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Law Business Manifesto

Break Free of Paralysis and Get Your Law Practice Going in Two Steps

RF green light semaphore-1151556-m“Analysis Paralysis” could be the biggest reason you’re not making progress toward the life you want.

As lawyers, we’re uniquely terrified of failure, more so than almost any other profession.

Rule 1.1, the VERY FIRST RULE of lawyering requires that we have competency to render services in any particular area. 

As we consider launching into a new arena, especially…

We wonder how on earth we’re going to become proficient enough to practice.

I’ve been coaching and training fellow lawyers to onboard into the estate planning practice area for three years now. The most common barrier to their success I’ve seen is an overwhelming fear of committing malpractice. I see lawyers paralyzed by a fear of getting it wrong or breaking Rule 1.1.

I too have had that fear and it has slowed me down quite a bit. On the other hand, Alexis, founder of the Personal Family Lawyer program, and co-founder of the Estate Planning Bootcamp with me, is able to get started on new ideas super quickly. In observing her ability to turn on a dime and make something new happen, I’ve been inspired and challenged to be quicker about my business.

That inspiration has come down to two suggestions I have for you today to stop contemplating your navel (as I am prone to do) and get started on building the practice you want and that you LOVE to work in.

Here they are:

Take and Understand Your Kolbe Index

If you haven’t taken this assessment, it’s super helpful to discover how you work in the world. It is NOT a personality test, it is a work style indicator.

Here is the link to take the assessment. It costs about $50 to get your results (and no we’re not affiliated at all). Out of all the self-assessment tools out there, this has been far and away the most helpful for me and my team to learn where we need to bolster our weaknesses and harvest our strengths.

There are four indices: Fact Finder, Quick Start, Follow Thru, and Implementer. Each of these is a measurement on a continuum—which runs from One (1) which is strong in preventing problems in that area to Ten (10) which is strong in initiating solutions in that area.

For example, I am very strong on the Fact Finder index, while relatively low on the Quick Start index. That means I am most comfortable knowing how to proceed with something, researching and understanding, before I can get started. I’m not a zero or a one on the Quick Start, I’m a four. So I can get started, and I can implement, just not at lightning speed.

My Achilles heel, though, is Follow Thru. I suck at it. I don’t like it and I’m not that good at it. If I have to initiate a lot of follow through or detail work, I am miserable, resentful, and in pain. AND…the firm suffers.

On the other hand, I’m pretty good at supporting and preventing problems in the Follow Thru of things. I can spot when something isn’t getting done, and how to get it done. I need to delegate Follow Thru to someone who is very high on the Follow Thru index which helps us identify the type of person to hire to support me in my weak area.

Also, because I am lowish on the Quick Start index, I’m actually very good at preventing the problems that might come along with starting too fast—like excessive and unbridled growth that drains resources too quickly. In the areas where being slower to start hinders our business, we can hire someone who is a Quick Start to make things happen faster.

Knowing that I am not super high on the Quick Start index, I know that I need a certain base level of comfort with my knowledge in order to proceed. I find that most lawyers who are starting their own firms are like me in this respect—cautious and needing reassurance. This brings me to the second step in getting off your butt and getting started.

SODOTO! See One, Do One, Teach One

John Dewey, proponent of experiential education and originator of SODOTO, believed that “failure is instructional.” As attorneys, failure is tantamount to death.

We have to get over it. The Rules of Professional Conduct do not require that we never make mistakes. It requires that we do our best to provide competent services. But what does that mean exactly?!

I believe it is reasonable to follow the SODOTO rule—See One, Do One, Teach One. In this cycle, we observe, do, then master our task.

Observance, or even as little as class attendance, is Step One. For example, our Estate Planning Bootcamp is a good model for SEE ONE. The Bootcamp was my expression of desire that someone show me what the estate planning practice area is about from a macro level and describe the landscape I would travel from a micro level, without getting caught up in details that would not immediately be needed. (As in, what I wished had existed to teach me all I wanted to know. It didn’t, so we created it. We have written about that many times before.)

Step Two is DO ONE! We cannot master something we don’t actually do. But we don’t need to “do” twenty. We need to “do” one. This is where a lot of lawyers get stuck. But that’s often because we think we have to do it alone! We don’t.

Using the same example, in the Bootcamp, we point you to the next step—how to actually get an estate plan done. There are tools and platforms that we can employ to draft and deliver an estate plan. [NOTE: We don’t offer estate planning forms—those are acquired through other providers.] It shows you how to design a plan, how to talk about it with your client, and there is a forum where you can ask questions and get get real-time guidance as you “do one”.

Find yourself a mentor to hold your hand, but get started. DO it.Do “one”. In this way, you have someone to turn to as you step out and take the risk of practicing in a new area. This is usually possible in whatever niche you are looking to launch. (Mentors rock!)

Step Three—and this is where you can most support yourself—is TEACH ONE. Mastering anything means that we can impart that knowledge to someone else in a way they can understand.

By teaching what you’ve seen and done, you integrate the knowledge into your deep mind. You can then add complexities, nuances, and alternative facts to our basic understanding.

Find a colleague who wants to learn what you’re doing. BE a mentor, however briefly. Take them to lunch and explain the concept you saw that you then did yourself. After that—you will know without a doubt that you can activate that knowledge easily and seamlessly.

Or, if you join a forum or group like the Bootcamp forum I mentioned, so you can offer your teaching to other attorneys in your niche, knowing that when you do, it is for your own benefit ultimately. Teach one.

Then it’s a matter of Rinse and Repeat.

The SODOTO method should always be on—you will encounter a new fact pattern everyday. As you practice, you will become more skilled at researching the See One and deploying a Do One. And you must Teach One to finish the cycle.

You’ll never be done learning. The death of learning is death itself. Every lawyer I know is constantly learning and constantly doing something new.

If you’re stuck and don’t know how to begin, remember that you’re not the first person to start a new practice area, that you’re not the first estate planning, family law or immigration rookie. Ultimately, you belong to a long line of caring practitioners who want you to succeed… You just need to find them. Then, surround yourself with those people and get a move on!

Tallyho! Go forth. Break through of your fear and DO it. You can. I know you can.

Interested in creating a law practice and lifestyle that you love?  Start here:

About the Contributor
Martha Hartney
Martha Hartney's is a successful Estate Planning lawyer in Colorado and co-creator of the Estate Planning Bootcamp. As a Law Business Mentor her greatest hope is to help other lawyers claim, or reclaim, the joy and the spiritual pursuit of being a lawyer.

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