The Lawyers Who Can Adapt are the Lawyers Who Will Thrive

Imagine this: It’s the beginning of a new day, and you’re ready to face it head on. You have a list of things that you need to do, and you’re prepared to tackle each and every task. You’re organized and motivated. But before you can even get to the first item on your to-do list, you’re called into an important meeting. The entire day is one interruption after another, and before you know it, the day is nearly over. 

It’s probably not hard for you to imagine at all. We’ve all been there. 

And sometimes it’s not just a meeting or a bunch of phone calls. Sometimes it’s something much more serious that throws us off course, like the loss of a major client, a partner’s sudden retirement, or your firm’s request that you relocate. 

How do you handle it? 

Does it send you into a mental and emotional tailspin, or do you have the ability to pivot and adapt efficiently and effectively? 

If you answered the former, you’re not alone. Many of us find that obstacles –even small ones— can frustrate and overwhelm us, and prevent us from achieving our goals. 

The good news is that adaptability, or our ability to respond positively to changes and challenges, is a skill that can be learned. And, when honed, adaptability is a skill that can help us become better leaders, more creative and effective problem solvers and, ultimately, more successful lawyers. 

 

What is adaptability?

There are a lot of things that we won’t be able to control in our careers. A client may react poorly. The dynamics of a firm may change. Or, you might just have one of those days that’s simply…crap. 

What we can control, however, is how we react to circumstances. 

Adaptability means having a flexible mind and a growth mindset. It is not just about tolerating change, but thriving in changing circumstances, or turning a challenge into an opportunity. It is about not just getting through that difficult day, but being able to seize it. 

 

The Importance and Benefits of Adaptability

I strongly believe that adaptability is critical to lawyers’ ability to thrive in practice, particularly in its current state of disruption. The ability to change –or be changed—along with our circumstances has never been more important than it is in today’s professional climate. It is no longer a “nice to have” competency, but has become a crucial skill. 

Some of the benefits of adaptability include the following:

You will gain trust from colleagues and clients. 

Being adaptable will help you maintain a calm demeanor when things don’t go as expected. Your colleagues and clients will be grateful for this and intuitively place more trust in you –  looking to you to take the lead during challenging time.

You will become a better problem solver

People who can solve problems are good people to have on your side. To be a problem solver, however, you have to be able to think creatively in the face of challenging circumstances, and this requires adaptability. The more you are able to adapt, the more your mind will have the flexibility it needs to solve the problems that will inevitably arise – no matter how inflamed the circumstances.

You will have the opportunity to stretch and grow

Everyone reaches plateaus in their careers, but you aren’t meant to stay on a plateau forever. Change and challenge can lead to growth, but only if you are adaptable. When a challenge arises, will you maintain the status quo, or will you adapt and take that opportunity to grow? 

 

How can you become more adaptable?

Becoming more adaptable is not something that is going to happen overnight. It takes time, effort, and commitment. It starts with a willingness to keep an open mind, to consciously embrace change and challenges, and to let go of habitual actions and responses that are not best serving you in achieving the goals and objectives you have for your career.

A couple of tips:

  1. Engage your brain on this project.  Every time you gain new information about something, your brain changes and it will start to apply that new information in the decisions and actions that you take going forward.  Use that naturally wired tool to help you upgrade your adaptability by reading articles and books and listening to podcasts about building adaptability, mental agility and a growth mindset.
  2. When you catch yourself responding to a change or challenge by doing something the way you always have, or resisting the opportunity to respond differently, take some time to consider if it’s really working or if you’re stubbornly clinging to what worked in the past. If it is the latter, try something different.  It sounds simple, but it isn’t easy.

Remember that it is only when we go outside of our comfort zone that we grow.

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