Below is an excerpt adapted from Ben Glass’ Play Left Fullback, How Challenging the Status Quo help America’s Solo and Small Firm Lawyers Build Better Practices, Be Heroes to Their Families, and restore America’s trust in Lawyers, published by Mascot Books in 2020. In his excerpt Glass reviews the use of legal philosophy in building your law practice into a thriving business.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Well, what does philosophy have to do with building a thriving law practice, one where are you can do interesting work with people you like and care for?”
Having a set of pre-established values to guide your business, your practice and your life is more than just important. It’s essential. You can’t get to a life of meaning, structure, and consistency without it. Your philosophy should stand at the core of everything you do. So when I throw out the question of what philosophy has to do with your personal and professional life, we bounce back to the same answer:
Philosophy is an ordered way of thinking about the world and your unique place within it. It’s a well-thought-out system of beliefs and principles that guide you — and keep you — on the path to wellness, financial success, and yes, unimaginable happiness. Philosophy prevents you from making the same mistakes over and over.
You don’t need me to tell you that that path can get bumpy. Crap can come. Pitfalls and potholes can open up right in front of you and swallow you whole if you’re not mentally prepared to deal with them before they arrive. Let’s face it: Very bad things happen to very good people, all the time.
Those who do not live by a “philosophy of life” simply react to those pitfalls. That kind of passive, reflexive, non-thinking response to life and living just isn’t good enough for an extraordinary life. Not only is it not good enough, it’s messy and exhausting. You deserve better. Much better.
Ponder these ideas: Where you are today is a product of the decisions you have made in the past, and where you’ll be tomorrow will be a product of the decisions you made today.
If you did nothing else with this book other than to deeply internalize that thought into your very being, then its purchase and the investment of the time it took to read it will have been worthwhile.
In a world where the default is to blame someone else for everything, this simple mindset “switch” to accepting responsibility for the ways your life is less than fulfilling and making a decision to change things will change your life.
Live purposefully. Don’t just react.
Most lawyers start their day checking their email and then doing whatever pops up as most urgent. That’s a tough way to run a life. What if we started with careful thinking? Train your brain to slow itself down. Reflect. Ponder. Your brain is your superpower. Too many lawyers hand over the reins of their lives to their electronic devices. That’s not what the happiest do. Trust me.
Building a philosophy is a living, dynamic process.
Once you’ve developed a set of core principles for your firm, don’t get lazy. Decide to decide to keep them alive. Don’t get tripped up into thinking that once you’ve created these principles, the process is over.
Far from it. Things are just beginning.
And here’s even more good news:
If you do it right, the process never, ever ends.
Your Philosophy Belongs to You. Own it.
I’ll say it again: Building a set of core values is no easy feat. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it; it just means that it’s going to take effort – and nobody’s going to do it for you.
You are the one to decide and determine your own trajectory and your own set of principles. In the same way that you are the author of your own story, you are also the creator of your own core values. Nobody else can create them for you.
Two great reads on discovering and then living your core value are Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up and Jim (Good to Great) Collins’ Beyond Entrepreneurship. These books were very instrumental to our leadership team at Ben Glass Law.
Don’t lead your life by whim.
Or since I’ve used these words before, let me put it like this: Be brave enough to think deeply and deliberately. Don’t fall into the trap of responding to life passively, reacting to situations as they unfold. Living like this is stressful and frightening. Again, it is exhausting. Resist the urge.
Average people respond to situations based solely on the emotions they happen to be experiencing at the moment without taking time to think things through in advance. Extraordinary people live with purpose. They are deliberate about it. Take the time to take the time. It works.
Here’s an example: As a soccer referee, I spend a lot time anticipating how other people might respond to the decisions I make and the actions I take when I’m out on the field.
While I don’t have the time or the desire to try to control their actions, I am interested in being thoughtful and deliberate if a stressful situation should come up. (And believe me, somebody is always going to be dissatisfied with a soccer referee’s decisions. Somebody’s always going to find fault with one of my calls. It’s the nature of the job.)
But I find that when I think things through in advance, when I try to anticipate my reaction to events before they unfold, it really helps to slow my brain down. This gives me time to map out a strategy in advance, so that when something does go down (on the soccer field or off) I’m able to rise above my own emotions and come at the situation from a place of reason and, yep, relative calm. If I lived my life by whim, none of that would be possible.
A Final Thought
I wake up every day determined to inspire others to live life big and to accept and be proud of the fact that they are endowed with certain gifts and talents that are unique to them.
My message to lawyers is this: You have a role in all of this, too. You should be sharing your gifts and talents with others. If you’re not sharing your talents, start. If you’re already doing it, keep up the good work (and thank you)!
You, too, should try to be an inspiration to those around you. You’ve worked your ass off to get through law school, worked to get to exactly where you are today, so you’ve obviously got a light to shine. Everyone does. When you refuse to shine that light (or you never even realized that you should be shining it), other people are prevented from enjoying and benefiting from it.
We are more than just lawyers. We are inspirers, too. Or at least we should be.