The following is adapted from The New Law Business Model, Revealed book, by Ali Katz, New Law Business Model Founder—find it on Amazon.
If you’ve been practicing law for at least a week, chances are that you’ve encountered a client who annoyed you, angered you, or made you cry. You’ll never entirely avoid these people, since they are, truly, ubiquitous. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re encountering these people on a regular basis, you might need to consider what the universe is trying to tell you.
If you listen to what the universe is saying, you will learn to change your behavior in a way that will bring positive change to your law practice, too.
Some people call this phenomenon “karma.” I call it the mirror principle.
When clients or colleagues behave in a way that you don’t like, instead of blaming or thinking that you are a victim of some external force, look in the mirror.
Chances are if you are being treated in some way that you don’t like—if clients are canceling appointments, not paying on time, not taking your time seriously, for example—consider that you might be operating that same way, yourself.
If so, look at whether you might be slow to pay your own bills. I noticed this one in myself. An invoice would come in from a service provider, and I’d be resistant to paying it, so I’d sit on it for a while. I’d know I was going to pay eventually, but it would take me some time to do it.
Once I realized that this behavior was causing me to experience the same thing from my own clients, I decided to make a permanent change. From then on, whenever an invoice came in, I would make myself aware of the voice in my mind saying, “You don’t have the money, you’re going to run out, you should wait until there’s more in the bank.”
And then the bigger part of me, the adult part that was running the show would respond, “It’s okay, you actually do have enough. Pay the bill immediately to show the universe how you want your clients to respond to your bills. It will all come back to you.” I would pay it immediately, no matter how much resistance I felt inside of myself.
By choosing to operate as I wanted others to operate with me, I created the reality I wanted to experience. This was a game-changer for me because I began to see that I could not control others’ behavior, but I could control my own—and that would change everything.
You may know this as the Golden Rule or the Rule of Reciprocity, but it boils down to the same thing. If you want to command premium fees, then be willing to pay premium fees. If you want people to pay for all your services upfront, then be prepared to do the same. If you want people to pay on time—pay on time, or even early.
Take a few minutes right now, and write down exactly how you want to be treated by your clients.
Also, consider where you may need the help of your own legal services. Do you need to get your own estate plan up to par? Do you need to get your own legal, insurance, financial, and tax systems in place for your business so you can advise your business-owner clients? If so, don’t just think about doing it, start by noting it in your journal, and then create a plan to actually do it.
At the company I founded to help lawyers, New Law Business Model, we encourage lawyers who are looking to transform their legal practices to keep journals to answer questions and make notes. You can start yours now.
Coming into complete congruence is necessary for you to successfully transform your practice, whether you’re following the New Law Business Model, or another model all your own. You will not be able to do presentations, network with people in your community, engage clients, or serve them in a way that you truly believe in until you make this first, critical shift.
If you regularly serve clients who are annoying, angering, or upsetting you, remember to take a step back and evaluate the situation. It’s highly unlikely that they are all just bad people. Instead of blaming them for bad behavior, remember the mirror principle.
Consider whether you are exhibiting the same behaviors in a different context, and then choose to change. The universe will thank you.
For more advice on using the mirror principle to transform your legal practice, you can find The New Law Business Model, Revealed on Amazon.