Good and bad habits alike, have a profound effect on our lives. The habits of attorneys, in particular, may seem small and insignificant within the scope of the day or week, but can amount to dramatic and transformative results over time. Habits, and small ones at that, are the backbone of productivity, job satisfaction, career success and growth.
In his book The Power of Habit, New York Times Investigative Reporter Charles Duhigg talks about the everyday behaviors that lead to our ultimate success or demise. On the up side, we make changes that allow us to eat better or become more productive. Bad habits, on the other hand, can lead to behaviors like smoking or overeating.
Duhigg argues that much of what we do on a daily basis is the result of habit. This impacts everything from individual health and wellness to business and career success. When we develop a new habit, our brain matter actually changes, wiring us to function on “autopilot,” to automatically carry out the behaviors that we’ve adopted based on societal customs, emotional triggers addictions or, most often the case: lots and lots of practice.
And, attorneys, we all know, have their own specific set of habits (good and bad) that are carried out each day. Small practices, such as performing contemporaneous time entry, can transform an attorney's effectiveness in managing limited time and building loyal client relationships.
At Bellefield, we've long been fascinated with both understanding the habits of attorneys and the work of Duhigg. In this blog post, we’ll explore a few of the concepts presented in Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and how they apply to legal:
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”
In the legal world, we tend to romanticize the case-closing attorney. In our minds, we attribute this success to superior talent and ability. In our minds, this attorney wears a cape. Everything touched, turns to gold. However great the legal talent may be, it is far more likely that success is linked to habit above all.
“The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can't extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”
We all have tendencies that translate to daily behavior. When it comes to trading bad habits for good, you can’t simply eradicate unfavorable behaviors. But, you do have the power to change the habit in order to create a practice that serves you.
“Change might not be fast and it isn't always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”
It’s no coincidence that hundreds of management books have been written on the topic of change. Change is notoriously hard, and humans have a tendency to either develop frustration that change isn’t happening fast enough or resist it all together. It is important to accept this fact, when pursuing change. Focus on commitment and consistency in order to make change happen.
“This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.”
If you take one concept away from this article, it should be this: you have the power to bring great transformation to your life and to your firm - the key is to get started and be consistent.
How have you put the power of habit to work in your personal or professional life? Do you think attorneys can change their habits imposed by themselves or the firm's culture? Share your comments below.