A Lawyer’s Guide to Survival: Being the Most Adaptable
Once upon a time and persisting for many years, when I woke up in the night or early morning, I found difficult to go back to sleep. Regardless of the reason for the awakening. Regardless of how tired I was. I just had a hard time going back to sleep. I lay awake for long stretches trying to will myself back to sleep, which incidentally is more stress-inducing than relaxing.
Then we had a baby. And you may know this already (and I was only recently reminded with the arrival of kiddo number 2) but newborns have to eat every couple of hours. Day and night. This means the baby’s parents have to wake up every couple of hours to change wet/dirty diapers and feed her.
For me, of course, this was problematic. If I were going to wake up every 2-3 hours, then remain awake for an interminable period after that, I was going to get very little sleep. I had to adapt or be lost to some sleepless zombie-like existence. As it turns out, the human body is pretty adaptable is dire circumstances. I can now wake up, change a diaper, hand a kid off to her mommy for feeding, and go back to sleep (even with a lamp on). I know – it’s amazing.
Being adaptable in your practice
Guess what? Both the legal and business side of being a lawyer demand malleability as well. Case law and statutes change. Clients’ demands and the clients themselves change. Overhead costs and business expenses are never static for long. These things require you to be adaptable to maintain long-term success.
Here’s a couple of adaptations you can make to stay on top of things:
Be cognizant of your clients’ needs. Anticipate your clients’ needs and meet them in advance. This builds trust with your clients and keeps them satisfied customers. And don’t forget that for all our high falutin’ lawyerly ways, we are a service industry. In some ways, we are functionally no different than your mechanic or exterminator. When clients come to us with a problem, we need to be prepared to address their problem and think of things the client may not yet have thought of.
This level of service and forethought will continue to build trusty equity with your clients and keep them happy with your work. Maintaining the client as the priority in your practice will keep you ahead of the field of lawyers who view clients as obstacles and impediments to their work. The trouble with that mindset is that without clients, we don’t have a business to operate and don’t get to practice anything.
Use technology to your advantage. Technology continues to evolve in ways that enables us to more efficiently represent our clients and handle their problems. Clients likewise have the ability to track case expenses and compare the costs they incur with us against that of other lawyers they use. It’s becoming increasingly important that you manage your work in the most efficient manner possible.
“Business as usual” isn’t the way forward
Don’t be a victim of doing “business as usual.” There’s an episode of The Office where Ryan is implementing wholesale changes to the business model, and Michael Scott is having some difficulty with it.
Ryan: OK, what’s up?
Michael: Yeah, ‘kay. I was just… After the presentation, just wanted to make sure, that vis-a-vis, that everything in the office is business as usual?
Ryan: Well it is business, but not as usual.
Michael: Yeah, I know I understand… we’re making great strides and we’re updating, but business as usual, no?
Ryan: No. We’re throwing out the entire playbook, we’re starting from scratch, we’re implementing a brand new system.
Michael: Good, so, we’re on the same page?
Ryan: No. We’re not. Michael, I know exactly how much time and man power are wasted in this branch. This company is getting younger, faster, more efficient. You need to prepare yourself.
The environment around you is evolving at a rapid pace. There are innumerable tools that can make your practice management and case management easier and more efficient. Tools that you can program to prompt you to undertake certain tasks. Things that will enable to more easily keep abreast of your caseload.
But if you’re the curmudgeon who refuses to use email or otherwise update your practice, you’re going to miss out on opportunities to serve your clients better. To keep up and effectively represent your clients, you need to be adaptable. For your practice to thrive, you need to be more adaptable than your competitors.
Photo by Thomas Leuthard.