Lawyers are unhappy and want to quit the law.
Lately, I have been researching SEO keywords. Trying to find out what lawyers think about their careers and lives right now. I struggle to figure it out. After all, I’m not sure what I think a lot of the time! But fortunately, Google knows.
So, I made different searches looking for clues about what was bubbling beneath the surface. Nothing seemed to hit. Not: new skills, not future threats, not global trends like digitalization or job change. Then I tried a combination of leaving law and bum all SEO indicators went up.
It left me stunned.
It meant people are searching for leaving law a lot. For me, it was a shocking observation.
It showed me unhappy lawyers are not looking for solutions or new perspectives. Not interested in changing the way they practice law. Lawyers are looking for a way out. They want to quit the law.
Research articles confirm this notion:
But, I’m here to tell you there is an alternative to leaving the law. A better approach to delivering legal services. You became a lawyer for a reason. You can still be that person: the lawyer with the purpose and the passion.
In my most recent post I showed you how to productize the delivery of your legal services. An option allowing you to deliver your services to more people in a meaningful and purposeful way.
You can transform your legal career. New roles in our industry are popping up every day. You can even create your own.
The challenge is not being a lawyer. You have a passion for it.
You are unhappy because the legal institution is deeply flawed. You are stuck in the cogs. You don’t need to leave the law.
The solution is to practice law the way you want to. But you must be willing to change and leave your burned-out lawyer behind. Get ready for your future law.
Quitting the Law: From idealists to over-performing miserables
Many lawyers enter the industry as idealists. Bright-eyed young people who want to help people and be part of a respected profession.
Susan Daicoff has researched and written about the identity of lawyers, says idealists will later become lawyers. These idealists share features of competitive spirit, performance orientation, and materialism.
Those features also sound like the miserable stereotypical lawyer: only interested in money and how to make more.
According to Daicoff, many idealist newcomers lose themselves and their well-being. It disappears somewhere between the idealistic newcomer to a legal professional. Young people start their law studies with the usual stress levels. The levels rise by 30% in the first year and continue to increase in the following years. Worst of all, the stress levels never seem to return to pre-study levels.
Daicoff also found the values law students hold change during their studies. And it is linked to their higher stress and student welfare. They lose the inherent values of community and interpersonal relationships. In addition to inner harmony, doing good, and making a positive impact on the world.
Why are lawyers so unhappy?
I have reflected on this myself. What is wrong with being a lawyer? What is so wrong with the job of a lawyer?
For me: the toxic work culture focused on fierce competition, poor management, and the pressure to be successful. Not to mention the pressure to perform, work-life imbalance, and feeling undervalued.
Let me ask you?
Have you sat in monthly meetings where each lawyer had their billable hours written on a whiteboard? Then ranked and valued according to how much money you made for the firm?
Have you fought for air space and stimulating assignments with co-workers? Or tried to get recognition for your overtime hours and the number of open projects you have?
Held back the tears and forced yourself to smile after hearing backstabbing?
Shuffled papers from one table to the other, wondering why on earth you do it all? What is the meaning of your work?
Is it supposed to be this way? Work is work and work is miserable. So, it is better to work. You can be happy in your personal life. But then again, you have no personal life. Therefore, you are miserable all the time.
You’ve decided if your job doesn’t feel difficult and even miserable, it is not a real job.
This kind of reality means you have no faith in helping people or do meaningful work or being creative. Your values and dreams: shattered. You are unhappy and want to leave the law.
And yet, most burned out, broken-hearted lawyers do not leave.
Want to know a secret?
Your depression is not because you are a lawyer. It is because of how we learn to practice law.
Ta-daa! There it is. The great secret of your unhappiness revealed.
The problem is not the work, the law itself, but the way we deliver it to our clients’. The institution.
Indeed, many lawyers are genuinely interested in the substance of our work: safeguarding justice, resolving disputes, writing contracts, arguing, negotiating, and making a significant impact on the lives of our clients’.
But those same lawyers are unhappy about their career, despite their deep commitment to the law.
The solution: the future law
The question: how do you practice law in a way that suits you? What kind of vision do you have? Why do you do what you do? In what kind of work community, with whom, in what new ways and tools, in what new channels.
You have the opportunity to impact all this. You can design any kind of work for yourself, in the way you want, without having to leave the law at all.
You can be creative and happy and still be a lawyer. Don’t believe what you are hearing in the profession. You get and can do whatever you want with your life.
It is very possible to work in law without doing the traditional work of a lawyer. New legal job descriptions have appeared. And the profession is creating new ones all the time. You can also develop a completely new job for yourself. One that no one else has found yet. And hey, most of all, it’s very possible to be happy at work.
So, don’t give up. The change begins with the first step, the first nibble, the dipping of the first toe into the water. You’ll find the next step after the first step.
Perhaps the next search you can type into Google is “how to do law differently”
Source: Susan Daicoff: Lawyer Know Thyself: A Psychological Analysis of Personality Strengths and Weaknesses. 2004.