A few years ago a friend told me about the managing partner at her law firm, who graded everyone—from first year associate to senior partner—on the same curve. He thought he was encouraging excellence. He was mostly encouraging stress and depression.
We, lawyers, tend toward perfectionism and competitiveness. Thus, it is tempting to compare ourselves to others, including those who are years ahead of us on our career path. But while learning from our career elders is a useful thing to do, comparing ourselves to them is not.
When a first year tells me that he’s discouraged because his briefs aren’t as well-written as mine are, I tell him that’s just nonsensical. I couldn’t write briefs of the same quality myself when I was a first year…or a third year. But what I could do was deliberately practice my writing. Learn from my mistakes. Hear the criticism.
So when you start out building your legal practice, don’t compare yourself to the rainmaker in the corner office with the 5,000-name contact list, and the confidence to pick up the phone and know that the GC on the other end will want to hear what she has to say. Compare yourself today to yourself yesterday.
Did you improve? Did you learn? Can you learn faster?
This is your only race. And if you run it, you will always win.
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