In my post yesterday, I shared that a carrot and stick approach with bonuses based on hours billed is not a great motivator. An associate wrote me and said she agreed, but also asked that I share with senior lawyers what actually does motivate associates and how to tap into it. As you will see below, there is a lot of consistency on what motivates people and it isn’t money or bonuses. The real challenge is to figure out how a law firm can provide it.

I blogged about motivation a few weeks ago and in 5th Key to Career Success and Life Fulfillment: How to Motivate Yourself I talked about three points Dan Pink made in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.   He believes that intrinsic motivation comes from autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Those are not new concepts. Several years ago I read Selling with Emotional Intelligence. Chapter 14 of that book is titled: “Finding Motivators that Last.” The essence of the chapter is that successful people are intrinsically motivated because extrinsic material motivation loses its power over time.

So, what would motivate you to develop, build and expand relationships with clients? Mitch Anthony lists six categories of lasting intrinsic motivation:

  1. Competitive nature-it is the desire to become better than competitors.
  2. Desire for excellence-it is the desire to become the best you can be.
  3. Curiosity and desire to grow-it is the lifelong desire to continuously learn and become a better lawyer
  4. An attitude of gratitude-it is appreciating the opportunities we have been given rather than complaining about our circumstances
  5. Desire for building relationships-it is spending a lifetime doing work and helping people we like.
  6. Noble purpose and goal-it is the feeling that what you are doing to help clients is noble and helpful.

These concepts have even been discussed in the context of professional services firms. Jay Lorsch and Thomas Tierney in their book, Aligning the Stars: How to Succeed When Professionals Drive Results, say that most young professionals want:

  • to learn;
  • career options;
  • affiliation and teamwork;
  • autonomy; and’
  • flexibility to better balance their professional and personal lives.

Ok, I think you probably can agree that there is clarity on what motivates younger lawyers. The more difficult question is how a firm, and its more senior lawyers can provide it. We will be brainstorming creative ways a law firm can tap into their associates’ intrinsic motivation If you are interested, send me your ideas.