Many years ago I started to study and speak on a topic I called Lawyer Happiness. Part of it involved the struggle to achieve balance for lawyers in their work and lives. During that study I attended a presentation on “Achieving Sacred Balance”. (Sign me up again…) I learned there that balance and success depends on mindset and the order in which one puts the elements of a mindset, which I’ve written more fully on in a lawyer work-life balance article included on this site. The key point though for success in our personal lives is to first define our Purpose before we do anything else. The same thing holds true for our business.
Some people in business call this a mission statement, but for lawyers it’s much bigger than that. It’s much more than the business purpose of your practice. If you and your employees don’t have a bigger picture for your law practice it just comes down to grinding numbers and dollars which is not very motivating or inspiring for very long. Your purpose must be the ongoing deep reason why you’re in practice. And in our business it must be to be of service to clients, and not just lip service. If we forget that we are first here to serve, our business begins to slowly but surely fall apart and so does our soul.
Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Goals
A 2009 study by the University of Rochester followed graduates who were trying to seek extrinsic goals such as wealth, fame or good looks, versus those that sought intrinsic goals such as solid relationships and helping others improve. The researchers found that those persons who sought extrinsic goals, even if accomplished, were more subject to negative emotions like shame and anger and more physical symptoms of anxiety such as headaches and loss of energy. Those persons who sought intrinsic goals experienced more happiness and fulfillment by way of a deeper sense of well-being and fewer physical signs of stress. Intrinsic aspirations were related to meeting foundational needs of one’s self. On the other hand, striving for money or fame did little to meet those needs, and problems followed.
If you and your employees don’t have a bigger picture for your law practice it just comes down to grinding numbers and dollars which is not very motivating or inspiring for very long. If we forget that we are first here to serve, our business begins to slowly but surely fall apart and so does our soul.
All of this makes business sense too. From the doctor who suggests we come in regularly for a physical, to the clerk at Nordstrom who goes out of his or her way to help us, we appreciate someone who cares enough about us to serve us. We can all sense when someone is there to truly serve us or is just hustling us for the money. If someone gives to us we will give back in loyalty and referrals. It is no different with our clients.
So if we, and our employees, understand that our purpose is first to serve, good things will happen. Business, money, and success will come, but most importantly so will peace of mind. A lawyer recently told me that he became more successful and fulfilled after he decided he was there to serve the client rather than the client being there to serve him by fees and referrals. That makes sense on a lot of different levels.