Nancy and I recently went to the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association 2018 Annual Convention. We went because the FTBA was honoring our long-time friends, (and one of my very first clients) Bob and Beverly Burleson, who are retiring this year after 30 years of serving Florida Contractors.

Technically Bob is retiring, but if you ask any Florida contractor, Beverly played a huge role in making the association vibrant and strong.

It was an incredible tribute over two days. There were photos of Bob and Beverly from the previous conventions. There were video tributes that started with the tribute by the Florida governor.

Nancy and I were included in the family photo below.

I suspect that I have known Bob longer than any of the people who shared their thoughts about him, but I was amazed at how accurately they painted a picture consistent with what I had always known about him.

Contractors, a State DOT, and legislators rarely get along. They each have different interests. Among the many things that make Bob truly unique is his ability to create a consensus among people with competing interests. (I know he wouldn’t go, but just think what a consensus builder might be able to accomplish in Washington.)

Another thing that Bob has done so well is to focus less on what he does and more on who he is serving.

When I listened to people share their thoughts about my friend, it reminded me of what George Bernard Shaw said:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; …I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can… Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch, which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.

The 2018 FTBA convention is the last one Bob will attend as the leader of the FTBA, but he will always be remembered. Bob and Beverly’s work with FTBA was no brief candle, but rather a splendid torch which they made burn ever so brightly before handing it over to future generations.

Years ago, our daughter Jill and I exchanged a one word description of each other. I felt great when she described me as “Encourager.” I described her as “Determined.” Among many examples of Jill’s determination is her Jui-Jitsu efforts.

Jill

I’ve coached and encouraged many, many lawyers over the last 12 years, and I mentored and encouraged many when I was practicing law.

I’ve witnessed lawyers with great potential and determination become incredibly successful. I’ve learned that I can’t motivate the unmotivated. But, I’ve been most confused by lawyers who have identified what they want in their career and life and have  great potential and motivation to achieve it and then don’t go for it.

As I was doing research for my novel I found a 1983 New York Times article: SELF-SABATOGE IN CAREERS A COMMON TRAP.

The opening line stated the premise:

THE conflict is this: A powerful desire to achieve success is often thwarted by an even stronger fear of it.

The second line suggested the problem was more prevalent in women than men, but that was changing.

That debilitating fear of being successful, which some regarded in the 1970’s as particularly prevalent among career-minded women, increasingly appears to be an abiding problem for members of both sexes.

Two quotes also caught my attention. The first by Benjamin Franklin:

Success1

The second by George Bernard Shaw:

Sucess2

In my coaching and mentoring, I’ve discovered that some who fear success do so because a more senior lawyer has defined what success means. Other lawyers fear success in their career because it might take away from their family.

Some lawyers don’t want the additional responsibility. I understand. In my career what kept me up at night more than any other thing was worrying whether the lawyers I had assigned important work for important clients were doing it well.

I wanted to find something more current and a suggestion how to overcome the challenge. I found an interesting blog post: 10 Sure-Fire Ways To Conquer The Fear Of Success written by Barrie Davenport. If this subject interests you, take a look at the 10 suggestions.

 

Each year I read the Annual Report on the State of the Legal Market presented by The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor.

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 4.44.50 PM

I wrote about the 2015 report last June: Clients: The Problem with Law Firms Rewarding Hours.

Here is a link to the 2016 Report which every law firm leader must read. If the report last year was pessimistic, the 2016 report is even more pessimistic.

As in some of the previous reports, the researchers state:

Increasingly, clients are demanding more “value” in return for their legal spend, and by value they mean greater efficiency, predictability, and cost effectiveness in the delivery of legal services.

The researchers find that law firms are reacting to this new environment passively if at all. Having begun the 2016 report by describing the demise of Kodak, the researchers suggest:

The reactions of the law firm market to the rapidly changing environment in which firms operate parallels in some respects the story of Kodak.

I could share with you many other quotes warning law firms they need to change and change quickly. But, you and your colleagues need to read the report.

With your clients are demanding greater efficiency, predictability and cost effectiveness, what can you do?

Clearly the law firms who embrace and proactively meet those demands will quickly differentiate themselves. 

I believe one way to become more efficient, predictable and cost effective is to hire the most highly motivated lawyers and train, develop and retain that talent.

Instead of managing lawyers, firms need to change their focus to leading, coaching and mentoring them.

There are four things over which your law firm has complete control:

  • To whom your firm makes offers to hire,
  • How well you train and motivate your lawyers and staff,
  • How efficient, predictable and cost effective you are
  • And, whether you embrace these changes in a proactive way or wait for your clients to insist that you change. 

George Bernard Shaw famously said, and Robert Kennedy ended each of his speeches with:

“You see things; and you say, Why? But, I dream things that never were; and I say, ˜Why not?”

According to the report, most law firms see these signs of growing client dissatisfaction as problems. I see them as a tremendous opportunity for law firms open to changing their focus from profits-per-partner to service, cooperation and collaboration.

Interestingly, I believe over time making that change will actually result in greater profits per partner.
 

Want to know what it takes to have a successful and fulfilling law career? I say it starts with these three things:

  1. Knowing what you want.
  2. Believing you can achieve it.
  3. Taking action and persisting until you achieve it.

I love this George Bernard Shaw quote and I thought of it recently when a lawyer sent me the poem that follows:

More poetry for Friday. Here is the poem a reader sent me.

Thinking, by Walter Wintle

If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will.
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But soon or late the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can.

~ C. W. Longenecker ~

I will leave you with a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.

 

 

A lawyer I coach recently told me that I inspired her to “think big and dream big dreams.” It is amazing how words inspire us.

I found great inspiration in my life when Robert Kennedy ran for the President in 1968. I was 21 that year and for the first time had an opportunity to vote. Young voters rallied first around Eugene McCarthy and later around Robert Kennedy. Wherever he campaigned, Kennedy drew large enthusiastic crowds and he inspired them about the future. Robert Kennedy ended each speech with a George Bernard Shaw quote that was very connected to his message:

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

How did that inspire me? Put simply it helped me overcome doubts about myself and to believe I could make a difference. Those words still resonate with me today. I still believe our country would have come closer together had Robert Kennedy lived and been elected.
I saw this quote recently about teachers and it helped me understand what Robert Kennedy was able to do with my generation in 1968:
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
~William Arthur Ward
How about you? Can I inspire you to dream about things you think you may never accomplish and ask why not me and then go out there and give it your very best shot?