Workaholic Lawyers, Avoiding Life

So did you actually take any time off during Memorial Day weekend? Maybe even the whole (gasp) 3 days? I hope so. Too many lawyers have no boundaries about holidays any more. Well, actually they don’t have any boundaries when it comes to work, period. Never mind that constant work makes the work that you do suck big hairy donkey, um, parts.

man sick in bed with laptop

If you've ever worked in your sickbed, you might be a workaholic.

But did you know that overwork, aka workaholism, is a way of numbing out? I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so rampant among lawyers: Lawyers are so often depressed (3 times more so than the general population, remember?) or perfectionists, or both. One way to avoid feeling or dealing with pain is to work. Because then you have something to focus on besides those horrible, painful feelings.

Trust me, I’ve used that tactic. It works—for a little while. Eventually, though, the work novocaine wears off Continue reading

The Caged Dog and the Unhappy Lawyer

So I know this dog. He used to have a fairly free run of the house he lives in. But recently I visited his house and his humans, and he is now confined to the mudroom/laundry room most of the time, except for walks a few times a day.

Dog in small featureless room

The warm, fuzzy parts of you deserve better than banishment to a sterile holding cell.

His sin is that he has started marking furniture, walls, etc. all the time when let loose in the house. I’m not really a dog person, but confining this dog to a 5×7 room for 22 hours a day makes me incredibly sad for the dog. Even if he does have a window, food and water, he doesn’t have that thing that dogs crave: a pack to belong to and cavort with.

Avoiding the Problem

One thing that is really interesting about this confinement solution is how inconvenient it is for the daily lives of the humans. The mudroom is the most direct way out of the house to the cars, but the humans often take a route twice as long to avoid going through the mudroom and dealing with a dog that wants to escape. Rather than confront the problem and try to solve it, the owners disrupt everyone’s lives and say it’s all OK.

Sometimes our blind spots are in how much we are willing to contort ourselves rather than confront the issue. Kind of like how law firms will throw money at attorneys rather than deal with bad behavior Continue reading

The Goo Phase of Leaving Law

I imagine you all know the story of a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly. During the chrysalis phase, the caterpillar is inside, busily transforming. But (in case you missed this part in biology) it’s not that the caterpillar’s body shrinks and it grows wings. Nope. The caterpillar’s body dissolves into goo, then rearranges itself into a butterfly. Leaving law feels like that.

butterfly chrysalis

Sure, the goo phase of leaving law can be painful, but it has its own quirky beauty.

The goo phase of leaving law is often highly uncomfortable, but usually quite necessary as you give up toxic lawyer ideas about work and life, and start embracing the ones that are important and real for you.

When you seriously start searching for an alternative legal career, you’re the caterpillar, devouring information and ideas, processing them and growing larger in your soul. Maybe you’re like that Very Hungry Caterpillar, and start eating some weird stuff like pickles and salami slices and chocolate cake all at the same meal. So yeah, you might get a tummyache along the way.

That’s OK. The weird foods fuel you as much as the nice green leaves. You need to take all of them with you into the cocoon. They will help create that beautiful butterfly that is coming.

When caterpillars start making their chrysalis, I doubt they know how Continue reading

Yes, Even Lawyers Are Creative (How to Tell)

When lawyers—or really anybody—tell me that they’re not creative but they wish they were, I’m fairly sure I know what’s going on. They’re thinking that they’re not CREATIVE. Like, they’re not Joshua Bell-creative. Bell is a world-renowned violinist who, at the age of 4, was stretching rubber bands between dresser drawer pulls to play classical music.

Joshua Bell playing

He's a darn cute creative genius, that Joshua Bell. But you don't have to be a genius (or cute) to be creative. You can even be a lawyer!

Folks, that’s not creativity. That’s genius, prodigy-level creative. Honed, I might add, with a plethora of practice and commitment. It is exceptionally rare. It’s the creativity equivalent of Michael Jordan. Yet, most people don’t think that because they can’t play as well as Michael Jordan, they can’t possibly be a basketball player of some sort. But they do think if they aren’t a world-class writer/singer/painter, they’re not creative.

Yes, Even YOU  Are Creative

Of course, that’s hogwash. I want to say very plainly: Every human being in inherently creative. Yes, even the most boring tax lawyer. Creativity shows up in myriad ways. Today, I’m focusing on what many equate with creativity, which is some form of artistic expression.

Because there are so many perfectionist myths that surround creativity and art in our culture, I’m giving you a decoder ring. Continue reading

If You’re Creative, You’re Screwed in Law

I’m in the middle of playing Connect 4 with the 7 year-old. He loves this game, and he’s pretty good at it. I, on the other hand, am bored out of my mind. Then I berate myself that I need to share his enthusiasm, to enter his world. So I try to understand the attraction of the game.

4 in a row game

Which game gets your heart racing: creating or deconstructing?

That lasted for roughly a millisecond. Then found myself thinking that if object of the game were to work together to make interesting patterns with a limited number of moves, I’d be so much more into it.

Then it hit me: This is why I never liked law, and was never, ever going to. I just don’t give a shit about stymieing other people and winning. At heart, I’m only interested in creating, whether it’s new ideas, new art, new words, new clothes. Anything different and interesting.

Which Job Do You Want: Building Up or Tearing Down?

I’m going to go out on a limb just slightly and say that if you’re at all interested in creating, you’re never going to be happy in law. Law, in its DNA, is about tearing stuff apart. Continue reading

Not in the Job Description: Opportunity for Legal Career Change?

I often get super-annoyed at the Wall St. Journal’s Career section. Mostly, it’s because of their huge blind spot about the abuse that companies heap on employees in the name of profits, and how they defend a heap of dysfunctional conduct by managers as “the way business is.” I know, duh, the WSJ is the bastion of corporate America and all, but I still get annoyed. (We won’t even go into my feelings about the Law Blog and its often pathetic commenters.)

business man loaded up with a dozen hats

One of these hats might fit you perfectly---or at least be the perfect ticket out of law practice.

Still, I felt compelled to read a recent article on Superjobs: Why You Work More, Enjoy It Less. Cause, yanno, it seemed like it might say something useful about overwork. And it did, in one part, give a nod to the stats on the sleep disruption that occurs if you work more than 14 hours a day, and even (gasp) suggested that work needs to be limited to less than 10 hours daily. No doubt every New York BigLaw firm is meeting right now to make that happen.

But mostly, the article was about overworked, Continue reading

I’m not THAT Jennifer Alvey, Either

Well, she’s at it again. One of those other Jennifer Alveys. This one was the Indiana state finance director a couple years back, and allegedly had back-door communications with the operators of a proposed gasification plant about a pending contract; not cool under state sunshine laws.

little girl wearing eye mask

On the Internet, anyone can be a cute kid. Or Jennifer Alvey. Photo courtesy Stockvault.net.

Another Jennifer Alvey, a few years back, was convicted of shaking her adopted daughter and causing the baby’s death. Though the events took place just before I moved to Tennessee, in one of life’s odd coincidences, we moved to a town only a few miles from that other Jennifer Alvey, just before her trial.

While allegations of back room political dealings are certainly better than a dead child, still, I’m yet again setting the record straight: Continue reading