There was seriousness about them that I understood. Each was their own boss, and their boss had high expectations. Do excellent work. Take good care of your clients. Make money. And don’t work too much.
This small group of established solo lawyers each made a commitment to spend a year together looking at their law practice and being coached.
It may be painful to examine the imperfection of something of your own creation. Even critiquing my pot of black bean soup feels uncomfortable when the recipe was my own. Yet taking a truthful look is like taking a taste from your own spoon—once you do, you can’t deny that something might be missing or need a little more time.
Each lawyer had a different practice area, ranging from estate planning to personal injury. Each was hard working, bright, and deeply committed to serving their clients well.
As we went around the table the universality of their concerns was compelling:
How can I do a great job and still have time for self-care?
Am I going to drop the ball on something important?
How do I talk with my staff so that they really hear me?
How do I turn it all off when I go home to my family?
None of them were brand new at the law biz. They were not under any illusion that their dreams would be gloriously attained with total ease, but they had come to see that some unique combination of good intentions, grit, and grace could get you closer.
They shared their stories. They shared their worries about investing in costly new technology, recruiting new staff, and saying “no” to taking on clients that weren’t a fit. They shared their successes of courtroom victories, procedures making them more profitable, and the glory of a first family vacation spent unplugged.
These lawyers wanted to learn how I’d arrived at the season where my growing firm is thriving and my days are joyful. The stories of my many mistakes made along the way mattered most, with my failures and heartbreaks accompanying them. Like when I told about the time I drove myself to exhaustion trying to practice five areas of the law at once. Or the day I raised my voice and pounded my fist in anger toward an employee. Or how I let my accounts receivable get wildly out of control.
The power of perspective from the stories shared had impact. They were not alone. They gave themselves more permission and took more risks. To fire a staff member who was not a fit. To delegate more to the staff that was. When a health crisis that landed one of them in the hospital, the critical need for self-care became crystal clear to each of them.
My heartfelt hope is that each left with a little more self-compassion.
I was the seasoned lawyer invited to guide this tribe for a time. Yet they gifted me with a renewed appreciation for the power of perspective from stories shared, and the possibilities that unfold when we engage it.