Taking small steps towards change

 In Comment, Gill's Blog

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Changing the habits of a lifetime is not just difficult but almost impossible. In fact, it takes about six months of doing something to imbed it as part of your daly routine. so changing the way we do things takes more than inspirational writers, speakers and thinkers like Professor Mayson or the Naked Lawyer it takes courage, its takes energy and it takes mindfulness.

Last week in the Times Daniel Finkelstein, writing about the Liberal Democrats’ conference, referred to a fascinating study conducted by Ellen Langer back in the 1970s. His theme was the need for the Liberal Democrats to realise that the way they saw themselves was not how the electorate saw them any more and they needed to move from acting mindlessly on certain issues to acting mindfully.

In this context he referred to Ms Langer’s research which she conducted in a care home where she discovered that real change happened amongst the community when a tiny task was given to patients, in that case taking responsibility for looking after a pot plant. Those in the group charged with looking after a plant each tended to live longer, become more active and be more mentally alert than their counterparts in the control group who continued to live as before without any such change in their routines.

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Moving forward on automatic pilot tends to mean that we do not put our mind to changes around us and miss important elements which have altered in our environment that could mean a catastrophe awaits. Charles Hendy gave as an example the frog who if placed in boling water would jump out immediately to avoid being boiled alive; whereas a frog placed in a pan of cold water which was gently brought to the boil would not notice the heat and would eventually die.

Are we solicitors in danger of simply continuing doing what we have always done on automatic pilot because it is familiar and feels safe whilst the legal services environment changes rapidly and radically around us?

Commentators such as Stephen Mayson and other highly respected people are now I see being criticised for trying to jog us out of this mindless routine because what they are saying is hard and the temptation is to simply say ‘It’s easy for you to say, you are not at the coal face’.

Believe me when I say I do understand how fraught and worrying the market for legal services is right now. Yes there are potentially huge benefits for those with many resources to invest. It is all too easy to simply ignore the postive advice and keep one’s head down doing client work which is familiar rather than business planning and development that is not about to produce an immediate increase in fees and will take you away from what you like doing best – working for your clients and hopefully making a profit.

However, (there is always a however!) can I encourage you to make a start towards a new you; a new way of working or a new way of thinking? Instead of continuing to do what you have always done it is time to make a start and say to yourself, ‘to-day’s the day’ Carpe Diem and all that or risk being one of the 4,000 plus firms who may not survive the changes to the legal services market.

  • Just envisage why you wish to make any changes;
  • Take the tiniest of steps along the route, such as trying to agree the same way of drafting your Wills as one of your colleagues or producing a standard letter for explaining Lasting Power of Attorneys to your clients;
  • Get use to doing this for a week or two and
  • Then reflect back on how your small step has improved the speed and delivery of your service or whatever reason you envisaged at the start as needing you to act mindfully.
  • Try to avoid the temptation to make a huge leap unless you are ready for all the extra work that entails.

Go on try acting mindfully instead of mindlessly and let me know how you get on.

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