What Separates Successful Lawyers from Everyone Else?

FB20140330The lawyer in me says that the first thing you need to do with a question like this is define exactly what it means to be a “successful lawyer”. Success means different things to different people, especially lawyers…

What’s your definition of Success?

To one lawyer, success might be having a multi-million dollar law practice with several associates, a large staff, and multiple offices. To another, success means a small solo practice that provides sufficient income to pay the bills, save for a rainy day, and provide a comfortable living for the lawyer’s family.

So to answer the question above, we must start by defining what it means to be successful. In my world, I fall closer to the latter camp than the former. I currently have a small practice that pays the bills, and allows me to save a little money and take care of my family. I have absolutely zero interest in building a legal powerhouse that opens multiple offices and has lots of staff to manage.

What’s your definition of success? What are you looking for out of your law practice? What does it mean for you to be successful? How will you know when you have attained that success?

Your definition of Success doesn’t matter… Your Choices Do…

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you define success. What does matter is the choices you make on a daily basis. In the past several months, I’ve gotten away from talking about the books that I’m currently reading and the podcasts I’m listening to. Right now I’m reading The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. There is an entire chapter that talks about choices and how seemingly inconsequential and small choices that we make on a daily basis will shape our future selves and the lives we lead.

Think about it. Each and everyday we make choices that define us. These choices include: what time to wake up and go to bed; what to put into our bodies (both food/drink and information); and whether or not we should exercise.

And those are just choices that affect our personal health…

Decisions you make about your law practice – your business – are never-ending, and will define the type of law practice that you build. If you want to build a successful law practice, if you want to become a successful lawyer (as only you can define), then you need to start to become aware of and own the choices you make.

If you are not getting enough clients to support you and your family – ask yourself what choices have you made, what actions have you taken or not taken that have brought you to this point? What can you do, what simple steps can you take, to try to reverse your course?

If you have more client’s than you know what to do with, but nobody is paying their bills and you keep working on their case, you need to have a serious discussion with yourself about how long this can continue and what you can do to change this situation.

The best part about having your own law practice, as well as the biggest obstacle to becoming more successful than you have ever dreamed, are one and the same – by owning your own practice you can choose, through the decisions you make on a daily basis, the direction of your firm.

To attend or not to attend?

Last week, I had a big decision to make. I represented a client in a case where the opposing counsel had scheduled three depositions, back-to-back-to-back, all on Friday. The depositions were scheduled to take up pretty much the entire day. The only problem was, the client had not paid me to attend these depositions, and attending them would require me to spend an entire day out of the office working on a case that I would never be compensated for.

What would you do in that situation?

Go to the deposition because you are attorney of record in the case and you are ethically bound to appear? Skip them and risk committing malpractice? Or perhaps some other option?

These are difficult choices. As lawyers we are faced with choices like this on a daily basis. One choice moves our law practice forward, and one moves us back.

Every choice we make alters the trajectory of our law practice. I could have attended the deposition (even if I didn’t get paid), or I could have chosen to have a productive day in the office?

You can choose whether or not to write a blog post, record a podcast, or call a referral source. All of these actions may not have an immediate effect on your law practice, but continuing to take these actions over time will.

Each and every one of these choices has an effect on the future of your law practice and your life.

Take Ownership of your Choices

It’s time that you start taking ownership of the choices you make, whether conscious or not. If you think about it, you have three options from this day forward. You can choose to make decisions that will propel you towards success, you can choose to engage in self-destructive behaviors, or you can choose to keep everything exactly as it is.

Regardless of which way you decide to go, you must understand that you are making a choice. The biggest challenge most of us have is not making poor choices – it’s “sleepwalking through your choices,” Darren Hardy say. Darren goes on to say:

Half the time, you’re not even aware you’re making them! Our choices are often shaped by our culture and upbringing. They can be so entwined in our routine behaviors and habits that they seem beyond our control. For instance, have you ever been going about your business, enjoying your life, when all of a sudden you made a stupid choice or series of small choices that ultimately sabotaged your hard work and momentum, all for no apparent reason? You didn’t intend to sabotage yourself, but by not thinking about your decisions – weighing the risks and potential outcomes – you found yourself facing unintended consequences.

You are the only person on this planet that can control the choices you make. You need to take ownership of those choices and understand how they shape the person you are, the person you will become, and the person you want to be.

The late Jim Rohn, a mentor to many, once said, “What’s simple to do is also simple not to do.” Such simple, yet extremely powerful words. The biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what the unsuccessful are not.

Remember these words and use them to guide your choices. Whether you are successful or not is up to you.