Are You Scanning For Success or Failure?

 In Living Our Best Life, Office Practice is Life Practice, Practicing Law and Life

It was drilled into me in law school how to analyze cases. Knowing what I needed to look for has served me well in the practice of law- whether I’m reviewing a letter or a legal document.

As lawyers we are trained to look for what might go wrong and too make sure we don’t make mistakes or miss important facts and issues. We are scanning for what’s not right or different.

Office Scanning

Scanning itself is neutral. It’s all about how it’s used. This highly developed lawyering skill can be used for good, as well as creating what we don’t want.

Whether we are searching for how the office looks, the behavior of those around us or if procedures are being followed, we all scan. What’s most important is our awareness of doing it. If we are scanning only problems or what’s not working well, we are missing opportunities to create a dynamic law firm where everyone is working at their highest and happiest level.

It can be hard to break out of a pattern, especially ones we don’t see. It’s the people around us who feel the effects of outdated or misdirected scanning.

Ultimately, it’s profitability that pay the price if we are not fully aware of what we are doing.

Outdated Scanning

Growing up with a loving mom who was also bi-polar was challenging at times.

When mom was entering a manic phase the house would become chaotic and messy. It was a signpost that she was not doing well.

Fifteen years later and happily married, I would have thought I’d left this part of my life behind. No such luck. Apparently, coming home from work I scanned the house to make sure there was no mess, meaning it was safe to me, and mostly, to my younger self.

Not only did I not realize I was scanning, but I didn’t see the confusion and hurt I was causing my wife. She was greeted by a husband whose was searching the house and picking things up, rather than spending focused time with her and the girls. It made her feel like she was doing something wrong.

Research and Development

I’m a big fan of life being a laboratory for both personal and professional research and development. The root word of laboratory is labor or work. Experiments are run. Discovering something does not work is not failure. It’s how we find what does work.

What if we intentionally scanned for what others are doing right or what’s going well? We work so hard to not miss small problems in the practice of law. Why not try for 10 short days scanning for all that is good? You can try this experiment on your legal assistant, receptionist or another attorney in the office- even yourself. It’s best to start with one person.

Like any well run experiment – keep data. Whether it’s on your phone or computer, write down what you are observing, what changes you notice inside of yourself, your interactions with the person and changes in their behavior.

Using Your Legal Training

There are many skills we’ve developed as attorneys that can be used to better our personal and professional lives. It’s a matter of identifying and applying them in ways we don’t think about and then running experiments to see how well it works and what modifications can be made.

It’s how we run a successful business and life.

Let me know what you discover and what you experience in the comments below or by email.

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  • John Gear

    An interesting post. A very good book, “The Happy Lawyer” wrestles with the question of whether law makes people unhappy or whether unhappy people gravitate to law. Your essay reminded me of that because difficult home environments produce kids who become adults trained to be “issue spotters” … people who are preternaturally interested in detecting signs of trouble before it really gets big.

  • Jim Dwyer

    I have not read “The Happy Lawyer”. I’m looking forward to reading it. Environment plays such a powerful role in our lives – be it of the past or the present. Thank you John.

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