Building Positive Habits to Drive Business Success as a Lawyer

One of the best quotes I’ve read in years is by former football player Emmanuel Acho. He said, “The reason people fail is because they give up what they want most for what they want now.” More powerful words are rarely spoken. Additionally, it’s difficult to change who we are and what we’re doing without understanding how to change our bad habits and replace them with better ones. I wish someone would explain to me why developing good habits isn’t taught in grade school or at any level in education. Wouldn’t this fix some of the systemic issues we have with underperforming kids (like I used to be)?  Imagine a world where people eat less, exercise more, sleep enough and have the energy to accomplish their goals—thus being able to change their lives for the better.

While it’s difficult to change the world, I like to help my little corner of it where I can. Yes, I’m talking about YOU, the lawyer who is actually reading my articles. To further set the tone, I’m not suggesting that changing negative habits or starting positive ones is easy. As a coach, it’s my life’s work to try and help wherever possible. Therefore, here are five important lessons about developing positive habits to accomplish things NOW, versus letting these bad habits drag you down this year or over your legal career.


Habit Tip #1. Write it down and read it every day. I’m sure you’ve heard of “Dream Boards” before. This is where you write down your goals (and dreams) for the future and keep these words or images in front of you daily. While this might seem a bit hokey, it works.  You can make it about whatever you want, including accomplishing your daily, weekly or monthly goals. Just having positive ideas or affirmations in front of you is a proven way to develop better habits. You can focus on family, health, business and friendship goals that will keep you focused and feeling proud about yourself. 


Habit Tip #2. Create time for new habits or you won’t ever get to them. Don’t have working out in your weekly schedule? Guess what, you’re not going to do it. A saying I’ve made somewhat famous amongst my clients is, “Did you have the week or did the week have you?” You know as good as anyone that if something isn’t scheduled, it simple won’t happen. One of the first things you should do to be successful at business development is to schedule time each week to get 3-5-7 emails out for meetings with clients and strategic partners. Try to set a time when you are less likely to get emergencies dropped in your lap, like in the early mornings or even on the weekends. This simple 20-minute weekly task will help ensure that your week is complete with business development meetings and not just billable hours. 


Habit Tip #3. Do something small and do it consistently. If you’re reading my last tip and saying, no way! Okay, let’s take the concept and walk it back a little. Can you get out one email a week for six weeks? Take my ideas in Tip #2 and shrink it down so that it’s not overwhelming for you. Then put it in your calendar and do it consistently for at least six weeks. This will help engrain the habit into your psyche to develop a new and vitally important habit. Once this is completed, you can add more emails each week until you see your activity on the business development side going up. And the potential for new originations too!


Habit Tip #4. Get an accountability buddy to ensure habits get solidified. So, you’ve told yourself that you’re going to lose weight this year. How’s that going? We are so accustomed to making deals with ourselves and breaking those promises that they just don’t mean anything anymore. However, what happens when you break a commitment to a friend? That doesn’t go over as easily. The suggestion here is simple, I mean really simple. Find another lawyer who is interested in business development and set a 30-minute weekly meeting with each other by Zoom or in-office. The first few minutes you share what each will be doing on the biz-dev side. Then mute the Zoom and go do it (emailing, calling, LinkedIn prospecting). Then with a few minutes left, come back and share what you just did. In addition to feeling great that you actually did the biz-dev activities, you will see the results from your efforts over time. 


Habit Tip #5. Get your house in order to create the positive habits you need to succeed. One of the toughest challenge’s lawyers have with business development is how crushed they get with relentless work, interruptions and mundane tasks that are counterproductive to growing business. Clearing the deck may be the best and most important pre-habit exercise you go through to accomplish your goals. One suggestion is to write down everything you do in an average day. You may find that you’re making copies, doing the books, surfing online or schmoozing with a partner about the pandemic for hours during your already busy day. It’s no joke when I tell you that I’ve found lawyers with two to three hours a day of wasted time due to lack of delegation and careless attention to their valuable time. In case you haven’t done the math, getting two hours a day back in your schedule equates to one extra week every month that can be used for billable time, biz-dev time or personal time. 

Two great books on developing amazing habits are Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg. Developing positive habits and removing negative ones can be challenging. By better understanding yourself and how you work, you can change the course of your life through small and incremental changes. Take a few minutes to consider what you want most and what may be holding you back. Use my five tips or even one of them to get started today. I know for sure that you won’t regret it. 

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