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These 3 Habits Will Sabotage Your Law Practice

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Is perfectionism holding you back?

Don’t look now, but you might be sabotaging your law practice in ways you don’t even realize.

And the culprit is residing in your head.

Self-limiting attitudes like perfectionism, scarcity thinking, and imposter syndrome may be stunting the success of your practice.

“It’s not that lawyers aren’t disciplined enough to do hard things — just the opposite,” says Jay Harrington, attorney and author of One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Practice. “It’s not some external adversary that holds us back. Our own worst critic resides inside us. It’s the limiting beliefs we harbor that keep us from realizing our full potential.”

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3 Habits That Can Sabotage Your Law Practice

Limiting Attitude #1: Perfectionism
On its face, this might seem like a good thing. But perfectionism hampers creativity and innovation. It leads to procrastination and makes it hard to pick yourself up and keep going after a setback.

“Developing a tolerance for failure is critically important,” writes Harrington. “You can’t fail if you don’t try. And even when you do fail, you’ll learn valuable lessons that will improve your efforts in the future. In this sense, failing at business development is a leading indicator of success.”

Here are some self-limiting statements perfectionist lawyers make, according to Harrington:

  • I have to edit my LinkedIn profile before I start creating content on the platform.”
  • “I need to do more research before I narrow the focus of my practice to a particular industry.”
  • “I have to work on my pitch, and then I’ll invite that prospect to lunch.”
  • “Once I finish my business plan, I will start taking action.”
  • “If I want it done right, I need to do it myself.”

Limiting Attitude #2: Imposter Syndrome
Psychologists define imposter syndrome as a feeling of inadequacy or not being good enough, and a belief that your peers are smarter or more capable than you are. Accompanying this is a persistent fear that you’ll be discovered and exposed as a fraud.

“If you listen to the voice, you end up staying safely within your comfort zone and stop taking risks,” writes Harrington. “Your forward momentum stalls. Your confidence wanes. You start questioning your judgment. When the voice gets really loud, it engenders a paralyzing fear. If you can come to grips with the fact that those around you feel the same unease and anxiety about business development that you feel, then pushing through the uncertainty becomes easier.”

The solution: lean into your self-doubt.

“Take on new challenges,” says Harrington. “Pick up the phone. Write that article. Ask for the business. Reach out to your network. Narrow your focus. Remain confident. Seek help when you need it. In short, get out of your head and take action.”

Limiting Attitude #3: Scarcity Mindset
In his best-seller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey used the phrase “abundance mindset” to describe the belief that life (and the law) is not a zero-sum game and that there’s enough success to go around.

“Lawyers with abundance mindsets feel empowered and exhibit confidence in their business development conversations,” says Harrington.

Here are some things he says lawyers with abundance mindsets do:

  • They bring in the right experts to help address client needs, rather than hanging on to all the work themselves.
  • They share credit — in terms of results achieved and origination/compensation — with other team members.
  • They develop strong professional networks and generously refer work to other lawyers when it’s not the right fit for themselves.
  • They share their best ideas when creating thought leadership content, confident in the knowledge that clients won’t take those ideas and try to do it themselves. And if someone does? That’s OK — it just means it wasn’t the right client.

If you practice in Wisconsin, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana or Michigan, you can stay on top of ethics and risk management news by being a member of Alta Pro Lawyers RPG. You’ll get access to free webinars, the Pro Practice Playbook, Reminger ProLink, Ask the Risk Pro and more. Here’s how to join.


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