A growth mindset for lawyers who run independent firms

Too often as business owners, we succumb to living each day in survival mode. We focus on the work at hand, and the most urgent demands, but what about our plans for the future? A growth mindset for lawyers who run their own law firms can help change the game.

What is a growth mindset?

According to psychologist and researcher Dr. Carol S. Dweck people tend to operate in one of two distinct frames of mind: fixed or growth.

Brainpickings explains:

“A ‘fixed mindset’ assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A ‘growth mindset,’ on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.

After working through law school and working our way up the big law ladder, we can become entrenched in a fixed mindset. In both of those scenarios, someone else lays out the expectations and rules for success. Think about your experience in law school or your first associate jobs. Did you feel as if you were running on a hamster wheel trying to achieve some impossible goal?

Now, think about your current experience as an independent lawyer. You are the business owner, which means you call the shots. Do you now operate with those same old goals and expectations in mind, or have you shifted your thinking to create new definitions of success? With a growth mindset, you can transform yourself and your firm into something even better than you originally conceived.

Applying a growth mindset to your law firm

When you launched your independent or small law firm, you likely started small. You chose a practice area, a general target clientele and went from there. Maybe you attracted enough business that you needed to hire staff or find a partner. Maybe you began collaborating with fellow independent practitioners.

That’s growth, but it doesn’t describe a growth mindset. The organic growth that happens in the early stage of your business lay a great foundation for future success, but your firm can stagnate if you simply coast on your original business model.

Whether you have been in business for a year or 10 years, it’s a good idea to stop and assess what’s working and what’s not. You should also really think about your personal goals and new opportunities that can take your firm to the next level.


  • Does your current clientele fit your goals and overall firm culture?
  • Are there skills you have let languish that could add value to your business?
  • What new skills could you develop, both personally and within your staff?
  • Are there new practice areas that could meet a growing need in the marketplace?
  • Would you like to expand beyond your own niche by adding a partner with a different skill set?
  • What’s not working in your current model?

As you sort through these questions, keep in mind your bigger goals. Bringing in clients and paying the bills shouldn’t be the only bar you work toward. Think about what you stand for and what kind of impact you would like to have on your clients, your field or your community.

Entrepreneur William Craig counsels:

“Being aware of what the growth mindset is and trying to develop it within yourself will cause you to seize opportune moments more than ever before, especially when doing so could take your business to a new level.

Fully realizing the benefits of a growth mindset also means looking for chances to improve yourself, often through continual education. Thanks to the internet, webinars and online courses abound, so you can build your knowledge even if in-person classes aren’t feasible. You may be a recognized expert in a certain subject, but it’s always possible to learn new things, especially if you study previously learned information in a fresh way.

I think that last line is especially powerful for lawyers. So, you were top in your class and landed the coveted big law job right out of school? So, a magazine rated you top in your practice area five years ago? Those accomplishments led you to this moment, but a growth mindset can help take you beyond your past. Dream and think bigger, and you might be surprised at what you can create.

To learn more about growing your law firm alongside like-minded peers, schedule a tour of one of our three Denver locations. We offer suites, private offices and co-working space exclusively to lawyers. 

Schedule a Tour