What’s keeping you from taking a weekend, a full week, or even two weeks unplugged from your law practice? The first factor is the myth of equating value with effort that most lawyers believe. The second factor - the one that stops us all - is fear.
Fear of what? It’s fear that something will go wrong. It’s fear that your business won’t be there when you return. Maybe you fear that your staff isn’t up to snuff. Or say your staff is up to snuff, but maybe they aren’t trained in enough situations to handle all of the potential problems. So many fears!
Your Own Worst Enemy
Not only are these fears natural, but they are exaggerated by the fact that we are, of course, lawyers. We’ve been trained to spot problems before they happen. It’s what we do for our clients all the time. We are the doomsday watchers of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Our training makes us our own worst enemy. We can get so focused on our clients’ problems, that even if we find solutions for them, we rarely use that training for ourselves. We’re always moving on to the next client problem.
This training gives us higher level of fear than the blissfully ignorant, non-lawyer population has. They don’t have as much fear because they don’t know all of the things that can go wrong. Meanwhile, we’re hyper-aware of it.
More fears arise when you think about unplugging from the practice. You fear that your business will be hurt. If your clients meet with somebody else, then maybe they’ll be driven away. Or, maybe one of your associates will take clients away from your firm. I hear these fears from other lawyers all the time.
The Debilitating Power of Fears and Myths
I also hear more myths.
“I can’t leave. You just don’t understand, a law practice is different. It’s not like other businesses.”
We all know, as I’ve been harping on for a long time, a law practice operates exactly like all other businesses.
“If I just work harder, it’ll get better someday and I’ll be able to take time off.”
Well that can’t be true. By just doing more of the same, you’re not going to change the end result. These fears and myths pull us in different directions, so much so that we become paralyzed. We don’t feel like anything can change, so we end up frozen. Add these myths and fears to the normal pressure we face - pressure to succeed in business, provide for our family, etc. and most lawyers find themselves in denial that unplugging actually a possibility.
You Can Beat The Fears - I Did
The truth is, it’s not impossible. I know that you can take time off and still have your business waiting - a long weekend off, a week off, two weeks off, even a month off. I was able to do this, and I had a very small firm with just a few associates. I had no support staff whatsoever, and I was still able to take vacations unplugged for multiple weeks at a time.
Was there a worry that if the clients worked with an associate, then the associate may take the clients for themselves? Of course that was a fear, but what’s the alternative- I would have to resort to doing everything, and that’s hardly a scalable solution.
Instead of caving in to this fear, you have to embrace it. It may happen. You may lose some clients to associates, and it’s a risk. In exchange for taking that risk, however, you’ll be able to grow your firm without doing all of the heavy lifting yourself.
It’s a tradeoff, but remember, risk comes with reward. I was able to do this with zero support staff, so I know it’s certainly possible.