Back when I was practicing law, I considered publications like The Lawyer’s Daily to be an unwelcome but necessary evil. I would skim the headlines and case digests looking for information that I had to know to remain competent. There were many times that I did not even read news about upcoming legislation. I figured that it was a waste of time to focus on things that may never be enacted, and I could just wait until it became law to worry about it.
You see, I was already working long hours, and finding time to spend with my family and take care of my health was difficult enough without wasting time doing things that I could avoid.
I can tell you what I never read: the type of pieces that I am now writing. Things about work/life balance, mental health, firm culture and “soft skills.” I had absolutely no time to spare for that type of malarky.
Getting things done by deadlines to satisfy client demands and chasing billable hours can narrow your focus like that.
I remember once observing a small gathering of lawyers and legal assistants admiring the newborn baby of one of our associates who had brought her child in to show off to her colleagues. I remarked to one of my partners, mostly in jest, that this was costing us quite a few billable hours. I am not particularly proud of having had that thought, but with all of the balls that I was trying to keep up in the air, I forgive myself for having descended into the hell where those types of thoughts reside.
I guess you can say that in my lawyering days, I was not particularly “chill.” On the other hand, I was very proficient at getting legal work done, bills out the door and money into the bank.
All of which brings me to my point. In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber explained the concept of working “on your business” instead of “in your business.” The theory goes that if you work on your business successfully, you can develop it to the point where you will reap greater rewards while working less.
Somewhat surprisingly, I actually found the time to read that book while I was practising law. It may be less of a surprise that I did not find the time to actually implement the author’s philosophy, as I continued to focus my efforts on working hard and complaining about my life even harder.
There are a great many people out there in the world who know more about how to run a successful legal practice and to achieve a fulfilling personal life than most lawyers. Many of them write down their thoughts in things called books, newspapers, blogs and magazines. Unlike as is the case with reading contracts and statements of claim, no one will pay you to read this stuff. However, there is a great cost to burying your head in the sands of your ongoing workload to the exclusion of thoughts emanating from those who have a different perspective and expertise. I sincerely hope that you find that out much earlier in your career than I did.
This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (www.thelawyersdaily.ca), part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.