What Motivates You as a Litigator?


What Motivates You as a Litigator?


While I was in grad school in the 1970's I took some of my classes in the business school in the area of administrative organization, and performed organizational development management consulting to help pay for my education.

Daniel Pink


Drive, Daniel Pink  


Daniel Pink's book Drive discusses the psychology of motivation, and how the 21st century workplace has evolved significantly from that of the 20th century.

According to Pink, "There's a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system-which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators-doesn't work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way.  


This new approach has three essential elements:   


1. Autonomy - the desire to direct our own lives. 

2. Mastery - the urge to get better and better at something that matters.  

3. Purpose - the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves."


In the past, the American business model of "extrinsic" motivation was based on a reward and punishment model of behavioral psychology. Unfortunately, this model has its limitations, and may stifle both the "creative process" and "grit" I discussed in a recent newsletter.


Extrinsic motivators tend to work well in the short term, like a bonus to get a project done before a deadline, but tend to be counter-productive in the long term with the creation of entitlement expectations. Hey, this new project is going to stress me out...Where's the bonus?    


The elusive obvious is that the use of monetary rewards as the primary or sole motivational force may backfire. Pink uses this analogy-once you pay a child to take out the trash, the child will never take out the trash again without receiving a payment.


The study of highly innovative workplaces that empower highly dedicated workers suggests that "intrinsic" self-directed motivation, is more powerful and ultimately more productive than the old model.


What motivates you?


In years past, we discussed people who had Type A (aggressive, alpha dog) personalities and Type B (more laid back) personalities. You may remember, the Type A folks were the ones who ended up with the early coronaries.


Now, Pink wants us to think more in terms of people oriented to Type X behavior (driven by extrinsic motivators) and Type I behavior (driven by intrinsic motivators).


According to Pink, Type I behavior produces satisfaction and happiness, while Type X behavior may make us feel like drones and suck the joie de vivre right out of us.


Most litigators who remain litigators over the long haul seem to find the creative challenge in their work satisfying and do not seem to focus on monetary gain, or even winning, as a primary motivator.  


Simply put, they love their work and they have the trifecta of control, mastery and purpose working for them.


However, I have met attorneys over the years who simply did not find satisfaction in the work of litigation.  For them, litigation was a continual drag down of drudge work and adversarial damage to the stomach lining. And, no one could pay them enough to continue with it.

What motivates your staff?


Litigators are also supervisors. Perhaps it would be helpful to look around you and take note of the motivational system that now exists in your office.


Is the motivational system in your office entirely or overwhelmingly a monetary Type X system, or is there a substantial amount of Type I built into the office process?


In looking at extrinsic motivators, have you built in beyond-the-monetary "reinforcements" such as praise, promotion, scheduling preference opportunities, time off, and other positive incentives?


Is it possible to build in a variety of "I" type projects into the work week/month that can allow your paralegal, legal assistant or office manager experience a higher degree of control, mastery and purpose?