What Kind of Lawyer Do You Really Want to Be?

monster-lawyerHave you ever found yourself wondering who you have become?

This happened to one lawyer last year after he found himself pumping his fist with excitement after serving interrogatories to opposing counsel and realizing they would be due right after Christmas. In that moment, he caught himself and realized he had become someone who was excited to ruin another person’s Christmas. He had become someone he never wanted to be.

His days were filled with conflict, and he was paid to make life worse for people, not better. His personality was dominated by anger, his family was suffering, and his practice was suffering too. He began to sabotage his firm because he simply did not believe in what he was doing any longer.

Sadly, this state of affairs rings true for many lawyers. Admit it or not, everyone wants purpose and meaning behind their work. And we all want to feel really great about what we do and who we are.

So, I ask you, has being a lawyer turned you into someone you do not want to be? If so, it is not too late to turn it around.

The lawyer I mentioned earlier turned it around by leaving litigation and becoming an estate planning attorney. Today, just a year later, he has the joy of strengthening families instead of tearing them apart.

Law may be your profession, but this is your life. With a few simple shifts in your career or entrepreneurial path, you can start practicing in an area of law that provides meaning, purpose and fulfillment. Here are a few simple ways to get started:

  1. Get clear on what you really, really want: Do you love hanging out on Twitter and Facebook talking to entrepreneurs struggling to grow their startup? Then shift your practice to serve micro-business owners, a huge community that needs you. Does it just kill you to watch families fall apart in the midst of divorce? Then consider a career in estate planning with a focus on bringing families together—not tearing them apart. Whatever you choose, do not make it about money. Follow your passion and the money will come.
  2. Find a mentor who has already been successful in your new practice area: Before choosing a practice area, talk to lawyers in your potential new practice area and see what their practice is really like. Ask questions and find out what it is really like. Talk to several people, not just one, to get a full perspective.
  3. Invest in CLEs and coaching programs: Both are important for different reasons. CLEs give you the “know-how” about your practice area while a coaching program led by a lawyer who has built a business from the ground up will give you the accountability and hand-holding you need so you do not have to reinvent the wheel.

If being a lawyer has turned you into someone you do not want to be, you owe it to yourself (and your family) to try something new in 2010. Find a mentor, get a coach and make the leap into a new practice area that brings purpose, value and meaning to your life.

(photo: eggman)


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  • How timely. Randall and I are working on a brief due Christmas Eve. I don’t know whether opposing counsel did that on purpose, but if they did, they suck.

  • R. Siva Subramanian

    What a thought provoking article! The author’s words “Whatever you choose, do not make it about money. Follow your passion and the money will come”, is true and I have many personal incidents to vouch for it.

    Every lawyer (irrespective of his good or bad conscience) undergoes this mental turmoil as narrated by the author. If one realize that he has been gifted with knowledge and skills to serve the fellow human beings, surely his outlook towards his profession will change for good. I follow my heart and listen to my inner-voice which helps me to outrightly accept or reject a brief. Most of the time my decisions used to be correct, hence working towards the object of case success becomes easy.

    Thanks to the author for having provided us a chance to look into the moral-side of our profession. There is a proverb in our Tamil Language which says that “Even if there is a single noble soul in this world, there will be rain for all the souls in the world”. So, a good deed done by a sole person brings fortune to the community in which he lives.

  • I think about this a lot as well. We work with a lot of firms that are just starting out and they begin by practicing “door law” (taking anything that comes in the door). While perhaps a necessary evil, even at the early stages it’s critically important to think about what you want to be focusing on and commit as much as possible to making that happen. In many ways it’s so easy to get caught up in defining success as simply bringing in paying work. Long term however, it is more satisfying personally and often financially, to do as Alexis says and focus on the type of lawyer you want to be and make it happen, even it is slim pickings in the beginning.

  • Svetlana

    I am already studying law, even though I am only in intermediate school. I have already finished the “homocide” course of FindLaw, and now I can be my own murder defendant!