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The Solo/Small Firm Challenge: Conquering Adversity and the Imposter Syndrome

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 92 minutes
Recorded Date: July 16, 2018
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  • Do you ever feel like all your accomplishments have been due to luck, chance, appearance, connections, or anything else that isn’t your own smarts, drive, and talent?
  • Do you ever worry that you’re going to be exposed as a fraud, even when you’re well into your career or area of expertise?
  • Do you feel like everyone around you is smarter, works harder, and does a better job than you do?
  • Do you find yourself terrified of making mistakes and constantly believing you are likely to make one no matter how expert you get at your career?
Runtime: 1 hour and 32 minutes
Recorded: July 16, 2018


Learn techniques to overcome negative thought patterns that can create an "imposter syndrome" that limits your ability to serve your clients with due diligence.

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve got a case of "imposter syndrome." The term "imposter syndrome" was coined in the late 1970s and is described as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” It’s generally accompanied to (and exacerbated by) perfectionism, black-and-white thinking, and intense fear of rejection and failure. These thought patterns create a perfect storm of insecurity, anxiety, and stress. Lawyers, especially those in solo practices or small firms, can become paralyzed by these thoughts. Women and minorities can be even more affected by these negative thought patterns.

In this program, we will discuss what imposter syndrome is, how it can affect your competence and judgment as a lawyer, and strategies for beginning to overcome it.

This presentation will focus on ABA Model Rules 1.1 (Competence); 1.3 (Diligence); 1.4 (Communication); and 8.4 (Misconduct). Lawyers have a duty to offer their clients zealous representation in areas of the law where they have demonstrated competence. Lawyers are charged with doing their due diligence for all their cases, communicating the status of matters in a timely manner and remaining fit to practice. When a lawyer is struggling with a behavioral health condition, whether it is a substance use disorder, a mental illness, or emotional condition, their fitness to practice can suffer.

This program will teach you about tending to your own emotional well-being by informing you about a condition that starts with a perfectionist world view that can evolve into a state of anxiety and stress that interferes with professional and personal functioning.

In February 2017, the ABA House of Delegates approved Resolution 106 amending the ABA Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education which includes a requirement for lawyers to receive at least one hour of mental health or substance use disorder programming every three years. This program offers education that will empower you to establish healthy attitudes and behaviors that will proactively assist you in dealing with emotional difficulties before they transform into impairments that make you unfit to practice.

This program was recorded on July 16th, 2018.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Amy M. Gardner


Amy M. Gardner helps attorneys and other professionals cut through distortions and distractions to decide where they want their careers and lives to go, and then develop the tools to get there. She is a certified professional coach and principal at Apochromatik.

Her work as a coach with attorneys and other professionals builds on her unique track record of working with law students as the Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Law School and a successful career practicing law, first as a Skadden litigation associate and later as an associate and then partner at Ungaretti & Harris LLP (now Nixon Peabody). In addition to one-on-one and group coaching, Amy regularly provides training and consulting for law firms and other organizations.

She received her B.A. from Luther College in English and political science, her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2002, her M.A. in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University in 2017, and is a graduate of the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching.

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Keith R. Sbiral

Principal & Owner

Keith R. Sbiral helps attorneys and other professionals cut through distortions and distractions to decide where they want their careers and lives to go, and then develop the tools to get there. He is a certified professional coach and principal at Apochromatik.

Keith brings to Apochromatik a career of management and efficiency work which makes him uniquely qualified to coach and consult in a variety of organizations. In addition to countless hours of professional development in his focus areas, he is a graduate of the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching and a member of the International Coach Federation.

Keith spent nearly 20 years in municipal government in the Chicago suburbs. He holds the ICMA Credentialed Manager designation as well as being a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has spent the majority of his career in management, specifically personnel management.

He received his B.A. from Luther College in political science with a minor in economics and his M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning with emphases in development finance and land use planning from the University of Iowa.

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