By Scott Levine, Found / Managing Member
In their book, Buck Up, Suck Up, Democratic political strategy experts James Carville and Paul Begala recount how they agreed with Republican former congressman Newt Gingrich on one thing—how to prioritize one’s time and energy.
Gingrich explained it this way: Lions have the ability to catch field mice. However, a lion would burn more calories catching the mouse than it ever would gain by eating the mouse. Even if it was successful, if the lion were to keep chasing mice, it could starve to death. An antelope requires more time and energy for the lion to capture, but once the lion had done so, it will feed the lion and the lion’s entire family.
The lesson is: Don’t chase small things that drain you of time and energy. Go after the big things that sustain you and make a difference.
Yes, You Should Be Saying, “Go Big or Go Home”
As solo practitioners, this should resonate. We often keep taking any small matter that crosses the transom, believing we must do so to keep our doors open. Yet, these cases can take up so much time and energy that we don’t have the ability to go after the cases and clients we really want.
Now, you may be thinking, “Yes, but ‘Go big or go home,’” is easier said than done. The idea of turning away business in a normal economy is challenging in any economy. In a pandemic economy, it may seem impossible.
Let’s explain why a bold new approach is not only realistic, but you can’t afford not to consider it.
Use The 80/20 Rule as Your Office Measurement Stick
The reason “Go Big or Go Home” makes sense is because of the Pareto Principle.
It seems like effort and output should have a one-to-one ratio. But the world doesn’t operate that way. Instead, the world operates on an 80%-to-20% formula. Also known as the Pareto Rule—named in honor of Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, the 19th-century Italian philosopher who first observed the phenomenon—the basic premise is that 80% of your results are the result of 20% of your effort.
Twenty percent of companies corner 80% of a market, 20% of salespeople make 80% of the sales. And the 80/20 Rule works just as powerfully in the other direction: 80% of purchases will come from 20% of the firm’s consumers.
Look at your client list, and you’ll likely realize you spend 80% of your time on 20% of your clients.
Now, identify the 20% of your clients who bring in 80% of your revenue. Ideally, these clients should be the same in both 20% lists. But if they’re not, you’ve got a problem. You’re chasing mice, not antelopes.
Setting SMART Goals
Once you’ve used the Pareto Rule both to identify gaps in productivity and the work that’s more valuable, you can use the “SMART goals” rubric to help you change that equation. SMART stands for:
- Specific: Goals need to be concrete enough that they’re real targets.
- Measurable: You need a way to measure progress and hold yourself accountable.
- Attainable: It has to be something that’s within your power to achieve.
- Relevant: It needs to be a goal that will make a tangible difference.
- Timely: It can be achieved within a reasonable (short) period of time.
A SMART goal approach is helpful because it forces you to consider your goal as more than a target for wish-fulfillment. SMART goals have elements of a strategy to execute this plan, sort of baked right into them.
Setting Stretch Goals:
In recent years, companies and management gurus have been all abuzz about “stretch goals.”
The premise here is that the “A for Attainable” could be the very problem you need to fix. If you’re only thinking about what is attainable, you could be selling yourself short.
SMART goals are useful for building a better mousetrap. But they may be less helpful if you want to catch antelope.
That’s when you want to adopt a stretch goal. A stretch goal is almost the opposite of a SMART goal, in that it’s something people think is near-impossible to achieve.
In fact, most organizations that set stretch goals fall short, and they never expected otherwise. They just hoped they’d make more progress with a stretch goal than they would have with a standard target. But that means they set the wrong goal. If fine-tuning is all it takes to succeed, that’s a standard goal—incremental improvement results in incremental progress.
A stretch goal requires a big-enough leap that you’re can’t get there by doing the same-old, same-old. A stretch goal demands leadership. It requires real problem-solving. It requires innovation—a whole new approach.
For example, solo practitioners can raise their rates, bill a few more hours, reduce overhead a bit, but those are incremental changes that yield incremental results.
By contrast, I created the AEGIS Law with a stretch goal in mind: Levine wanted to preserve the freedom attorneys find as a solo while giving them the resources of a large firm—thus removing the inherent cap on a solo’s growth.
To achieve all that, we needed a fundamentally new approach.
We created a firm with a new hub-and-spoke structure. There is no hierarchy of partners. Instead, the lawyers are all peers, with base compensation and participation in the firm’s overall income. Beyond that, attorneys decide how much business they want to generate from their own books.
The firm handles all staff work, from paralegals to IT, so lawyers don’t waste time doing office management; they spend more time being lawyers.
And the hub-and-spoke allows attorneys to go beyond the limits of their solo practices. They bring AEGIS colleagues in on new matters—allowing them to take larger cases and even branch into new fields of law.
In other words, they are going after antelopes, every day.
At AEGIS Law, we’ve disrupted the traditional practice of law. Our firm offers the same quality and sophistication as larger firms, but we do it more efficiently and with a better attitude. We’ve created a new kind of law firm by focusing on recruiting top legal talent and giving our clients superior service. If you’d like to learn more about us and how we work, let us know. Send us a message or call us at (314) 454-9100. Or, take a look at our Recruitment Guide