Take away the money
And what is left?
Would you still be motivated?
Would you still do your best work?
Would you do work that mattered?
Would you treat your clients differently?
Or would you run a mile?
Just imagine a scenario where the remuneration regime in private practice was regulated in such a way that you were severely limited in how much you could earn e.g. no one would be permitted to earn more than £50,000.
I know this sounds preposterous, but the serious point is this: far too many lawyers are in practice simply for the money and not because it is their passion, calling, life’s work or because they want to do Art (see Linchpin by Seth Godin and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield).
The effect of this is to leave the profession with huge swathes of people who are stuck and unhappy. If there were options outside of the profession that paid as well, many would leave.
Many are overpaid for what they do and they know it. They couldn’t leave even if they wanted to.
If you are stuck then you face a constant battle with your inner voice – the Resistance as Steven Pressfield calls it – that sets out to sabotage any attempt you make to break free.
Fear of course plays a large part “How on earth would I/we manage. The thing I really want to do only pays [40% less] than I am earning.”
I would love to see you break free and follow your dreams but I know right now there will be few people brave enough to do so, and let’s face it if you are wedded to the idea of working for someone else, then being a wage slave in one job, may be no better than the one you have just left, no matter how much the work floats your boat.
Instead what I would encourage you to do, is to have a peek outside of your little cubicle and ask yourself if you had a free reign over your practice, what would you do? Hopefully you haven’t fallen out of love with law to such an extent that you cannot contemplate such a decision; but what you have to bring about in yourself is a mind-shift where you look at what an ideal client would look like not how much you can bill.
I always tried to marry up my interests outside of work with what I was practising. Now I didn’t have as much freedom as I would have liked – billing always seemed to get in the way – but it did enable me to sustain a level of motivation that would otherwise have been difficult to maintain over the long term.
You may not feel ready to jump practice area, but one would hope that you know enough about the client types in your area to work out who you would prefer to work with. Don’t start telling yourself that there aren’t enough of them to sustain you. I don’t buy that. You need to spend more time on business development. If you got rid of the clients that drag you down, how much of your turnover would you have to replace? 100%, 80% or as little as 10%?
Yes the market is tough but if you put into practice a remarkable service then word of mouth will drive clients in your direction and it will give you a huge marketing edge. Or introduce a pay us what you think we are worth regime and see what happens.
My prediction is that, over time, lawyers will have to get used to do more for less – a lot less.
If you are not 100% committed to the profession then your love affair, if it hasn’t yet turned sour, may be on its was South quicker than you think.
~ JS ~