As lawyers, we’re mandated to maintain and enhance our professional knowledge, skills, and ethics annually. This makes sense. Our clients are entitled to assume that we have the ability and capacity to deal with their legal matters (R. 3.1-2 commentary )).
Many lawyers are well-intentioned in meeting this professional obligation; they see it as an important aspect of their career, but they end up scrambling to get their CPD hours in the last quarter. Is this you?
Here are three ways you can approach your own professional development differently this year!
- Get your own system. What I’ve found is that lawyers typically respond to the professional development process that their firm has to offer. If the firm has a process, that’s what is followed (and no more). If the firm doesn’t have a process, then the lawyer won’t have one either. However, there is a group of lawyers who I often find have their own system: sole practitioners. What I mean by having their own system is that they develop goals independently and take proactive steps to execute them throughout the year. I coach several lawyers like this. The goal development starts with using the 2023 Career Planner Workbook for the 21st Century Lawyer. Then we meet regularly to review their progress and evaluate where changes need to be made. Even if your firm has its own process, consider adding elements to make it your own so that you are motivated and, essentially, conducting yourself like a business (within a business). After all, any progress that you make (with or without a firm) is yours to keep!
- Pair up with someone. According to the research of Gretchen Rubin (former lawyer, now author), most people respond readily to outer expectations. These people are called obligers in her book The Four Tendencies. If you find it hard to follow through on your own commitments, then you will probably find it helpful to work with someone who can make you accountable to your goals. This can be a coach (I have my own coach who helps me stay on track throughout the year), but it can also be a colleague. I recently had two law firm partners reach out to me because they wanted to work together towards a common goal. The idea is that they would support each other and hold one another accountable throughout the process and beyond. I thought this was a brilliant idea and am hoping that by sharing it, others will be inspired by it too!
- Incentives matter. I’ve found the work of Ayelet Fishbach (psychologist and behavioural scientist) the most helpful in explaining how to design incentives that pull us towards our goals. One way to make sure your incentives don’t backfire is to ask yourself:
What would a stranger infer about your reasons for working towards your goal? If the incentives lead this stranger astray, and if the reason for your goal isn’t crystal clear, then revisit your incentive (Get It Done at 44).
For example, last year I had difficulty setting aside time (and keeping that time sacred) for some of my quarterly reviews. For the first quarter this year, I am going to try making it a retreat by booking a day at the spa. That way, I can have some time to myself in the morning to reflect on my activity and then get a massage in the afternoon as a reward!!
I wish you all the best in achieving your goals this year.
I’d love to hear from!
What are some unique ways that you approach your professional development?