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Your fixed mindset is holding you back: Here’s what to do about it

In today’s demanding profession, it’s becoming evident that lawyers who adopt a growth mindset are more likely to thrive in their careers. Even though a growth mindset is not built in a day, there are effective ways to help lawyers lay the foundation.

user iconLawCPD 09 March 2023 Careers
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The term “growth mindset” refers to the belief that abilities and talent develop over time and is characterised by a willingness to learn, adapt and embrace challenges. Its increasing popularity is due to the fact that professionals who adopt this mindset are better suited to adapt to constant disruption by identifying opportunities where a “fixed mindset” would only see barriers. Interestingly, lawyers traditionally develop a fixed mindset through their training and daily practice.

As the profession continues to face a relentless pace of change, lawyers able to cultivate such a mindset will be better suited to cope and thrive. Lawyers can lay the foundations for a growth mindset by:

  • Transforming failure into valuable learning opportunities;
  • Boosting emotional intelligence to improve effective communication; and
  • Embracing and acting on feedback.
Understand how to reframe failure


Lawyers tend to be perfectionists. Although perfectionism can be a highly beneficial trait when you work in the law, it can also result in low self-esteem, strong self-criticism, and a crippling fear of failure. Not only can this hold you back in your career, but it’s also a strong indicator that you’re stuck in a fixed mindset.

One way you can break this negative cycle is by learning how to reframe failure as a gateway to success.

The first step in reframing failure is to understand that failure is actually our best teacher. Taking a step back and really looking at what happened, and what you would do differently in future, means you will gain valuable insights you can take forward in your career. In this way — however uncomfortable it may feel — failure is one of the most valuable learning experiences.

The second step in reframing failure is to consider how it can help you. In most cases, feelings of defeat mean you’re working at the edge of your comfort zone. Suddenly you’re forced to challenge your current skill set and are pushed to develop new ones. In this way, failure offers opportunities for growth we may not otherwise experience if we always “play it safe”.

Ultimately, reframing failure as an opportunity to learn is a great way for lawyers to build a growth mindset and is an asset for anyone seeking career success.

Empower your communication with emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI), the ability to identify, assess, and understand your own and others’ emotions, is the foundation of effective communication. Developing your own EI means you can cultivate empathy, successfully deal with difficult people, and manage clients with high-conflict personalities.

Building your own emotional intelligence also improves your self-awareness, which supercharges your communication skills. Many of the hallmarks of effective communicators, such as active listening skills, rapport building and using positive body language, will come more naturally to you when you improve your EI.

Increased EI also equips you to better understand your own emotions and manage them under pressure. You will also be better placed to understand and respond to clients’ and colleagues’ emotions, which in turn will help you build strong relationships and foster collaboration.

Embrace feedback

We often associate feedback with unpleasant emotions and the fear of being criticised — but it is also a valuable opportunity to learn and grow. But whether you are in a leadership position or at the beginning of your legal career, you need to get comfortable with receiving feedback. So how can you become more at ease with receiving feedback?

First, it’s essential to understand how to deal with your own emotions when receiving feedback. If you’ve received harsh constructive criticism, and are struggling to keep your emotions contained, remember that it’s always okay to say, “I need time to process this feedback. Can we revisit this at a later stage?”. This is a constructive way of providing space to deal with heated emotions and also allows you time to consider how you want to approach the feedback.

Secondly, when you receive feedback, always try to summarise and restate what you’ve just heard. This shows that you’ve been attentive and confirms that you’ve understood the core message of the feedback. In addition, this is a crucial step to ensure any plan of action you implement will holistically address the feedback.

A “growth mindset” is based on constant development and improvement. So developing the ability to hear, analyse and act on feedback positively and productively is a crucial step in your own growth and development.

Start building your growth mindset today with these popular courses:

You can also visit to find over 100 hours of interactive, engaging online legal CPD courses to support your learning journey today.