I spent some time last week with a few dozen attorneys, talking about law practice management, technology, and related ideas. When I give these talks, I tend to make them very interactive. As in, I ask lots of questions of the audience. How can I address their issues if I don’t know their issues? Thus, the questions.
Well, this wasn’t a very lively group. As in, radio silence when I would ask a question. But I didn’t relent. I kept asking. And eventually some bold souls accepted my challenge and started talking.
As the “conversation” (and I use this term loosely) progressed, I started to identify a core issue with this group: they weren’t answering my questions because they didn’t know how to answer them. I was asking questions about their practices that they couldn’t answer (for the most part) because they simply didn’t know.
They didn’t know why they handled time keeping/billing/whatever the way they did. They didn’t know why they did or didn’t have a process for intake or client communication or whatever. At least, they didn’t know the why well enough to share. Why? My educated guess is that it’s because they’ve been doing things they way they do them for so long that they’ve stopped wondering whether the way is a good way or not.
I was posing questions that forced my audience to start really thinking about the why and how of their practices. By the looks on many faces, this was both a novel and challenging experience.
The folks in that room were there because they seek a change. The first step: having a mindful awareness of the current state of your practice.
I’m borrowing the phrase “mindful awareness” from meditation, in which context it describes (loosely) a process of identifying a destructive thought pattern, labeling it, and letting it pass when it enters your mind.
In the context of a law practice, I conceptualize the meaning to get at the heart of the first step of change: identifying those processes (or lack thereof) that don’t work, that get in the way of a successful practice, that hold you back from being optimally happy in the way you work.
I’ve helped many folks through the process of changing how they work. Perhaps the sole truth I’ve witnessed: the best kind of change starts with a mindful awareness of the present.
It’s with that awareness that you’re able to truly focus on creating a practice that supports you and the life you want. Not the other way around.