Are lawyers generous? Sometimes we are, and certainly there are plenty examples of lawyers and firms giving to charitable causes on a regular basis.
But there is another kind of generosity, one where we sometimes fall down. It is generosity within our business. I like to call it generous productivity.
come to work and be an authentic, productive participant in life
For some reason we sometimes fail to see opportunities for generosity in business. We are trained from day one to view time as money. The sad result is that whenever we take a moment to do something that is not directly referable to a billable hour, we feel like we are not being productive.
You all know by now that I’m a big fan of productivity. However I think it’s important to emphasize that productivity is not always related to direct earning capacity.
Productivity in the legal profession can come in many forms. Today I wanted to focus on generous productivity (or productive generosity, if you want), and encourage you to engage in a deliberate system where you take the time to develop this as part of your routine.
Generous with our Time
One things we sometimes lack is giving sufficient time to others.
This might be clients, but it might also be our colleagues.
Productive generosity allows you to help the people around you when they need it. If you can assist them to do their job better, faster or overall more cost effectively – then there is a reasonable chance you are working towards the overall good of the firm.
This doesn’t mean you spend your day doing other people’s jobs – but keep an eye out for times and opportunities where you can create a significant difference with a small effort.
Generous with our Experience
You didn’t think I’d have an article on this site without mentioning something about mentoring or training if I could, did you?
Training in law firms is so comprehensively half-baked on many occasions that I sometimes want to shout (I’m not a shouter by nature, if you’re wondering).
If you are given the privilege of an opportunity to speak to your colleagues and peers about something that will help them in their jobs, then do it properly – don’t disrespect them by delivering some garbage presentation or tutorial which adds nothing of value. Take the time, be generous with your information and your effort – and you will be adding value to the firm.
Firms can be tense places. As a result, in high stress situations people often say or do things in the heat of the moment that they might not. Similarly in firms of any size you will always have personality clashes, clique issues, different backgrounds, different thoughts on appropriate language and any number of other opportunities to be offended in some way.
If you are on the receiving end of this, you could take the option of being angry or upset for days or weeks. Or you could take a breath, recognise that you are not perfect, and forgive the other person. I don’t mean go and hug everyone and say “I forgive you” – I mean just let go of whatever it was, and get back to being a positive and helpful influence in the workplace.
Generous with Yourself
Last one for today – be generous with your self. There is a temptation to hide yourself and your own personality from your colleagues. However to build trust and authentic relationships with people around you, you need to allow a bit of yourself to come through.
Don’t come to work and be a machine – come to work and be an authentic, productive participant in life.
How are These Things Productive?
What is productivity? Simple: getting things done. Generous productivity is about not just you, but others. Your productivity need not always be in terms of billable hours, but it needs to be achieving something. Each of the above aspects of generosity for lawyers have a productive element – they are building relationships, training others, getting tasks done and working on trust. Sometimes generous productivity is in fact MORE beneficial than personal productivity. Let’s say that I know how to do a task efficiently, which is a task frequently done by my firm. If I spend 1 hour training 10 others to save 30 minutes each time they do that task, is that not more productive than me just continuing to do the task in that hour? I am then saving 30 minutes, per person, per task. If each person does that task once a week, then I have offered tangible value to the firm and to our clients. Sure my hour of training can’t be billed to anyone, but that doesn’t impact on the value it has provided.
My headings above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are as many more opportunities here as thoughts you can have. The trick is just to do it.
That’s all for today – go and aim not just for productivity, but generous productivity this week.