Why are some lawyers more successful and more happy about their careers and family lives than others? Put simply, they understand both their career and life priorities, they develop a plan based on these priorities, and they use their time wisely.

Most lawyers start their law careers with great enthusiasm, and then, to borrow a phrase from a Seth Godin book, “they hit the dip”. For successful lawyer, having clarity on career and life priorities helps them get through the dips.

So, how can you position yourself for success starting now in March of 2020? (I had originally planned to publish this in March, but then we were all ordered to stay at home.) So how can you start now in June? What should you think about?


You must have the right attitude to succeed. We all talk to ourselves. What are you telling yourself? What are you telling others? What you say to yourself and others often conveys your attitude, the way you think about things.

I listen to what young lawyers are saying so I can learn what they are likely saying to themselves. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, less successful lawyers see the problem in every opportunity, and successful lawyers see the opportunity in every problem. I have found that less successful lawyers frequently say: “Yes, but … ” Successful lawyers say: “Sure, how?”


Second, successful lawyers have vision: They know what they want to accomplish this year. They know where they want to be five years from now. Many successful lawyers even have lifetime goals. I found I became far more focused after I created my own lifetime goals, so I recommend you do it.

Having a clear vision and a definite purpose for where you want to go in your career enables you to accomplish your career goals; it’s also how you find more time for your family and those other areas of your life that are important to you.


Do you want to feel in control of your career and focus on your priorities? Would you like 2020 to be your best year ever, inspire of all the challenges this year? If your answer is “Sure, how?” then you will want to review, and even implement, the following tips. I created these tips from reflecting on what I have done over the years that helped me in my career, and by examining the lives of lawyers and others who found success in both their career and personal life.


  1.  Define your own vision of success and write down where you want to be five years from now. (How old are your kids, where are you living, what kind of work are you doing, what kind of clients are you helping, who is on your team).
  2. What are the important things you want to accomplish in this next year that will enable you to be on track to be where you want to be in five years.
  3. Prepare a plan so you use your non-billable time wisely.
  4. Decide on one area to learn that will enable you to be a more effective lawyer in your field. (One year, I decided to focus on communication to juries. I bought every book I could find, listened to every tape, and read every article on the subject.)
  5. Read or listen to one book a month on business, success, client development or other topics that will inspire you to take action and/or make you more effective.
  6. When reading or listening to the books, create action steps from what you are learning.
  7. Use your time more effectively. Time is your most valuable resource. Whether you care to admit it or not, your challenge is not that you do not have enough time. Instead, your challenge is that you do not use the time you have most effectively. You can discover how to use your time more effectively by using the matrix below.
  8. Figure out ways to bolster your energy. It is our second most valuable resource. Someone once said to me that a law career is a marathon. I replied that to be successful, it is better if it is a series of sprints with time to recapture our energy in between.
  9. Think of ways to apply the 80-20 rule. Let me give you examples so you can think about it. Twenty percent of the things you do create or cause eighty percent of your success. What is that twenty percent for you? Eighty percent of a typical lawyers business comes from twenty percent of his or her clients. Which of your clients generate eighty percent of your business?
  10. Decide how much non-billable time you plan to spend developing your career and client base in 2020 and divide by 50. Each week, give yourself a report card on whether you spent the number of planned hours and how well you spent them.
  11. Get more face time with clients, potential clients and referral sources. One of the lawyers I coached discovered that each and every time he meets with a client in person he comes away with a new matter either right then or shortly thereafter.
  12. Write down a description of you that would tell me (and anyone else you know) all I need to know about you to recommend that a potential client hire you. Why am I suggesting this? First, if you do not know why a client should hire you, the clients clearly won’t know either. Second, this will cause you to think about your elevator speech. How many times have you met people who ask what you do? Telling them you are a litigator, or a corporate lawyer, or a tax lawyer may be absolutely accurate, but it will not likely get you very far. You need to be remarkable.


There is something else I urge you to do. Spend more time with your family without feeling guilty. When you are with your family, be in the moment with them. Turn your portable devices off, focus on your spouse and children, and do not let your mind wander.