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What Does The Chicken Say?

Four ways that backyard chickens can help your business

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There's a lot of fuss over what that darn fox says, but how about the chicken? Raising backyard chickens has become downright trendy, and in some cases, this hobby can teach us all a lot more than just the benefits of eating local.

Tampa Bay health law attorney Erin Aebel, of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP, has learned a thing or two from her three chickens.

"I have three adult egg laying hens in my backyard in South Tampa. I had four but one was slaughtered by a mysterious wild animal that roamed into my neighborhood one dark and stormy night. This tortured fate came after the poor thing was henpecked and shunned by her fellow hens for leaving the coop on Halloween, and then returning mysteriously five days later. After I had to bed her separately so she wouldn't be pecked until she bled, my kids forgot to lock her coop one night resulting in her untimely death.

Being a hen...even a nice suburban neighborhood hen...can be brutal," said Aebel.

"The business world is tough too. I have a stressful and busy career as a business and health lawyer. I'm also a wife, mother of two children, mentor to other lawyers, volunteer, and keeper of three hens, a chihuahua and a Russian tortoise. Even though maintaining chickens requires extra work and daily diligence, it has added more joy to my life and has taught me in many ways to be a better lawyer and business person," she said.

We asked Erin to put together a list of the top four ways her chickens have taught her to be a better lawyer. And here they are:

1. They Keep Me Grounded

Though I enjoy my modern, urban and tech-savvy life, it grounds me to be in touch with nature and the cycle of life every day. The first thing I do in the morning (after coffee) is open my coop and let my hens rush out. They are excited to be free and to peck at the earth, kick dirt and forage for treats in my backyard. I have come to fully appreciate shells, tiny crabs, worms, tomato plant leaves and the flowers of weeds. It's like I'm seeing my backyard for the first time through their eyes.

In my law practice this daily touch with nature provides me with perspective and a connection to nature that lasts long after I get to the office. I'm also mindful that it's important to look at issues through many different sets of eyes... even those of a 12 inch high chicken.

2. Your Poop Does Stink

Next, I clean the poop out of their coops. That's a humbling experience. I smile when I think that no matter how many deals I close this year and whether or not I have a corner office, I start my day every day cleaning poop. It's important in business to maintain a good sense of humility, even when you are confident and feel you need a little moxie to get ahead.

3. You Reap What You Sow

Then, I check for eggs. On a good day I can get three fresh eggs. These feed me and my family most mornings. They are delicious, and taste creamier than store bought eggs.

Every morning I receive these "gifts" from my hens that I can share with my family knowing they are directly from nature. This makes me incredibly grateful. I also know that these eggs are healthy because I have fed my hens a balanced, natural diet and have made sure they have room to roam and play.

4. Stop & Smell The Roses

Some lawyers can be extremely talented and hard working but still can fail to show appreciation or to make the effort to train or cultivate other great lawyers. I feel that while those lawyers may seem successful they are not operating at their full abilities. I take my gratefulness and understanding of the importance of cultivation with me to the office every day.

This translates into showing appreciation for others, including receptionists, assistants, paralegals and associates who contribute to my success and who are an integral part of the team. A simple thank you for their "eggs-tra" effort goes a long way.

I find that I get better work from others when I stop to spend time to explain what I want, teach skills, provide detailed feedback, and appreciate others.

Also, some clients may need a simpler, slower and less convoluted explanation of legal or business issues. When I slow down and "cultivate" my employees and clients I often get back what I give.

I saved a feather from my slaughtered hen to remind me of her. I felt very badly for her and guilty that I had failed her by not making sure her coop was locked that night.

Nature can be cruel. The business world can be brutal. But if you ground yourself in the natural world and keep the important, simple things in perspective you can survive (i.e. lock the coop at night).

If you can learn to be grateful for the simple things and slow down to appreciate the art of cultivation, your practice, clients (and hens) will thrive.

Erin Smith Aebel is board certified as a health law specialist by the Florida Bar. She represents physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers in business law and including fraud and abuse, Stark, HIPAA and licensure. Erin's clients include hospitals, physicians, physician group practices, diagnostic imaging centers, pharmacies, clinical laboratories and medical spas.

Erin regularly advises clients on Stark, fraud and abuse, HIPAA and licensure issues arising from joint ventures, acquisitions and changes of ownership. She regularly prepares and negotiates hospital-related agreements, physician employment agreements, and medical director agreements. Erin is frequently involved in licensure and scope of practice issues for her clients, including physicians, weight loss clinics, medical spas and other providers.

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