flip everything on its head. What if everything that I have ever done is the opposite of what I need to be doing?” So, I started looking at things like yoga and going to yoga, which I had resisted, I didn’t want to do, eating differently, starting to get into this whole other realm of self-improvement that I had never had time for, because I was always working.
When I had chemotherapy. I tell people like that’s the best thing that ever happened to me because it was like taking a vacation. I knew chemo shouldn’t feel like a vacation, from the legal profession, like I just knew that was wrong. And when I started diving into– well, there’s this whole other world that I’m interested in and entrepreneurship kept coming up for me when I was writing down what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I had to start a business. I needed to create something and just see where that took me.
And that’s kind of what took me to this path years later into life coaching because– and really, I coach lawyers who have their own practices because there’s a certain amount of mindset, and insecurities, and fears that come up for you in that area that I think are very unique and they’re something that I liked diving into, and that I had to dive into in order to overcome the fears that I had about starting my own business.
Tyson: So, Dina, I’ve got this question. So, this is a radical shift in your career, right? So, prosecutor to coach, right? Like that’s–
Dina: Well, I’m still a criminal prosecutor. Like, I am still a full-time criminal prosecutor.
Tyson: Wait. To this day, you’re still a criminal prosecutor?
Dina: To this day. Yeah.
Tyson: Holy Geez. Okay, I did not realize that. Wow!
Okay. So, then my question, I’m going to throw it out the window because I did not realize that. Like, it’s hard to have your feet in two different buckets. So, I guess, that’s my question then is, how do you manage those two things? I mean, how do you– that seems impossible to me.
Dina: Yeah. You know, it was a learning experience. And there really wasn’t anyone out there who models this, right. I mean, there’s got to be somebody else out there, right. But what I was looking at were these other entrepreneurs as models. The ones who have full-time families, right? Like, they’ve got to take care of kids, and they’re still entrepreneurs, and they’re still making a million dollars online. Like, how are they doing this? How are they managing these things?
I had to learn how to use my calendar. I had to learn how to stay committed to myself. I had to learn how my brain was working to prevent me from doing those things so that I could say, look, when I don’t follow through on something, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. It just means that my brain is kind of not computing right now because that’s not the default. Our brain doesn’t default to finding a way to make everything happen. You have to train your brain to do that.
Jim: Dina, in and working with lawyers, what do you find are some of the stumbling blocks or hurdles that many lawyers face in trying to turn their lives around like you did?
Dina: Yeah, the really big thing is the belief that they’re just not the kind of person who can do that. Like, that’s one big one. Another one is, “I don’t have the time. I can’t do it because there’s always an emergency popping up. I can’t foresee when things are happening so I can’t use my calendar.” And it’s really interesting to hear these things because I’m asking them questions, “Well, like, do you know anybody who does this?” and they can’t think of anyone. And I said, we’ve talked before. You and I have talked before. We know that it is possible, but you’ve got to just work on training your brain and really recognizing like your stumbling blocks are those things where you can find strategies to overcome them. Like every obstacle, you can come up with a strategy to counteract that but you have to actively start to think that way.
Tyson: All right, so let’s get into some of these tactics because I think that that’s going to be some stuff that people are going to want to want to know about.
So, you’re getting ready to go into a big trial. They’re facing you. They’re scared because they know that you’re just an intense prosecutor and you’re going to try to put their client into prison, and they’re starting to freak out, right? So, what are some tips you can get people to calm down, focus on the right things, and move forward?
Dina: Yeah. So, from my perspective, when I was in trials, this is how I began approaching them. I’m assuming your question is from the standpoint of, “Okay, how am I going to either– well, in your case, you’re dealing with entrepreneurs so you’re going to be dealing with people who are trying to defend their client and, really, it comes down to, “how have you managed your life up until this point?” So, you’ve got to take proactive action and proactive thought before you even get into that position. And so, part of what that requires is assessing everything that’s going on in your life.
I tell people all the time, “You can’t completely separate your work from your life. You just can’t do it. You’ve got to be able to meld it in such a way and find agreements in such a way where, when you are faced with that kind of a situation, you know you’ve taken care of everything to the best of your ability. You have planned your week out. You have recognized, “Hey, I know I need to be at peak performance this week, because I’m going to be on trial. I don’t want to feel like crap at the end of the week. I want to know that I have that handled.”
And so, where I come in and where the work that I have done on myself, is making sure like I have a schedule and I stick to it as best I can. I’m a human being. It doesn’t always happen. But when you start implementing these things and you start doing it long term, that’s where you see those effects.
Now, if you want an immediate thing, what I used to do and what I love doing is I needed to get my energy out. So, I needed to do some jumping jacks and just kind of like shake it out. And I always had to know that I had my own back. I’d always prepped enough, right. Like, I’d worked on it. I knew that I knew this case better than anyone else in the courtroom. I knew that I was able to ask the questions that needed to be asked in that moment. And I had supreme confidence in myself that I was going to be able to do this. And that’s something that we work on in coaching is also that confidence because you have to just know and trust yourself.
Jim: You know, one of the things that Tyson and I sort of struggled with and wondered about, when we started the podcast and when we started coaching people, is “do we focus on people who already get it and have that growth mindset or do we spend time trying to convince people who think that the ways that we think are sort of radical or insane?” Where do you sort of fall down on that?
Dina: Yeah, you know, I I’ve given that thought too.
I think people find you when they’re ready. I think you’ve got to talk about where you are right now. And those people who were inspired to listen to you are going to be inspired and take something from the podcast, take something from what you have to offer. And those people who are willing to really commit to themselves, the ones who are at the point in their life where they’re like, “No, you know what, it’s got to change. Things have to change.” Then, those people are the ones who are going to make the biggest difference in their lives by coming to you and coaching. And you can’t control what people take from it and you can’t put out all of that energy– this is just my opinion, put out all that energy into people who don’t see it, because it’s just going to sap – it’s going to drain you and you’re not going to be able to help the people who really are ready for the help.
Tyson: So, Dina, you have this recent Instagram post where you say, “many of us have a vague sense that the solution to all of our problems is working harder.” So like, where does that come from and what can we do to change that mindset?
Dina: Yeah. So, because we have been trained our whole life to get the A by doing certain things, right. Elementary through law school is just like, “Okay, look, if you study harder, if you just apply yourself more and do these same things – only harder, then you will be able to get the A. I am like totally that people pleaser. That person who always wants to get the right answer. The person who’s going to study really hard because that’s the person who’s going to get the best grade in the class. That was totally me and it led to all of these perfectionist tendencies, that really inhibit us from becoming entrepreneurs in a in a really big sense, and playing bigger in our lives, and playing bigger in our business because we’re not putting things out into the world that are going to be of value to other people because we’re too scared that they’re not perfect.
But the working harder part of that also comes into when we are just practicing the law. We think that we need to work longer hours. We think we need to be constantly searching for that perfect case to cite in our brief. We think we need to be doing all of these things that are preventing us from spending quality time with our family. And so, we’re putting things off. We’re putting off that plan that we had with a loved one. We put off deciding that we are going to take up a hobby. You know, I talk to lawyers all the time. They don’t have hobbies. They don’t have time for hobbies.
So, rather than putting those things off and putting all of our energy into being a lawyer and doing all of the mechanical work, we’ve got to take a step back and look at how we are working. Because if we’re just working harder and we’re being busier, that’s not going to get us any progress. We have to re-assess everything. How are we approaching it? How are we approaching it mentally? How are we designing our lives intentionally so that we can create what we want to create in our life?
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Jim: So as a corollary to that, one of the things that we hear about all the time from lawyers who are working too hard is they always say, “If only I could clone myself. If only there was one more of me.” And so, they really have a hard time delegating things to other people, because they have that perfectionist tendency. What do you do when you come across a lawyer like that?
Dina: Yeah. So, when this happens, and it’s so common, right, like we all think that we are the absolute only person who can do things. And yes, maybe you are the only person who is going to do things exactly like you were going to do them, but you can train your employees. There’s this really great book, it’s called The One Minute Manager. It really gets into the mindset of somebody who is training your employees to not be your clone but to think for themselves and to really say, “Okay, here are the tools that I have available to me.”
So, for example, I had a client who was really upset that their employee would interrupt them during focus time. And so, I was trying to dig in and say, “Okay, well, how have you trained them? What have you trained them to do? And how to handle these consults that are coming up, and these difficulties that are coming up with that?” And she really hadn’t done more than just say, “Don’t interrupt me during this one hour.” Like, she hadn’t gone that step and said, “Okay, well, this is how I want my consults to run. And these are the people that I’m accepting. I don’t accept anyone else. Here are some people you can refer them to. If you have a question, put it aside, write it down, create a system, and then we can get to it later.” But that’s just one thing that I see come up again is just not recognizing, hey, you can train them to think like you’re thinking within your business and then they can come to you with an answer, rather than just questions.
Tyson: So, you have this guide. It’s called The Busy Lawyer’s Quick-Start Guide to Getting 5 Hours A Week Back. The title, it really caught my attention.
So, I guess, what are some tips on getting those five hours? I mean, five hours is a lot of time, right?
Tyson: So, what are some of those tips?
Dina: Well, gosh.
Okay, so one of the things– and I just revamped some of it the other day, too. It starts asking you questions like, “What do you think is getting in your way of creating the time that you want?” specifically billable hours, right. Like you come into the office, you seem to get two hours of billables done, but you’ve been there 10 hours. Like, what is going on here?
And it’s just people who are looking at their time as just work, work, work rather than creating a strategy behind it aren’t asking those questions. Like, “Okay, what is getting in my way between me reaching the hours that I want in my practice?” Okay, so that’s one way of looking at it. And then, start asking yourself, “Okay, if I start seeing those obstacles, what kind of strategies can I create to overcome them?” So, I walk them through some questions like that.
But the very first thing that I do, every week, to create time is to create a calendar that I’m going to want to go all in on. And that’s one of the things that prevents lawyers from doing things on their calendar is because they hate their calendar. They resent their calendar. They look at it and they say, “I don’t want to do that. I deserve to take a break right now. I’m not going to complete my tasks.” And then, they start applying that to the rest of their week and they snowball it so they don’t get as much done.
But what I ask them to do is have some compassion for their future selves. So, when they’re looking into the future. You know, that person who’s on a Thursday night, Friday night, assuming you’re planning on a Sunday night or a Monday morning, “Are you stacking up back-to-back to-do’s on Thursday evening and Friday evening, when you know you’re just going to want to sit back and relax and maybe have a nice meal with your partner, or watch a movie? I mean, the people who are the most ambitious – and I think that legal entrepreneurs are hugely ambitious, those are the people who want to and think they should be doing more. And the way to do that is to just stack things back-to-back-to-back and to have them during times when they are not the most productive. And then, they beat themselves up for not doing those things.
So, when I start out my week, I write down everything that I have to do. Like, I spend 20 minutes just like brainstorming. Everything that’s going on in my brain. Things like, “I’ve got to go to Lowe’s. I’ve got to go to Home Depot.” Whatever it is. All those little to-do’s. And sometimes that comes up with like I’ll have a hearing, or a meeting with a victim. or I’ll have all these other things that are coming up for me.
And before I put anything on my calendar, though, I have to look out for me and my health. So, to create that time for yourself, you have to start looking at your calendar as, “Okay, let me start with me first.” And I think people feel guilty about that. I think women, in particular, feel really guilty about that. I don’t know how the men feel here. How do you guys feel about this? Like scheduling me time for yourself? Do you do that first for yourself?
Jim: I do, for sure. I have no problem doing that. My wife would tell you that she doesn’t do it enough for herself though. That’s for sure.
Tyson: I wouldn’t say I necessarily schedule me time. I mean, Jim knows this about me. I mean, I’ve got a pretty rigid schedule where I stick by certain things. And so, I’ve got my process goals on my calendar and they’re all there and it’s pretty rigid. I wouldn’t say I’m looking at my calendar and I don’t– I’ve always had it on the screen to my left and I don’t, honestly, see much me time.
I do you have family time scheduled. So, I’ve got date nights and things like that. Reading time with the kids and all that scheduled, but I wouldn’t say me time. No, not necessarily. So–
Dina: That might be something you want to look at and just ask yourself like, “Well, why don’t you?” Why don’t you, Tyson?
Tyson: I mean, I don’t know. I mean, I’m a pretty happy guy. I don’t really need– there’s not much more I need. I mean, I have my rigid schedule so like after work’s done, I’m mostly done with work. So, I don’t know. I feel pretty good about my calendar. I don’t know.
I mean, are you talking about during the day or are you talking about after? Because after work, I feel like me time, anyways. So, if it’s during the day I don’t really need it.
Dina: You know what, it could be anything. Like, for me, first thing in the morning, I love waking up really early. I did not always like that. I thought I was a night owl. It turns out I also love the mornings, so I made myself into early riser. I have my cup of tea in the morning. I chill out with my dog. I write in my journal and that’s like me time. Like, that’s the time for me to start getting my brain working and starting to think intentionally about my day.
Maybe, I think about things that are coming up. Like, before I came on to this podcast, I was thinking like, “Okay, let’s get myself prepped for this. Let me get energized so that I can show up and just really be there.” And those are the kinds of things I do intentionally with my me time.
What I see people doing is not scheduling any me time, right. Like, they don’t have the gym time or, if they have the gym time, they skip it because they’re working. Of course, now, there’s not really gym time but like those workouts. So, things like that. Lawyers that I talked to tend to kind of skip out on but they get better with it. And then, when they start having compassion for themselves and they start feeling energized, they start creating time in other places. They start creating more me time like I discovered, when I started doing it a little bit, that I loved it so much that I found ways to create it in ways I hadn’t thought of before.
Jim: I love what you said about how lawyers, in particular, and people, in general, have things on their calendar that they hate. And one of the things that I’m always trying to do is tell people, “If there’s things that you don’t like, or that you’re not good at, or that you don’t enjoy, find someone else to do it. There’s no rule that says you have to do everything.” So, I really liked that.
Dina, you touched a little bit on routine, and I appreciate that. But also, how do you get people around this notion that, if they’re not working, they’re feeling guilty? We see that a lot with people. We see a lot of people sort of frustrated. We also see a lot of people that are just burnt out on the law. I mean, how do you help people come back from that sort of burnout stage?
Dina: Yeah. So, a lot of it is explaining that they’re not alone. I think that is the big thing. I think people and, like lawyers I talked to, they think they’re the only ones who have ever felt this way, this burnout, this feeling like they don’t want to do anything like they’re just exhausted. And when they hear that other people have gone through it, “I’ve been through it.” I think that that is one thing that kind of opens the door for their brain to kind of be like, ”Okay. Look, this isn’t just me. There’s a solution out there. Maybe I don’t know what it is yet, but I can figure this out. And maybe I can just kind of be in their world and see what they’re doing and implement some of that.”
The other thing that I start talking to them about is really that compassion for themselves. When I’m working with clients, it was surprising for me at first how little they valued themselves. It was really stark. Like when they start hearing these words like having compassion for yourself, some of them really break down because they realized that they haven’t had compassion for themselves in the years that they’ve been practicing the law, that they have been overextending themselves, that they have been doing pro bono work and maybe not charging clients. And that’s been really draining on them. And they hadn’t recognized it. Like, they kind of knew logically that, yes, they should be charging their clients with their worth and they should be doing some things that are good for them, that they hadn’t really absorbed that belief that they’re valuable, that belief that they can have compassion for themselves.
And, when they start opening up to that, I think then they start to see that they’ve really been creating this burnout for themselves. And it’s a hard reality for some of them. I know it was a hard reality for myself when I recognized that but, once you do that, you have this amazing power. And I think I became– I don’t want to use the word intoxicated by power but like you just get this feeling like, “Yes, I do have power to do something about this. It’s not as if I’m at the whim of other people or at the mercy of my profession. It’s that I really do have more power than I thought.”
Tyson: No. There’s nothing wrong with that having control, the power of your life. There’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever.
Because of the time, we’re going to have to start wrapping things up.
But before we do, Dina, will you let people know how to get in touch with you, if they want to work with you?
Dina: Yeah, they can go to dinacataldo.com. There, you can find my podcast. If you want to work with me, there’s a work with me button there. You can schedule a free strategy session with me and I can talk to you if you’re interested in what I’ve been talking about, if any of this resonates with you. But that free guide that you were mentioning, they can go to dinacataldo.com/busylawyer. And that is where they can grab that. It walks them through like a little mini coaching session. Like, there’s a one-page mini coaching session that they can kind of work through. So, that’s something that they can get from that.
All right, so we’re going to wrap things up. I want to remind everyone to go to the Facebook group. Get involved there. I mean, there’s almost 3400 people, I think, in the group now. So, it’s a big group. A lot of people sharing great information.
If you’re interested in The Guild, check out maximumlawyer.com. And if you don’t mind taking just a couple of seconds, while you’re finishing the rest of this episode, in giving us a five-star review, we would greatly appreciate it.
Jimmy, what is your hack of the week?
Jim: So I came across another podcast. It’s funny because we all have podcasts here. But I came across a new podcast, for me at least, that’s got about 36 episodes by a guy named Chris Davis and it’s called All Systems Go! It’s all about automation. So, while Kelsey Bratcher’s podcast on automation, I think, is still really good. It’s on hiatus. So, in the meantime, I would check out this podcast All Systems Go by Chris Davis.
Tyson: Kelsey’s out in an RV in the middle of nowhere. It’s probably why he’s on hiatus.
Dina, we always ask our guests to give a tip or hack of the week. And it could be a book. It could be a podcast. It could be anything that you think could help people out. Do you have a tip or a hack for us?
Dina: Oh, I’ve got a couple. So, first, I want to plug mine. So, Be a Better Lawyer podcast. Specifically, Episode 112, on Calendar Shame. That’s one that a couple of coaching clients have brought up to me, recently. So, if you have any issues with your calendar, or you really want to get more proficient at it, that might be a place to start for you.
But if you are interested in like this bigger world of entrepreneurship, I really invite you to do things like think out of the box. Like, I know Seth Godin is somebody that a lot of people follow. He’s great. But people like Amy Porterfield, and Marie Forleo, and like all of these entrepreneurs who have nothing to do with the legal field to get your brain thinking in different ways so that you can apply that to your business.
Tyson: Very good stuff.
I’ve got a pretty simple tip. It’s something that I did yesterday. We have a pretty expansive group, a network, in Maximum Lawyer. I had a question which ended up leading to co-counsel with Billy Umansky. If you need something, the tip is just reach out to the group. There are a lot of great people in the group willing to help out. And so, just reach out. It was a simple phone call to Bill Umansky yesterday.
I think I’m ratting on him. He was getting a coffee. He had back surgery recently. And so, he’s on the mend. He’s not supposed to go to the office. He was getting a coffee and go to the office. They text me back saying he was going to call me back, and call me back, and we ended up coming to an agreement. He was helping me out and sent me some stuff from his firm. It was just based upon a phone call.
So, if you need something, reach out to the group. There are a lot of people there that are willing to help.
Dina thanks so much for coming on. It’s been a lot of fun. We really appreciate it. Maybe, at some point, we can convince you to come over to our side and run a firm, instead, and get away from being a prosecutor. But who knows, maybe that’s the near future. We don’t know. But thank you so much for coming on.
Dina: It has been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me, guys.
Jim: Thanks, guys.
Tyson: Thank you.
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