Committing is More Than Saying ‘Yes’

This post will also appear in the May/June issue of the Nebraska Lawyer Magazine.  

Young attorneys are busy.  Whether as a result of overly ambitious billable hour requirements, familial responsibilities, involvement in extracurricular or professional organizations, or some combination thereof, our available time is at a premium.  As a result, we need to exercise care when choosing how to commit that time.  And it’s not only our time that should be considered when making these choices.  There are a range benefits and consequences that need to be weighed before agreeing to take on a new role or activity.  

When we do decide to get involved and commit to a new project, we accept a responsibility that we’re actually going to follow through with what we’re committing to.  By adding to your own schedule, you’re giving up the free time that could be used for some other activity (or just to be kept as free time). And if you’re particularly busy already, this new project may put added strain on your existing responsibilities.   

Following through (or conversely failing to follow through) on your commitments can have a major effect on your reputation.  If you continually do what you say you’re going to do, word is going to spread that you’re someone who can be counted on.  The opposite is true as well.  

And we don’t need to say ‘yes’ to everything.  Knowing when to say ‘no’ can have a positive impact on your reputation as well.  It shows that you know how to exercise restraint.  Saying ‘yes’ to a project when you can’t truly commit to it affects other people.  It wastes their time, and can hinder the success of the group.  You’re also blocking the group from finding the person that actually could provide his or her time and energy.  

While it is important to become involved in the communities you’re a part of, it is equally important to keep your word.