Oklahoma Bar Journal

The Rules of Law and Rules in Life

By Janet K. Johnson

As you have seen in this appellate-law-themed Oklahoma Bar Journal, there are rules, case law and more rules to follow with appellate procedure. This month’s theme, coupled with a new year and my new role as executive director, made me think more about creating my own rules to follow – in both my personal and professional life. Something more than just New Year’s resolutions, more than a mantra about the power of presence. Something more related to growth and effectiveness.

Thus, I am challenging myself in 2023 with some of Stephen Covey’s[1] principles in mind: I want to create rules that will become healthy habits. After much thought, I think I have a decent start; I thought if I shared with the masses, it would add some accountability. So here it goes!

First, I embrace that I am in a state of transition. I am entering a new role on the heels of John Morris Williams, who successfully led the OBA for nearly 20 years. In furtherance of this, I will focus on my circle of influence – my coworkers, peers and colleagues. Together, we will focus on and brainstorm how to increase member engagement and awareness of all the Oklahoma Bar Association has to offer.

Next, I am personally going to write down my visions and desired outcomes in my personal and professional life. Maybe I will surprise myself and create my own personal mission statement. The possibilities here are endless. I know we are all different, but I find many lawyers work well with a defined plan, i.e., an envisioned goal and desired outcome (read: complete that final brief draft well in advance of a filing deadline).

Third, I will strive to consciously prioritize. Many of us get pulled in so many different directions due to someone else’s emergency. My goal is to recognize the difference between urgency and importance. To aid in that, I want to make it a habit to plan my week ahead on Sundays rather than just taking a day-by-day view. Perhaps it can become part of my process – a habit – just like meal prepping. My hope is that seeing everything on a Sunday-through-Friday schedule will increase my effectiveness, and that is a habit I would love to have.

Finally, I have a hybrid habit I want to achieve: empathetic listening and synergy. I think these habits pair well, like wine and cheese. I want those who work with me and talk to me, in any capacity, to feel heard and understood. I think that feeling heard and understood lends itself to successful synergy. Healthy discussions come from listening, feeling heard and mutual understanding. When these pieces fall in place, we create a safe space to brainstorm and come up with something better than either of us had in mind. Thus, effective brainstorming equals a tremendous effect.

This list leaves me with much to do – and I know it is all possible. These should feel no different than any other goals, taking them one day at a time – or in my case, Sunday through Friday. I can only hope that my brain quickly establishes some muscle memory, so these desired habits soon become the rules by which I lead my life.

To contact Executive Director Johnson, email her at janetj@okbar.org.


[1] Stephen Covey is the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 2 (February 2023)