Lawyers are good at solving problems. We can look at a situation, decide what needs to be done, and take action to solve the problem. That’s what we do all day long for our clients. We know the objective–to win the case, to negotiate the contract, to protect the client’s business or assets–and we able systematically proceed towards solving the problem.
Why is it, then, that we’re often not very good at achieving our goals? Isn’t a goal really an unsolved problem?
Let’s say you have a goal of earning x per month by the end of the year. Your goal is also a problem: you’re not currently earning x per month. Now, how do you solve that problem?
When we solve problems one of the first things we do is look at the obstacles. If you want to win the case, you look for ways to eliminate or minimize your weaknesses. If there is a eye witness who hurts you, for example, you look for ways to challenge their sight line or establish bias.
Why aren’t you earning x right now? What are the obstacles? And what can you do to eliminate or minimize them?
Start by scrutinizing the elements. Look at your fee structure, practice areas, average fee, and number of cases or clients. You may discover that the weakness is simply that you’re not bringing in enough new clients. Fair enough. You have a new problem to solve.
Or perhaps you realize that your practice area is waning. You need a new one. You knew this but only now are you able to admit it.
But knowing the solution to the problem is only half the battle. It doesn’t mean you’ll do what you need to do.
You’re good at solving client problems because you want them to pay you and return and send referrals, and because your reputation (and bank account) are at stake. You are accountable to your clients. If you mess up, they’ll tell others. They may report you to the state bar. They may sue.
That kind of accountability ordinarily doesn’t exist with our goals. When nobody knows about your goal but you, if you don’t make it, oh well.
Tell your spouse, your partner, or your mastermind group about your goals and ask them to hold you accountable. If a lawyer friend knows about your goal, you won’t want him to know that you didn’t achieve it, or that you dropped the ball and didn’t even try. You’ll do what needs to be done to solve that problem.
Accountability is a bitch, but she loves you and wants you to succeed.