6 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me In Law School

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6 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me In Law School

1. The Pareto Principle.

The 80/20 rule is traditionally known as The Pareto Principle.The Pareto Principle says that 80 percent of the value you will receive will come from 20 percent of your activities. If you get this, you’ll see that you can pretty much whittle down the time you spend on non-essential or unproductive activities to concentrate on the twenty percent of the personal and professional activities which give you true value and return for your investment of blood, sweat and tears. Whether marketing, networking, selecting your clients, if you’re able to do this you’ll have more time and energy to spend on those things that really bring you personal value such as time with loved ones, great cases, hobbies, and more.

2. Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law basically stands for the proposition that an assignment or obligation will not only expand into the time allotted for completion but will also seemingly become more complex. For instance, if you commit to finding a resolution to a problem within two weeks, the problem will seem to exponentially grow in difficulty over those same two weeks and you’ll spend even more time trying to come up with a solution.

Therefore, focus on finding solutions. Then just give yourself one week instead of two, two hours instead of four, to solve the problem. This actually forces your mind to stay focused on solutions and action rather than the looming amount of time you’ve allotted to find the solution.

Of course, the end result may not be perfection but if you go back to The Pareto Principle, 80 percent of the value of this solution will come from 20 percent of the energy you expended to find it. Or, what’s more likely is you will end up with a better resolution because you didn’t overcomplicate things. You’ll certainly get things done quicker, develop laser-focus when working on your projects and ultimately end up with more free time to now focus on new work instead of that dreaded feeling of knowing you have to get other work done with a looming deadline.

3. Batching

We all have mundane administrative minutiae which, while boring, is still critical to our solo practices and our lives. Putting them off creates a persistent and nagging anxiety that sucks the joy out of our other activities. You know exactly what I’m talking about. A great way to tackle these tasks and get them done with relative speed is to batch them. What is batching? Doing the tasks one after the other without breaks. You want to eliminate start and stop times that come with spacing them out. When you batch, you are also staying focused on the task at hand. You are less likely to make critical mistakes due to distractions (this includes social media!) and you will enjoy tremendous satisfaction once you complete the tasks.

4. First, give value. Then, get value. That’s the right order.

This is The Go-Giver parable. When you give value first with no expectation of return, you inevitably get more value than you could have imagined. A scrooge keeps exactly what he earns and can tell you to the penny his net worth. A generous person gets back more than he could ever spend and knows that what he has can never be measured.

If you want to increase the value you receive in this life, whether love, kindness, opportunities, money, you have to increase the value of what you give. It’s that simple.

5. Be proactive. Not reactive.

If you want something in life, reach for it. If you expect it to fall into your lap, not only will it probably never happen, but other things will fall into your lap that you don’t want. While you’re reacting to what you now have that you never wanted you will miss the opportunities you could have reached for that you did want. And that happens to the majority of people. Be in the minority.

Simply take the first step and set your future in motion. Don’t be the pinball. Be the flippers.

6. Mistakes and failures are necessary.

We love to watch little kids learn new things. They will try something and even if they don’t succeed at first, they keep trying, failing, trying, failing, trying until they succeed and most often they are enjoying the entire process radiating a triumphant smile when they hit their goal. As you get older you stop trying as much because you calculate your chances of succeeding or failing. Then you stop being proactive and trying new things period. You simply start reacting. In the legal profession this is endemic. You wait for someone else to make an effort, afraid to fail because you don’t want people to not see you succeed, or worse, make a fool of yourself or hurt a client. You are choking on your creativity and your aspirations because, quite simply, you are afraid.

Perhaps they’ll laugh at you. Perhaps you will make a mistake with a client and have to fix it. But when you experience that you soon realize that it’s not the end of your professional world. Quite frankly, most people don’t care what you do as long as you don’t hurt others. As lawyers, we have to pay attention to not hurting our clients. But for the most part, we all have our own professional and personal challenges to worry about and we’re just not that concerned about yours.

Success in this life most often comes from not giving up despite mistakes and failure. It comes from being persistent in the face of these challenges.

These are the 6 things I wish I had learned in law school. Do you have any productivity tips you would like to share, tips from a life of lessons which will benefit others?


Susan Bonar Mayer is President and CEO of Litigation Abstract, Inc., headquartered in Missoula, Montana, with a sales and service office in Seattle, Washington.  Susan graduated from Duke University with a degree in History.  Since 1989, Susan and Litigation Abstract, Inc. have provided customized litigation support services to both public and private clients in the United States and Canada, including data and information management, discovery reviews, document and ediscovery productions and electronic trial support.  Susan is an active member of Women in Ediscovery, participates in The Sedona Conference on ediscovery, writes a blog on litigation support and ediscovery, and frequently speaks on data management, ediscovery and electronic trial. Visit: www.litigationabstract.com. Susan can be contacted at: smayer@litigationabstract.com. Twitter: @Litigation_Abs

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By | 2017-08-10T10:44:15+00:00 August 1st, 2013|Keeping It All Together, Managing Your Practice|0 Comments

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