As you might imagine, I get a fair number of emails from potential clients. Many of them tell me tales of misery, failing health, failed relationships, and a deep despair over the legal work that they are doing. “Soulless,” “ridiculous,” and “pointless” are some of the adjectives that they use.
People who write me these kinds of emails are ready for change, and usually a big one. They have come to terms with the idea that their soul is more important than their bank account’s robustness.
Then, there are the emails from those who kind of dig the money they make, and if they’re miserable, they blame it all on law. If only they could find that magic bullet of a job that pays like law firms do, but doesn’t involve actual law firms, their dysfunction, and the people in those firms. If only.
I Just Need a Job That Doesn’t Suck
I get it. I get that right now, the worst-feeling thing in your life is working for a bunch of dysfunctional jerks, doing some excrutiatingly boring, meaningless shit. And if that part of your life would just get better, it would all be easy-peasy. And you would be happy. Plus:
- You wouldn’t fly into rages over the simply irritating dailiness of life.
- You wouldn’t have to fake that smile of “Fine!” when your mom or old, unemployed college friends ask, “How are you?”
- You wouldn’t have to question where you stand in Maslow’s hierarchy, because you feel like crying on the way to work, every single day.
- You wouldn’t have to wonder whether you’re just an entitled, unrealistic brat for wanting a job that you don’t loathe 87% of the time.
- You would stop your online binge shopping, because you wouldn’t have to create little UPS events to look forward to.
Then, There’s Your (Messy, Vulnerable, Hideous) Truth
I wish I could tell you that all of this were true: That you would stop using all these coping mechanisms, and you would be that well-adjusted, hip, relaxed person that you envision yourself being.
But I would be lying through my non-whitened, coffee-stained teeth.
Sure, you might get rid of one or two of the coping mechanisms you’re clinging to right now to survive. Particularly the ones that reflect law’s cesspool of toxicity, such as yelling, outsize irritability at minor mistakes, the astonishing lack of lawyer social skills, and all the general “get an A in Lunch” behavior you’re drowning in.
The perfectionism, the blame-shifting, the behaviors designed to numb your pain? Not so much. Though they’re common behaviors among lawyers, they are by no means unique to them. Those are the ones you’re going to have to dig into, whether you find a “perfect,” high-paying job, or choose the path of courage by following your wise, inner guidance.
Am I saying that it’s impossible to have a fulfilling job that pays well? Hell no!
What I am saying is that looking first and foremost for the high pay, without delving into the messy reasons you aren’t happy in law, is following the same path that got you into law in the first place. Sooner (usually) or later, you will be at this same point again, just with a different job title.
When you’re ready for that big change, drop me a line.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer. Occasionally, she feels courageous. Mostly, she just tries to hear and follow her inner guidance about career and life, even though she isn’t at all sure it’s going to work out at times. She embraces the mantra of “turn fear into curiosity.” Schedule a sample session by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.