Only Working for the Kids?

I should know better, really. But stories like this one from the Wall St. Journal make my blood pressure soar. It’s the professional version of blame the victim.

The story says that people who complain about work, particularly those who say they’re only working at their particular job because they need to support their kids, are really just blowing smoke. When pressed, according to the writer, people admit that they just enjoy complaining about work.


OK, I know perfectly well that the WSJ is the mouthpiece of the establishment, and pieces like this prop up the establishment’s need to blame their workers, rather than themselves, for anything wrong in the workplace.

Still, I don’t think the Gallup poll cited had many lawyers in its polling pool. What especially ticks me off about this article is that so many very unhappy lawyers, and other unhappy workers, will read it and think, “It must just be me,” and keep trudging on their unhappy path, feeling more isolated than before. It’s the isolation, or the related feeling that you’re the only one who feels this way (and therefore you are defective), that keeps many lawyers believing the problem is them. So they desperately try to conform to the toxic environment that is law firm life.

It’s not you. Even if you like thinking about statutes of limitations or noncompete clauses for many of your waking hours, hardly anyone enjoys doing it 60 or 80 hours a week. The average person also doesn’t enjoy trying to learn new stuff and getting trashed if they get it the tiniest bit wrong, despite asking for help that they didn’t get. Even in big cities, most people don’t find it pleasant to work with people who won’t even look you in the eye while passing in the hallways or elevators, let alone engage in chitchat.

And you know what? The basic law firm environment hasn’t changed in 15 years, or longer. I wouldn’t wait around thinking it will. It might, but can your body take the stress for 10 or 20 more years?

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches unhappy attorneys on getting what they truly want out of work and life. She offers discounted sample sessions so you can try out coaching and experience its unique power. Email Jennifer at to schedule yours today.

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