Case Study: From The Hamster Wheel To CEO

IR Global


IR Global is a multi-disciplinary professional services network that provides legal, accountancy and financial advice to both companies and individuals around the world. Our membership consists of the highest quality boutique and mid-sized firms who service the mid-market. Firms which are focused on partner led, personal service and have extensive cross border experience.
You've heard the expression "wearing multiple hats"? It means, as an individual, we're operating in two (or more) distinct, and often disparate, areas or functions.
UK Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on

You've heard the expression "wearing multiple hats"? It means, as an individual, we're operating in two (or more) distinct, and often disparate, areas or functions. Attorneys do this on the daily. Because every attorney is also the CEO of their law practice, it's a feature, not a bug, of the practice of law. Simply "switching hats" sounds simple, but it is, in fact, far from easy. A client story provides an example and roadmap.

The client "Chase" was truly an outstanding attorney. He could take a case (his area is personal injury) from intake to conclusion and execute almost flawlessly. The result was maximized recovery on behalf of the client and, because he worked on contingency, positive impact on his firm's bottom line. The thing is, although Chase began as a true solo, over the years he had amassed a team to support him and his clients. This team allowed him to do outstanding things in the law. Chase, however, had significant difficulty switching hats from someone who was in the weeds, on the proverbial hamster wheel of practicing law, and being the visionary CEO of his law firm, setting his and its direction, thinking big.

Different Neural Pathways Control Thinking and Doing.

There is a stark and significant difference between being a doer and being a thinker. This isn't just semantics.

There are two different neural networks at play, which are "anti-correlated" meaning as activity in one increases, activity in the other decreases. Those two networks are: Default Mode Network (DMN) and Task-Positive Network (TPN).

The DMN is involved in internal mental activities such as daydreaming, recalling memories, and, importantly for this topic, thinking about the future. The TPN, on the other hand, is crucial for cognitive control, attention focus, and managing responses to external stimuli.

Because two different neural pathways are at work, moving between being a thinker/visionary and a doer requires two different neural networks, it's no wonder Chase was struggling with taking his lawyer hat off and putting his CEO hat on.

From Hamster Wheel to CEO.

Chase lamented his inability to quickly switch between the hamster wheel of legal work and the CEO activities he knew he needed to undertake to shape his law firm for the future. He was frustrated as the CEO-Attorney because he was constantly getting bogged down in the weeds and the details instead of believing he was capable of thinking big. He, too, thought it was as simple as switching his proverbial hats. He was not only on the hamster wheel, but on the struggle bus as well.

Knowledge is power.

The first step in any evolutionary step is knowledge. Working with me, Chase came to understand the two different neural networks in play. This allowed him to understanding he wasn't alone in his struggle to go from the weeds of legal work to a visionary CEO of his law practice and back again effectively and efficiently.

Evolution requires a big goal, broken down into small actionable steps.

Chase had a big goal; he wanted to eventually devote 75% of his time to wearing the CEO/visionary hat in his law firm and 25% to working the cases he chose to work because they excited him.

For someone who was, at best, investing 5% of his time as a visionary and, if he was being honest, of that 5%, he was performing at, perhaps 50% of his peak, this was a big goal.

To get from here to there, to bridge the gap between his current state to his desired goal state, Chase embraced time blocking.

Time blocking is a three-step process.

When we first began working with time blocking, Chase believed time blocking was as simple as setting aside time on his calendar for his CEO time. He was mistaken.

Time blocking requires three unique skills and, honestly, personal evolution.

  • Physically blocking time on your calendar.
  • Honoring your time block.
  • Being focused during your block.

First, of course, is blocking the calendar to reserve time for the activity. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, there's more to it than meets the eye. When was he more likely to allow his critical (and necessary) "lawyer brain" to get in the way of thinking big? When during his days was his TPN fatigued which would enable him to stay out of his own way and be a visionary? Scheduling your block to align with your biology is a key step many ignore to their detriment.

Second, is honoring the time block. Any time block on Chase's calendar constituted a "promise." Client meetings? Chase understood them as promises to the client. Court appearances? A promise to the client and the court. Those promises are easy to keep. The CEO block, though, was a promise by Chase for Chase. Working with me, Chase evolved into being the type of person who kept his promises to himself with the same vigor and enthusiasm as he kept promises to others.

Finally, initially, Chase was challenged to focus on CEO work in his CEO block. During one of our coaching sessions, he had mentioned how he was able to be very productive traveling on a recent trip. When we explored why that was, Chase specifically focused on how he was able to focus on that was in front of him during a recent flight. We took that concept, identified the specific things he believed made him focused and productive while on a plane, and Chase created an "airplane" environment for his CEO block.

The key is to begin.

Chase, like many high-achievers, couldn't imagine how he'd get to this goal from his current state; the gap between struggling to invest 5% of his time as a CEO and his desired goal of 75% was just too damn big. We dove into the idea of chunking it down and simply beginning.

I shared my experience as an Ironman triathlete. An Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike race, and a 26.2 mile (marathon) run. When anyone thinks of going 140.2 miles by moving their body in the three different events, they become overwhelmed. Totally understandable. Totally natural. The thing of it is, it's not really that. Instead, triathletes focus on making this swim stroke the best, or this pedal stroke great, or this running stride good. In other words, they chunk it down. By doing so, it becomes much less overwhelming.

We've all heard the expression "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." It is true. There's no other way to get there. Chase began his journey to investing 75% of his time as the CEO and visionary of his law firm by spending 15 minutes a week in the space. He put aside the gap and simply began. He started small and grew the amount of time he was in the space gradually.

Today, Chase spends a full 80% of his time as the CEO of his firm.

My clients are the best attorneys in their field. They increase revenue, master their time and focus, and improve performance while enjoying more free time and suffering less burnout

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.

See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More