October 2014 Bar Bulletin
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October 2014 Bar Bulletin

The Trick To Finding and Chasing Down Your Passion

By Robert WM Zierman


We now live in a post-Great Recession world. Several members of our guild will sunset their careers just fine by carrying through on the momentum built over their work lives. Let's be happy for them and seek to retain the best of that which they have provided. Yet for the rest - especially those of us who are not "digital natives" - it's time to retool.

Marty Smith, co-founder of the e-discovery-software firm Attenex, at his fairly new blog LegalRefresh.com, has repeatedly been providing some of the most thought-provoking ideas as to what needs to be done to accomplish this. Here paired with other supplemental concepts is an article that seeks primarily to identify the strategic concept that will expedite this or any other objective - The 80/20 Principle.1

Though the ratio doesn't hold quite as exactly as it sounds from situation to situation, its overall idea is that a small amount of inputs - 20 percent - creates a disproportionately high amount of the output - 80 percent. Correlatively, a large amount of the input - 80 percent - creates only a slight amount of the output - 20 percent. Though simple, this is profound.

It means by whatever metric you use, a small number of attorneys do the lion's share of the work in any office, practice area and geographical region. The rest are picking up table scraps. Compound this with the fact that many attorneys still seem to take a jack-of-all-trades approach to doing law, whereby today's matter du jour is a divorce, tomorrow's is an employment dispute, and the day after that it is a probate or personal injury matter, is it any wonder that we now have a legal system in which only a few people - probably less than 20 percent - can really afford representation.

So, how do we start pulling ourselves out of this mess before the general public finally decides our time is up? We use the 80/20 Principle in a twofold manner. First, each of us ought to look inward to identify our core focus and then emerge and engage that focus in an outward productive manner.

Starting then, we ought to consider taking a deep inward journey to figure out what Jim Collins in his book Good to Great calls our "Hedgehog Concept." The Hedgehog Concept requires us each to find the intersection of our respective passions, skills and economic drivers. These are the "why", "how" and "what" that we each do.2

While this isn't something that any of us can come up with overnight, perhaps the best approach is to create lists for each of the three Hedgehog categories. Create a list of 10, 20, 50, maybe even 100 "things" you are passionate about "doing." Then look over that list to cull the vast majority for which your passion doesn't run especially deep. What's left is perhaps the 20 percent for which you have a passion bordering on insanity.

Now, ask yourself: Why? To do this, go over your list and create a new list as to why each interest gives you any type of spark. You will identify patterns. Admittedly, you still might not yet have reached your core.

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