Confucius was asked by the farmer, “When’s the best time to plant my orchard?” Confucius sighed quietly and replied, “20 years ago.” The farmer then asked, “When’s the next best time to plant my orchard?” Confucius smiled gently and answered, “Today.”
In my work coaching lawyers, I have yet to find a single attorney who can’t name at least one skill or activity they wish they’d developed earlier. Indeed, we all wish we had done some things differently in our personal and professional lives. We wish we had discovered specific truths, or learned certain lessons, or taken particular actions earlier along the way. The trick, of course, is not to let regret stop us from taking effective action now.
So what are some things you wish you had started earlier in your practice – things you acknowledge would still be a good idea but that you tell yourself it’s too late to act upon? Here are a few diverse examples, courtesy of several attorneys who have planted new orchards 10, 20, and even 30 years into their practice – and who are harvesting satisfying fruit from their efforts.
Andrea, 19th year in practice, now has a laser-focused daily meeting with her lead paralegal and has upped her productivity and net revenue by just over 20% without increasing her overall hours.
Ron, 31st year in practice, hired an email marketing consultant, and now publishes a high-quality newsletter for clients and referral sources to which he regularly adds new readers (and with whom he’s building “top of mind awareness”).
David, 28th year in practice, taught himself 10 basic keyboard shortcuts that he estimates saves him at least an hour each week (which, at his hourly rate comes to over $14K a year, and will pay for his 30-year anniversary vacation this coming April).
Janet, 21st year in practice, took a weekend to gather, organize, clean up, and rate all her contacts; a year later, she’s landed several significant matters from the renewed and deepened relationships she’s cultivated by taking weekly business development action, using her contact list to guide her activity.
These attorneys could have maintained the status quo indefinitely, ignoring their good ideas about how to become better at lawyer marketing or practice management (and thus more successful and satisfied). They could have continued to justify their inaction with rationalizations that it’s too late for them to change or that the benefits wouldn’t materialize quickly enough.
Would they be further along had they taken these actions years ago? Of course. But are they reaping the benefits of action because they finally decided to plant their orchards? Definitely.