Don’t Like the Rule? Follow the Rule.

Statistically speaking, we were all children once, and 99.9% of us had curfews.  You probably hated the fact that your parents mandated you be home by 10:00 p.m. (or whatever seemingly arbitrary time they picked).  My dad was in law enforcement for 20+ years, so I heard all the horror stories of a girl being out 30 minutes past curfew, getting in a car accident, and dying. Or the girl who was out too late, got kidnapped, and ended up in a ditch. As a result, I was thoroughly terrified to not be exactly where I said I was going to be because, worst case scenario, they could find me if I went missing.   By the time I was a junior in high school, however, I was allowed to set my own curfew. Because I had always followed the rules, I was awarded the ability to become part of the rule-making process.

I’m naturally a rule follower.  Heck, I was never even sent to the principal’s office (which may seem shocking to people who know me).  However, my tendency to do what I’m asked does not mean I don’t dislike some of the rules I have to follow; but much like my curfew story, sometimes following the rules (even the ones you barely tolerate) liberates you.  How? In two ways:

Be A Part of the Process:

There are rules that upon first hearing you might simply recognize as being tedious, or at worst, redundant and silly.  Even if given an explanation for the rule, it just doesn’t make sense to you.  The best route to dealing with it might be: Sulk To Yourself and Follow It Anyway.  Why is this liberating? Because at some point, you’re trusted with information and power beyond the rule. How cool was it for my parents to trust me enough to let me become a part of the rule-making process? It’s harder to break a rule you’ve created for yourself.

Learn the System, Become the System:

Sometimes the best way to convince someone that a particular rule is stupid is to try to work within it. If you can pinpoint exactly why the rule doesn’t work, you’re going to be more effective in changing the rule.  It has been my experience in all my days of rule-following that as I go about my law-abiding business, I begin to notice why the rule is necessary, and at the end of the day it doesn’t bother me so much.  Or I’m able to expound on why the rule is ineffective, even if well-intentioned.  Then a new rule can be written.

So, what does this have to do with law firms? Rules that inhibit innovation are difficult to deal with (at least for me). Have patience. Work within the structure system a bit, and see what happens when you show people you respect them enough to follow their rules (then secretly start working on changing them).

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