Perfectionism is a disease of the legal industry

By Claudia King, CEO + Founder

Perfectionism - so highly prized in traditional law firms - is one of the biggest enemies of the entrepreneurial lawyer. Left unchecked it will sabotage the most brilliant business plans, dooming you to failure before you even begin. 

As a recovering perfectionist myself, I know how crippling the quest for perfection can be. If I hadn’t been able to reign in the crazy, I would still be waiting around to launch Legal Beagle. Automio wouldn’t exist. 

Lawyers are perfectionists

As high achievers we’re naturally prone to perfectionism. We want to measure up to the high standards expected of us (by others but most critically by ourselves). We invest the extra time to double and triple check things so we don’t let anyone down. 

When we head off to become lawyers, our innate inclination towards perfectionism is magnified. Starting at law school, and then throughout our careers, we’re reminded lawyers must have impeccably high standards, that our work should be scrupulously faultless, that the devil is in the detail so we’d better bloody check again. 

What’s wrong with perfectionism?

At its worst, perfectionism is a stalling tactic, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. 

Some people hide behind perfectionism to avoid the possibility of failure. A product or business that never launches because it is being endlessly honed can also never fail. Bad news – it can also never succeed. 

You don’t need to be afraid of failure for perfectionism to cripple your chances of success. Perfectionism is the enemy of action. An email blast that isn’t sent (because it's being tweaked and triple-checked) can’t generate leads. An online legal solution with a small glitch or less functionality than you’d like can still help your clients – but it won’t if you never launch it because it isn’t perfect.   

Perfectionists also miss out on insights and seeing the big picture when they become overly immersed in the details. And of course, perfectionism takes time – time that you could be spending making your law firm great. 

Make excellence your goal

I can sense some bristles out there. Am I saying we should settle for mediocrity? Helllll no. We’re a bunch of high achievers, we’re awesome at what we do and we have the drive, the skills and the strengths to do something super-amazing with our lives. Mediocrity is not our jam. 

As entrepreneurial lawyers we need to re-train our brains to understand the subtle but important distinction between attaining perfection and pursuing excellence. 

Truth Bomb: You’ll never make it to perfect. It just doesn’t exist. It’s not a measure of success, it’s a recipe to end up stressed and depressed. 

Learn as you go

Lawyers love being experts. We are driven to understand things fully. To do the training on the theory, get the accreditation, hang the certificate on the wall. 

The beauty of working in a fast-paced emerging space like ours is that you don’t need to complete the course before you start. In fact, its better you don’t. If you sit around studying what to do chances are, by the time you’re ready to do it, someone else will have beaten you to it. 

Get going

Perfectionism (getting lost in the details, endlessly searching for a slicker solution, continually planning) is the enemy of action. And action is the cornerstone of entrepreneurship. 

Every idea has flaws. Instead of wasting your time endlessly perfecting yours, put your energy into making your online legal solution a reality – an imperfect but tangible reality. 

Get insights quickly

Brace yourself for another harsh reality. As an entrepreneurial lawyer, you will fail. If you’re anything like me, you’ll fail often! The key to success is failing fast. 

The faster you fail, the faster you will be able to launch version 2.0. Creating, testing, learning, reiterating and doing it all over again. That’s the path to success – to getting great results for your clients and watching the money roll in. You simply can’t move quickly enough and often enough if perfection is your goal. 

Fail in front of lots of people

Until you launch your online legal solution, the only person able to make it better is you. Once it’s out there you’ll get feedback from the people who are ultimately going to make you successful – your ideal clients. The more people who use your imperfect product, the more feedback you’ll get. 

Of course there’s always a sting when someone points out a problem. Perfectionists beat themselves up about it. High achieving entrepreneurial lawyers remind themselves that getting lots of feedback, quickly, is part of the masterplan. You might be surprised what a difference it makes to your psyche.

Transform from a perfectionist into an entrepreneurial lawyer 

Perfectionism is an entrepreneurial lawyer’s kryptonite. To be successful we need to understand that perfection is neither attainable nor desirable. Instead we need to  retrain our brains to accept that it is our failures that will ultimately bring success. It takes guts to transform an idea into a tangible legal solution. It takes more guts to put that solution in front of clients so that we can understand how to evolve and improve it. 

If you’d like to shake off the shackles of perfectionism and create a truly modern, scalable law firm, then download The Law Firm Profit Maximiser now - this is a 1 page checklist specifically designed for high-performing, entrepreneurial law firm owners who want more profit.