Are you an unhappy lawyer? You can transform your legal career – here’s your road map

Do you remember the day you decided to be a lawyer? How thrilled you were when you received your university offer? Ready to change the world, make your mark and blaze your trail? Your friends and family were so happy you were joining the prestigious legal profession. Life was yours for the taking, and there was no such thing as an unhappy lawyer.

A few years into your legal career something didn’t feel right. First, it was a niggle, then a worry and finally sleepless nights. The realization life as a lawyer was not as you dreamed. Long billable hours, stress, zero personal life, competitive peers and aggressive partners. A cog in the wheel of an institution steeped in tradition, privilege and secrecy where ‘dog eats dog’ was the rule of survival. The idea of helping people access the law? No problem, as long as they have the money.

Can I be a happy lawyer?

Oh yes. I’m here to tell you it’s possible and I will guide you on your way. The great news is the solution lies within you, and I’m not talking about yoga, ‘woo woo’ or other strategies to deal with stress. Although I do love me some good ‘woo woo’ and a happy jog. 

I’m Hannele, and I’m a happy lawyer. Welcome. You are in the right place. I understand your struggles, fears and your dreams because I’ve been the cog in the wheel too. I was the pic in the dictionary for the word unhappy. I’d had enough. I wanted more meaning in my legal career, and I found it. You’ve arrived in your safe place: a place for growth, challenge and most of all, transformation in your legal career.

I jumped on the change train nine years ago. One night amid a personal crisis, I read from a study about people who’d endured huge crises in their lives and grew to live happier and more satisfying lives. The study gave me the door to the exit of the darkest moment of my life. I decided something good needed to come from the shit, and the next day I resigned from my job as a lawyer. I had nothing but a dream to start my own business and change the world.

My truth is: ‘change is good’. I’ve taken leaps of faith, resigned from four jobs with no income in sight and founded or co-founded six companies. Even if it feels painful, change is a good thing. It’s how you approach it: are you resisting it or choosing to be a change agent?

I started this blog to share my experience of redesigning myself as a lawyer. There is a small, yet global movement happening right now to reshape the legal space and the legal industry, where clients and lawyers are happy. I want a piece of it. And I want you to have some, too. 

At the same time, the world is undergoing a seismic shift in technology: re-defining the way we do things and experience life. Entire industries are embracing design principles. (I don’t mean “design” like a pretty drawing), I mean intentionally re-designing services and products so they are human-focused, usable and rewarding to experience. Lawyers are stuck on “design” as a pretty PowerPoint presentation and continue doing what they’ve always done. Frustrating as always.

I’m here to show you how design-focused thinking can transform your legal career and find the happy lawyer you’ve lost. Lawyers can change legal services through small, simple changes in thinking and delivery, and by doing so, can change the entire legal industry. Hence, the name Something Simple First.

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WHAT IS LEGAL DESIGN?

Legal design is like getting a new pair of glasses to look at the world as Margaret Hagan brilliantly puts it. It’s very exciting.

It has the customer focus at its core. It’s about asking how we can deliver legal services the best way possible, so they are user-friendly, satisfying and increase engagement. We peel back the layers: our mindsets, our processes and systems. Then examine every aspect to find the best way. The question is always, “How can we do this better? How can this be more human-focused, more engaging and user friendly?”  

It’s not about making documents pretty. It’s drilling deep into the core needs of our customers, designing processes and solutions to reflect those needs. The processes and solutions are for both customer interface and the back end of the business, so the customer and lawyer experience are user friendly and satisfying.

All customers have different needs, and all customers have preferred ways to receive information. All customers want respect, feel empowered by the law, and interact with a peer who will provide options, alternatives and recommendations, without the legalize, the hoops and the barriers protecting traditional law.

I encourage you to buy the new pair of glasses. In my blog, I dig into how you can incorporate legal design practices in your everyday job to give you a taste for the approach. Ultimately, you may discover a process or communication style you enjoy, and calls you to grow and explore it further. It could be the foundation of a new business for you. You never know. It did for me.

Imagine if you could skip the long legal letters and write like you would if you were chatting over coffee, and your customer understood? In channels your customers hangout? Or approach a colleague and round table the best way to deliver an outcome for a customer, in a way the customer appreciates and understands. Freedom to communicate with your customer in a way they best understand – whether it is a diagram, plain language checklist, or a cartoon. What about experimenting with technology and automation? Maybe creating your own digital business where your clients pay for automated contracts, using simple language so they can conduct everyday business themselves, only seeking paid assistance where the situation is more complex? Our ability to think and innovate are the only limitations. You can check out more about legal design in my blog How to Incorporate Legal Design into My Law.

READY TO START YOUR JOURNEY TO A HAPPY LAWYER?

The blog is a travel companion for lawyers who want to change and stay in touch with how change is happening. It’s a combination of new skills you can apply in your work. Also, some tools and thoughts on change management, strategies for applying legal design to your work, and some pathways for starting your own business and seizing the happy lawyer you set out to be and live the life you crave.

It starts with the new glasses: design.

The future of law is change by design: small iterative experiments, ultimately leading to the big transformation. We, lawyers, are conservative people, so changing the delivery of law will not happen until unhappy lawyers like you embrace new ways of thinking, new approaches and take action to innovate the delivery of your legal services. When you change yourself, you are changing the legal world and taking a big step toward your happiness. Who knows, follow the path and your billable hours may become ‘thrillable’ because you started your own legal business and left the cog behind.

So, are you ready? Let’s start with Something Simple First.

Grab a virtual coffee with me and let’s figure out the next step!

Image of Hannele Korhonen Legal Designer

Who’s writing?

Hi, I’m Hannele. I am an ex-corporate lawyer, legal designer, pioneer in legal tech, serial entrepreneur and blogger.  I am the founder and teacher in Lawyer’s Design School.

I’m here to teach you new skills and mindset of legal design to thrive in the future of law.

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