Are your friends a help or a hindrance in your quest for a balanced life or an alternative legal career? For many lawyers, their friends, particularly if those friends are lawyers, too, unwittingly throw up obstacles to moving forward toward goals and dreams.
We tend to attract, and be attracted to, people who have similar world views, biases, experiences, backgrounds, etc. Nothing new there.
But think about what that may mean when you rely on people a lot like you for support in your quest for an alternative legal career: You’re going to have many of the same blind spots.
If one of those blind spots is generating hope or dreams, you’ll end up with at least twice the effort to convince yourself that there is hope for a different, better life. First you must convince yourself, then your friend(s). That’s a helluva lot of effort when sustaining hope itself feels nearly impossible. In fact, the necessity of doing double convincing can keep you seriously stuck.
This doesn’t mean you must ban all lawyers from your friends list. But it does mean that paying attention to the kinds of things your friends say to you is very important. Even the best, most well-meaning friends will say dumb, unsupportive things on occasion during your quest. But keep an ear out for those who are constantly dripping a special kind of poison in your ear, the poison of self-doubt.
- “Well, even if your writing is good, the chances of being the next John Grisham are horrible. Have you heard how badly the publishing industry is doing?”
- “Everyone who still has a job in this business should be thanking their stars and not worrying about silly crap like being happy in their work. Work and happy are mutually exclusive.”
- “Yeah, law firms suck, but at least everyone is pretty smart. I know someone who went in-house and hated it even more. She had to deal with stupid marketing and finance people all the time and it drove her nuts.”
- “Wow, you got an interview? How many others are they interviewing? If it’s more than 3, they’re not very serious about you. That’s what my sister-in-law who works in HR says.”
These kinds of pronouncements are deflating and de-energizing. They’ll stop you dead in your tracks. They trash your hope balloon before it even takes off.
Notice that these things are rarely about your specific situation, or only tangentially about it. Mostly, they are all about the other person’s fears. They’re not true, they just sound like it. If you can see and hear that when the person is ranting on, great, just smile and nod and move the conversation to something about this friend that you like.
But if this person’s poison arrows are sinking home and making you doubt yourself, you need to put some distance between you and that person while you’re on your quest. Stop dropping by their office, getting coffee/lunch/drinks together, or answering their emails that don’t have to do with actual work. You don’t have enough time as it is, and you certainly can’t be using your precious time and energy recovering from yet another poison arrow wound.
You, my friend, have some moving forward to do. Increase your velocity by dropping the friends that drag you down.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches lawyers on finding satisfying careers that work for them. Recognize any of your friends as toxic? What are you going to do about it? Drop Jennifer a line at jalvey AT jenniferalvey.com to share your dilemma.