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July 26, 2011

Redux: "Liking" Your Clients.

I'm no Stephen Covey. I suspect that burning inside each employee is an overwhelming ambition to Get Home, Eat Twinkies and Watch Wrestling.

Life's short. Work is important. If your work is not mainly fun, find a new gig. Work at that. Many, if not most, lawyers, I am convinced, simply don't even like what they do for a living. They went to college, law school, got married, had kids, some hard knocks.

And then they watched in slow-motion horror while their choices in life hardened around them. Education, and professional schools, are supposed to set you free--not land you in an upper-middle class prison of dashed hopes and failed plans.

Happiness, right? That was the main idea.

What business is it of mine that lots of lawyers are miserable? Answer: If you want to have a half-assed life, fine. I've come close to that myself--and fought and muddled my way out more than once. But please don't hurt your clients. And please don't repel people from entering and staying in the profession who might make fine lawyers except for the bad example set with your defeat, angst and misery because you don't like your career.

And all that disenchantment translates into settling for second-rate work, and "mailing it in"--at best. That's the worst of it. I see it every working day, especially at other law firms. You just don't love what do, folks.

You don't even like It.

Look, I am no Stephen Covey. I am less wise, less nice and, unlike Covey, strongly suspect that smoldering inside each employee, even well-educated and highly-paid ones, is an overwhelming ambition to get home, eat Twinkies and watch wrestling. But liking your work, in all but the rarest cases, makes your work better.

The quality of your work is, I think, perfectly--almost mathematically--commensurate with your attitude and your degree of contentment at work. You don't like work. So you do mediocre work. You dumb down hard things. Not even bad work--just barely adequate work. (Your clients actually pay you for that?) It makes me want to secretly send you an application for employment at Starbucks. It makes me angry.

If you're a professional, you need to like what you do. Period.

So maybe "liking" your clients helps? Yes--I think it does. See Rule One from our infuriating-but-accurate 12 Rules. I am not the only one who's noticed. In November 2008, I had the honor and pleasure of finally meeting lawyer-consultant Tom Kane, as well as his talented son, a new lawyer, on their turf on Florida's brilliant Gulf Coast. See at Tom's Legal Marketing Blog this one: "Enjoy Your Practice and Your Clients". Excerpt:

The solution: spend your marketing and business development efforts and resources seeking the legal work and clients you do enjoy. Don't waste your marketing time or dollars on the rest.

Tom Kane.jpg
Above: Despite an often serious demeanor, Tom Kane can help you get your "fun" thing on.

Posted by JD Hull at July 26, 2011 10:59 AM

Comments

Beautifully put, Dan. Been kinda absent lately, and I've missed these posts of yours. And of course, the classic rock links. (Nothing like Alvin Lee's lighting speed to light up the night...)

Posted by: Terri Weiss at July 27, 2011 04:14 AM

The horrible part is that law schools are enrolling even MORE students so more young attorneys are hitting the shrinking job market, hoping they can make a decent living even if they don't like what they do.

Posted by: Joe at July 27, 2011 09:25 PM

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