Big shots focus on the big picture


You are a leader. Even if you are a one-person band, you are the guiding force in your practice or career.

You should do what leaders do.

You should spend most of your time and energy focused on big picture strategies that help you achieve your goals.

Most lawyers don’t. Most lawyers spend their days doing client work and mundane tasks, not building for the future.

Leaders lead. They choose the destination, the tactics and tools, and create an atmosphere that attracts and supports others who accompany them.

Leaders focus on

  • Strategic planning
  • Casting vision
  • Creating culture
  • Building relationships
  • Improving reputation
  • Professional development
  • Personal growth

The leader understands that the firm delivers professional services, but is also a business and must be profitable. The leader continually seeks ways to increase revenue and decrease expenses, to ensure the firm’s viability and future growth.

The leader prefers to grow the business by hiring new people, creating new marketing alliances, and expanding into new markets rather than putting in more hours.

Yes, someone has to see the clients, draft the documents, and win the cases. Sometimes the leader does that. Sometimes the leader delegates much of that to their team. Sometimes the leader delegates all of that to their team while they focus on the big picture.

As you look at this list, think about how you spend your time and ask yourself how much of it you spend doing what leaders do.


If you want to make everyone happy, sell ice cream


John C. Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” By that definition, you are a leader.

People listen to you, not necessarily because of your title, skills, or experience, but because of your character, compassion, and strength.

People look up to leaders. They want to associate with them, learn from them, follow them. As a leader, you set the destination and the pace of the journey.

“This is where I’m going,” you say. “I hope you’ll join me.”

You show the world the path to a better future and some people choose to follow.

As a lawyer, you may be able to persuade them to follow. As a leader, you let them persuade themselves.

That’s influence.

Others will choose not to follow. You have to let them go. You can’t change the destination or compromise your values because of the whims of a few. You can’t slow down for the stragglers, they need to keep up with you.

You’ll disappoint people. You’ll face criticism. Your willingness to accept this is part of your strength, part of what makes others want to follow.

You can’t be an effective leader if you try to please everyone. You have to stay the course and be willing to accept the casualties.

As Steve Jobs said, “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.”

Leaders build their influence through regular communication


Why lawyers should make their beds every morning


I have tremendous respect for our military. What they do to protect us in an increasingly dangerous world is awe inspiring. If you have every served, I sincerely thank you.

Military training is about a lot of things, the most important of which, I believe, is learning to be a leader. Leadership starts with self-discipline, courage, commitment, and honor. It is nurtured by compassion, good habits, and a hell of a lot of hard work.

You can’t lead others, however, until you learn how to lead yourself. That’s the lesson I got from the commencement address delivered by former Navy SEAL, Admiral William H. McRaven, to the UT Austin class of 2014. It was brilliant. I hope those who had the honor of hearing this 20 minute talk got as much out of it as I did.

I was directed to this page after reading elsewhere one of Admiral McRaven’s lessons about the importance of making your bed every morning:

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

Navy SEALS candidates are challenged to do things few people will ever be asked to do. Their physical training is astonishingly rigorous. But their training does far more than mold their bodies and prepare them for service, it molds their minds and their character and prepares them for life.

Broadly defined, leadership means showing people a better future and then helping them get there. As lawyers, we need to remember that we are more than warriors or scribes, we are leaders. Our clients and our community depend on us to guide them to a better future.

We don’t need military training to learn how to lead, but the military has no doubt turned out more leaders than any other institution. Listening to Admiral McRaven’s stories about some of the lessons he learned in basic SEAL training and his advice to the class of 2014 show us why.


Grow your law practice today by getting excited about tomorrow


Your employees (and you) come to work every day knowing pretty much what to expect. You’re going to have documents coming in, you’re going to produce documents and send them out. You’ll open some new files and close others. You’ll be on the phone talking to people about the same things this week as you talked about last week, and the week before.

Same old, same old.

Where’s the excitement? Where’s that something new that gets people out of bed in the morning with their pulse beating a little faster? Where’s that something different that people can talk about and look forward to?

You need to find that something.

Something you can promote to your team so they can get excited and creative and work harder than they’ve ever worked before. Something that makes them look forward to coming to work each day, glad to be a part of your team.

What are we talking about?

It could be money. A bonus for achieving certain results. A trip. A weekend. A dinner. (You do know that your employees can bring in a lot of business, don’t you?)

It could be recognition. Employee of the month, who gets featured on your blog and gets the last Friday of the month off, with pay. Recognition is powerful. Men die for it. Babies cry for it.

It could be a cause. Something in the community you are passionate about. Something you want to change or build.

It could be new tools or techniques. Cool new tablet computers. A new training program. A new way of doing what you’ve always done.

Create an environment that’s fun and exciting, where your folks don’t know what’s going to happen every day.

Every day, you should either have something to promote or something to recognize. It could be progress reports on something already announced. It could be something new. Or it could be something that’s not yet here but is coming next week or next month.

How do you make things fun and exciting for yourself? Set a goal and a reward for reaching it. If you bring in so many new clients this month you get to take that trip to Tahiti. If you really want to make it exciting, tell your team (or family) about the goal and the reward so they will hold you accountable.

Same old, same old may get the job done, but if you really want to grow your law practice today, you have to get excited about tomorrow.

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