Surround yourself with yes

Issue October 2014 By Cynthia E. MacCausland

How many 2013 Fiat 500 Pops can you fit in the back of a 1999 Ford Explorer XLT?

Probably the answer depends on whether the Fiat is driven straight in the back of the Ford, or whether the Fiat is crunched up for scrap. Also, whether the interior of the Ford was modified and the seats placed down, or removed all together. Do we leave room for a driver, or is this an exhibit at the International Auto Show?

Really - what do an economical, but stylish, Italian hatchback and a rugged and decidedly not fuel-efficient American truck have in common, and what insights might they have for law practice management?

Some time ago I drafted an article for this publication featuring an Audi A5 Coup, a Fiat 500 Pop and a Mazda MX-5 Miata ("Driving objectives: goal setting to grow your practice," Lawyers Journal, December 2012). The point of the article was about goal setting and using benchmarks as guideposts for mid- and long-term goals. At the time, I drove a Fiat; however, I had visions of precision German engineering. I thought I could achieve the interim in a Mazda convertible.

Sometime between trading up and putting the top down, I took a hard right into an old rattle trap American truck. What happened? I changed my priorities and set some new goals. An unexpected opportunity presented itself and I took the risk required to fully pursue it. I set German engineering on the back burner and tried something else.

As attorneys, we tend to be risk-adverse and hesitant to tread on unfamiliar ground. We make moderate and safe decisions with our practices and our business. We embrace forward-planning and bullet-pointed lists. We only ask the question when we already know the answer. Surely our profession demands prudence and caution; however, to truly advocate both for our clients and for ourselves, we must push and explore - we must be unafraid to jump, and even to occasionally fail.

How do we jump when we aren't even sure where we might land? How do we even imagine what we might discover when we arrive? So often, we are surrounded by messages and intimidations of failure. Where will you find clients if you relocate to a new office? How will you learn new procedures if you move to a new court? You can never be accepted for that appointment - you don't know the right people or have the right experience. The economy is terrible - you will never find your first job.

These doubts and negativity can destroy the hopes and aspirations of even the most confident doer. So you must surround yourself with yes. Seek out and find fellow visionaries. Surround yourself with admirers and fans. Speak with and follow fellow doers who have themselves taken extraordinary and even foolhardy risks and prospered to share their tales.

Living in New England, we are surrounded by a tremendous volume and variety of visionaries and doers. Local bar associations, clubs, civic groups and community organizations all host and present events for meeting someone new or unexpected. Mentoring groups, continuing education seminars or section council meetings will brace and improve both your knowledge and your confidence.

The section councils and working groups of the Massachusetts Bar Association organize dozens of seminars, receptions and events that provide daily opportunities to survey new practice areas, engage in compelling and dynamic conversations, find new admirers and build friendships with fellow doers. So there you are - move forward, take a risk, jump, become the visionary and surround yourself with yes.

Cynthia E. MacCausland is the chair of the MBA's Law Practice Management section. She represents children and families in domestic relations and child welfare matters, and provides à la carte representation under the Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) model. She practices in Norwood and Springfield.