Not all lawyers admit it, but every lawyer is afraid at some point in his or her career.

For some, the fear is crippling. For others the fear is overcome. For me, my fear  motivated me.

Now that I am recruiting lawyers, I prefer to recruit those who are afraid far more than those who are complacent. As a coach and recruiter I can help a lawyer effectively deal with his or her fear, but I can’t help a lawyer deal with his or her complacency.

I love this quote attributed to Intel’s Andy Grove:

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.

Andy Grove later wrote a book titled: Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company

I wasn’t aware of Andy Grove’s quote during my career, but I frequently said I had “healthy paranoia.”

What was my biggest fear? I always put it in harsh terms. I was always afraid my clients would find out I was a “fraud.” I was afraid they would figure out I didn’t know nearly as much as I appeared to know.

How did this fear motivate me?

Put simply, I worked harder to be the lawyer my clients perceived I was. I wanted to learn as much as I could about construction. So, I was a member of the Civil Engineer’s Book Club and created a library and read book after book on highway design and construction, bridge design and construction and construction management.

I read books and listened to tapes on trial skills and trial lawyers. I still have many of the books about famous trial lawyers.

What are your fears? Are your fears holding you back, or are you using fear to motivate you to become the best lawyer you can be?