Here we go again!
It‘s Groundhog Day again! And this year is also the 25th anniversary of the Bill Murray comedy with the same title. In it, Bill finds himself trapped in a time warp and is doomed to relive the same day over and over again.
If you’re a partner in a law firm, this could serve as a reminder to ask yourself: am I stuck in the same rut? Why am I doing what I’m doing? And what am I going to do to get out of it?
Every year, in these early days of February, many lawyers across the world realize that they’re stuck.
Why now you ask?
Well, in many firms, December 31 marks the end of their financial year. So on January 2, those firms reset all the clocks back to zero. Your billable hour target: 1,800. YTD: 0.
Brutal. But most lawyers don‘t realize it right then. They spend January in denial because they’re distracted, usually by two things:
First, they are still busy finishing the billing and collecting marathon that started at the end of last year. In most firms, this isn’t over on December 31, but ends sometime in January or “December 37th” or whatever it may be for your firm.
Second is compensation. Dividing the pie. That’s good stuff. The endorphins for all the labor of the previous cycle. Talking about money is much better when it means actual money that eventually makes it into your bank account.
The alternative, which is talking about money you haven’t generated yet, is the hard part. And while the finance department harasses you month after month, they’re surprisingly silent in January. They’re busy calculating how big the pot of honey is...
But then February comes and guess what? One twelfth of the year is gone. Your billable hour target for January: 150 hours. Where are they?
Didn’t you record your time? Alright then, get the entries into the system by the 15th and we will run a new report then. But by then your target YTD is 225 hours. Ugh.
I have never met a lawyer who likes recording time. And 200+ hours in one chunk is daunting. It’s like a punch in the stomach.
“Damn it. This chase again? I’ve been through this over and over. Yeah I make good coin, but there must be a better way of doing this. There must be. There really must be.”
And just like New Year’s Resolutions, these Lawyer February Blues will quickly disappear in the rear view mirror unless you do something about it right there and then.
Start to figure out what should be different. How your business should be different. How your firm should be different. Nothing dictates that it has to be the way it is. Nothing.
And yet it seems daunting. For understandable reasons. Back in 2008, along with some others, I predicted that massive change would come to the legal services delivery model. It was wishful thinking. Yes, stuff has changed, but really it’s been around the edges.
Even though it was tough to see so little progress, I now believe, more firmly than ever, that bigger change is possible. It will not come from clients. It will not come from law firms. It will come from lawyers and those who care about what lawyers do.
It will come from those who WANT to rewrite the rules that seem axiomatic and are the cause of the Lawyer February Blues. It will come from those who WANT to deliver better. Much better.
If you are one of those, then please use this Groundhog Day as the signal to start. Godspeed!!
And if you want support, get in touch and let’s start a conversation. Better still, let’s start a tribe. There are plenty of people out there who, if they weren't stuck in organizations and routines by themselves, would change the world of legal services. If we all contribute a little to this movement, we could get something going.
As a first step, you can sign up to learn more here: