If you’re an unhappy lawyer, chances are good that important parts of your personality and your very being have been suppressed so that you can function in the dysfunction that is most law firms. If you are in career search mode, it’s helpful to give those suppressed aspects of yourself a little sustenance so you can choose a new career wisely.
In other words, embrace your entire self, rather than just the qualities that get rewarded at law firms. Well you don’t have to, but if you want to find satisfying, fulfilling work you need to.
Your entire self could be both an analytic and holistic thinker at different times, could crave solitude but also enjoy a raucous party occasionally, or could be a spitfire lurking under a calm exterior. People (that includes YOU, dear reader) are charming combinations of contradictions. As lawyers, we frequently try really hard to make ourselves logical combinations instead. That’s part of why lawyers can be so damned boring, frankly. They fear the contradictions and bury the interesting stuff about themselves.
When I was training to be a life coach, one of the most memorable session was when we brainstormed things we would like to see more of in each participant. We had to pick an archetype for the person, and some qualities of that archetype for the person to embrace.
My archetype? Lady Gaga. Ummmm, riiight. I know this admission just demonstrates my increasing levels of middle-aged fart-ness, but I still can’t name a single song of hers. I’ve heard about the meat dress and a few other things, but let’s just say she’s not someone I follow closely.
So the qualities I was supposed to embrace? “Flamboyant,” “loud,” “makes own rules,” and my personal favorite, “out there.”
Acting Against Type
Now in the floating mass of pixels that are this blog, I may come off as some of those things, at least occasionally. In person? I can be loud, but not until I know you fairly well. I do have a flamboyant side that still harbors great fondness for a red dress I had in college that sported a feather and sparkle trim along the neckline.
But honestly, the flamboyant side gets out about twice a year whether it needs to or not. In other words, the areas I’m supposed to embrace are not the go-to parts of my personality. They’re not contrary to my nature, but they’re a second cousin twice removed.
They are also an excellent path to discovery and growth. Embracing flamboyance, I focus less on what others think and more on releasing my own inner power. By being loud, I get heard. When I make my own rules, I run my life and business more authentically. When I’m out there, I’m taking risks and experimenting to see what really works for me and my clients.
Making It Work for You
You could do the same exercise I did, with a few trusted, non-toxic friends. It’s a great way to work toward your better life and work. Others can help you see the great qualities that you have buried or simply can’t see right now. It’s important that you look for qualities in each other that are there, not that you think should be there but are absent.
Be cognizant that with a toxic circle of people, this could easily turn into a game of “you’re not _____ enough,” so choosing the right group to do it with is important. If you possibly can, avoid having other lawyers in your circle. Lawyers are trained to zealously point out deficiencies, and unless they’ve done a lot of work to reform there, they probably won’t be able to avoid the “not enough” trap.
Fair warning, though: This is a really powerful exercise. It could point you toward some important insights you would be more comfortable ignoring than acting on.
Embrace the discomfort anyway. And then let me know how it goes.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches unhappy attorneys on finding their buried inner treasures. She offers discounted sample sessions so you can get a taste of what that is like. Contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule yours today.