When most people think of the inevitable things in life they think “death and taxes” but there is one other inevitable life force—change. And it is change that most people fear the most.
People fear change because it makes life unpredictable, it upsets best-laid plans, and can even upturn the power dynamics of an entire industry or society. But change can also offer an opportunity to improve, succeed, and in the case of law firms and the legal industry as a whole—change can offer an opportunity for unimaginable profits. This is why fear of change is the biggest risk law firms face when they’re trying to grow their revenue. But how do you overcome that fear of change? Let’s take a look at a few tips:
Tip #1 – Accept Risk
Let’s face it, change can be chaotic, at least at first, when you’re not sure just how things will shake out and you’re uncertain of the ripple effects. But it’s important to accept that just like change, risk is also inevitable. While it is risky to do something new it is also risky to continue doing the same thing you did before especially if it’s not delivering the results you want. A matter of fact, sometimes maintaining the status quo is more risky than making a change. Let’s think about the advent of email. When email first came on the scene, law firms that insisted on communicating with clients ONLY via postal letter were at a competitive disadvantage to those law firms who saw email as an opportunity to improve communication with clients. And the list is endless when we’re discussing change in the legal industry—those lawyers willing to risk a change are best positioned to profit from advancements that improve the practice of law.
Tip #2 – Embrace Failure
This may feel counterintuitive but embracing the possibility of failure is a very strong antidote for the fear of change. One of the biggest reasons that people fear change is that they are worried about losing money, losing their job, losing opportunities, and losing the chance to succeed in the way they envisioned. But the reality is that any change can bring with it a possibility of failure. This is why you need to be okay with failure and shift your perspective so that you understand failure as not a permanent state but a temporary setback. A matter of fact, failure can offer an opportunity to learn lessons that would be impossible to gain otherwise. And finally, if you’re willing to accept the prospect of failure you can take the necessary risks in your efforts to leverage change to your long-term benefit.
Tip #3 – Expect Uncertainty
So many lawyers stick to what they know because it feels steady and safe. Even if they’re using legal practice management systems that have major failings, they won’t have any surprises. They know the problems and they’ve got workarounds for those problems. But here is the real problem—sticking with the status quo because it feels like steady ground could severely harm your law firm’s productivity and profits. And if you applied that attitude to all aspects of your law practice, you would never hire a new associate or take on a new client or begin work in a new practice area. All these actions will have uncertain possible outcomes even if you imagine that they won’t. The truth is that no matter what you do uncertainty is a constant. When you make a change, that uncertainty can also be very possible—things could work out in positive ways you never imagined.
Tip #4 – Leverage Strategy
When it’s time to make a change or you see a change coming your way, it can feel like you’re out of control. That lack of control can create an internal resistance to change. But having a solid strategy for how you will not only handle the new changes but leverage them to your benefit can go a long way to easing your mind. And a good strategy can give you the confidence you need to handle any change coming down the pipeline. Keeping with the theme of changing law firm software, Smokeball offers complete onboarding, training and dedicated account management to build a custom strategy with you so you have a path towards success.
Tip #5 – Discard Complacency
When lawyers first enter the field, they’re often excited to learn new things and readily embrace change. But after you get settled and become a veteran lawyer, you find out what works best for you and that’s when the complacency can set in. Complacency is dangerous. Lawyers who are complacent often fail to seize new opportunities and they rarely keep up with the latest changes and trends in the legal industry. It’s not a conscious choice—it’s a human tendency. If you want to overcome your fear of change, you must intentionally discard complacency. In your daily rituals make sure that you are learning something new, challenging your old ideas, listening to a different opinion, getting advice from those who are known for taking risks, and respecting the input of newer attorneys.
Tip #6 – Define Your Purpose
Why are you a lawyer? Why are you running a law firm? What is your reason for being? If you want to overcome your fear of change, the most powerful kryptonite in your toolbox is meaningful purpose. No one is on this planet to maintain the status quo. Lawyers want to service more clients more efficiently. They also want to increase their billable hours and ratchet up their law firm’s profits. But you can’t achieve those goals if you’re not willing to change. You should also be asking yourself: What change do I need to make so that I’m in alignment with my purpose?
Tip #7 – Get Support
No lawyer is an island. If you want to weather the inevitable changes afoot in the legal industry, you need a team of cheerleaders and people willing to help you thrive. Connect with other lawyers willing to mentor you or serve as peer support so that you can make the changes necessary to thrive long-term in an industry that is constantly evolving.
While fear is a natural reaction to the unknown especially perceived threats, it can also stop you from taking action and embracing change when necessary. If you want to thrive as a lawyer you must accept that change is inevitable and make the mindset shifts necessary to leverage change to your benefit.