Do you deserve your success? When we first heard of imposter syndrome, it was associated with the overachieving woman who joined the workforce when it was a hostile environment for women. But, if we extrapolate out the issue, we find that today, this issue affects both men and women equally and is very common in lawyers.
So, let’s discuss the characteristics that could be stemming from your imposter syndrome and how you can overcome them.
In this episode we discussed:
- Five primary ways that we see imposter syndrome and how it tends to impact your law firm.
- How people who overwork tend to define success through doing.
- Imposter syndrome showing up through excessive goal setting.
- How perfectionists tend to be people who require perfection in themselves.
- Ways that imposter syndrome harms your law firm when looking at your unrealistic assessment of others.
- Putting a stop to undervaluing yourself.
- Identifying the failure to delegate.
Allison Williams: [00:00:05] Hi, everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your host of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you to grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:32] Today’s episode is dedicated to the topic of imposter syndrome. Now I’m actually going to share with you guys in today’s episode, a recording from our weekly live show every Thursday at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. I go live on our Facebook page in our Facebook group, the Law Firm Mentor Movement, and on LinkedIn, so you can actually catch the show live if you are so inclined or if you can fit it into your schedule. But I wanted to share with you our most recent episode covering imposter syndrome, really because I decided to cover this topic and I was really, really impressed, pleased with the quality of what came out. It really came from my experience coaching lawyers from across the country.
Allison Williams: [00:01:28] Right now, we have lawyers in almost 40 states in the U.S. and we have this topic come up not only among our client base but within lawyers in communities across the internet. So in various different Facebook groups, and in LinkedIn groups and in chat rooms, I have the experience of, of hearing from lawyers things that I see show up over and over again in their law firms in ways that are making them ineffective. And for a lot of people, when you hear imposter syndrome, it was first associated with kind of the overachieving woman who joined the workforce at a time where women were not really invited into the workforce. And it was a hostile environment and a woman who overachieved and oftentimes work twice as hard to get half, as far, believe that she was not worthy and therefore felt she had, quote, imposter syndrome. But when you extrapolate it out, you see that these characteristics are not just found in both men and women, they are also found very commonly in lawyers and in solo and small law firm attorneys in particular.
Allison Williams: [00:02:37] So I actually go into the, the characteristics, the five primary ways that you will see imposter syndrome show up in your law firm and in you as an owner. And we talk about the five harms that flow from that. Not only that imposter syndrome shows up in you, but that there are characteristics of having that belief system and that pattern of behavior that is going to harm your law firm. So it’s really important that you understand it and that you are proactive in addressing it. And so with that, I want to share with you today’s episode on imposter syndrome. Enjoy.
[00:03:16] Hi, everybody, it is Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor and welcome back to another episode of Live with Law Firm Mentor, where we go deep into the strategies of marketing, sales, people, and systems to help you to optimize, optimize, optimize performance in your law firm and create a law firm that runs without you.
Allison Williams: [00:03:37] So this week we’re going to be talking about the topic of imposter syndrome. So I just want to start off by giving you a huge apology for the wreck is my my credenza here. I actually have the pleasure of meeting with actually one of the owners, of or the owner of my marketing company today. And so she’s in town, she’s going to be here and so I bought a whole bunch of things to set up some studio-worthy background for my, my podcast, which I think I told you guys before. But if I didn’t, the podcast is actually going to be transferring over to video in April. And so we’re gearing up for that, we have a lot of things on tap for that. So we are in the state of production and normally I would not have my production in the field here. But we have we’ve had some interesting things going on, we have Law Firm Mentor has just been kind of on fire at the beginning of this year. We launched a Mastermind starting in January and we have our Systematize Your Law Business Retreat in February. So a lot of live events, a lot of planning, live and virtual, rather a lot of planning, a lot of structure, a lot of changes. And so there’s just a lot going on, but good things, good wonderful things going on.
Allison Williams: [00:04:57] So enough about that. Hopefully, you’ll be able to suspend the distraction of the stuff over yonder for today’s broadcast because we are talking today about one of what I consider to be one of the keys of success in business when we talk about mindset a lot. But the one mindset challenge that I see almost universally in solo law firm owners is imposter syndrome. And I think we have a pretty narrow definition of imposter syndrome. A lot of people associated with its genesis. It actually started off as a phrase that was coined by two women professionals to define and describe kind of high achieving women professionals, but then over the course of time when they looked at those characteristics, they saw that it really is just as prevalent in men as in women and just as prevalent in professionals who are not necessarily the most high achieving, not even in a high achieving, high earning professions, necessarily. But it’s a characterological trait that tends to develop when we’re younger and explodes with some of the cultural imperatives that we have on us. So you can have imposter syndrome as a stay at home mother or as a, as a, as a business person, you can have it as an employee. It does not have to be that you are working in a law firm, you can just own the law firm and be very financially successful and still have it. And so I wanted to talk about it today, not just because of the need to identify what it is, but what I really see is a trend. And I talked to lawyers all across the country. We have here at Law Firm Mentor, we have more than thirty-five states represented in our client base of about 90 clients. And as we talk to lawyers about their unique challenges, not only what they’re going through as an individual, but what they’re going through in their region of the world, in their state, with their rules of professional conduct, with other professionals that they interact with. We start to see some trends that are pretty universal to lawyers, and I as, as a lawyer for 18 years now, can certainly look back on, on many of these attributes and they’re still, I hate to admit it, there are still elements of these attributes that I have to work on, right? I actually, I actively manage my mind in the areas where I need to grow. So this is not like one of those situations where I say, Oh, we’ve got this all covered. Let me tell you how to fix it and let me tell you how it never comes back again, because unfortunately, it does come back right? It’s a, it’s a pattern of thinking in a way of being that oftentimes rears its ugly head, especially when we kind of go into our autopilot.
Allison Williams: [00:07:48] And so there are some challenges that we will have in a law firm. If you don’t eradicate imposter syndrome and at least develop a pattern and practice for working on it so that you can slowly but surely kill it in you. You can actually be harming your law firm in ways that you don’t even know are unhealthy.
Allison Williams: [00:08:06] So the first thing I want to do today is identify the five primary ways that we’re going to see imposter syndrome show its ugly head. And then we’re going to talk about the five ways that it tends to impact your law firm.
Allison Williams: [00:08:18] Ok, so first imposter syndrome, you will almost always see it in people who overwork right? And by overwork, I don’t mean people who work hard, right? There’s there are very few lawyers that I have ever met that don’t work hard and that don’t have something more than a nine to five Monday through Friday experience. So we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about people who through the course of time, through the course of their work, they intentionally overwork because what’s really happening is that they’re not just getting a dopamine hit out of doing the work, they’re defining themselves and gaining a sense of identity through doing the work.
Allison Williams: [00:08:59] And there’s nothing wrong with having a purpose and a passion for your work. In fact, we would hope that most people are drawn to work that they have a passion for. But when you start to see people that overwork, it is often because they have a tendency, not universally, but it does show up to define success through doing, right? And so if I’m not doing, who am I right? And I’m sure a lot of you have had that thought, a lot of, a lot of lawyers that follow us, that watch this show, as well as engage with us in our various different platforms, we’ll say, you know, I don’t know what would be next for me if I built my law firm to the point where it didn’t need me, right? It’s almost like a trigger point, like a Who am I without this business? Who am I without being a full-time, 40 hour, 60-hour, 80-hour week lawyer? So when you see overwork, you oftentimes are seeing people that are trying to mask the feeling of inadequacy. They’re trying to cover up something that is below the surface of not feeling good enough. So it’s kind of like, OK, so if, if good is doing a good job at this legal work, I’ll just do a lot of that so I can be really good, right? Whether that is in the eye of an employer, or in the eye of other attorneys, or in the eye of clients, right? It’s kind of like the I get value through doing so. I’ll just do a lot, so I have more value.
Allison Williams: [00:10:26] Ok. Number two, the second way that we tend to see imposter syndrome show up is through excessive goal setting. Ok, now when I say excessive goal setting, I don’t mean that people are setting five thousand goals. Sometimes it can be that they’re setting five thousand goals, but sometimes it’s that the goals that they are setting are so out of reach that they’re not even considered a stretch goal, it’s almost like they’re creating impossible goals. So I’ll give you an example of this. We actually here at Law Firm Mentor, we of course, help all of our clients. When they first come in, we help them with creating a business plan, that’s the very first thing we do. And one of the things that we ask people is to give us a conception before we even have the first meeting of what they want to create that year, how much money they want to produce by the end of the year. Now, a lot of times we have to tell people this is well within reach. In fact, too far within reach, we need a much bigger goal. But there are times where we will see somebody who has a goal that is just out of orbit. Ok, now when I say out of orbit, keep in mind that my personal belief is that far more is possible than we ever give ourselves credit for. And when you learn how to alter your thinking and how to think strategically in a law firm, you can grow very rapidly, very quickly, right? You can very simply go from a hundred thousand to a million dollars. But most law firm owners don’t have the mindset, the infrastructure, or the stress resistance needed to grow that quickly in the course of a year. So we’ll meet with lawyers, and their very first instinct is to say, Oh yeah, you know, I made one hundred thousand last year and we’ll think that they want to make three or four this year and we’ll say, So what do you want to make for this year? I want to be a million dollars, right? And, you know, a million dollars has its own loaded connotation. A lot of people don’t even know what that nets out to, they don’t know what expenses they would have with that, they don’t know what infrastructure they would need with that. But aside from that, the million dollars signifies to a lot of people, I won’t have to think about money anymore. Right? That’s really what they’re aiming for. And even though that’s not true, that’s their belief system. And so when we ask them, you know, well, what would a million dollars do for you and you’re kind of like, Well, it would give me I’d be successful, right? I would have arrived. Well, the challenge with that is if we were to endorse going from one hundred to a million. I’ve told people before I listen, you know, it’s absolutely possible. You know, I know several law firms that have more than doubled or tripled in the course of time that they had been working on their business, many of them actually our clients of ours. But what happens is if you create a goal to go from one hundred to a million and we build out the infrastructure for you and your business plan that says, all right, this is how many clients you’re going to need, this is how much you’re gonna have to do in marketing, this is how much you’re going to have to sell, this is how your prices are going to have to alter, these are the number of people you’re going to have to hire, here’s how you’re going to have to hire them, you know, to get yourself to that point, a lot of people are not willing to do the things that are necessary to grow that rapidly. And when you confront somebody with that and say, OK, so the goal is here, do you want to keep it at that level and have to do all of these things? Oftentimes the answer becomes, well, maybe I can revise it a little bit, but the person that’s truly not happy with that if they don’t come to an awareness of that of, of that as value, like, oh great, I can now achieve a lot, but I really think I should be doing something different.
Allison Williams: [00:13:56] What’ll tend to happen is that that instinct in them that says the goal has to be through the roof is really self-sabotage. It really is a process of let me set a goal so high that I could never possibly achieve it. I could never possibly hit that goal. And then when I don’t hit the goal, I’ll feel bad about myself. Right? Because what they’re doing is they’re really living out a pattern of saying something is out of reach, but kind of defining it as within reach so that when they don’t reach the goal, so first they get kudos for having the aggressive goal. But then when they don’t reach the goal, they feel bad about themselves, and it just reinforces a belief that they’re not capable. Right. So it’s almost like, I don’t believe I’m capable the right, hence the impostor syndrome thinking that you are a phony and then you do the very things by virtue of how you set goals that reinforce the idea that you’re not capable. Because if you set a goal but you’re not willing to do the things to reach the goal, you’re not going to hit the goal. And then that’s going to reinforce the idea that somebody who has that high level of earnings is not who you are, right? It’s not compatible with who you are. And consequently, you really are a phony because you’ve been telling the people of the world, you’re over here. So that’s another way that we will tend to see imposter syndrome show its ugly head.
Allison Williams: [00:15:16] The third way that we tend to see imposter syndrome is with the person I refer to as kind of the expertise seeker. Ok, now this is a person who is driven to know any and all things that they could possibly know about a situation and we see this all the time. I mean, I can’t tell you the number of people that are almost immobilized in their own need for information. It’s almost like the idea of making the wrong choice is really triggering right, because a lot of people got the message in childhood wrong to make a decision and not be correct in that decision, wrong to act on the information you have and not get more information. So people are almost hardwired to never make a decision unless you have any and all possible information you could ever consider. And what I always tell people is there’s no human way to have all the information because as soon as you gather all the information, something changes, right? I’ll give you an example of this one. We actually have, have talked to several lawyers who will say to me, Well, you know, I had a wonderful call with a member of your team, and I really feel confident that your, your company can help me and I know that I need the help. And then I’ll say, OK, are you ready to move forward? And they’ll say, Well, no, I think that just so that I can say I did all of my due diligence, I have to go talk to other companies. And when they come back around, it’s like, OK, so you’ve gone through the process now of talking to these other companies. You’ve delayed your success by how long it took you from the first call we had to this call. You spent time continuing to experience the problems that you’ve had, you continued not to have the money that you desire and you have now gone out and gotten more information that now clouds your judgment and makes it harder for you to make a decision. How is that working for you? Almost invariably they’ll come back and say, Yeah, you’re right, I should have just said yes before. But what’s really triggering that, that, that kind of feeling of I’ve absolutely got to get all the possible information I could ever get. I’ve got to talk to five thousand people, I’ve got to get 40 referrals, I’ve got to read every piece of data on the website. I’ve got to watch every video, I’ve got to attend every class. I’ve got to download every freemium, right? The reason why people are tending to do that is because there’s some belief that their basic knowledge, right, like if they got the information that they need to make the decision and they also add in their own intuition. They don’t trust themselves because they don’t believe that they have the ability to make a decision that ultimately serves them. So on a core level, that is really about a feeling of internal self-worth. And for a lot of people, they won’t see that as a self-worth issue, they’ll say, No, no, no, this is a data issue. This is all in the brain, right? If I just got the right information and then I’ll say to them, Well, what information exactly is it that you need? And then they won’t be able to, to specify it right? And it’s not, It’s not because they’re, they’re lying like they really do believe there’s some magic piece of information that they have to get. But believing that there’s some magic piece of information that you have to get and knowing exactly the information that you have to get are two separate things, right? I remember we had one of our podcast episodes was about how to be decisive. And one of the things that I talked about in that podcast episode is the fact that saying I’m going to talk to 5000 people to get information is not helpful if you haven’t identified exactly the information that you need because the more data comes at your mind, the more your mind is going to shut down. And the clarity that’s required for being decisive, and by the way, this is how you can make decisions very rapidly, right? The episode of the podcast where I talked about manifesting like a blank, a mother blinker. I don’t want to. This is broadcasted on LinkedIn, I think there could be an issue if I use the f word with an E.R. at the end. But, you know, I in that show, I talked about the fact that I bought a seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars house, you know, not on a whim, but, you know, in a week. I made the decision, figured out what I needed to assemble the resources, etcetera. The same way that some people would make that decision over years, right? They would be looking, and looking, and looking, and looking, and looking, and gathering, and comparing and doing all of this analysis, thinking that they’re going to get to a better decision. And better decision doesn’t mean a longer time to make the decision. It’s that you got all the information that you needed. You applied your intuition and your judgment on all of that information, and you reach the conclusion for yourself, right? And that requires clarity. And I think a lot of people lack clarity because there’s kind of this mad dash for seeking information as part of the reason why in a world that we’re in now where information is on overload, people are constantly being thrown more information. There is a need for the mind to learn the skill of being crystal clear and phasing out the noise and knowing what it is that you have to get to and just getting to it right.
Allison Williams: [00:20:31] So in any event, my little tangent there about making decisions was really going back to the imposter syndrome iteration of the expertise seeker, the person that has to know it all. And that really is about the idea that if I don’t make the right decision, there’s going to be something wrong with me, right? I’m going to be viewed negatively. But even aside from that, part of this is associated with the idea that smart people, or capable people, or good people make good decisions. And so the idea that I have to make a good decision or else I am somehow deficient as a business owner, as a lawyer and whatever you’re doing is really what will alter the thinking and shift it over from one who is being appropriately diligent in gathering data to a person who does not believe themselves capable and worthy if they happen to make a decision that they later have to revisit.
[00:21:26] Ok, fourth way in which imposter syndrome is going to show up is the perfectionist. Now in our profession, we know perfectionists are at every corner, right? We all have seen kind of the, the bumbling idiot who does nothing, right? Everything is sloppy, everything’s written poorly. They come to court late, they leave early, they can’t remember where their schedule should have them and all of those things.
Allison Williams: [00:21:51] But I’d say we’re kind of on the excessive side in the other direction, right? The lawyer who oh my god, there’s a comma splice on page ninety-four of the brief. Whatever shall we do, right? That kind of person, that person that wants a rigid sustaining, a rigid sustainability of all systems, all activity, all people. Everything has to be just perfect. The perfectionist is somebody who does not believe that basic human frailty, basic human flaws are acceptable in themselves, right. Now, ironically, perfectionists can go in one of two ways in evaluating other people. Perfectionists tend to be people who require perfection in themselves, but they are willing to accept human flaws in other people. They’re not willing to accept it in themselves. So you will oftentimes, we’re going to talk about how this is going to show up in a law firm in just a moment, but you will oftentimes see people who their standard for themselves is, there can’t be a comma splice, but if they read a piece of legal prose that’s just brilliant. Like, let’s say they’re reviewing a certification drafted by an associate or maybe a legal brief, right? And they read it, and it’s everything that they ever could have wanted. Every argument is eloquent and poised and includes all the details. It’s a very persuasive document, it is very concise. They know the writing preferences of the judge before whom the brief will be presented, and this judge would love this brief, right? But there’s a comma splice on page ninety-four, the attorney might roll their eyes and say whatever, and then fix it and move it right on. Or they might not even separate over it, right? Because the perfectionism is internalized. It’s about the person who believes I have to be perfect in order to be acceptable to others.
Allison Williams: [00:23:46] Now you will tend to see perfectionism show up and a lot of marginalized groups. In fact, you’ll see people who burn themselves out on trying to be perfect because as a woman or as a person of color, or as a member of the LGBTQIA community, or as a, a person who is disabled or a person who is not otherwise acceptable in society’s view, they have had the message that they are less than and so they’ve internalized that message. And now, in order to defeat that message that they bought into, they now feel the need to excessively perform to the point of not making any mistakes ever whatsoever, right? No mistakes are allowed. No human frailties are allowed. And you’ll see this in, in people where they will again accept human flaws and others, not themselves. Sometimes, if it’s to a certain extreme, that perfectionism will also turn outward. So it’s not just that I need to be perfect inside myself, I also feel the need to be perfect around or every person that’s around me. Right. So if my staff person produces work 100 percent perfect, 100 percent of the time and then one day on one occasion when they had a really bad day, they make a typographical error. Then it’s the end of the world. There’s a very strong reaction and so forth because that perfectionism has now infiltrated every area of the person’s life. And what you tend to see is this is a person who is unduly self-critical, harsh toward themselves, unable to accept any type of reasonable justification, why something isn’t done on time, or why something isn’t perfect. So there’s a lot of problems with perfectionism, but that really is rooted in the idea that if anyone sees me be less than perfect, they will know that I’m a fraud, right? They’ll know that I’m a fake, they’ll know that I’m a phony, they’ll know that I’m not good enough. So that is where that comes from. And of course, that has a very, very high level of toxicity, which will show up in a law firm in ways that we’re going to talk about in just a moment.
Allison Williams: [00:25:56] All right. Number five, OK, the fifth way that you will tend to see imposter syndrome show up is the person who believes that they have to work by themselves because they don’t want to be seen as incompetent or weak by other people. Now, this is usually we see this a lot in solo attorneys. In fact, some people will give the reason that they want to grow a law firm, but they can’t because there’s no good talent and it’s hard to get leads and all of these things right. They’ll make up all of the reasons, and they will find empirical support for the reasons. And so when we find that there is a data point, we don’t see it as correlative as, as a correlation. We see it as causation, right? Because there are no good people to hire. I can’t run my law firm or because I don’t have the leads that I require from this particular marketing service, I can’t grow my law firm. Or because I can’t find a way to have a conversation with people that induces them to pay a consultation fee, I can’t grow my law firm. Right? The stories, find empirical support because of the cycle that tends to show up, but with solos in particular and this is when I say solos, I’m talking about people that like to work solo. We’re going to be talking about solo law firms and small law firms in just a moment. But what’s solo practitioners of any discipline, profession, company, people that need feel an urgency to be alone? Or oftentimes they’re, they’re rationalizing it, they’re saying, Oh, I need to be alone because there’s no good help or I need to be alone because that’s when I do my best work or whatever. But what’s really going on is that these people oftentimes feel that if others were around them, others would see them right.
Allison Williams: [00:27:39] One of the things that we’re doing right here, right now at Law Firm Mentor is we’re hiring the COO. And so this is probably I have long since broken the chains of wanting to be alone. You know, both of my companies have over a dozen employees, but I remember the first time that I hired someone and there was kind of this feeling of, OK, this person is going to see me right? And that’s actually been coming up again as I’ve been looking for a COO because I know that whoever I choose is going to have a particularly close working relationship with me. Right? Hiring people to work in the company very different than hiring somebody to work with me. So yesterday, not yesterday, Tuesday, we had an amazing interview. And I don’t mind putting this out here because I think we’ve already conveyed to the person that we think this person is awesome and this person is very much still in the running. But we had this interview and this person was asked the question of How are you going to build a trusting relationship with the CEO and the other members of the team? And the first thing the candidate said was, well, for the CEO, I would definitely want to physically come to the, to New Jersey where, where I am and meet with them and get to know them and ask them a series of questions and had a very thorough answer.
Allison Williams: [00:28:56] But my first thought was, Oh my God, he’s going to come here. You know, he’s going to, he’s going to see that the shit fest that is my credenza and, and all of the other things, right? And not just, you know, see the physical office, my physical office, in Short Hills, New Jersey is beautiful, but you know, this person is going, this person is going to get to know and get to work very closely with me. And so to the extent that there might be an instinct of protectionism of, OK, you know, there’s, there’s competent me and then there’s, and then there’s kind of the hot mess that shows up every once in a while, right? And, you know, I think most people, especially high achieving people that get a lot of things done, the hot mess is there, right? The hot mess is that, you know, sometimes e-mails don’t get answered and sometimes, you know, documents are lying about and sometimes I don’t have 5000 answers for the 5000 questions that come at me in the course of the day. And sometimes I have to stop and decompress and like, you know, all of those thoughts of, of worthiness that, that can trigger up when you think someone could see beneath the hood and what if they see something that isn’t as amazing as I am presenting to the world, right? And so there, there, there tend to be people that have a proclivity to work alone, right? That have a proclivity even to isolate, right? You can have a larger company and like to be alone.
Allison Williams: [00:30:21] In fact, I’ve talked to any number of lawyers that say the cultural issues in my company or something that I just don’t like to deal with, I don’t like drama, I don’t like gossip. So I just isolate, right? I just don’t expose myself to the team because I know I’ll get mad at them. So rather than work on themselves, they kind of seclude themselves from the team because they say, Well, the team is functional, but if I’m there, it’ll be not functional because I’ll get mad. So rather than work on that, they just say, All right, me and the team, nary the two shall meet. And that is oftentimes out of the sense of if you don’t have the answers to very complex issues like how to orchestrate your company culture, right, and how to keep people motivated and how to, how to create cohesive working groups with people with very different personalities and how to ultimately become more efficient and more profitable, while at the same time creating ease and comfort with work and a place where people enjoy the work. If you can’t move all those levers at the same time, if you don’t have the answer. Oftentimes there is a desire to retreat rather than risk someone directly asking you, Why do we have this culture or why do we have this environment that we have and you’re allowing it and not fixing it right? And the answer is because I don’t know how to fix it, right? That could be what is going on in the mind of the solo practitioner. But the real answer is I don’t want to be asked the question, so I will just go off into my silo so as to not be found out, right? Again, implicating the feeling of being a phony and hence the impostor syndrome.
Allison Williams: [00:31:58] Ok, so there’s, there’s a couple of things that are kind of underlying with all of those examples of imposter syndrome, right? It’s almost always a feeling of not belonging, right? A feeling of being lucky that you got to a certain place, right? A lot of people will identify luck when they are looking at attributes. If imposter syndrome is present, and by the way, this can both be within yourself, and this can also be as something that you project outward.
Allison Williams: [00:32:29] So I remember many, many years ago I had lunch with an attorney. And you know, for those of you that have been watching me any length of time, you know that I’m a trained family law attorney, I’m a certified matrimonial law attorney by our state Supreme Court. Until very recently, I recently my tenure ended, but I sat on the Board of Attorney Certification for matrimonial attorneys in New Jersey. So I have a high level of competence in that field. But I also have a subspecialty, a sub-niche, if you will, in the area of child abuse and neglect representation. And I’ve known throughout the state for representing parents involved in the child welfare system, foster parents, relatives, etcetera. And I remember I had lunch with a woman and we were talking about practice development. This was even before long before actually Law Firm Mentor this many years ago. But she asked me, she was like, Well, you know, I really want to like, grow and get my practice like going like you did. And she asked me, You know, how did you do it? So I started cheering with her some things that I had done. And, and she said to me, she’s like, Well, you know, it was easier for you because, you know, you have a very small niche in child abuse and neglect law. I have, you know, I have a practice that does A, B, and C, and I said, Well, actually, you know, I had a quarter of a million dollars three years in to practice as a matrimonial attorney. I was very much building my practice in that area. In fact, I believe it would have economically have been easier for me to continue to sell, you know, rich divorce, if you will, people that had the means and had very sophisticated issues and etcetera. As a matrimonial attorney, rather than selling a series of $5000 child abuse cases.
Allison Williams: [00:34:12] So, so the niche, actually, I do believe in niching. I’m a big proponent of niching, but you know, you can make money in either of those ways and you have to sell a lot fewer people when you’re selling a much higher cost service. So I didn’t necessarily accept her rationale, but what came out of that was that, what she was doing was she was projecting the idea of you, you got lucky because you chose something that’s very particularized, right? So, so it doesn’t apply to me. And what I had to ultimately help her to see is that that’s not exactly true. What’s really happening is I never got lucky right? And I didn’t just overwork my way into success. I figured out what was necessary, and then I did a lot of those things, right? There are a whole lot of lawyers that work 60 or 70 hours a week and don’t make a lot of money, right? There are some lawyers that work 40 or 50 hours a week and make a lot of money. There are some lawyers that work 70 or 80 hours a week and don’t make a lot of money. And the question is not how many hours can you work, right? Once you own a business in particular, your business is a vehicle through which money can be made, whether you are doing flat fees or hourly or contingent or subscription or whatever. And if you don’t know how to move the needle to generate enough leads in order to sell enough services at the right pricing point, strategically engineered around the people that you’re going to bring in to do the work, then you’re not going to make a lot of money, right? I mean, it’s, It’s cause and effect. And she just didn’t see that.
Allison Williams: [00:35:44] And so oftentimes what’s underneath the surface of people that can’t see that is this idea of luck. And what I tell people is there’s no luck in business, right? I know that. I know that people like to hold on to the idea that some of us just get lucky. No, I didn’t get lucky. I worked hard. But it isn’t even that I just worked hard it’s that I worked hard at the right things. That’s really the key, the formula, right? It’s working hard at the right things, and it’s not landing at success. It’s not arriving at success or happening upon success. And so the more you see that, the more you start to realize that people that believe that people that arrive are somehow on the altar of luck versus people that haven’t gotten there yet and believe that luck is something that hasn’t found them well, that pretty much leaves it to chance, it’s kind of a crapshoot. Right? I could be lucky or I could not be lucky. And if you leave your success in the hands of luck, this mythical notion that it’s going to happen for you or not based on, I don’t know, the luck gods out there, you take away your own self-determinism and you take away the things that are internal inside yourself that will make you successful, that will allow you to be successful if you’re given the right help. So it stops you from even seeking the help.
Allison Williams: [00:37:07] It’s almost like an idea of I’m not going to seek the help because I know no one could help me, right? The special Snowflake syndrome, right? This works for everybody that’s ever done it, except me. It doesn’t work for me. I’m different, right? I have a different practice area. You know, I’m a parent, so I can’t have or I don’t have the same skill set that someone else. I haven’t been practicing this long or I’ve been practicing much longer. There’s always some excuse that people go to when they have a fundamental belief that any success that they have was kind of handed to them or happened upon them, rather than something that they worked for and earned and frankly, deserve.
Allison Williams: [00:37:46] Ok, so now I want to shift and talk about the five ways that imposter syndrome is going to harm your law firm. And then some of them, they’re pretty obvious, but in some of them, you might not see them. And I want you to be on the lookout for these because these are the things that you can start to do to not just address the problem that is created, but also to really incentivize yourself to address imposter syndrome.
Allison Williams: [00:38:11] Ok, so number one is the overwork, right? When lawyers overwork to get through having too much work, what is almost always going to happen is you are going to overwork on the things that are least likely to alleviate the distress of overwork and least likely to make you the most money in the least amount of time. Right? In other words, it’s kind of like that game whack-a-mole, right, something pops up over here and I whack it down, and then something pops up over here, and I whack it down and something pops up over here, and I whack it down. And you keep whacking, and whacking, and whacking well, but you’re not realizing, is that all the energy that it takes for you to pull that mallet up and focus your attention in so that you can really hit that first, the first, I guess, it’s a groundhog that pops up in the game of whack-a-mole groundhog beast. I don’t know what we call them. I think it’s a groundhog. You know the animal that pops up, right? You have to, you have to spend a lot of energy to hit that target. And instead of spending your energy hitting that target, feeling relief when you hit it and then moving over to the next thing you got to hit, and the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing instead of doing that, if you were to create a strategic plan that said, how do I decimate all of these animals all at once? You know, dropping a bomb so that they all are decimated at once would be a lot easier than whack, whack, whack, whack. But we don’t see that, right? We don’t see the answer.
Allison Williams: [00:39:43] Sometimes somebody comes in from the outside and looks at our, our problem is like, Oh, what you need is X and you’re like (sigh). And because it was so simple for someone else, we resist it, right, we immediately think, no, that can’t possibly be it. So we just stay in the pattern that we’re used to, which is working harder over and over again, and over, and over, and over, and over. Right? And there is so much energy that goes into the overworking that it becomes a self-defeating prophecy. But the thing that I think is probably the greatest challenge there is that we waste so much energy that by the time that the obvious strategic answer becomes available to us, we don’t have the energy or the resolve to even get it done because we have expended everything on the overworking. Ok?
Allison Williams: [00:40:33] Number two, the way that imposter syndrome harms your law firm is when we look at our unrealistic assessment of others. Ok, now this can be undervaluing their success as locked the same way that we do in ourselves, right? If you have a pattern of saying when I’m looking at other people, if I believe that I am a phony, right, if I believe someone looking up to me, someone holding me in high esteem, someone pedestal rising me is wrong for that because I’m a phony. Like, I’m really not that smart. What if they find out I’m not that good? What if they find out I just got lucky? Right? If you have that belief system, then I want you to think about how easy it is to project outward to other people. So when your, when your secretary gets on the phone and is able to get a client to pay their bill right away? Well, you might be grateful. But do you ever have the thoughts that come to mind like, well, she was only able to do that because I had four conversations with him first. She was able to close because I lined it up, or she was able to get the client to comply with a request because I was really the person that they wanted to, to work with. Right. If you start to have those minimizing thoughts about others, the team members that you have, where you look at them and you say that person is capable, but only because I coach them, or only because I gave them the tools, or only because they’re using my forms. If you take away the success of other people, instead of seeing that there may be something about that person that is resonating with your client, your prospects, your corp member, whomever it is that they’re interacting with, then you don’t have. And it’s perfectly fine that you don’t have it right. It’s perfectly fine that different human beings have different skill sets because you can always acquire a different skill set, you can always learn more and do more to have more. But if you minimize that someone else could have had their own intuitive ability to do something and your thought is, they only got that because they’re lucky or they only got that because of me. What you’re really doing is a projection of the real imposter syndrome, which is this person is a phony. Right?
[00:42:48] Ok. Number three. Ok, this is a big one. This is fixation. We will see law firm owners that have imposter syndrome oftentimes fixate on the flaws and other people. And this includes clients and adversaries. I can’t tell you how exhausting it is to go into a Facebook group with other lawyers. And what tends to show up is someone bitching about, you know, Oh, I got a nasty gram from this attorney, and they sent me this obnoxious letter and I had to check them, and I had to tell them how smart I am and I had to. Yada yada yada yada yada. And the stories go on, and on, and on. And it’s almost like, just like the snowball effect like this one complains about an attorney that they’re having an issue with. And then this one complains, and this one complains. And if you were to go hang out in a, in one of these rooms or these groups full of lawyers, what you’ll find is the swell of negativity that the public oftentimes projects onto lawyers, right? In fact, if I was a non-attorney listening to people, talk, listening to lawyers, talk about other lawyers, I’d say, of course, lawyers are awful, they don’t even like themselves, right? Because there’s so much energy that goes into trying to preserve this narrative. But the narrative oftentimes comes from the idea of fixating on flaws, right? So instead of seeing the person that you’re dealing with as perhaps not communicating the way you would like, but doing that because they are trying to serve their client doing that because they are trying to meet their emotional needs, doing that because they are trying to preserve their own ego. If you were to see it as something separate and apart from yourself and not take it personally right, not take it as a personal affront even if the behavior is inappropriate, but instead just observe the behavior and say, OK, I don’t like that part of dealing with him or her. But there are other things that I do like, right? I like being able to facilitate a resolution for my client. I like being able to understand their client’s perspective so that I can negotiate more effectively, I like being able to see where we are, where we are apart in our view of a situation, so I could take that back to my client and better advise them right? Instead of seeing the positives, we see the flaws and when we fixate on flaws, it often is because we are so accustomed to fixating on our own flaws as a means of trying to mask them so that we can present ourselves as the star and hide the fact that we feel less than, and that we feel unworthy when we’re trying to mask and cover up our own feelings of unworthiness by virtue of how we interact with other people. Again, we oftentimes do that with other people, right? So I am trying so hard to be perfect that I have to idealize myself as hitting the mark of perfection at times. But in order to do that, I have to be really, really laser-focused on where flaws are, and thus I get into the habit of looking for flaws anywhere, right? It’s almost like it’s either a projection of how you see yourself, that you’re fixating on flaws or it’s an offshoot, right? So you get into the habit of looking at yourself critically, but you also get into the habit of looking at other people critically unless you are always on the hunt for the next flaw, right? Always on the hunt for the next problem, always on the hunt for what’s wrong.
Allison Williams: [00:46:10] And over the course of time when you are doing that, when you are seeking out negativity and you are thus going to find it because right, what we’re looking for, we can always find empirical evidence for our beliefs, whether they are accurate or not. What you’re going to find is that you invite more negativity into your world. Right. So when you look for your adversary to be an asshole, they will be and then you’re going to be upset about them being an asshole, and you’re going to be thinking about the next asshole experience, and then you’re going to encounter the next adversary, and they’re going to be an asshole and the cycle goes on and on. Right. And then your energy gets driven down. So you then have the offshoot of that, which are all the consequences that are harmful to your law firm, i.e. that you don’t have the energy to go to work, that you’re burnt out, that you don’t want to be bothered, that you don’t like to engage, that you want to shut off the lights and not and not answer your emails or your phone calls, right? And this is how we contribute to our own negative experience, all from starting from a place of being someone less than what we think we are. Because if you truly believe that you were a high-value person that was entitled to respect and someone disrespects you, well, you might choose to address that, but you’re going to address it and then say, Well, of course, they’re wrong in that, and then you move on to the next thing.
Allison Williams: [00:47:27] Right. But if there’s something underneath the surface, if you have a feeling that you are presenting yourself as a high-value human to the world and you’re getting a different treatment and there’s a trigger underneath the surface that says, Well, maybe I’m getting that treatment, maybe he’s treating me poorly because I’m not worth more or I’m not valued as more. Then you’re going to start to see that those responses that you have to other people are oftentimes fueling a feeling of being less than that’s underneath the surface.
[00:47:58] Ok. Number four, the fourth way that imposter syndrome tends to show up in a law firm and really harms your law firm, is that you undervalue yourself? Ok, undervaluing yourself tends to go with the idea that again, that you’re not worthy. And when I say undervalue yourself, there’s lots of different ways that you can undervalue yourself, right? If you have a pedestal rise yourself, you presented yourself to the world as a strong, confident, capable attorney, and you believe underneath that you are not that, that you are not confident, that you’re not competent, that you don’t know everything that you should know, that you’re not as good as the attorney down the road, right? If you have a disconnect between what you are presenting to the world and what you believe you are. Then when it’s time to quote a price, you’re not going to quote a price that’s consistent with what you’re presenting to the world. You’re going to quote a price that’s consistent with what you believe you’re worth. Right. So that’s when that $5000 retainer fee that you believed you would be quoting somehow became $3500 or somehow became $2500 or somehow became $1500, right? That became the new version of what your worth is because that’s what you have decided, you’re worth is. And it’s, it’s so powerful when we realize that is what’s going on between our ears, that is dictating how we are showing up in the business side of law. It is such a powerful revolution because once you get that, once you realize that stepping up yourself, investing in yourself so that you can grow your internal self- worth that allows you to very easily, very fluidly, rapidly create massive success in your business. And I’ll give you a perfect example I won’t use this person’s name because I don’t have her express authority to do this, but she’s a client of Law Firm Mentor, and she’s absolutely amazing. And one of the things that she recently did was she is an immigration attorney, and she wanted to raise her prices, and she decided that she was going to quote a fifteen thousand dollar fee for a particular type of case. I won’t go into the type of case because I don’t want judgments here on the feed as to whether it should be X dollars or Y dollars, but fifteen thousand is what she decided she would charge, and she was charging about eight or nine thousand dollars and then she slowly opted to 10.
Allison Williams: [00:50:24] And then the next conversation, I said, charge fifteen thousand to the next person, right? The person says, No, you’ve lost $8000, you haven’t lost 15 because you haven’t made 15 yet. So I want you to think about that and nothing is a guarantee. So you technically haven’t even lost the $8000. So the next time she came back into our Facebook group community, she said she had gotten $11000 and she was really excited. And I said, Great, now go charge $15000. She said, Can I even get a cookie for the 11? And I said, No, you don’t get a cookie for the 11, right? You get kudos for trying. And now I want you to stop trying and I want you to start doing. I want you to go quote fifteen thousand. Well, a few days passed and she came back and she’s like, Oh my God, you’re never going to believe that I sold my first $15000 and I said, You know what? That’s wonderful. Now go do it again. Why do I say go do it again, right, you’re trying to now rewire your neural pathways, you’re trying to create a new, well-worn pattern, and practice of this service equals fifteen thousand dollars, and doing it once could feel like luck or an anomaly. Doing it over and over again to the point where it’s habitual behavior is how we start to move the needle. Because when it becomes habitual for you and you stop having to have that, the fee is going to be fifteen thousand dollars type of energy and you go into, OK, great, I can help you with this problem is going to be fifteen thousand dollars. Right? When you can put those two together in synchronicity, it’s because it’s compatible with who you are. It’s compatible with the image of yourself that you’ve created and you’re now living that image. There’s no dissonance. There’s no disconnect between what I’m saying I am and how I’m showing up. I actually get to live, embody, be the very thing that I have. And that’s also how you defeat imposter syndrome, right? When you are what you say you are to the world, there is no imposter. You don’t feel like an imposter but when you are quoting a fifteen hundred dollar fee for a five thousand case, you are reinforcing the idea that you’re not worthy of the five thousand dollar case. You’re reinforcing the idea that there is something that you are telling the world that isn’t true because you are not making it true, right? You are, you are living a lower economic existence than the image and the assertion and the presentation of what you’re saying to the world, right? And it’s that disconnect that oftentimes fuels the imposter syndrome because when we know that we are not living up to the person that we say we are, that’s where we really start to experience that negative feeling that comes with imposter syndrome. The idea of being a fraud, right? I’m not who I say I am, so therefore I must be not valuable. Not worthy, not good enough. All the things that come to mind when we choose to live vibrationally at a lower level than how we actually decide and have decided for ourselves that we want to be in the world.
[00:53:34] Ok, so now I’m going to share with you the fifth and final way that imposter syndrome shows up in a law firm. Ok, and it’s kind of the flip side of the last one, right? The last one was that we undervalue ourselves. This, this one is failure to delegate. Ok, now I know a lot of you can identify with failure to delegate, and I reference this earlier, but I’m going to reiterate that what’s really going on when we have people getting closer to us in business, when we bring people in and we have to give them something to do, just like the conversation that we had earlier about the COO that we’re hiring. What you’re really doing is you are being vulnerable, right? And being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you’re crying or that you’re lying naked on the floor with your employees, OK? It’s not what we’re talking about here, but being vulnerable in this sense is that a person gets to see you in your truest state. They get to see you for who you are and how you are. All of the things that are wonderful and all of the things that are not so wonderful.
[00:54:41] And that is what it is to be a human right. We all have things about us that are wonderful and some things that are not so wonderful. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have good and bad, right? That is the human experience. So when you bring someone in to work with you, if you have presented yourself up here, but you have a feeling of being less than that feeling of being less than is oftentimes going to be triggered by people having the opportunity to see you at your purest, most unfiltered, most unadulterated version of yourself. And that is in your work environment, right? They get to see you not have all the answers they get to see you not know what you’re talking about. They get to see you struggling to manage your finances. They get to see you disorganized and chaotic and not knowing that you, that there’s a certain legal precedent for a particular case that needs to be addressed. Right. All of the things that make us less than perfect. If you have imposter syndrome, you’re going to feel like you are the phony.
Allison Williams: [00:55:43] You’re going to feel like you are the less than and that image that you painted, you feel that that is going to ultimately be eroded by someone seeing you. But here’s the beautiful thing about this, and once lawyers get this, delegating becomes a lot easier. The reality is that you are not perfect at everything because none of us are. And when you hire people and you empower them to be their best selves in ways that you are not your best self, that tends to actually elevate their esteem for you. Ok, I’m going to say that again, because I know that kind of sometimes if you’re not listening carefully, that can go right over the head. And sometimes there’s going to be a visceral desire to reject it. When you hire someone to do things that you are not good at and they get to be their best selves. Right? They get to fill that gap. They get to supply those services. They get to do the work in a way that you could not, or at least not as effectively as they could, do the work. They will see you, but they will not see you as less than or weaker. They will actually see you as greater because when you have their problems, their work, their responsibilities off of your plate, you get to be more in the zone of genius that you occupy. Right? And this is so palpable.
Allison Williams: [00:57:06] If lawyers would just understand that when you bring people in and they get to see you be less than in certain areas, it actually elevates your status, right? It elevates your status because what they recognize is, yeah, this lawyer exceptional at making legal arguments, drafting copies of documents. Not so much, right? They get to have their self-esteem be associated with what they do. You get to have your self-esteem, be associated with what you do, and because you are now doing the things because you have the time, right, because you have the people to do the work that you shouldn’t be doing when you actually stay in the energy, stay in the activity of the things that you were designed to do. You get better at them. You feel more confident in the course of the day, you feel more ease, you enjoy those things. And for the things that you don’t yet know how to do, you actually start to have the time to learn them? And it isn’t just the attainment of achievement that develops positive self-esteem. It’s actually pursuing it, right? You don’t actually have to have done everything that you desire to do in order to feel good on the journey. A lot of us feel good on the journey because we know we’re moving closer to what we desire, as opposed to being stagnant and feeling repressed or suppressed where we are because we’re doing things that we’re not really intended to do.
Allison Williams: [00:58:29] All right. So failure to delegate oftentimes associated with imposter syndrome, in fact, they almost universally go hand in hand, not quite universally, but almost universally that go hand in hand. So I want to invite you to start looking more critically at your law firm and looking at ways where you may be evidencing imposter syndrome and think about some of the consequences to your business if you don’t get that wrapped out. OK, now if you’re somebody who actually wants to have a conversation about that, if you want to really go deep into the weeds of asking yourself the question, you know, am I the problem? Because I am seeing myself incompatible with how I am being in the world? We can help you have that conversation. You can always go on to our website Law Firm Mentor dot net and reach out and schedule a session with our growth strategy team.
Allison Williams: [00:59:16] All right, thank you so much for tuning in to another episode of Live with Law Firm Mentor. We will be back next week. I look forward to seeing you then, have a great day!
Allison Williams: [00:59:34] Thank you for tuning in to The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast to learn more about today’s show and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you enjoy today’s episode, take a moment to follow the podcast wherever you get your podcast and leave us a rating and review. This helps us to reach even more law firm owners from around the country who want to crush chaos in business and make more money. I’m Allison Williams your Law Firm Mentor everyone. Have a great day!
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is the Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest-growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest-growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining, and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications, and money management in law firms.
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My Favorite Excerpt From The Episode:
TIME: 00:35:44 (35 Seconds)
And so oftentimes what’s underneath the surface of people that can’t see that, is this idea of luck. And what I tell people is there’s no luck in business, right? I know that. I know that people like to hold on to the idea that some of us just get lucky. No, I didn’t get lucky. I worked hard. But it isn’t even that I just worked hard it’s that I worked hard at the right things. That’s really the key, the formula, right? It’s working hard at the right things, and it’s not landing at success. It’s not arriving at success or happening upon success.