Lawyers, despite their best efforts, do disappoint. But how do you handle that disappointment as it relates to your business? Disappointment can push us into reaction mode, and by failing to delegate the people who are supposed to handle certain tasks because we don't trust them, we are capping our ability to grow.
We are restricting ourselves from the next iteration of our business, which requires that we perform at our highest level all the time. And we don't get there when we are holding on to things that are frankly below our pay grade.
In this episode we discuss:
- Three-Steps to handle disappointment.
- Acknowledging the difference between right and wrong.
- Allowing yourself to process your emotions and the grief of loss you feel in disappointment.
- How every challenge in your life is an opportunity to seek the next opportunity.
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: [00:00:30] Today we're going to talk about when lawyers disappoint. And I use this very title very intentionally because I wanted to talk about disappointment in general, but I wanted to particularly add in the layer of lawyers disappointing because one of the things that I've come to see a lot lately is that there is a very strong kind of sentiment in the air right now about the nature of disappointment and I think oftentimes there is a heightened awareness of that because we are in a profession where we have to perform for others so much, right? We have to perform for our clients. We have to perform for our adversaries in order to maintain a certain reputation. We have to perform for courts in order to get what we want for our clients and also in order to keep a certain level of esteem for with the judiciary, for future clients. Right. So we are oftentimes thinking about how we are presenting to others and we oftentimes think about how those people present to us. So there was something very recently that happened on social media, and I'm using social media as kind of the kickoff for this conversation, really, because it gives me so many different perspectives on how people show up, how they engage, and how we can use these experiences to learn and to have a better experience for ourselves.
Allison Williams: [00:02:06] So not that long ago, I shared a quote that was really powerful that someone had posted, so I shared it. And it basically goes as follows. Quote, I'll do it myself. Close quote. Is a learned response, often rooted in disappointment, trauma, and abandonment. And as soon as I shared that quote, the number of people that shared my share of this quote was significant. And there also were a lot of comments on this. People were like, Oh, my God, that is so true. Wow! That really lands, that really resonates. And it is. I mean, I mean, I think any of us that have ever had the experience of feeling like, Oh, I'll just do it myself, it's pretty easy to, to link disappointment, right? Most of us would say, yeah, I give it to you, you screw it up, I have to then do it myself anyway. So I'll just start with I'll do it myself. And a lot of people intellectually justify that as the way of being. In fact, even after I posted this for all the people that said, Oh my God, this is so true. There were people that jumped in and said, Hey, wait a minute, this is because people are unreliable. Oh, that's right. This is because people do things half-assed. So of course, I'm going to do it myself. Right? There was an immediate desire to justify the I'll do it myself as an appropriate response to other people's shortcomings.
Allison Williams: [00:03:34] And the challenge, of course, whenever I see these types of comments, you know, I try my heart not to go around the social media streets coaching people. You know, sometimes I fail at that. Sometimes I fall off the horse and I and I will kind of jump in and tell people, hey, wait a minute. Here's another perspective on that. But in this instance, I just kind of let it be. But ultimately, I finally decided to respond by saying, the longer that we refuse to unlearn this response, the longer we prolong our success. Now how this relates to disappointment is, of course that the I'll do it myself. Being rooted in disappointment is something that I think people can link up in their minds. And we certainly have talked about the need for delegating a process, for delegating how important it is that we get things off of our plate to empower other people to perform a role in our business that affords us, frankly, more time and more money. But even if you get to the mindset of I'll do it myself is necessary because people disappoint. The nature of disappointment is still not something that a lot of people think about. And I think one of the reasons why we hold on to justifying the I'll do it myself is because we don't, in our own minds, sightsee how that mindset, that reaction to being disappointed by someone or something is ultimately just rehearsing that we can't trust people. And that actually does flow from trauma and abandonment and similar types of harms that we faced. But we don't see it that way. We see it as it's logical that I do it myself. If giving it to you is ultimately going to cause me more work, more heartache, whatever, right? So when we think about the idea of doing something ourselves, taking it back from another person, I want us to really think about disappointment as a fleeting moment that it's not a persistence unless we allow it to be. So when we give something over to another person and they don't handle it appropriately, our instinct of taking it back usually becomes very bipolar, if you will. Right. We kind of one day we snatch it back and we never give them that type of activity again and then we feel frustrated and resentful because we have more work to do.
Allison Williams: [00:05:59] Another day, we just continue to let them have the task, but we secretly wait for them to fail or secretly anticipate that they will fail, and then wait for the moment where we can justify the belief that we've been rehearsing in our mind that they were going to screw something up. Because when they do, we got, we got the. A-ha! See, I was right. Right. You can't be trusted. And that disappointment that lingers within us, that stays in our ether, that stays in our line of sight, really is very harmful, not only to the relationship that we have with the person to whom we're delegating, but also with ourselves. Right? When we hold on to disappointment, it does a damage to us. It allows us to stay rooted in the idea that we have to be at the epicenter of everything. And as a law firm owner, you simply can't be, no matter how much you believe, that you are going to be more effective if you do things yourself, there are only so many hours in a day. And if you are keeping things, particularly those things that are not the highest and best use of your time and talent, the things that are going to defy the rule that we share so often that it must be the most qualified, least expensive person to your business to do everything in your business in order to maximize profit. If we step away from that because we are in reaction mode, keeping something for ourselves, or failing to delegate because we don't trust people, we are capping our ability to grow. We are restricting ourselves from the next iteration of our business, the next level of our business, which requires that we perform at our highest level all the time. And we don't get there when we are holding on to things that are frankly below our pay grade.
Allison Williams: [00:07:48] So continuing this discussion about disappointment, I wanted to share with you guys something that happened very recently that caused me a great deal of disappointment. First, it was disappointment in others, and then it was disappointment in myself. And I have a process for ridding myself of disappointment. I share it with other people and they've told me that it's work for them as well and I want to share it with you.
Allison Williams: [00:08:13] So first, what happened? As many of you may be aware, I was invited to speak in an international conference dealing with a host of issues that overlapped law and mental health. So the organization is the International Association of Law and Mental Health. And every other year they have a conference in a multitude of different places around the world. And the first time I spoke with this organization was back in 2019, and I traveled to Rome and spoke on a panel there, as well as did an individual presentation involving my primary practice area of child abuse and neglect, parental representation. And this year, I was going to be speaking on domestic violence and the impact of domestic violence as a, a basis for a finding of child abuse and neglect. So I was really excited. This is one of those passion topics of mine. This is one of the things that, that really fueled me at the start of my career because of the very first case that I encountered that has some of these themes. And so I remembered, I remember the very first client that I served when this opportunity presented itself. And this opportunity is in Paris, France. Actually, the Congress this year is going to be in Lyon, France. But Lyon is a 15-minute drive from Paris. Right. So I was really excited and a very good friend of mine, I won't say her name on the podcast, but she's a psychologist and she was going to be speaking about mental health concerns involving interpersonal. Intimate partner violence. Pardon me. She was going to be speaking on intimate partner violence and child welfare concerns. And then we had assembled several other professionals from around the US who are very well respected in this area to speak together with us. So there were going to be a total of five of us traveling over to France to speak in this conference and very recently started in December.
Allison Williams: [00:10:24] I first became aware of it a little bit later than that earlier in 2022. But in December of 2021, a travel advisory came out about France and it was because of COVID 19. But then there started to be additional markers of concern, including terrorism and, and civil unrest in the area. And those markers are not light markers. Right. It wasn't like they were saying, hey, you might want to reconsider your travel plans because you might have difficulty in certain areas or there could be economic depression in certain areas. Right. There are a lot of different reasons why the US Department of State puts up travel advisories and more often than not, it's really for the personal convenience of the US traveler as well as for the ease of having a use of the, of the US dollar when we are abroad. But there are of course, of course a host of other reasons why travel advisories can be issued in this instance, terrorism and civil unrest, as well as the increase in COVID 19 outbreak there were the reasons why they had this travel advisory. So we are we are slated to speak in France in July of this year. And because I had already prepaid for a yacht trip in Tahiti in July of this year, I basically decided I was going to take the entire month of July off and so excited to take the entire month of July off because I have such an amazing team in both of my companies, right in my law firm, I have a partner, she's on a maternity leave right now, but she'll be back by that time. My office administrator is phenomenal and I also in my coaching company, I have a coach team of highly successful, highly self-managed humans. Right. So I am very, there's very little of me that's required for my team to have cohesion, right? We kind of decide what we want to accomplish. We have identified a lane for every person and every person stays in their lane, but also collaborates with others on the team. And we're kind of all held together by the glue of my executive assistant. So in my coaching company, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and nothing changes, qualitatively speaking, or my client's experience of coaching as well as for my team.
Allison Williams: [00:12:56] Now, of course, I lead my team and I'm very involved in presenting and coaching our clients, but I can do a lot of that remotely and I can certainly do a lot of that prerecorded for a month time. So I was really excited to take this month because this is the first time I've taken this much time off all at once, not because I couldn't do it before, but because I love my work so much that I just don't normally take that much time off. And I kind of decided that because I had international travel on either end of the month of July, I was going to take that little sliver in between those two weeks to go spend some time in, in Charlotte. You guys know, I bought a house in Charlotte. I refer to it as Chateau William South, and I was going to spend some time down there. And I have some, some people that I haven't seen in a while wo I was going to kind of hop a little bit, visit some friends for short terms during that couple of weeks. And I was really just going to play with the month of July and I was really excited about it.
Allison Williams: [00:14:00] Wow. Zoom ahead to today. The news alerts. The US Department of State has not, has not modified its findings. In fact, the findings have gotten worse and a lot of the information coming out includes things like looting and arson, and courthouse demonstrations and the courthouse was set on fire and a whole host of other things in the area where I would be traveling to, which of course make me, as a prudent traveler, say, hey, no thank you. And not only are these concerns impacting me, but there are members of our cohort of speakers that have significant health concerns and concerns that are not the same as my own. I am a 44-year-old woman, just turned 44. Happy birthday to me. And, you know, and I'm in great health. So when I had COVID earlier this year, it was a week of great discomfort and inconvenience. But after I got over it, I got over it. Right? It was, it was a moment in time. And other people have different health reactions and concerns with COVID. So COVID presented a big problem for other members in the cohort. And then of course, we all are concerned about traveling to a place where we don't necessarily speak the language fluently, where we don't know the terrain. So there are a host of reasons why ultimately. This trip is not going to happen.
Allison Williams: [00:15:28] The first moment in time, however, about this trip was when I first brought the alert to the attention of the group, and I said, You know, in fairness, as a facilitator of this, I feel morally compelled to share this information with you and let you know it and think about it for your own personal safety. And one person said, COVID is out of control there. I can't go. And the person gave their reasons. And I remember feeling so disappointed in this person. And the disappointment was palpable. It really felt like this person was blindsiding me, if you will, because even without the at that point, somewhat lesser concerns around terrorism and civil unrest, that was just kind of I don't want to say it was just thrown out there. It was a concern, but it was not the concern that it is right now. There were at least the idea possible that we could protect ourselves, that we could shield ourselves, that we were not going to a place or having to choose to stay in a place where the greatest concern existed. So there was at least the possibility of we can make sure that we keep ourselves safe in the circumstance, even if we have to shorten the amount of time that we're actually there. But when the person had their concerns around COVID and their own personal physical safety, the person gave us the kind of general, I don't feel comfortable because of COVID. And then later this person expounded.
Allison Williams: [00:17:00] But when I first heard, I don't feel comfortable because of COVID, I'll be honest, I had a very ignorant response. My response was, Oh God, really? Can't you just stick on a mask and use some hand sanitizer and move on? We can't live like this forever. You know, I started doing some of the stuff right. And, you know, and this is not going to be a referendum on how people should feel about COVID or how they should react around COVID. But I will just say that I have personally always adopted the view that even though I might have a certain level of comfort or discomfort with something that does not compel or propel another person to have the same response, my very best friend has a very different response to COVID than I do because she had a child that almost died of an infectious disease in birth. And so soon after having the experience of almost losing her child, she developed a hypersensitivity to any concerns about infectious diseases and, and the impact that it could have on her. And I appreciate the fact that she's still sensitive, even though that baby is now a college student. Right. So we have different perspectives. Right. And I generally am pretty open to accepting different people's perspectives. But in this instance, I got really into my feelings and I was like, we're spending all this time, we're spending all this money, we've invested all this energy. We put our presentation together, we're working it around you and how dare you? That was what I felt.
Allison Williams: [00:18:30] And then I kind of checked myself and said, Hey, wait a minute, how dare you? Right. Everyone is entitled to protect their own physical safety. This is not about you. So I was able to kind of manage my mind around that and get out of that disappointment that this one person was bowing out early on in the process. But then kind of the flip side happened, which is I started reading more about the travel alert and reading more of the demonstrations that are happening and the concerns for, how long it's going to be prolonged there. And then, of course, in the interim time period, there's now a war in our world. Unfortunately, Russia invaded Ukraine. And we all know this is this was being recorded in March of 2022. So as of this time, what is happening in that part of the world could very easily impact what is happening in France. And I am sure that part of the unrest in France is being exacerbated by what is happening in Ukraine. And I have read enough about what's going on in France to, to have that perspective. And so, again, more uncertainty, more of a question, and more of a reason that even though I have dreamt about this and I have been excited about this for almost a year now, ultimately I have made the decision that I don't personally feel that it is in my best interest to travel to France in July.
Allison Williams: [00:19:56] And so I had to share that belief, that concern, that perspective, and that ultimate decision with the group. And I remember just typing out the email I felt so triggered because I knew I would be disappointing others. And this is what is prompting my kind of colloquy and discussion around the nature of disappointment. Because just as I was able to quickly manage my mind around how I felt when another person, quote-unquote disappointed me, I similarly hope, and from knowing the people that I'm speaking with, I'm relatively certain that they will be able to manage their minds around how my choice will disappoint them and how they will move past it. Right. And oftentimes, we don't move past our disappointments. We kind of layer on top of them, we push it down and we adapt. And the adaptation that a lot of us will accept when it's time to consider someone or something that disappoints us is to simply take things back or do things ourselves. And then we build up the resentment and that becomes a part of the way that we move through the world. Right.
Allison Williams: [00:21:10] As so many law firm owners, the law firm owners decide that they will not grow their law firm businesses because they know that they're going to be disappointed. They have so institutionalized the idea that disappointment comes with being a lawyer and comes with working with other lawyers, working with other team members, working in a business that they have just acclimated themselves to. I don't want to grow because too many people means too much headache. And I see that so many times when people talk about growth. Oh yeah, I grew once, but oh my God, it just got out of control because there were too many people and they weren't doing what they were supposed to be doing and yadda yadda yadda. Right. So there's the disappointment also becomes a way that we can shirk the responsibility to evolve ourselves into the best version of ourselves, right? In order to be the best leader. We don't look outside of ourselves. We look to others. And then we say, well, others are disappointing. And, you know, they had an obligation to and they didn't, so therefore.
Allison Williams: [00:22:13] And oftentimes we forget the ways that we disappoint others when we have these conversations. Right, we, we kind of conveniently gloss over the fact that we are disappointing others. And expect that they will move forward, that they will get over it, that they will move on, that they will forgive. We forget that when we are dealing with other people and we also forget the fact that oftentimes people disappoint because we engineered a system that is not effective for them to function with them. Right.
Allison Williams: [00:22:48] Now, in this particular instance, I feel that I'm going to disappoint others because of prioritizing myself. And once upon a time that would have really triggered me. Once upon a time I would have said, What kind of person are you that you would take something as completely unimportant as your own physical safety? And yet create all of this economic loss for a person. I don't know that there's economic loss. I don't think anybody's booked or flight yet, but you never know. Right. You're creating a less than desirable outcome for another person, prioritizing yourself, how dare you? But now I don't feel any guilt about that whatsoever. And I realize that that is part of the culmination of a self-love journey that I've been on for many years. But even aside from that, I do recognize that there can still be disappointment, even though I'm firmly rooted in making this choice and don't have any resistance around making the choice. So in thinking about disappointment, I've kind of thought about the ways that I have been able to reorder my thoughts quickly to move past moments of disappointment so that they don't become embedded in me and so that I don't look at other people as another opportunity to disappoint me. So there's really three steps, right? And I'm going to go over them very briefly because they're not challenging, right?
Allison Williams: [00:24:09] So the first thing to do is to always acknowledge the difference between right and wrong. So when someone disappoints you, there are times when they are disappointing you because they are choosing themselves, right? They are prioritizing themselves over you, which isn't about you, it's about them, but it has a collateral consequence to you. So, for instance, the person who chose to opt-out of this conference when her physical safety was at issue, but her, her, her health was at issue. You know, she is absolutely right to prioritize herself. In fact, all of us are right to prioritize ourselves when our very existence is at play. But sometimes there's a question about whether or not a person is right to prioritize themselves when other things are at play. So, for instance, if an employee of yours chooses to come in late because they have a sick child or chooses to, chooses to miss a deadline, like let's say you have an associate attorney who chose to miss a deadline getting something to you because their spouse came home distraught about something and ultimately took their time. Well, the, the right in that instance for you is that they meet the deadline and for them is that they cater to their spouse in that moment. So how do you ultimately determine what's right and wrong? Well, I think here it really is, putting yourself in the shoes of another person. Now, that doesn't absolve the fact that they needed to have communicated. They needed to have done everything possible to meet the deadline, and perhaps they shouldn't have waited until the last minute where they would ultimately have something interfere. That becomes a learning lesson. But in the instance, if what they chose over their work was something that you could understand, you would have made that choice, right? You would have chosen your spouse or your child over your work. Is that not something that you can have in your line of thought when you are evaluating the disappointment? So I think that's important to do.
Allison Williams: [00:26:13] The second thing is to allow grief. Now, this means that whatever feelings you have about someone disappointing you, it's important to process the feelings. Don't stuff them down, right? Don't try to move on from it. And certainly don't develop a maladaptive response. Like, I'll take this back because this person disappointed me. I just won't ever give this to them again. And by the way, I still have to resist the urge to do that because I have had a series of life experiences rooted in disappointment and trauma and abandonment that very much educated me, that the safest thing to do would be to take things back for yourself. But you have to resist the urge to do that. And one of the things that allows you to resist the urge is that you don't create a stockpile of disappointment, that you then why you're into your brain as the way that you have to adapt in the world. Right. If you expect disappointment, you will find it. If you expect people not to show up for you, they won't. If you expect people to fail, they will. We get in life what we expect. I can guarantee that to you. So when you are thinking about the fact that you have been disappointed by someone or something, you need to process the fact that you feel disappointed. Let those feelings out. Don't try to quickly move past the moment. Get it out. And once you have gotten it out, the next step is to do something with it.
Allison Williams: [00:27:39] And that then implicates step number three, which is to seek opportunity. Thinking opportunity is so valuable because when you get into the habit of seeing every challenge in your life as an opportunity to seek the next opportunity, as opposed to an opportunity to become emotionally upset, to wallow in discomfort, to see the challenge, to feel the pain. When you see things that are not positive as an opportunity for you to get something better, you are going to ultimately get into the habit of finding better things, finding better people, finding better situations, finding better circumstances every time something happens in your life. Right? So in this particular instance, one of the things that I immediately saw as an opportunity when I made the decision that I was not going to go to this conference, I saw it as an opportunity for me to seek other time allocation for my summer. Right. It isn't that I'm now going to claw back. I'm not going to say, well, crap, if I can't go to Paris, this is a, this is a sign from God that I'm not supposed to take the month of July off. I could definitely do that.
Allison Williams: [00:28:58] And since I haven't otherwise allocated my month, I have decided I'm probably going to work that month because I do love working and we have a lot of things going on in the companies right now. But I thought about what can I do instead? Like, what's the opportunity in this? I'm going to be in the US, or I could be in the US, or I could be in a different country, but I'm not going to be in France. So where am I going to be? How am I going to spend my time? And then my eyes lit up with all of the possibilities. Right. I have a travel companion we've been talking about going away. So I said, Well, let us plan our next trip now. And I have a very good friend who is having a birthday and we are celebrating her birthday in the Dominican Republic at the end of this year. So I thought, I thought to myself, maybe I want to extend my vacation time because I have a cousin getting married during Thanksgiving week and soon after that I'll be off to the Dominican Republic. Maybe I want to just make a one-month vacation time around that time. Right? There are so many possibilities that are available that come from this opportunity. And there are so many places, frankly, on my bucket list in the world that I haven't seen yet, that this is really just a moment in time.
Allison Williams: [00:30:09] Now, as for the conference, the joy that I have of public speaking is something that I get to entertain and, and kind of relish in just about every day of the week. I am either on a virtual platform, on a physical stage, or speaking to a live group most days of most weeks of my life at this point, it is absolutely a pleasure that I have, that I have a speaking career as a part of what I do. But, so even though I'm going to be missing that particular conference, I get the joy of public speaking and other avenues. I don't necessarily get the joy of speaking about this topic, but that opportunity is available to me. Frankly, if I called up certain places right now and said, Hey, I would like to do a presentation on the topic of intimate partner violence and child abuse and neglect and the intersection between those two. Can we put something together? I could absolutely get something together, right? I could absolutely put something together. I could likely get compensated for it. But I don't want to force it. I don't want to create that. I want to allow my mind to just kind of sit with all the opportunities right now. And when you allow yourself to acknowledge the right and wrong of a situation, you develop empathy. Frankly, for other people, that tends to lessen the feeling of disappointment when you allow yourself to process your emotions, process the grief of loss that you feel that you didn't get what you wanted in a moment, but you are going to move forward from that by doing the third thing, which is seeking opportunity.
Allison Williams: [00:31:36] When you enlist that three-step process pretty soon on the heels of experiencing a disappointment, you don't allow the disappointment to languish, and you don't allow it to take root inside of you. And by doing that, you actually get to a much happier state. And disappointments tend to be moments in time rather than lifelong experiences that you create more of by contemplating the next disappointment. All right, everyone, I am Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. You've been listening to The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. If you want to learn more about how we can help you to overcome disappointments in your law firm, reach out to a growth strategist on our team. The link will be in the show notes and I will see you in our next episode.
Allison Williams: [00:32:28] 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: 00:31:11 (24 Seconds)
I want to allow my mind to just kind of sit with all the opportunities right now. And when you allow yourself to acknowledge the right and wrong of a situation, you develop empathy. Frankly, for other people, that tends to lessen the feeling of disappointment when you allow yourself to process your emotions, process the grief of loss that you feel that you didn't get what you wanted in a moment, but you are going to move forward from that by doing the third thing, which is seeking opportunity.