A younger lawyer calls more experienced peer out, highlighting a need for solos to have a diverse network of younger and older peers.
Last week in our mastermind group meeting we had a breakthrough moment, but it was so subtle that, if you didn’t pay careful attention, you would have missed it.
One of our more experienced members presented a “hot seat” challenge. It was initially framed as a time management issue familiar to any busy solo: how do you balance hourly billable work to maintain cash flow, with family time, with a desire to build a new practice area that may not pay off for months, possibly years.
In our group, we have a diverse collection of attorneys. Some have been in private practice for decades, other for just months.
Initially, the more experienced attorneys chimed in with the usual recommendations to manage time more effectively: be more disciplined with your calendar; make appointments with yourself, look at what work is most lucrative and give up the most time-consuming tasks; delegate some work to an assistant – blah, blah, blah.
The lawyers listened intently to the conversation. Some thought to themselves, “Dang, I wish I had those problems.” A stable practice, actual cash flow, more opportunity than you can handle, a chance to pursue lucrative deal work.
But then one of these “newer” attorneys chimed in with her take on the challenge. “The problem here is that you’re too comfortable.” Not only was this lawyer right, she picked up on something that her more experienced peers just didn’t see.
Two Important Lessons
That quick interaction taught everyone in our group two important lessons:
First, be grateful for where you’re at. No matter what your challenge is, there is some person who is who would love to have your “problems.”
Younger lawyers would love to have the network and stable cash flow of their more experienced peers. Lawyers billing 2,200 hours a year are envious of the professional freedom and courage younger solos have.
Second, the interaction highlighted the importance of having a diverse professional network.
When we initially started our mastermind group, we had concerns that our more experienced attorneys would have some reservations about joining a group with attorneys who are new to private practice. And similarly, we worried that the “younger” attorneys may question what they could offer someone with decades of experience.
Yet, in our meeting, it was the “newer” attorneys who spotted the true underlying issue of the more experienced attorney’s problem.
It makes sense. If you are new to private practice, most of your existence is outside of your comfort zone. Those lawyers are learning marketing, sales, and practice management. They may be making up for deficits in skills. They are also likely struggling every month to keep their financial heads above water.
It took a lawyer who is routinely living in discomfort to call out a peer that they are too comfortable.
Often as we build our network and seek advisors, we look for those who are more experienced than ourselves. There’s merit in this, but take caution not to overlook your younger peers. They have an insight that is often refreshing and different than any advice you’ll receive from your more experienced peers.