The Legal Mind: How to make food choices that the lawyer in you would be proud of

One of the main reasons people in crisis need a lawyer is that we rarely have an emotional connection to the situation at hand. The litigator sees things a litigant can’t because the litigator is not the one in the situation. We’re chess players, not chess pieces. That means we can (hopefully) make better decisions. So is it possible, when making decisions about our own lives, to replicate that objectivity? I think so. Take food. Sometimes, to be strong, we need to know when we’re weak, and then hedge against it. In both law and in life, sound judgment is paramount. So give yourself the gift of perspective, and don’t make nutrition decisions in a vulnerable state. Here are three tips to help us do exactly that.

Tip No.1: Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.

The modern grocery store is a work of art. Whatever our gluttonous selves want sits right there, at eye level. This is no accident. If we’re starving, then the chip and cookie aisles will almost certainly be too difficult to resist. The easiest way to remedy this: take hunger out of the decision-making process. Then we can think clearly.

Tip No.2: Keep a supply of healthy snacks at the office.

We’ve all solved a 3 p.m. hunger pang by rummaging through the leftovers from the articling-student “Lunch and Learn” and devouring every half-eaten sandwich and cookie in sight. (Yes, I’m guilty.) If we plan ahead, like an objective lawyer, we’ll make wiser decisions.

Tip No.3: Tame the hungry bear.

Discipline is often weakest at the end of the day. It’s easy to walk into a pub after work for a “few minutes” to say hi to a friend before looking at the menu and saying, “I’ll do one appy.” Three hours, two orders of nachos, a few drinks and $100 later, the bear has won. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a time and place to take the governor off and enjoy life. But I’m not sure a school night is one of them. Grab a healthy snack before heading to the bar. You’ll read the menu like a rational person. It’s about taming our emotions (or the hungry bear) in advance.

Paul Attia

Paul Attia is an assistant Crown prosecutor based in Toronto. He writes about family, fitness and money for Precedent. Follow him at @PapaAlphaBlog.



Precedent Summer 2017 IssueThis story is from our Summer 2017 issue.




Illustration by Alina Skyson

How to build your body while you bill your hours

As 2017 rolls along, you’ve undoubtedly made health and fitness a part of your New Year’s resolutions. Pardon the cynic in me, but I’m willing to bet the value of a high-priced condo that some of us have missed our target already. And I’ll bet that your number one lament is “not having enough time.”

But when trying to carve out 60 to 90 minutes a day for a workout, remember this: doing something is always better than doing nothing. And if anyone appreciates the value of big gains made in incremental contributions, it’s lawyers. Working in tenths, we can bill thousands of hours in a year. So we can surely find the time to exercise.

Here are three simple strength-training exercises you can do right in your office. They only take two minutes each — a whopping 6 minutes per day. Surely, we can all spare that.


Wall sits

Lean your back against a wall and “sit down,” using your own legs as support. Keep your knees at 90 degrees and your back against the wall. You’ll feel the tension in your quadriceps (the big muscles at the front of your legs). Try to hold this positions for 30 seconds. Once you’ve repeated this exercise for two minutes, buy yourself some new pants because by then, your hulk-like leg muscles will have ripped through your old ones.


Plank push-ups

Find some floor space behind your desk and start by doing a slow, controlled push-up. Before starting your next rep, hold for a moment at the top in plank position. Try to do one push-up, with a plank in the middle, every five seconds. After 30 seconds, you’ll have done seven push-ups. To help you make it to a total of two minutes, play the Rocky theme song in the background. It only makes you stronger.


Calf raises

Pop your shoes off and use your hands to support yourself lightly against the wall, or against a chair. Now rise up onto the balls of your feet. Aim to hammer out a set of 50 reps in two minutes. When senior management walks by your office and asks you what the hell you’re doing, simply remind them that in order to work on your freakishly cut calves, you sometimes have to get freakishly creative.

Paul Attia, Lawyer, Family MattersPaul Attia is a husband, father of four, business-owner and assistant Crown attorney in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @PapaAlphaBlog.




Photo from iStock

Family Matters: How to be a great lawyer and still make it home for dinner

We lawyers like to play Tetris with our time. We break days down to the hour, if not the minute. We appreciate deadlines and the consequences of failing to meet them. As a criminal prosecutor, I’m never late for court and I always make deadlines. As a business owner of several stone quarries, I’m on top of my game. But as a father of four, I’m often late for family dinner — or worse yet, I miss it altogether.

For years, I blamed my absence on external forces. Court got out late and I needed to prepare for tomorrow’s trial. The commute took longer than expected. I had to make a call just as I was walking out the door. Then, I came up with internal excuses. I’m a hard worker. The better I perform at work, the better things will eventually be at home. People rely on me because I’m committed to my to-do list. If that means missing family dinner here and there, well that’s simply the cost of doing business.

Then, one day, a friend challenged me: “If you’re so keen to complete your to-do list, Paul, why not just add be home for family dinner to the list?” And he was right.

I instantly began to make changes. The result was transformative for me and for my family. Here’s how you crush it as a lawyer and still make it home in time for dinner.


Live backwards

Reverse engineer every day, beginning with family dinner. That’s the deadline. Meet it. Break down your day by time slots rather than tasks — and aim to eat the ugly frogs first. My day might look like this:

8:30 to 10:30: Prepare and file motion
10:30 to 12:30: Confirm discovery dates, begin memo to partner
12:30 to 1:30: Lunch meeting
1:30 to 3:30 Finish memo
3:30 to 5:30 Put out unexpected fires
5:30 to 6:00 Margin for error
6:00: Leave work
6:45: Get home, wrestle kids, eat dinner. Then, begin bedtime bribery routine.


Pack your bags

At the start of each day, pack an item you can easily work on from your couch at home, along with your favourite pen and highlighter. (Don’t pretend like you don’t love your highlighters. I know you do.) This way, come quitting time, you can easily walk out the door when you planned, and no time is wasted scrambling to find suitable work to take home.


Start small

Making it home for dinner five days a week may be too tall an order. Put it in your to-do list for three days and work your way up. Better to succeed at three, than fail at five. The most important principle? Don’t give up when you do fail. Treat dinner like any other goal — when you hit it, celebrate. And when you miss, try again right away.


Paul Attia, Lawyer, Family MattersPaul Attia is a husband, father of four, business-owner and assistant Crown attorney in Toronto.




Top photo from Beatrice Murch