5 Lessons from On Purpose Legal Workshop

A month ago, we hosted the first-ever personal development conference for lawyers and allied legal professionals: On Purpose Legal Workshop. It was an event focused on lawyers’ greatest asset: their authentic selves and how to thrive in the profession while being just that. Some of the participants came looking for new ways to thrive; others wanted to reconnect with their purpose and reach for more. No matter where folks came from, though, we were in community together, learning from each other and getting the practical tools necessary to work intentionally.

While we loved bringing the event to life, we could not imagine the impact it would have on us. The speakers were amazing. Bringing their own unique perspective, they each left us with thought bombs that continue to resonate today. And the participants – wow. Don’t get us started on how much we love them. They were each so impressive. They showed up, were present, and did the work. They were the true inspiration of the day, and we feel so grateful to be in community with them. What an amazing group of legal professionals!

Having now had a month of reflection, looking back on OPLW, there were five a-ha moments that really stuck out:

1. We are not alone. Even when you’re with a firm, practicing in the legal profession can feel isolating. There are days when we feel like no one else is struggling with stress, discrimination, or insecurity. We are so good at putting on the everything-is-ok face that when we encounter challenges, they leave us feeling weak, less-than, and ill-equipped to handle the rigors of the profession. We often question, “Am I really cut out to do this?” During OPLW, we learned that we aren’t alone in those perceptions and struggles. Even when we thought, “There is no way anyone else is going through what I’m going through,” someone was. In fact, most of the time, a lot of us were quietly dealing with the same thing and thinking we were the only ones. We don’t talk about these challenges enough, which is why we wanted to incorporate the Stand Back Up exercise into the day. Seeing participants bravely stand up for their colleagues and say, “you are not alone”, was one – if not the – most powerful moment of the day. It broke down walls, opened up a discussion, and started a community of support.

2. Be agnostic to the How. Nathan Havey started the day off focusing on purpose, what it is and how to find it; and boy, did he deliver. While we were all frantically taking notes and absorbing his wisdom, there was one moment where a collective poof went off in the room as everyone’s mind was blown. When putting your purpose into practice, Nathan instructed, “Be agnostic to the how.” In other words, don’t get married to a particular means to an end. For us lawyers, this is so easy to do. We take the LSAT, go to law school, pass the bar, and get admitted so we can work at the big firm and make partner. From the outside looking in, that seems to be the only way to ‘practice law’ and live out our personal purpose for coming to this profession. But what if it isn’t the only option? What if there are an infinite number of paths we can take? What if practicing law means you open a modern law firm with only flat fee billing? What if it means you add a legal services give-back for every purchase at your existing outdoor shop and use the funds to provide help to tenants in need? Or what if it means you start a podcast and provide understandable information about the court system to educate those facing it alone? It’s so easy to get focused on the one path so many of our colleagues are walking down. And if that’s what best suits their purpose, great! But it probably isn’t the how for most of us, and being able to let go of what we thought we should do and instead allow all the possibilities is magical.

3. Be audacious with your dreams. When we remove the limitations of ‘how’, the possibilities become endless. Using each of our personal purposes as the foundation, we spent some time thinking about what life would look like at the start of the next decade if we were thriving. What would our careers look like? What would our family life look like? How would we feel? What would be a day in our lives? Then after thinking about all that, we went bigger. We thought of dreams and goals that might make us a little embarrassed if we said them out loud, but we wrote them down anyway. Each person’s vision looked a bit different, but that was the best part. We were in community with other legal professionals who were willing to dream big audacious dreams and not apologize for them. The energy in the room was inspiring and uplifting, and you could palpability feel that this group of folks were about to make some serious impact.

4. Habits are the secret to success. Dreaming big left us feeling energized and ready to take on the world. But as the initial excitement wore off, the realization that these dreams were big started to sink in. Where do we even start? When a dream is so big it feels like you’re about to climb Everest, it’s best to start small. One step at a time. And those small steps are our daily habits. The overnight success is often years in the making. Just like we can’t climb Everest in a day, we can’t go from here to achieving our biggest dream just on hope. We need to take small, achievable actions that get the momentum going. Breaking down a big dream into milestone goals and then developing habits to achieve the goal is the secret to success.

5. Music makes it better. While we did the work during OPLW, we also had so. much. fun! Throughout the day, we sang and danced to our own curated playlist. The participants helped create the playlist by sharing their personal pump-up song. When we need a little pick-me-up or to change our mood, the OPLW playlist is ready on repeat.

What recent lesson has stuck with you? Where did you gain some new perspective?