This is a clarion call to all those people in professional practice to start thinking more as a professional athlete and less like a *professional*.
Think of it like this: How many professional athletes do you know who once they get to the top, the very top, stop training?
I bet even someone as gifted as Usain Bolt still has to spend time on the track and in the gym if he wants to continue to run under 10 seconds for the 100m. Lance Armstrong? Trust me, there are countless stories in his books (Every Second Counts is a great read) of him busting his gut to get in shape for the greatest cycle race on the planet, the Tour de France.
But in my experience this is what happens in professionals practice – people stop training. Showing up seems to be enough.
The reason I am so drawn to this analogy is that very few people in the legal profession think and act in this way. In most cases, they go through the exhausting process of getting qualified, work really hard to bill and impress their seniors and, if they are lucky, reach the Holy Grail of Partnership. Along the way they will have spent the minimum amount of time developing their persona outside of garnering a whole heap of legal expertise which usually means growing some grey hairs and having juggled too many cases to give WOW experience to their clients but it sure impresses everyone that they can manage a big fat case load and better still can bill like crazy.
Ask yourself the question: When was the last time your firm sent you on a non law course? Or how many lawyers in law firms have any non legal qualifications like an MBA? In these difficult times it is easy for training managers to push back and stick to the CPD material but law firms don’t have to spend money to see their lawyers trained or get experience outside of the law. They could look to all manner of business as fertile training grounds. Wouldn’t it be cool to spend some time with a client on the basis that you wanted (a) to understand more about your client’s business and (b) wanted to develop experience in a non legal area – purchasing, customer service or the shop floor….!
I still remember the immortal lines of my original mentor in sales, Tom Hopkins: “If you want to earn more then learn more”. I didn’t just take this to mean lots more £££ but to develop as a person.
Now I have bought a ton of books, invested in various tape cassette programmes, read masses of blog posts and listen to uTube when someone sends me a good link and still I know that I need to put more hours in working on myself.
I wonder how many professionals have read a book outside of law – say in the personal development genre? I would wager very few.
The only book that I was told to read by one of my firms was Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson. A great book but the lawyers treated it as an exercise of “Right, done that…” and did not think or were greatly encouraged to read beyond this book. Even if asking someone to read a Dale Carnegie book like How to Win Friends and Influence People seems too radical then why not buy every fee earner a copy of David Maister’s excellent book Managing the Professional Service Firm and then set up a workshop group to see how his ideas can be implemented within your firm.
If you truly want your firm to take on the challenges of the market then start getting everone to think and more helpfully train like a professional athlete.