Are You Sabotaging Your Law Practice?

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Self-limiting attitudes like perfectionism, complacency 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 Attitudes 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 for the website Attorney at Work. “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, of 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 on Attorney at Work. “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 action now.

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.

  • 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.

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