Unhappy lawyers often think that their problem is simply their horrible job. And I’ll be the first in line to say that the daily job of practicing law is nasty. Unpleasant, hostile people (and then there’s opposing counsel), unrelenting pressure of perfectionism, too damned much tedium and unbearable boredom, plus there are far, far too many hours expected.

Redheaded woman alcoholic
Attorney attitudes about money, certainty and lots of other stuff is as bad for them as constant boozing.

But there’s also another truth at work: Some of the horridness of your job stems from your own toxic attitudes. About money, about what work should and should not be, about what you need to feel OK about yourself, about what you should do in the face of obstacles and roadblocks.

Would you agree with an alcoholic who says that she just needs to move away from her toxic spouse, and everything will be fine? Likely not. Yes, breaking up that dysfunctional dynamic is very important, but it’s not the whole solution. Because we all know the arc of the story when the alcoholic doesn’t see her own choices as part of her problem: The wife will simply choose another toxic person to replace the spouse. That’s the choice that feels familiar, and even though dysfunctional, oddly comforting.

So which attitudes are your own personal landmines? I commonly see toxic attitudes in attorneys about:

  • Money
  • Certainty
  • Valuing head over heart
  • Avoiding discomfort
  • Productivity as validation
  • Perfectionism
  • Mistakes
  • Risk aversion

Attorneys, and lots of other people, tend to think that their attitudes about these things are truth, when really they’re a choice about how you view the world. That’s important, because you can choose to change your mind, and not coincidentally change your life. More next time about precisely what’s toxic about attorney attitudes, and what you can choose to open up your mind to exploring.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches unhappy attorneys on finding better, more meaningful work–and not coincidentally, helping attorneys reform some of their toxic attitudes along the way. Find out what that’s like by scheduling a discounted sample coaching session. Email jalvey@jenniferalvey.com today to schedule your session, and get on the road to becoming a recovering lawyer.