With all the benefits and opportunities of practicing law, why do so many lawyers feel dissatisfied with their chosen career?
This article attempts to answer that question, and — more importantly — offer suggestions for greater satisfaction in your practice and perhaps your life.
• Passion. Most of us went to law school because we were passionate. If not about law itself, then about some aspect of making society better or advocating for a cause or a group.
Some lawyers have careers that center on the passion that drew them to the law, but most of us have gravitated away from what drew us toward a more practical career focus.
Find a way to re-kindle that passion.
One way is to get involved with a case or initiative on a subject matter on which you genuinely care. We tend to forget our passions once we get into the day-to-day practice of law, but that is unnecessary.
Take time to find a case or a cause that re-kindles your passion. The idea that lawyers must choose to make money or to make a difference is a false choice.
• Mentorship. We are wired to pour into others and to allow them to pour into us. When those dynamics are not present, we become dissatisfied. No matter your level of experience, find someone to mentor and allow someone to mentor — or at least influence — you.
We all have something to teach (new lawyers can mentor students) and much to learn.
That can only happen in relationships. The JBA’s mentorship program is a good way to get started.
• Improve the profession. Much lawyer dissatisfaction derives from dissatisfaction with the profession itself. That can mean inefficiencies in the process, unethical practices, a diminishing reputation, just to name a few.
We need to be the change that we want to see.
Get involved with The JBA, The Florida Bar, the American Bar Association or a specialty Bar or organization and be part of one of the many initiatives to bring about positive changes within the practice of law.
Unhappiness often emanates from feeling out of control over something that causes frustration. Becoming involved in making things better is empowering and rewarding.
• Find balance. The practice of law is demanding and requires an intense amount of attention and energy.
Meeting those demands regularly requires you focus your attention and energy even when you are away from the practice.
Work hard, but take time each day — and for longer periods of time when you can — to forget about your day job and to do something completely different. It will renew you and will provide meaningful perspective to bring back to the office.
• Don’t take yourself so seriously. What we do is serious, but that does not mean that we have to take ourselves so seriously.
We are in the mistake business — at least on the litigation side of things, we are employed because something went wrong.
Emotions can run high while litigators fight over who is to blame and transactional lawyers seek to anticipate problems and avoid them.
At times, that tension needs to be broken. Most of us do our best work when we can relax and even laugh every once in a while.
You get out of your career what you put into it. If you are dissatisfied, the key to greater satisfaction is within your power.