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I coached over 1500 lawyers in the United States and Canada. The one thing virtually every one of them shared in common and told me was:
I wish I had started my client development efforts sooner in my career.
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I have written about inner motivation and made the point that no one can motivate you for a significant time. You have to motivate yourself.
Why is motivation important?
Put simply, to become more successful and more fulfilled, you have to continue growing as a lawyer and a person. That involves change and change is incredibly difficult.
A few years ago Fast Company magazine published a fascinating article Change or Die. Please click and read it to better understand why changing is so difficult.
You will learn that fear of dying is not a motivator. Heart patients know exactly what lifestyle changes they need to make to avoid dying, yet they do not make them. On the other hand the joy of living can be a powerful motivator.
Let’s see how the joy of living type of motivation might apply to practicing law.
Years ago I listened to Daniel Pink’s new book titled: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. If you search you will find that some have criticized the conclusions Pink reaches. I happen to agree with Pink’s main points. You can find my similar thoughts in my book Prepare to Win: A Lawyer’s Guide to Rainmaking, Career Success and Life Fulfillment.
Pink argues that the carrot-stick (change or die) approach only works in limited situations when the work is so boring or lacking creativity that it is the only tool to motivate the workers. It might work for the lawyer who is stuck in a warehouse reviewing 1000s of emails a day to determine whether they are relevant and whether they are privileged. Almost nothing a lawyer does could be more boring. So, rewarding the lawyer by the number of hours he or she puts in might be an appropriate incentive.
Pink believes intrinsic motivation (joy of living) is what is needed in every other circumstance. He believes that intrinsic motivation comes from autonomy, mastery and purpose. When you have autonomy you feel like you can direct your own life. To have autonomy you must take responsibility for your career success and life fulfillment. Mastery means you are constantly striving to become a better lawyer knowing you will never achieve total mastery. Purpose means you are working on client matters that are meaningful, doing them well and doing your work for a purpose greater than yourself.
Pink tells a story about finding purpose. In 1962, Clare Booth Luce met with President Kennedy about his diffuse priorities. “A great man,” she advised him, “is one sentence.” President Lincoln’s sentence was obvious: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” So was FDR’s: “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.” What, Luce challenged President Kennedy, was to be his sentence?
- Take responsibility for your career,
- Work every day to become a better lawyer and find ways to better serve clients and
- Focus on the journey, not the destination. In other words, focus on the joy that helping clients achieve their goals bring you rather than focusing on pay, bonuses or promotion,
- Finally, decide what is your sentence.