5 critical steps to change your way of working when having to cope with changes in the legal world

Lawyers in law firms and law departments are starting to accept that The New Normal in the legal business environment requires them to change. The New Normal means, among many other things, coping with shrinking budgets for legal spend and demands for transparent pricing. This requires a change of law firm or law department culture – “culture” just being another word for “the way we do things around here”.

But changing the way you are used to doing things is hard – very hard. A lot of my coaching sessions with lawyers are dedicated to this issue. It might not surprise you to hear that there are no quick fixes. But there are recipes for change and I have found the following to be the best. It has five necessary ingredients:

    1. Find the right motivator: You need to put some thought into this and find a motivator that works for you, which might be quite different from what works for your colleagues. If you are not motivated very much by money, you won´t get a self-evident kick or find meaning in preparing invoices or drafting and enforcing matter budgets. But if you are motivated by serving your clients in the best possible way, this will be your lever for tackling budgeting and billing work. All you need to do is accept that good legal work on a tight, transparent budget and a neat and clear invoice is great client service – you can ask any client, external or internal, for confirmation of this fact.
    2. Have some faith in the inherent pleasure of tasks once you have started doing them: Research shows that the inherent pleasure of a task is more important to us once we get started than it was before. So once you get yourself to start, you will experience an extra motivational push and probably think, “You know, this actually feels quite good” (if not, have another look at your motivator).
    3. Give yourself some goals that work: Make your goals SMART: Specific (be as specific as you can and make your goal preferably worded as a behaviour that can be observed by yourself or others), Measurable (e.g. “where am I today on a scale of 1 to 10 and where do I want to be on that scale in three months?”), Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Break down big scary goals into “baby steps” that create early wins and boost your perseverance, because:
    4. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence”: It was Calvin Coolidge who said that and, you know what, he is completely right on this one. Keep working towards you goals, despite setbacks and occasional frustration. Don´t let yourself get away with excuses. And finally:
    5. Reward yourself: If you have come this far, you have worked hard at changing the way you are used to doing things. You are worth a reward, so pick something that makes you happy and gives you energy. My coach clients always come up with great ideas: a home-cooked dinner with their significant other, a better-than-usual cup of coffee and a chat with a nice colleague, a spin on the much-neglected racing bike, a karate class in the evening. For me, it´s a daylight walk after lunch and something with good dark chocolate in it. Since I am now done with writing this article, this is exactly what I will do now . What reward works for you?

Best of luck with your change projects!

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Marion Ehmann is a lawyer as well as the founder and owner of kiMEru Coaching & Consulting AB. She uses up-to-date research and best practice plus her almost 20 years of experience in the legal profession to support lawyers in their professional development.