Monday, August 14, 2006

Monday, Monday, August 14. Whew! Today is the first day of public school here in Miami-Dade, and that means summer is over! I don't think I have ever had one quite so full. For me, at least, it started about June 29, when we left for Eastman, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Montreat, Forest City, and Columbia; continued during Mary's layover in Miami Springs and serial visits by Macon, Kellsey and Aidan and by Walter Morgan; and it came to a climax as Mary checked in at MIA for the journey to Kenya. In the meanwhile, the renovation pace picked up measurably, and maybe we will be finished by the new year.

I checked this morning, and Carol was still there in the bed, sleeping beside me, so our marriage survived. (You don't take that sort of thing for granted, gentlemen.)

At the office it has been busy too. The summer saw Juan finally run up the white flag and say the work load was starting to get beyond him. That was a sort of triumph for me, as one of my major goals was to get him hands and feet into our practice and to redefine "our practice" to mean the practice that belongs to Jane, Mickey, Juan, and me. Getting his plate full was a challenge. He is energetic, innovative, smart and a great delegator.

We also saw Sue migrate from legal secretary to paralegal, her goal when coming to the firm. She has transformed Mickey's litigation practice and she is wonderfully challenged by the intensity of her work. Sue came to us a couple of years ago from the freight forwarding sector, where she was a manager for a multinational firm that did not know how to treat its employees. She decided to leave the freight forwarding industry, surveyed alternative careers, decided on being a paralegal, and enrolled in the program at FIU. She continued in the program when she started working for us, and completed it.

We lost a great legal assistant when the the Landon firm (also known in these parts as "Brand X") hired away Adrya. But we landed on our feet with Svetlana, whom my assistant Jessica is training, and Jessica herself is taking on more and more leadership responsibility.

The Thatcher Foundation, one of our major clients, moved its offices into our suite, as its executive director retired. Nancy, my longtime paralegal and friend, will be assuming many of the executive director's functions while continuing to be a star player in the firm for many of our other clients. We may be hiring an assistant with bookkeeper level skills to help her with that work, and we are creating a job profile that may allow a good bit of the work to be done from someone's home, given our Citrix powered remote capabilities.

We are looking for a receptionist/word processor. This is an "entry level" position. We have moved people who have started at the position to legal secretary and then to paralegal. So if you know anyone who might be interested, let me know.

We have changed our compensation approach, forced in part by wage and hour laws. Once upon a time, we paid staff for a 35 hour work week, and a sort of "9 to 5" mentality reigned, although some staff worked over-time or came in early, simply because they wanted to work that way. We would, of course, pay for the over time. Now we have 35 hours per week as our required minimum, but we have an informal policy of unlimited overtime. Carol identified, acquired, and implemented the software to allow staff to sign in and to sign out on the computer as they determine within minimum limits when to work. One advantage is that we are more competitive with firms that advertise a salary that looks better than ours but is on a 40 hour work week basis. People understand the difference between 35 and 40 hours intellectually, but the total salary comparison seems to have an affect on their hearts. So now we can give staff a choice on how much they want to make and its easier for their hearts to compare us to the marketplace.

Things have been popping at church too. This week Van is going to the Presbyterian Global Mission conference in Atlanta, where the moderates and evangelicals of the PCUSA are going to ponder what to do about the direction that the bureaucratic "elite" want to take us. We learned from Walter that Morgan will be attending as well, along with their minister and some other elders.

Catalyst, the hip-hop ministry of Greater Miami Youth for Christ is moving its site to our church, beginning September 9. This summer our youth minister, Pepe, moved over to GMYFC and became its director of Campus Life ministries, the high school ministry arm of GMYFC, while retaining his involvement in the sort of work in Miami Springs with our high school and neighborhoods that he has been doing out of our church for the past five or more years. This is a great upgrade for Pepe. He has many years of experience that he will be able to leverage into younger staff at GMYFC, and he will retain his connection with our church all the while.

Our Wednesday Night Live program at church will be resuming, and there are some changes there. We will be separating the men and women into separate "Bible Study" groups, except we won't call the men's group a "Bible Study" but something like "Bunch of Guys", so that we are free to do some action things that are fun and manly and helpful, such as Habitat and other mission projects. And maybe we will go to the shooting range and get lectures from motorcycle safety experts - who knows. But we want to get the guys together without the girls, let our brother Jesus do his work with us, and see what happens. I think it will be fun.

In my personal life, I have become chairman of the board of GMYFC, mainly because its "my turn", I think. Let me put that another way: mainly because God has said that its my turn, despite my grave misgivings about time and gifts. But I had a great meeting with Andy, the exec, last week, and we will be innovating with some ideas that we discovered that both of us had been percolating. So some prayer would be very helpful from the Kith & Kin as I assume that leadership role.

So that's the word from Miami Springs, where most everyone is not blue-eyed and blond haired anymore, which is perfectly fine, and out our front door lays a mission field.

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