2018-04-30 Issue 45 Fundamental Behavior 18 Take Ownership
In the first few years of my legal career, my office was next door to another junior attorney, Rob. Rob had a brusque manner, but he was a good guy and I really liked him. He did not have a fancy pedigree, and, like me, he was happy to have a job. He was also smart and driven. Rob actively sought demanding work because every time he jumped into a challenging project he knew he would be one step closer to becoming the great lawyer he wanted to be. Some of our coworkers seemed to have a different approach to work. They did not like taking on tough assignments and had the attitude that the firm was fortunate they showed up each day.
One time Rob was assigned to assist a partner on a complex deal rolling up a number of different physicians’ practices. As new attorneys, neither of us knew a lot about doing deals, and at the time Rob knew nothing about physician practices. For a number of reasons, the partner in charge drifted away from the deal, leaving Rob to run it alone. I was scared for Rob, and I think he was scared too. Nevertheless, he jumped into the project completely and did the deal himself, even though it was very tough figuring it all out. I remember helping Rob sort and stack the hundreds of documents necessary for the closing. It took us all night because neither of us had actually run a closing before, and we were not absolutely sure how it should go.
Rob did not shy from this challenge even though he did not have a lot of experience doing that type of work. He took ownership of the project, and, by doing so, took control of his own career. In the end, the client was happy and Rob ended up doing a lot more deals for them. He had mastered a challenging skill and earned everyone’s respect. He became more valuable to the firm and developed a strong sense of confidence in his abilities.
After that, Rob realized he could pretty much do anything, and nothing has held him back since. He is now the CEO of a growing company he founded and loves what he does. And what about those other young attorneys who avoided the tough assignments and came to work with a sense of entitlement? I guess if they are lucky, they still have jobs somewhere. If they do, then they are probably still going to work every day hiding from tough assignments and wondering why no one appreciates them. But I really don’t know for sure. I never hear anything about them anymore…
YKK Corporation of America