The Conformity Trap

Throughout my life, I didn’t seem to fit in.

Definitely not in grade school … where most kids obeyed the rules —diagramming sentences, applying formulas, and doing whatever they were “supposed to.”

I didn’t understand conformity, and I hated memorizing rules. So I sat in the back, staring out the window, and fantasized about a world where I could learn what I wanted however I wanted.

But these daydreams were often rudely interrupted.

For example, teachers kept insisting I prove I’d learned the rules. This was a most difficult challenge. 

Standing in front of the blackboard I had no idea what I was “supposed to do.”

That meant I had to just figure things out as best I could, on the fly.

This approach was not appreciated. And so, not surprisingly, I spent a lot of time in the headmaster’s office.

In college I enjoyed more freedom. I got to learn whatever I wanted because I majored in Philosophy. People thought I was weird. But I was used to that.

I admired Epictetus who said, “Of what use is a philosopher who never offends anybody?” I had already learned that non-conformity offends people, especially those in positions of authority.

But even authority figures don’t always do what they’re supposed to.

For example, the famous football coach, Bill Walsh, disdained mindless conformity. He was fond of saying “when everyone thinks the same, nobody’s thinking.” 

A lot of people thought Walsh was weird too. Until he achieved massive success by proving the benefits of thinking differently.

After college, I started working as a waiter at an upscale New Orleans restaurant. It was an interesting job that paid well and taught me some practical skills, like using simple psychology tricks to increase the odds of getting a 20% tip.

After a few years, I realized I had to move on.

I was drawn to law because you were supposedly allowed to question authority. And to think differently. Yet, while this was true to some extent in law school….

In practice, I encountered a lot of rule-following, form-filling, and rote thinking. The only thing most lawyers seemed inclined to question was the idea of using technology.

Meanwhile, I became curious about technology. I thought it might improve the way I handled my cases. 

The lawyers in my big firm didn’t want to improve the way they handled cases. And they didn’t like technology. They favored conformity over curiosity. 

And, they thought I was weird.

The feeling of not fitting in bothered me, but I stayed with the firm for almost twenty years. After all, what was I supposed to do? Resign my lucrative partnership and start a solo practice?

Of course, I wasn’t the only lawyer who thought differently. And I wasn’t the only one interested in technology.

Eventually, I mustered the courage to leave the big firm. 

I started my solo practice in 2006, using technology to make radical improvements in how I helped my clients. Fortunately, it turned out well. 

I made good money working as much as I wanted, and however I wanted.

The lawyers in my old firm still thought I was weird. But a lot of other lawyers thought my approach made sense. 

Some of them asked me to teach them what I had learned. This also turned out well.

I liked helping those lawyers and so I kept doing it. The more I did, the more I liked it. Eventually, I took another leap of faith.

That’s when I created Law Firm Autopilot. And that’s when helping lawyers became my full-time mission.

So here’s the brutal truth about the world today.

To survive in a “knowledge business” like the practice of law you have to use technology. But to thrive, you have to use it exceptionally well. 

Because complacency and conformity just won’t cut it anymore.

Want my help?

If so, download my free guide, which explains some of the foundations for using technology to “work smarter.” (caveat: there are no simplistic “rules” to memorize or mindlessly apply)

Book Publications

I’ve  written two books published by the American Bar Association:

I self-published this book to help lawyers better harness the power of PDFs in their law practices:

And I was hired by Nuance to write a book about their PDF software:

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