It’s not easy being a service-based business these days, and the struggle is exemplified with the demands of working in, or toward, a high yielding law firm. Many attorneys feel like they are walking a tight rope between serving their clients and serving their business. With clients demanding attention 24/7, little time to do tasks such as billing and invoicing, trying to stay up to date on new statutory rules, and mentoring new associates (yeah right!), it’s no wonder feelings of burnout might creeping up.
Here are just a few ways to take a step back, re-evaluate and create a game plan for moving forward and connecting with the original passion that drew us into the legal field.
No. 1 Connect with Your Values. A values statement is a common recommendation when starting a business, but sadly many businesses create it and file it away never to consider it again. By identifying and connecting with values, you have a roadmap to prioritize and make decisions quickly, especially when being pulled in a million directions. A value statement can be used to communicate to employees and clients what is of utmost importance to the firm, providing guidance for the employees to confidently act on behalf of the firm. The same can be said for individual value statements. It aides in making decisions which align with values, priorities and personal goals, ultimately bringing a sense of enjoyment, fulfillment and success overall.
No. 2 You Can’t be Everything to Everyone. Nothing will burn a professional out faster than over committing and not delegating. Take some time to focus on the top priorities of the practice. Look at the return on investment (ROI) for each task and evaluate how the ROI would change if delegated. This will allow your focus to be on the million-dollar tasks rather than the $10 per hour tasks. Start narrowing down and categorizing to-do lists and goals by looking at core values and the potential ROI. Evaluate how important the goal is by looking at the contribution to the overall values and goals of the firm, the potential cost of not doing it versus doing it, and most importantly if it is worth the time it takes to complete it.
No. 3 Take Time to Engage in Relationships. Take time to listen to what clients and associates are expressing by acknowledging and validating what they are communicating verbally and nonverbally, and then invest in the response. There will be a noticeable change in the energy within the practice and how everyone feels when communication is a priority and it is handled as such. Law school doesn’t provide nearly enough training on effective communication skills – a vital part of building a successful firm. Focus on consistently evaluating and improving communication skills and methods for everyone in the firm. In each conversation, try focusing on acknowledging and validating one thing the other person says. Over time, you’ll see how people respond to this type of regular communication.
No. 4 Don’t Allow Perfectionism to Get in the way. Perfectionism often causes procrastination because we allow the desire to achieve perfection to sabotage us from ever getting started. We overwhelm ourselves with the desire to control the outcome and often forget to reflect on the progress we have made. We tend to only celebrate the homeruns and forget about the base hits, which can be equally as beneficial when added up. By focusing on progress, it allows the team to feel a sense of success daily while creating a motivating energy to push and keep going toward the ultimate goal. Start by creating progress lists, rather than to-do lists.
No. 5 Detach From the Outcome. This may sound counterintuitive, especially in the legal field when everything is driven by outcomes and wins, but detaching from the outcome is an energy release that provides a lasting sense of freedom and peace. This is a topic that usually requires some coaching and takes time to develop but it can be extremely powerful. Ultimately, none of us can control the outcome; we only play a role in it, and it doesn’t serve anyone to carry the weight and burden of worrying or obsessing over the inability to control it.
The stress of a career in law can be overwhelming and can suck the joy out of the profession, but it doesn’t have to. The commitment level to become an attorney is high, and even higher to feel successful while doing it. Recommit to “the why” of choosing this profession, use values to prioritize and guide decisions, focus and commit to enhancing communication, and watch as the flame of fulfillment and success starts to burn a little brighter. Lesley Poladsky