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The Importance of Constantly Setting Bigger Goals as a Lawyer

published June 24, 2021

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In this article, I want to show why setting smart goals constantly are so important for your career as a lawyer. Whether you are in your legal career, how much money you earn, and what personal goals or career goals you have already achieved, stopping can be detrimental to your future success. Here is why.
 
 

Passion and Success


When I was still in law school, I brought my girlfriend home for a visit for a few weeks. Before she came, I did everything I could to make the house as nice as possible - cleaned, organized, tamed the garden. The visit started well, but my mom started a huge fight with my girlfriend out of nowhere after about a week. Long story short, we had to leave my mom's house and find a hotel. I was shaken, my girlfriend shocked and crying uncontrollably. It was devastating.


When we were leaving, there was a huge screaming match between my mom and my girlfriend, and my mom screamed at us that we will never get married and that my girlfriend will steal all of my passion.

I ended up marrying my girlfriend, but those last words I have heard from my mother have haunted me since. Why will she steal my passion? Passion for what? For my mum, passion meant the drive to be successful and the enthusiasm for your job. And she saw my girlfriend as someone who would take that away from me. Without passion, you lose everything, so I couldn't stop thinking about why she would say that.

In the end, she was right about my then-girlfriend stealing my passion. But it happened differently than you would think.
 

Many Goals to Set in a Law Firm

 
As you move through your life and accomplish small milestones or bigger career goals, you might notice that some people don't want you to succeed. Most lawyers have a line of people stacked against them. The more you accomplish, the more people will want to suck the passion out of you. But you cannot let them. You need to continue doing what you love and keep your drive. I made the mistake of not doing so.

I married my girlfriend, the one my mum said I should never marry, and that would steal all my passion, and we lived together in Los Angeles. She started working in Malibu and really loved the lifestyle and all the wealthy people there. She made friends there and wanted to be a part of that. I suddenly wasn't enough. She left me for a wealthier man from Malibu.

I was upset and decided to move to Malibu to live this lifestyle of a wealthy person. It was a stupid mistake because I had a fairly lucrative business close to where I lived before managing employees. But my goal was to stop fighting, relax and give up.

But moving wasn't the problem. My decision to stop setting goals and pushing was. I wanted to emulate the life of someone wealthier while forgetting that I needed to push myself toward big goals and my own objectives.

When I was in Los Angeles, I was constantly challenged. I had a lot of people to oversee and business meetings to attend. The business was expanding, and I had to solve the issues that came with it. But I decided to give up and relax. I could work without being around people in a smaller office without the constant pressure. I felt that I earned enough already and have achieved everything.

The drive and passion didn't go away completely - I shifted my focus to exercise, meditation, health. I was too determined to sit idle. After all, I had always worked very hard. That's why it's even more frustrating that I decided to be satisfied with my current situation and relaxed. I even shrank my firm to live this relaxed lifestyle.
 

Can You Relax Once You Achieve Your Ultimate Goal?

 
An important part of my job includes talking to lawyers about goal setting and long-term goals. Most lawyers set goals about achieving milestones in the legal industry, such as going in-house, making partners in a law firm, quitting law practice, and doing something completely else.

These lawyer goals are great; the problem is that they usually end there. Once many lawyers accomplish the set goals, they feel like they've made it. Once they get the position at the large law firm, reach their financial goals or the number of billable hours, get to the dream law school, they decide they can relax and stay in their comfort zone.

But that is a huge mistake. The moment you relax and stop focusing on your future and what you want to achieve next, the world will run you over. The world and law practice stop for no one. If you want to accomplish something, you have to push constantly. You have a great gift that will help you in it - your passion.

I know many young, ambitious lawyers who set smart goals, such as making partners and going about it the right way. They find out how many hours, billable hours, are needed, how many new clients they have to sign up for. For They try to maintain client satisfaction and reach the law firm's goals as well. With such an action plan, achieving specific goals and professional development goals is not that difficult.

However, many lawyers end there once they achieve their overall goals. They don't shift their focus, don't create new long-term goals, don't take the next action step. The hard reality is that if you don't keep up with the business goals of your law firm, regardless of how many hours and resources it took to get to that position, they will leave you where you stopped. Law practice doesn't stop when you fulfill your set goals. It moves forward, and next year, it's going to be somewhere else.

The bigger and more successful you get in your practice area, the more difficult it's going to get for you. With the higher title, evaluation, and success, the stakes around you also grow higher, and everything gets more challenging. Your ability to constantly challenge yourself influences how much money you can earn and how far you can get. When you achieve one goal, goal setting continues, and you have to find other business goals and long-term vision you can go after.

It's not true only for your lawyer goals. Work-life balance is important, and goal setting and achieving smart goals are equally important in your relationships, health, fitness, or personal development. In all aspects of your life, you have to evaluate specifically what you want, what is relevant to you, and go after it.

If you persist, you will improve, get better, and find out that you can accomplish things you thought weren't achievable. However, if you adopt the mindset that you managed everything achievable already, you'll get stuck and never move forward. It's important to understand you can never stop fighting.
 

Can You Trust People and Accomplish Your Lawyer Goals?

 
I have always thought I could surround myself with trustworthy people. That I could honestly assess and evaluate people's character and hire attorneys, managers, or accountants that would protect me and have my best interest at heart. All people (lawyers aren't an exception just because they work in a competitive career track) want to feel supported, loved and accepted.

But just as you can never relax with setting goals, you shouldn't put your guard down when dealing with people in this business. You never know which lawyer in your firm will go to your competitor or try to become a partner by climbing on your shoulders. Accountants steal money; hiring managers hire their relatives; partners steal your clients and resources, and sometimes even try to steal your practice.

Unfortunately, it happened to me countless times. You can never trust someone for a long time in a law firm. When I hired strangers, they tried to steal from me and get ahead. When I hired friends or family, they conspired against me and tried to undermine me. Trust is time-bound, and you can only trust until you are useful to the other person. The moment they can get something better in a different practice or with a different person, they'll go after that opportunity.

It's not because they are bad people. It's just how it is in this world. People look after their own interests and things relevant to them. They might form alliances, but that is trust with a deadline. It would be best if you never were too trustful. At least not for a long time. No one will care as much for your accomplishments as you are—no partners, organizations, friends, or family.

You can never stop setting goals and chasing them, and you can never relax if you want to achieve success. You can never stop fighting, and you always need to set bigger goals. If something sets you back, whether an untrusty lawyer, a missed deadline, or a whole week when you couldn't work, you get back up and create new opportunities.
 

Goal Setting for Constant Improvement in a Law Practice


The most successful attorneys set big but measurable goals. They do everything they can to achieve them, and they constantly review them. They write them down on a piece of paper, read them regularly, and think of new measurable goals to reach each new stage of life. For example, if their goal were to get hired in a big law firm after law school, they wouldn't be satisfied once they reached it. They think about milestones they want to achieve next, write them down, and do everything in their power to achieve them. They make sure they are the expert in what they practice. Some even get an accountability partner to help them fulfill their more measurable goals. However they choose to accomplish their goals, they never stop. That could be fatal for their career.

When I decided to move to Malibu and shrink my firm, I made this big mistake. I felt accomplished enough to relax and kick back. Until that point, my earnings were climbing steadily every year, and I thought it would continue even if I worked less and remotely. The opposite happened because I stopped trying. My income and influence decreased. I lost a lot. You will, too, if you stop setting goals.

Every business has employees like that -who feel like they have done enough and now should just get paid for their past accomplishments. They had a burst of short-term motivation, achieved what they had set, for example, going in-house or making partners, and now they want to relax. And that can really backfire on you, especially if you are at the top.

I heard a story about a young attorney, a partner in a big firm, who brought in millions for his company and pointed out the firm's dead weight with some of its older partners. He wanted to take a personal leave for a year to relax, and the company allowed it. The firm still earned from its clients while not paying his salary. When he wanted to return from the personal leave, they didn't want to let him. This arrangement was too lucrative. Now he is suing the firm. But had he not taken time off to relax, nothing like this would happen. He would still have his clients and business.
 

Achieving Your Goals Should Not Stop You


There are many people, attorneys, who want to jake it easy at some point in their life. But it would be best if you never took your foot off the gas because your fight and drive are the only things you really have that can help you in your career. So, you need to challenge yourself and work on yourself and your skills constantly.

Most people are naive in how they see the world and do not want to open their eyes. They want to believe they are successful. They want to trust people around them and believe in their support system. The truth is everything depends on your ability to fight through what the world throws at you. If you can show your fight and determination and the will to be challenged and to grow, it doesn't matter that you didn't go to a top law school. You can still come out at the top in any law firm. Because those are the people law firms, want to hire.

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