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All (potential) lawyers come out from law school consistently well trained. They have to. There is simply too much at stake. But, at what cost?

Compliance is the touchstone, not just in their education but also in how they are groomed for a future in legal practice.

Any contrary types are frowned upon. And outliers – well they don’t exist.

Is it the case that all the legal profession wants is compliant people, people that end up, as likely, working as cogs in a factory?

As Seth Godin says in Linchpin:

“You weren’t born to be a cog in the giant industrial machine. You were trained to become a cog.”

The alternative? To become indispensable: To bring to work all your talents, every ounce of ability you have, your passion, creativity, dedication and most of all to do the right thing by your client no matter what.

Please don’t confuse my polemic with a clarion call for idiosyncratic or oddball characters. It is nothing of the sort. No, to adopt Seth Godin’s terminology, are you a Linchpin?

Now I accept 100% that there has to be rigorous due diligence associated with the quality of advice. No one would suggest that you can get away with giving sloppy or ill-informed advice. Heaven forbid. But rather when was the last time you hung out with your client and tried to think at the edges of the box as to what else you could be doing to develop the relationship?

I would wager that there are two principal reasons for this:

  1. The risk of being sued in negligence for going beyond the extent of your retainer (and yes I know that is a dilemma); and
  2. Working out how the hell you are going to charge for this stuff?

But in this information obsessed age, I would bet that a great deal of what you advise the client on – certainly the black letter law – may be found somewhere on the web. Oh, I accept it is not packaged up in a way that every client will comprehend but the smarter ones our there will already have a pretty good idea of the ballpark area. What they are looking for is the very best of your creative intellectual capital. And sometimes, and this is the real dichotomy, the legal advice is blended with some common sense, your experience of what other clients have done, your own experience and perhaps a few home truths! These are the things in my view that the client treasures (except the last one possibly).

You may say that you are doing all of this stuff already but ask yourself one important question: On a scale of 1-100 how much of your *true* self pitches up to work every day of every week of every year and pushes the boundaries of what you do and sometimes to the outer limits?

Umm…. are you edging above 50???

This is a bit like the discretionary effort question. But however you conceive the point, I would wager that it is much easier to be the compliant cog: if you don’t make a mistake and bill consistently then it is unlikely that anyone is going to challenge you. True?

But are you fulfilled and happy? Does everyday excite you? Or are you passively disengaged? Or worse still actively disengaged?

What would it take to bring out the missing you?

  • An environment where more right brain thinking was cherished?
  • More freedom to control your destiny?
  • More control over the type of client and work that you dealt with?
  • Or perhaps a change of environment?

Whatever it is, you need to keep pushing forward to develop your awareness of your self-limiting beliefs which in all likelihood have been inculcated by prolonged exposure to the system.

If you want to make a difference then you need to start challenging the system in a softly softly way – doing something different but remarkable – is likely to be the first step on a long road to change. But change the profession must. It is not quite do or die but in trying to crystal ball gaze it will be those people that develop all their skills, embrace new technology and concentrate on brand You that will be cherished by clients in abundance and firms will clamour to bring into their fold.

On a final note. I don’t believe that the tripartite of Grinders, Minders and Finders espoused by David Maister will in the near future be a neat way of consigning people to their rightful place. No, every person will expect and be expected to aim for Linchpin status. And frankly if they don’t find it in one firm then more of them will look for an environment where they can fulfil their absolute potential.

My mission is to inspire and work with firms/people that want to jump the curve and achieve their absolute full potential.

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For more on developing profitable business, innovating in professional practice and implementing social media, subscribe to the RSS Feed of my Blog. Follow me on Twitter at @0neLife, or @Ju_Summerhayes connect to me on LinkedIn or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your practice, check out my coaching and consulting firm via LinkedIn, email me on or call me on 075888 15384.