I have been talking to a friend of mine about how to keep up your motivation as a solicitor. My friend said he talked to one of the partners at his work about his lack of motivation. The partner was nonplussed, and suggested that my friend should “snap out of it”. My friend concluded that asking a partner in a large law firm how to deal with lack of motivation was like asking a blind person to describe a rose (hence the beautiful title to this post, I love it, so I’ve “borrowed” it).
A partner who has been successful in a large firm cannot even envisage how a junior lawyer might lack motivation. After all, what else is there to life other than getting to partner? Isn’t this the be all and end all, for which all junior lawyers are striving? Well…NO. Not for most normal human beings. The problem is that someone who gets to partnership at a large firm has a high probability of being an abnormal human being (I may be stating the obvious here, forgive me). Perhaps it’s because law firms promote a particularly driven kind of person.
I remember when I was a solicitor, a partner asked me what my billable hours for the last month had been. Hmm. I had a few minutes thought. “I don’t know,” I said.
The partner was gobsmacked. “When I was a junior solicitor, I knew exactly how many billable hours I was doing and what I was doing to maximise them.”
I thought about it. “I know exactly what I’ve achieved last month for the client, exactly how many matters I’ve settled, how many matters are a step further towards trial or resolution. I just don’t see those six minute units as being that important. It’s the outcomes that matter.” It was as though I’d said that I was a Martian from Mars. The partner just didn’t understand.
She shook her head and said, “With that attitude, you’re never going to make partner.” Ain’t that the truth? I’m pretty sure that I’ll never be a partner in a law firm, unless the Fairy Godmother decides to jump out of nowhere and make me one.
The problem is that law firms winnow out people who have a normal attitude to life: a wish to spend time with their families, a wish to be motivated and enjoy one’s work, a wish to focus on outcomes not billings. I still think it’s a real problem for most law firms. They’re losing decent people because they just don’t understand.