Lawyers: Take a fearless and searching moral inventory.

Not only do addicts work the 12 steps, so do their personal development supporters.

I learned this recently after lunching with a friend who told me of her journey with self assessment. She is now on the 4th step, the one that takes tremendous courage and objectivity. Taking a fearless moral inventory of ourselves helps us break down barriers, and it helps the AA member move forward in their program.

What does this have to do with attorneys? Everything. Just like in other professions, the more we manage ourselves, the better our influence with others. The 4th step is pivotal for courtroom influence, office/firm effectiveness and client development. Without it, we flounder.

After my luncheon with the above friend, I decided to take a fearless moral inventory of myself, only to find there are key issues I need to address.


In many ways I am a control freak. Starting with organization and/or time management, I prefer things to have structure, for I know I work best within defined structures. Yet, I often am in unstructured environments that others don’t want structured. The lesson for me here is to give up the need to control and become flexible. Today I make a point to allow myself to adjust as needed. Big lesson for me, yet one that I’ve already seen beneficial.

For instance, the more days off I take (I’m a workaholic) the steadier my business. This doesn’t make sense to me, yet it tells me I need to just let go and trust. This will continue to be a tough lesson for me, yet the more I note the benefits in being flexible, the greater my motivation.


Along with my need to control is my need to explain my expertise. I know where this comes from. It’s a barrier pattern called, Never Feeling Good Enough that plays in my head. It’s my own experience that when given constructive criticism, I feel deflated instead of educated. Not everyone responds this way. Nor should I.

What I know about vulnerability is, the more often I admit mistakes, ask for help, or seek perspective the better equipped I am in the future. Yet when I offer apologies, I often fall into the trap of explaining my actions. Unfortunately, my apology appears ingenuine – and it probably is. If I were to simply apologize, offering no excuses, I am closer to building trust, feeling less anxious and on the path to moving forward. Vulnerability is essential for leaders, followers, business builders, professionals, parents and educators. Vulnerability is the key to my own humility which is crucial for understanding and love.


I must take the time to think, to reflect, to observe and to understand. When I do, I prepare myself to self-manage. Instead of constantly running and doing,  this practice allows me to be grounded in what’s going on around me and how I’m contributing.

Not to be contrary to flexibility, the more prepared I am with handling unplanned circumstances, the better equipped I am for mentally being flexible. When I taught high school, it used to really throw me off if, while in the middle of a classroom activity the fire alarm would sound. My first instinct was usually – why weren’t we alerted?! Didn’t administration respect us enough not to interrupt our efforts?

Although at times the alarms were due to true emergencies, sometimes I had simply failed to remember earlier communications of upcoming classroom disruptions. This led to lack of preparation on my part. My busy schedule has usually prohibited preparedness – thus to be better prepared I need to take control of my schedule.

Taking a fearless and moral inventory of ourselves requires reviewing the things that upset us, then taking responsibility for what we need to correct in ourselves. Not easy, yet when we take this step, just like addicts, we will move forward in our own development.

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On September 1st, 2011, posted in: controllling self by