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Think Better

Bill Walsh often said, “When everyone’s thinking the same, no one’s thinking.”

Unfortunately, when people don’t feel comfortable thinking for themselves, they follow the herd.

Outside the Lines

I’ve always loved learning, which I guess is why I had so much trouble in school.

Late in life, I discovered that schools were designed to teach conformity, not creativity. And definitely not critical thinking.

In school, I rebelled against conformity. I ignored the lessons and didn’t do the homework. Instead, I studied on my own.

I smuggled books into school and read them under my desk in the back of the class.

I learned a lot. But my grades didn’t reflect it, obviously.

Be Philosophical

College was better because, there, you had control over what you were allowed to study.

I decided to major in Philosophy. But my friends didn’t understand.

“What’s the practical use of a Philosophy degree” they’d ask. I understood their confusion.

On the surface, philosophy doesn’t appear to involve anything practical.

Question Everything

Here’s what my college friends didn’t understand…

Philosophy is about going below the superficial and finding essential principles. In so doing, philosophy helps us challenge flawed beliefs that survive only because most people don’t question them.

(Recall the Bill Walsh quote at the top of this page)

Of course, having marketable skills is also important. And so, as graduation neared, I was forced to consider the practical need for a job.

And I realized that no one would pay me to question people’s assumptions. So I took a job at an upscale New Orleans restaurant.

Surprisingly, it paid well. And, I learned practical skills like how to charm patrons into giving me 20% tips.

But, I craved something more intellectually stimulating. So I decided to return to school.

Law School

I loved every minute of law school. And because I enjoyed it, I did really well there. I made Law Review, and was on the National Moot Court Team. Best of all…

I graduated top 10 in my class (and finally made my parents proud).

Judge Duplantier

After law school, I got a job clerking for a federal judge who challenged my thinking in ways I had never experienced.

I’ve written about him over here. The two years I spent working for the Judge taught me to question all kinds of assumptions, especially my own.

I emerged from my clerkship with one flawed assumption, which had to do with…

The Practice

Once I entered the practice of law, I encountered many people all thinking the same. This surprised me. Many lawyers seemed afraid to go against the grain.

And there was not much openness to new ideas. Such as…

Technology

I was curious about technology. I thought it might improve the way I practiced law.

One day I discovered that I could scan paper into a computer. That meant I could put the equivalent of hundreds of boxes of paper into my 2 lb laptop.

This blew my mind.

Up until that point, managing case documents was complex, cumbersome and expensive (think lots of paralegals). But then, the game completely changed.

Now, I could go to court by myself and easily compete with old-school lawyers surrounded by boxes of documents.

All my documents were text-searchable, so I could find whatever I needed instantly.

My opponents, on the other hand, wasted time rummaging through their boxes — infuriating impatient judges.

Those lawyers were happy thinking like everyone else. I was more interested in efficiency, which sometimes requires…

Innovation

My law partners were comfortable with tradition, and consensus. With innovation? Not so much.

They preferred the old way of doing legal research (with books) —instead of using computers connected to Lexis or Westlaw. Computers frightened them.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. So, one day, I grabbed my laptop and left the firm.

I started a solo practice to explore how to use technology to make work as efficient as much as possible. It turned out better than I expected.

I kept my overhead low and made enough money to be happy. My fees were reasonable, so my clients were happy too.

Helping Others

Other lawyers noticed what I was doing and thought my approach made sense. Some of them asked me to help them.

So I did. And it turned out to be something I enjoyed.

A New Mission

In 2009 I created the company now known as Law Firm Autopilot. That’s when I made helping lawyers my full-time mission. A lot of lawyers have said nice things about my work, and the ABA even gave me an award.

About Your Practice

If you want a practice where you can work in a way that allows you to be happy (or at least reasonably happy), know that it’s possible.

Technology can help you in many amazing ways — to get more work done, more easily, and at a lower cost. The key is learning to use it effectively.

Want help?

If so, start here.

And, if you want to talk with me in person, schedule a free call.

Book Publications

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

I also wrote two other books.

Speaking

If you want me to speak at an event click here

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