Checklists are needed, few people know this better than lawyers do, but checklists have a way of growing on us, because they are essential to our work patterns. And sometimes young lawyers get lost in checklists and end up summing their careers in a series of acquisitions and achievements placed on another big list. We cannot avoid such things, but it depends upon us to remain careful and not lose sight of bigger priorities like meeting personal and family responsibilities, and not forgetting to steer our careers in to paths favorable for actualizing our core competencies.
This takes a lot of doing. It takes a lot of effort to be sensible in developing our careers ignoring pressing needs, and saving and sacrificing time to pursue future career objectives, rather than just keep earning more money, right now. It is especially hard in a tough economy when most people are engaged in struggles of survival, and thinking about future career objectives may seem like unaffordable expense of available time.
But it is being able to do what others cannot, that set people apart in their lives and careers. And managing time for nursing future career objectives now, against and despite insurmountable odds, can spell the difference between a successful career, and one that remains continually insecure.
In a lawyer's life continuous learning and education is a permanently running process and the learning never stops. That's what makes law practice so wonderful and engrossing. But that is where law practice can be dangerous – it can snare you into spending all your time chasing after knowledge and wisdom and leave nothing to spare for your career development.
I know many people, who just let their careers ‘happen' to them while thinking that they are doing the right thing, by just following the track of money. Sometimes, such people do meet outstanding success too, because life remains a game of chances – but more often than not, we find such lawyers disillusioned and frustrated with life in mid-career: Just because they neglected setting apart some time for pursuing future career objectives, and had spent all of their available time on the work they had on hand.
So, it is important to break out of the ‘prepare and follow checklists' mentality for at least some time every week, sit back to take stock of your career, and chart out tracks to attain your career objectives. Then again, you can go back into your world of checklists, you have to do that anyway, but don't let your life become a journey of just following one checklist after another without any gap or reassessment of what is happening to your life. If you don't take measured breaks to reassess and recalibrate your career strategies now and then, you'd never be able to change your path from one where you follow the money to one where the money follows you.
Take a break, a break from checklists – and put it on your checklist, now.
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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
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