Setting Your Mind on a Healthy Mindset for Your Practice

Lara WentworthLara Wentworth, Performance and Wellness Coach, shares key tips to ensure you can work with a healthy mindset in a stressful environment. She will explore this further at the upcoming CPD Compulsory Units for All Lawyers – 9 March.


The legal profession for want of an appropriate description can be justifiably described as a pressure cooker. The ingredients that are used to cook in this pressure cooker include but are not limited to!;

  1. Members of a profession who are generally described as overachievers and perfectionists,
  2. Also described as analytical and cynical and for the most part travel through life feeling like imposters,

mixed in and stirred slowly with

  1. many deadlines, high expectations,
  2. negative environments, conflict fuelled and combative clients and situations,
  3. unforgiving KPIs,
  4. long hours and fear of change.

If there was a recipe for ill mental health this would be it!!

Having a healthy mindset around our practice is not a luxury, but a must if we are to;

  1. have longevity,
  2. perform at our best
  3. manage our clients and
  4. effectively contribute to our society.

Undoubtedly, we’ve all seen or even maybe encountered legal practitioners who may operate from what can be described as an unhealthy mindset, in their career or their practice. As a lawyer coach I coach many lawyers who exhibit signs of an unhealthy mindset. This manifests in behaviour such as overworking, believing that is the mark of a good lawyer, chronic stress and burnout, instability in personal life, lack of focus and lack of self-awareness.

The truth is we can’t do our jobs effectively and be of service to anyone when we are not operating from a healthy mindset. It could be compared to a marathon runner who runs with a broken leg. We need our intellect, our intelligence, our creativity and our logic amongst other skills and qualities to be effective in our roles. It is unfortunate that as a profession we place more value on technical skill rather than having the right mindset that allows those technical skills to be best put to use!


What is a healthy mindset?

Wikipedia defines mindset as ‘a set of assumptions, methods, or notions held by one or more people or groups of people. ‘A mindset can also be seen as arising out of a person’s world view or philosophy of life. A mindset may be so firmly established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviours, choices or tools.’

We have a mindset about and for everything in life. A mindset can be described as a framework or a blueprint from which we derive our beliefs and values, our rules, our boundaries, our story about a particular area of our life and the narrative about who we are. This then is translated into behaviour, relationships and results.

One simple explanation of mindset that I like is that a mindset is made up of what we consciously and/or unconsciously set our mind on. That then forms our mindset.

So then, what can a healthy mindset for a lawyer look like? What can we set our mind on to create a healthy sustainable career? here is a few suggestions:

  • Respect for other people’s model of the world;
  • Flexibility in our approach to the system, our clients, our colleagues and ourselves;
  • Optimism in our thought patterns;
  • Connection between our mind, body and our higher self;
  • Resourcefulness;
  • Above the line thinking;
  • Solution focused and resilient;
  • Being vulnerable and human/asking for help;
  • Prioritising their mental health.


How do we set our mind on a healthy mindset for our practice?

From my experience as both a lawyer and a lawyer coach there are three things that we can set our mind on as lawyers that can help us develop and maintain a healthy mindset.


Our identity

Firstly, distinguishing between what we do and who we are. It is so common that I meet lawyers whose core identity has become synonymous with their job title.

What do you do? “I AM a lawyer” does not just describe what we do for a living but who we are.  It’s as if once we become admitted as lawyers we give away any other hat that we might wear in life, for the permanent hat of a lawyer. The danger in that is whilst we adopt this as a permanent identity, not every environment we find ourselves in calls for that identity, yet, “we just can’t take the lawyer out of us”. How do you parent as a lawyer? How do you be a community member as a lawyer? How do you be a friend as a lawyer? How do you be a spouse as lawyer?

Our identity as a lawyer is underpinned by certain beliefs, capabilities and behaviours. These may not always be relevant or even appropriate when we are outside the environment of lawyering. When we take our ‘lawyer’ beliefs, skills and behaviours into our home environment or our community, we may experience misalignment.

I remember coaching a lawyer who was having deep issues with his children because he was parenting out of fear of what could go wrong. Another lawyer who as a committee member experienced frustration at delays in decision making because her time was money! Another was having relationship issues because he didn’t tolerate mediocrity!

When our role is confused for our identity, setbacks, losses and disappointments become personal and they push us into fight or flight and create stress and anxiety. This is where I hear a lot of stories from lawyers about self-doubt, not being good enough and issues around self worth!


 Our Values

A healthy mindset in law has a lot do with values. Our values are those intrinsic drivers that we are unconsciously looking to meet. Often we as lawyers adopt the values of the profession as though they were our own. We don’t always allow our individual and personal values to guide us. As a result we chase success that may not be authentic to us. Practicing in line with your values creates authenticity and congruency that produce happiness and fulfillment. When I consciously worked on my values and took decisive action and deliberate behaviour to meet those values I started to practice and live on my terms!


Our Focus

If we control what we set our mind on, essentially what we are doing is controlling what we focus on. We get more of what we focus on even if it is not what we want. Setting daily intentions is a powerful practice that can help us choose how we want to show up for ourselves, our teams and our clients. A healthy mindset in our practice is strengthened when we take charge of what we focus on and live intentionally.

A healthy mindset is not a secret formula and it may mean different things to different people, but what I’ve come to appreciate is that whilst we all see, hear and experience the world through our own filters, being in charge of our minds means that we can be in charge of our lives.

Lara Wentworth is a former Partner at Madison Marcus Law Firm and until recently led the firm’s Family Law Division & Wills & Estate Planning Division. She has over 17 years’ experience practicing law. In 2016 Lara completed a Masters in Law Majoring in Family Law. Over more recent times Lara has embarked on and established a coaching and training practice where she mentors, coaches and trains members of the legal profession from students to senior partners. She is a certified Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) which is an effective transformational tool that she uses in the coaching and training process including group coaching and workshops. Lara is also currently completing international coaching certification with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) due to be completed 2020. During her practice as a Family Lawyer, Lara understands first-hand the pressures of the legal world and the pitfalls that a lawyer can face. Lara’s coaching and training is aimed at helping people in the legal profession to enhance their leadership skills and improve their mental health so they can be high performing and happy humans. This is done through coaching and training packages and programs that increase awareness, clear limitations, build resources, release talent and potential and create choice for a healthier and happier life in the law. Lara’s focus is on creating a supportive environment for people to learn more about themselves and gain leadership skills, whilst making long lasting and valuable shifts in habits, thoughts and behaviours. Lara is passionate about empowering professionals to take charge of their wellbeing by being in charge of their minds and therefore their results. Connect with Lara via email or LinkedIn