- Lawyers by nature analyze, argue and attack their opposition with facts.
- But when it comes to running a law firm as a business, can lawyers lead like a business owner or director?
- If you are a lawyer who also manages a law firm, check out the 5 following mindsets you should avoid as you wear the hat of lawyer and leader.
There’s no doubt about it; law firms have evolved from entities that focus solely on the execution of law to what we know today as full-fledged businesses.
While there can be many positives to this evolution, there are as well many very tangible negatives to this change that fall exclusively on the shoulders of attorneys.
The issue is businesses need leadership, which would not be a problem anywhere else but in a law firm. Why? Because lawyers aren’t educated to be business leaders – at least not in traditional law schools.
Lawyers are educated to be lawyers. Their leadership prowess will have to be realized elsewhere.
Add in what Law Practice Today
defines as a lawyer’s pessimism, doubt, and utter disbelief which occupies their 12-14-hour long day, and it might be a difficult task for an attorney to do in about-face and think with the positiveness of a business leader.
In short, lawyers need to actively learn how to develop the mental agility needed to think like impactful, resilient leaders.
So how does an attorney gain the leadership skills they will need to guide their law firm to business success?
According to Law Practice Today
, they first have to stop thinking like an attorney by avoiding these 5 typical lawyer-like attitudes.
1. Imposter syndrome.
is a deeply held belief of intellectual phoniness (that occurs at all levels of practice) and sounds like a version of this: “Man, I got lucky this time. They will soon realize that I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about and ask me to leave the firm; step off the board; tell me I’m really not qualified to be in this class.”
Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, like degrees, promotions or other successes, imposter syndrome makes it difficult for people to internalize or accept their success. While a number of different traits and cognitive features nourish the need to imposter, the research
suggests it is likely some combination
of low efficacy (see below) and maladaptive perfectionism
2. Low efficacy.
Efficacy is the belief in your ability to solve work/life challenges and succeed. In short, it’s confidence. It’s also domain-specific, which means that you may feel highly confident in negotiating a contract but have little confidence in leading a new committee.
High efficacy has been shown to be a strong predictor
of positive affect and activates adaptive coping strategies, such as planning, positive reframing, and acceptance. In addition, people with high efficacy are better able to identify
new business opportunities, create new products, think creatively, commercialize ideas and persevere under stress and pressure.
In the end every lawyer needs to develop some type of confidence capacity.
For new attorneys, it might be building their negotiation or networking efficacy while mid-level and senior associates often want to increase their business development or public speaking efficacy.
As far as partners are concerned, the development of their confidence capacity might entail better client and relationship development or developing other core leadership competencies like collaboration or strategy.
3. Thinking traps.
Thinking traps are overly rigid patterns
of thinking that cause you to miss critical information. Several of the most common include:
- Jumping to conclusions (making assumptions without the relevant data).
- Mind-reading (a version of jumping to conclusions where you believe you know what others are thinking and you act accordingly).
- All-or-nothing thinking (seeing a situation in only two categories and failing to recognize the middle ground).
- Personalizing (it’s all my fault).
- Externalizing (it’s all your fault).
Thinking traps are very common, and with attorneys, usually hedge toward the negative. Lawyers who focus their business strength in this manner, lose precious time and energy when they focus their thinking in the wrong direction.
This thinking style
represents your tendency to jump to the worst-case scenario when something stressful happens. You are more likely to catastrophize when you’re run down, stressed out, tired or depleted, something you value is at stake (maybe your reputation has been called into question), it’s your first time doing something, or the situation is vague or unclear (like receiving an e-mail that only says, “Come see me now”). It’s a powerful but very dangerous thinking style because it shuts down your ability to take purposeful action.
5. Pessimistic explanatory style.
To switch yourself from lawyer to business leader will entail a complete rebuild of how you explain issues.
When remarking about business, particularly as a business leader, you cannot involve the typical language and references that lawyers utilize on a daily basis.
Your words, how you arrange them, and even your tone of voice has to be brighter and more optimistic. Speak like a boss who is excited by the potential of their products. Doing so will inevitably put your legal staff on board with you and make running your law firm as a business that much easier and hopefully lucrative.
It may seem like a daunting task – at least at first – to think of yourself as a sort of Jekyll and Hyde of the legal/business world. But the fact is the attitude that dominates within the legal world will never work in the business world and vice versa.
In cases like yours in which you are a lawyer who leads, practice makes perfect; the longer you are both a lawyer and a business leader, you’ll learn that taking on both roles are entirely possible, and success within these roles quite promising.
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