Consistency Is Key: A Deep Dive To Reveal The Real Reason You Are Inconsistent

IR Global


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If you're being honest with yourself, you are inconsistent. Sure, you may perform at a high level occasionally, or even frequently, in one area of your life, but other than those instances...
UK Law Department Performance
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If you're being honest with yourself, you are inconsistent. Sure, you may perform at a high level occasionally, or even frequently, in one area of your life, but other than those instances, your performance, focus, and output are up-and-down. In other words, writ large, you are inconsistent and it's absolutely destroying your ability to achieve big goals, drive your law firm and practice forward, and live the life you want.

It's not talent that makes world-class attorneys, it is an outstanding and consistent performance.

The law is a competitive, intellectually demanding profession. Consistent, outstanding performance as a practitioner, practice manager, and leader isn't just a goal—it is foundational to your success. Yet, despite the extraordinary skill displayed in courtrooms and contained in complex legal documents, a hidden challenge often undermines even the most experienced lawyers: an inconsistency in performance. While it's tempting to pin this on the usual suspects—overwhelming stress, burnout, or the inherently unpredictable nature of the practice of law—the true issue frequently goes unnoticed: inconsistent performance is grounded in a profound lack of clarity.

Clarity is the cornerstone of consistent performance. Heck, it's the cornerstone of an outstanding life. Clarity is about having a crystal-clear vision of your objectives, strategies, and the way forward. Without clarity, you will find yourself lost amidst a thicket of statutes, case law, pressing client needs, and deadlines, struggling to deliver consistent results for your clients, staff, family, and community.

It's not natural talent that separates those who are elite from those who are average. If it were, there would be a bunch more outstanding lawyers who were also world-class leaders and performers out there. There aren't.

The reason, plain and simple, is inconsistency. If you've ever found yourself bemoaning the fact you aren't performing at your best in your practice or life (yes, that is possible), read on.

The result of inconsistent performance leads to an average life.

Let's be real, if you're inconsistent in your law practice, where every detail counts, it's pretty much a disaster. When you don't perform at an outstanding level in any area of your life or law practice, the impacts aren't confined to a particular client matter or segment of your life. They affect everything.

Inconsistent performance impacts client trust and satisfaction destroying your most profitable referral source.

The trust of a client is essential to any engagement; it's at the heart of your profession. Inconsistent performance can severely erode this foundation. Clients seeking your help are often navigating some of the most challenging periods of their lives. They look for stability, reliability, and predictability in their lawyer. When you fail to deliver consistent performance, it not only jeopardizes individual cases but can also lead to a broader loss of confidence. Satisfied clients become evangelists for their lawyer. Dissatisfied clients are less likely to return or refer others, potentially leading to a significant loss of business over time.

Inconsistent performance influences case outcomes.

The stakes in the matters you handle high, especially to your client. Inconsistent performance, whether it be in the thoroughness of your preparation, research, or advocacy can directly influence the outcomes of matters. For instance, fluctuating levels of thoroughness in case research or variable commitment to case preparation or client communication leads to missed opportunities. (And, perhaps a bar complaint or, worse yet, a call to your malpractice carrier.) For litigators, the inability to show up day-in day-out in trial, despite the massive fatigue experienced, is readily seen by the jury and may result in adverse jury verdicts. Such failures of performance can result in unfavorable rulings, appeals, or even the loss of a case that might otherwise have been won.

Inconsistent performance tanks team dynamics and morale.

The practice of law is virtually always a team effort. Even if you count yourself as a proud solo lawyer, you're likely leveraging human capital in the person of a legal assistant, bookkeeper, or contract counsel to help you. Inconsistency in performance from one team member can place additional burdens on others, disrupting workflows and increasing stress levels. This can lead to a toxic work environment where resentment builds, collaboration suffers, and overall morale dips; a sure recipe for burnout. Over time, such an environment can lead to high turnover rates, making it challenging to maintain a cohesive and effective team.

Inconsistent performance hinders your professional growth and development.

Inconsistency not only affects present performance but also has a knock-on effect on professional growth and development. Lawyers who struggle with inconsistency find it difficult to identify their strengths and areas for improvement, hindering their professional development. Furthermore, inconsistency can limit opportunities for more significant cases or roles within a firm, as reliability and predictability are often prerequisites for a world-class law practice.

Inconsistent performance tarnishes a firm's reputation and market position.

As a lawyer, your reputation is your currency; it is everything. It takes years to build and only moments to stain. Inconsistent performance across a practice can quickly lead to a reputation for unreliability. Word of mouth in the legal community travels fast, and an attorney or firm known for inconsistency may find it challenging to attract high-quality clients or cases. Moreover, in a competitive market, attorneys and firms with a reputation for consistency and excellence will inevitably attract more business, pushing inconsistent performers further to the margins.

The ripple effects of inconsistent performance in a law practice underscore the importance of addressing the root causes of this issue head-on. By acknowledging and tackling the underlying factors contributing to inconsistency—starting with a lack of clarity—world-class attorneys can safeguard their client relationships, case outcomes, team dynamics, and, ultimately, their reputation in the legal marketplace. In doing so, they not only enhance their current standing but also secure a more stable and profitable future for their practice.

Five Keys to Developing Clarity.

Imagine you're juggling a bunch of cases and each one is a ball you can't afford to drop. That's where rock-solid clarity comes in. If inconsistency is poison to your law practice, clarity is the antidote to inconsistency. In the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) and demanding world of legal practice, achieving clarity will be the difference between success and stagnation. Here are five crucial strategies for developing clarity, ensuring you and your law practice deliver consistently high performance and navigate the challenges of your profession with confidence.

1. Define clear goals and objectives.

The foundation of clarity in life and, certainly, your law practice, is the establishment of clear, concise, goals and objectives. When a case comes in the door, you evaluate the path forward and develop clear goals and objectives with the client's input. Why wouldn't you do the same for your law practice (or life, for that matter)? Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Aspirational (please do not set achievable goals, they are boring and lead to mediocrity), Relevant, and Time-bound. This clarity in purpose directs focus, guides decision-making, and provides a benchmark against which performance can be measured. After all, what's measured, improves.

2. Implement structured planning and organization.

Once your goals are set, the next step is to implement structured planning and organization processes. This is where leadership and the CEO mindset comes into play. What human capital can be leveraged? How can you become a Level-4 delegator, where the person delegated to owns the result, which is continued excellence over time? What technology do you leverage to ensure the mundane is executed consistently with excellence? Building a structure is critical because when things get hectic, which inevitably will happen, you've got your systems and team to fall back on to calm the chaos. A structured approach ensures that all team members are aligned and that cases are progressing as planned, minimizing the chances of oversight and inconsistency.

3. Foster open communication.

Clarity is also about communication—ensuring that everyone involved, from clients to team members, understands the strategy, goals, and expectations. Regular, open lines of communication help preempt misunderstandings and misalignments that can lead to inconsistent performance. This includes being clear about roles, responsibilities, and the rationale behind decisions. Sharing the rationale is essential, after all, no one can read your mind.

4. Prioritize continuous learning and development.

The ground under the practice of law is is ever-shifting, with new laws, regulations, and precedents emerging regularly. Additionally, clients have access to the world at their fingertips, which means they have the ability to research on their own. A commitment to continuous learning and development ensures you and your practice remain at the forefront of legal knowledge and expertise. This involves not just keeping abreast of legal updates but also developing skills in areas such as negotiation, client communication, and technological tools. A culture of learning fosters adaptability, ensuring attorneys maintain clarity and consistency in their work, even as external conditions change.

5. Cultivate self-awareness and mindfulness.

Finally, clarity must also come from within (ignore this aspect at your own peril.) Lawyers are often subject to high levels of stress and pressure, which can cloud judgment and decision-making. Cultivating self-awareness and mindfulness empowers lawyers to remain centered and maintain a clear focus, even in high-pressure situations. In the parlance of the Energy Leadership system in which I am certified, cultivating self-awareness and mindfulness allows a lawyer to remain in an "anabolic" state and out of their "Energy Stress Reaction." Practices such as meditation, reflective journaling, or even engaging in hobbies can help maintain mental and emotional equilibrium, fostering a clear state of mind that is conducive to consistent performance.

Achieving clarity is a dynamic and ongoing process. It requires deliberate effort and commitment but pays dividends in the form of enhanced performance, better client outcomes, and a more harmonious work environment. By defining clear goals, implementing structured planning, fostering open communication, prioritizing continuous learning, and cultivating self-awareness, you can overcome the challenges of inconsistency and navigate their career with confidence and precision.

Brené Brown says "clarity is kind." That is true. I don't think it goes far enough. Clarity is not only kind, it is essential for consistent peak performance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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