… at least some of the time.
The problem is that you want *it* to work, but it gets harder and harder the longer you stay in.
The work remains the work, but your clients don’t value what you do, not nearly enough.
The internet has been a boon, but now you find that everyone has an opinion on their case, and often you are battling the Search engine as well as your client’s expectations.
You remain positive but as the days draw out and you have to work longer hours to keep your head above water, you begin to question your raison d’être for the career you have chosen.
And then there is everything that happens outside of work. You dare not open up you innermost feelings on why you think law sucks because you are afraid that someone might just ask the ultimate question:
“If it’s truly that bad, why don’t you do something else?”
You have seen others leave to go to a new firm, but, much as you thought, far from the grass being greener, it looks pretty much the same and if anything it is a darn site tougher. The truth is that being a lawyer is just as hard as any other job, possibly a lot harder, but you are so far down the rabbit hole that you don’t know what to do. Moaning is a poor substitute but at least it gives you an opportunity to vent your spleen.
I recognise that this is a very pessimistic view of law, and not any easy message but if you don’t redefine the status quo chances are that it will define you.
The next few years will see further dislocation in the legal market and even the most stoic of people are going to be affected. I predict that less lawyers will be needed and those that remain will be expected to become consummate rainmakers, professional managers (they are largely amateurs right now), financially astute, and for many it will feel as if they are working for themselves but enjoying very little of the autonomy and flexibility that you might ordinarily expect.
It is important to recognise that if you are going through the motions that trying to develop a multifaceted skill set will be extraordinarily hard – you simply won’t have the motivation. Doing busy work won’t help and if anything it will make you even more miserable as you cannot reconcile the risk/reward/time equation.
The trick is to find your passion.
Without a deep-seated sense of satisfaction, none of this will make sense.
When I wax lyrical about working on your practice and not in it, this rests with you.
You can be as entrepreneurial as you like but fundamentally if you hate what you are doing you won’t do it or do it to the best of your ability.
If you want to rediscover why you went into law, you have to be prepared to re-examine every single reason that persuaded you in the first place. And you literally have to be prepared to turn things inside out. There are no sacred cows.
It is an oft repeated expression that we are what we think, but if you find yourself thinking about the same thing other than what you are doing, then perhaps you need to listen to yourself.
I have met many lawyers who tell me that what they really love is a different practice area to the one that they have spent 5+ years cultivating; but they never seem to go beyond the talk stage. They usually offer a slew of reasons to avoid making the leap but none seem particularly convincing. And that was before security of tenure became paramount.
Seth Godin talks endlessly about doing work that matters and that is what, in part, his latest book Poke the Box is about. But when is all said and done, given that we spend so much of our time at work, surely you want to be able to look back not in frustration or anger at all those wasted years but rather with a quiet sense of satisfaction that what you did made a difference. I know that’s how I felt.
In Hugh McLeod’s latest book Evil Plans he says:
“I hated a job because it never allowed me to give enough to the world.”
A great job should not be something that holds you back, makes you miserable or sucks your soul. It should enable you to give your best.
I am not naive. I recognise how hard it is to please clients. They can be an ungrateful lot sometimes but that is all you have. No clients. No work.
When I talk to lawyers, I tell them that they have the power to chose their clients. “Yeh right” is the usual glib response but how many of them have tried to create the perfect client portfolio? Very few. Why? Fees.
The driver is not doing your best work for your best clients but how much money you can make.
Now if you are a retailer you may want to sell to everyone but I was always taught that lawyers can decide who they would like to act for. Trouble is greed (now necessity) very often overrides your instinct not to act for someone.
My message to all lawyers: find your passion. Be inspired. Stop focusing incessantly on the numbers and start looking at where you can add value – in abundance. Don’t worry that you can’t charge for every single second of time. In fact if you have any sense you will be exploring with your clients what they want – fixed fees, value based billing or discounts?
If you find that law is taking more out of you than you are putting into the job then don’t be afraid to ask for some help. Reach out and connect. It may just save your soul.
~ JS ~