I saw a short video clip recently Life is Like a Cup of Coffee and it reminded me of lawyers who are stressed out because they feel they are under the shadow of a superstar partner. I hope you will take a moment to watch the video and then read on.

When I began private practice, John, the senior lawyer for whom I worked was only a few years older than me. He was a superstar and knew more about how to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients than I ever dreamed I could know. The first couple of years I worked for him I learned a great deal. I was inspired and I tried to do what I saw him do.

There was only one slight problem. I was not John. I was different. What made John successful at client development was not the best approach for me. After two years I quit comparing myself with John and started on my own path to develop what later became a niche transportation construction law practice. I used part of what I had learned from John, part of what I had learned from a construction lawyer who had a national practice and part of my own original ideas. 

I thought of my transition from those first two years when I recently read Dan Pallotta’s Harvard Business Review Blog: Stop Comparing Yourself with Steve Jobs. In the post Pallotta says:

Drawing inspiration from Steve Jobs — or from anyone else you admire — studying them, and learning from them, now those are different matters. But all too often we conflate admiration and comparison. They’re two completely different things. One is smart, the other debilitating.

Each of you has unique skills, dreams and ideas. Draw inspiration from the senior lawyer for whom you work. Study what they do to develop client relationships and learn from them. But, don’t get stressed over not being well suited to do it the same way. Like me, you will find what will work best for you.