Should You Go To Law School?

Here is the list of reasons you should consider law school:

1. You want to practice law.

That is the entire list.

Unless you have independent wealth with no strings attached to it (i.e., parent/family expectations), there is no other reason you should consider law school. Really.

Do people go to medical school for any reason besides becoming a doctor? No.

Do people get themselves into engineering programs because they think, well, even if this engineering thing doesn’t work out, it’s a great degree to have? No.

But people think there are so many reasons they should go to law school that do not include “I want to practice law.” Many people conflate being a lawyer with practicing law, and they are not the same thing.

Practicing Law Is More Than Having a Law Degree

Our society packs a whole raft of things into the idea of being a lawyer. 

Even though the general populace may not actually like lawyers as a group (and I don’t blame them), lawyers always command a presumption of intelligence, wealth, and success. It may not be deserved, but usually that’s where folks start when they meet someone who is a lawyer.

Here’s the mythology—and the reality—of the three most common ones:

Myth #1—Intelligence

Most lawyers are presumed to be above-average in intellectual ability. That part of the myth is true, at least for people who attend the top 50 or so law schools. I’ll discuss this at length in another post, but remember that book smart does not equal street savvy, let alone equaling good with people. 

Yet parents/friends/strangers see analytic intelligence alone as something that will unlock the keys to the job kingdom beyond law. The idea that social skills and good old common sense are important is not something that most Boomers or Gen Xers grew up believing. Consequently, the “intelligence = better job” mythology continues, fueling the “but it’s such a useful degree!” mythology.

Go grab a copy of A Whole New Mind, by Dan Pink, to dig into why intellectual prowess no longer rules the economic roost.

Myth #2—Wealth

Yes, there are lawyers who graduate law school and immediately get paid more than $175K. They nearly all went to top-tier law schools, graduated near the top of their classes, were on a law review, and maybe clerked for a judge. If they aren’t in NYC or the Bay Area, they are in other large cities. They are not first-year associates in Omaha, Louisville, Youngstown, Reno, or Raleigh.

Vast numbers of experienced lawyers (say, 4 years out of law school) pull in less than $100K—sometimes far less. They might be public defenders or other lawyers who work for the downtrodden. They might work as state prosecutors, or in other federal, state, or local governmental roles. They might, like more than half of all attorneys, work for themselves or for smaller firms. http://prelaw.umass.edu/topics/firm_size

When you cross-tabulate that with data from 2019, it means that 

  • New lawyers in small firms very frequently make between $62K and $90.5K;
  • Somewhat experienced lawyers (1 to 3 years) in small firms average $72K to $103K;
  • Experienced lawyers (4 to 9 years) usually make somewhere between $95K and $158K;
  • Veteran lawyers (10 years+) at small firms average $128K to $181K. https://www.ilrg.com/employment/salaries/

While making $110,000 might sound fantastic if you otherwise would be making $65,000, do not forget about student loan payments. EVER. 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Not only can loan payments eat up the difference between $110K and $65K, they can command repayments so high that you actually have less discretionary income than if you were making $65K in a marketing or legal admin job and had no loan repayments. Just as in the rest of society, the middle income jobs for attorneys have been disappearing for the last 2 decades.

Myth #3—Job Security

Many people, especially parents, teachers, and college professors, deeply believe that a career as a lawyer is stable and predictable. And sure, it was—before about 1990, say. But even before 2020, the large, corporate law firms (aka BigLaw) had been downsizing, especially after 2008. 

This year in our brave new world of Pandemia, firms have laid off scads of attorneys, and many firms do not anticipate hiring that same number back once the pandemic is over. Read the writing on the wall yourself: https://abovethelaw.com/covid-19-special-coverage/)

Photo by Charles Koh on Unsplash

One other thing to keep in mind is that a surprising amount of lawyer tasks are being conquered by artificial intelligence (AI). First it was document review, then legal research, and now there are some highly competent legal writing AI packages out there. 

AI will be a huge disruptor in law. I expect that it could help small and solo practices gain enough efficiency that they can offer their services to the middle class at actually affordable rates, which would be a win for everyone. But that remains to be seen.

One thing that usually happens with improved technology is job displacement, and I would be shocked if that did not happen in law.

I’ll dig more deeply into each of these myths in a subsequent post. I know if you are considering law school, chances are you’re the kind of person who wants to know why these societal myths aren’t true.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who went to law school because she wanted to work for a legislative committee. Silly rabbit, she could have done a year of law school and done that easily. Or not gone to law school, oh, at all. If you’re interested in assessing whether you really need law school to do what you want in the world, you can contact Jennifer at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com to set up a sample session.

Top 3 Limiting Beliefs Most Lawyers Cling To—Do You?

People often mistake their thoughts and beliefs as actual truths. Yet it’s often not so. For example, we all believe that murder is bad, that we shouldn’t commit murder, and that anyone who commits murder should be punished.

Oh, except if it’s self-defense. Or it’s a soldier killing an enemy. Or it was an unforeseeable accident. Or if a helpless victim kills her tormentor after years of abuse, or . . .

You get the point. Our beliefs are not necessarily the gospel from on high, let alone the entire truth. Yet to hear many lawyers, you might think that these 3 beliefs are, indeed, handed down from above.

1. Work Isn’t Supposed To Be Fun, That’s Why They Call It Work

When you really break down this belief, you find that its roots are both from medieval society, and from America in the 1950s. No, really. 

In medieval times, most people were serfs/peasants/not royalty or landed gentry. To get by, emotionally and mentally, it helped if you did not have big dreams and aspirations above your station. The likelihood that you would be able to rise above your birth status was almost nil, so why encourage your children to dream about that? It would have been cruel.

Once democracy started dethroning royal regimes, it was more reasonable to aspire to something better. Maybe even something you enjoyed and could make some money doing.

People, especially unenslaved white men, were no longer tied to the land as their sole means of income. People moved around, seeking freedom and money. But then, this little trend called the Industrial Revolution happened. And it started dominating the modern economy, so that by the 1950s, manufacturing was the economic engine of America.

As Dan Pink points out in his brilliant book, A Whole New Mind, a manufacturing economy requires a huge amount of compliant behavior, and highly repetitive, perfect work. The number of people who enjoy that kind of work environment is pretty small, compared to the total workforce. 

By conditioning workers to believe that work isn’t supposed to be fun, employers convinced rebellious and unhappy workers that their expectations of work bliss were the problem: Work isn’t supposed to be fun!

neon light signage on wall

Photo by Christopher Farrugia on Pexels.com

 

The thing is, we haven’t lived in a manufacturing-dominated economy since the 1970s. We now live in an innovation economy. That means that the people who will make the best living are the ones who don’t follow the rules slavishly, and who tailor their lives to cultivate their creativity, i.e., problem-solving.

Newsflash: Having fun is one of the chief ways to foster creativity. With such rapid change in the business world, every company needs creativity. Ergo, work actually should be fun regularly.

2. No One Will Pay Me for Doing What I Love

There is a grain of truth in this. Because the truth is, no one will pay you for doing every single thing you love. For example, I post all kinds of snarky cat and grammar memes on my personal Facebook page. I love doing that! But sadly, no one has leaped forward with fistfuls of cash to ensure I continue doing it. I’m OK with that.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get paid for something you love to do. Plenty of people have:

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Bill Gates & Steve Jobs
  • J.S. Bach
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Marie Curie
  • Usain Bolt
  • Oksana Baiul

Plus, there are all the people in the world who like their jobs and would never pick a different one, but whose lives don’t make the headlines.

The Japanese have a fascinating concept to help discern what our ideal work is: Ichigai. It’s much easier to comprehend in a diagram:

ichigai venn diagram

Some cautions: Many lawyers get tripped up on the getting-paid part of the diagram. That’s because they are most familiar with fairly traditional, predictable ways of getting paid. Folks, it is not 1999. Entrepreneurship is having a heyday.

Before you decide you can’t possibly be paid for what you love to do, read at least 25 stories of unlikely startups that are making money. For example, pet cafes. Or take a look at the Experiences offered on AirBnb.

N.B.!! If you have long-term trauma in your past, or have worked in a toxic law firm environment for several years—realize that there may be unseen barriers for you. I strongly urge you to talk to someone who specializes in trauma recovery as you consider your future plans. After all, life throws enough barriers up, and you don’t want to be your own biggest barrier, through no fault of your own.

3. I Have No Marketable Skills Aside from Practicing Law

This particular belief can drive me to drink! I know it’s rooted in depression and anxiety, but still. 

Let’s review:

  • You achieved academically for your entire academic career through college.
  • You’ve probably had some jobs or volunteer experience along the way, in which you learned more things.
  • You made it through not only 3 years of law school, you probably passed the bar as well.
  • If you are working in law (or have), you have incredible survival skills.

And you want to tell people you don’t know how to do anything that isn’t law? Seriously??

man wearing red leather jacket

Photo by Ricardo Augusto on Pexels.com

 

Off the top of my head, here are some things I’m pretty sure you know how to do (and I do not even know you):

  • Think critically. We need only take a look at the news to see that this quality is sorely lacking in the world, in businesses, medical decisions, politics, and on and on.
  • Problem spotting. You know enough about how the world works, especially the legal and government structures, to have a Spidey sense about a looming issue.
  • Research your bum off. Like, digging through 30 or 40 of the top search hits, not just the top 10 (and going down many rabbit holes).
  • Evaluate the credibility of research findings, of sources, of people’s testimony or statements.
  • Sort through a huge amount of information quickly, to find the important facts/documents/statements/theories.
  • Assign value to factors in a decision. In other words, you can bottom-line with the best of them.
  • See the forest and the trees, depending upon what the circumstances call for.
  • Solve complex problems. Because seriously, lawyers rarely get hired for the things that are easy to fix.

A fabulous place to dig around for skills and talents you already have, but don’t know you have, is a Department of Labor site call O*Net. Look in the Find Occupations area, for example, at the Lawyer information and data. See how non-lawyers view what we do. This site is a freaking gold mine of information on all kinds of jobs, despite its 2007 appearance. Wander around it, and get informed and inspired.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who believes in coffee, chocolate, and Kentucky bourbon. When she isn’t pursuing her unpaid passions for gardening or making things, she helps unhappy attorneys get their groove back. To set up a sample coaching session with Jennifer, contact her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com. 

Does Times New Roman Make My Resumé Look Old?

We do all sorts of things to look good for an interview. If you’re over 35, I’d be willing to bet some of those things are related to looking younger and more with it. Cue the botox (men and women), fad diets, crazed workouts, and sharp, new, trendy clothes. Well, trendy for lawyers, anyway.

Yet all of these are useless if you don’t get an interview.

The main way you get judged, before you’re ever seen, is your resumé. Possibly there’s a cover letter. These two things, if poorly executed, can add 10+ years to your apparent age, before the reviewer even gets to your graduation dates.

Senior business man

For law firms, this may not much matter. But if you’re looking to leave law and get hired by a company not dominated by lawyers, it sure does. “Old” and “stodgy” are not big selling points in today’s job market.

The most common culprit to a decrepit-looking resumé? Documents set in Times New Roman font.

I know, I know:

  • Everyone in your firm uses Times New Roman.
  • You should be judged by the quality of your work, not the appearance of it.
  • Law isn’t a trendy business, and you are not going to follow silly trends.

Here’s the thing: Times New Roman, like all serif fonts, is much harder to read online than in print. That’s particularly true if the font is 12 point size or less.

Online Readers Loathe Times New Roman

Studies as far back as 2002 show that online readers strongly prefer just about any popular font over Times New Roman. For example, a study by the Software Usability and Research Laboratory found that:

  1. The most legible fonts were Arial, Courier, and Verdana.
  2. At 10-point size, participants preferred Verdana. Times New Roman was the least preferred.
  3. At 12-point size, participants preferred Arial. Times New Roman was the least preferred.
  4. The preferred font overall was Verdana. Times New Roman was the least preferred.

So avoiding Times New Roman isn’t just a trend.

You’re Living in the Digital Age. Act Like It.

Notice what the preferred online fonts all have in common: They are sans serif fonts. That means they do not have squiggly bits at the end of letter strokes.

sans

Why does this even matter? In a word, screens.

The longer explanation is that images on screens are comprised of pixels. Pixels are square, though tiny. Yet, rendering a curved line with pixels is difficult, particularly if the screen resolution is low. There’s a jumpiness to any font on a screen. Serif fonts have more of that; sans serif fonts have less.

History note (skip this if you don’t care How We Got Serif Fonts): On paper, the squiggles of serif help lead the eye from one letter to the next. Serifs actually help legibility, if your document is on paper. But since most of us are not publishing or printing geeks, that knowledge passed out of the common knowledge pool ages ago.

Is Your Resumé Reviewer at Starbucks?

Consider your audience and how they’re looking at your resumé. There’s a significant chance it’s on a phone or tablet. That’s important. Screen resolution is much lower on those devices than on a laptop, so anything hard-to-read on a high-res computer screen will be yet more difficult to read on other devices. Consider this:

C.SerifSansPrint

Since 2007, the default font on Word has been the sans serif font Calibri, not Times New Roman. That’s a decade, people. The last version of Word that defaults to Times New Roman debuted in 2003. Possibly, you might want to appear a little more with it than clinging to a 14 year-old default.

Fonts do send messages. Don’t agree? Then you’ll be comfortable setting your email in Comic Sans, right?

k8b7b5x3-1397694490

Change Your Resumé From Sweatpants to Business Casual

As I’ve looked around online, I’ve found these descriptions of Times New Roman:

  • staid
  • like putting on sweatpants
  • boring and unimaginative
  • conservative
  • traditional

If you want to be perceived as one of these things, please, keep your resumé in Times New Roman.

Otherwise, Helvetica is your friend, according to many design experts. Heck, there’s even a movie about Helvetica. The beauty of Helvetica, to paraphrase one of the experts in the film, is that Helvetica is like off-white paint. No one really notices or cares about it. That, my friends, is what you want for your resumé font: something that doesn’t distract the reader from you and your wonderfulness.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer and career coach who has worked in publishing off and on for more than 15 years. She has a slight affliction about fonts and design. You can reach her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com.

3 Unexpected Tips for Escaping Law

Recently, I was asked what kind of career advice I would give to new college graduates embarking on their lives and careers. Naturally, I have lots. First on the list would be: DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL, especially if you are doing it because you don’t have a better idea, or believe that silly aphorism, “You can do anything with a law degree.”

dandelion seeds floating awayAs many law graduates learn, it’s really more like, “You can do anything despite a law degree.” But I digress.

[Side rant: The only reason to go to law school is because you really want to be a lawyer. And no, not the kind on TV. The kind that has to trudge through tedious research, review gazillions of documents for litigation or deal diligence, routinely work 60-hour weeks, and who thrives in a contentious environment. If that is you, by all means, go to law school.]

I have more generalized advice. And perhaps unsurprisingly, it applies to those who want to transition from law practice to, oh, anything else. Even those who want to stay in law can use these tips.

3 major tips for everyone who works:

  1. Get enough sleep. Otherwise, you lose your emotional equilibrium and mental edge. Plus, no one likes working with whiny toddlers dressed in business casual.
  2. Leisure time is not optional, despite what your boss/company/family/peers say. The likelihood of having that project-saving idea is vastly improved if you’re not burned out and fantasizing about what you would do for your epic departure email when you win the lottery.
  3. Worship the mystery of uncertainty, and stop defaulting to safety and security.

That last one trips most of us up, whether we are starting out our post-college lives, or trying to change the life and career we have. It runs utterly counter to all the conventional wisdom.

Improve Your Life: Make Friends with Uncertainty

If you are already clear on what makes your soul light up, and are pursuing that weekly in some purposeful way, you have my permission to ignore nearly everything I’m about to say on worshipping uncertainty. Otherwise, you might want to take some notes.

My problem with certainty isn’t some objection to knowing if your lights are going to come on, or having a stocked fridge or some money in the bank for a rainy day. (Note, “some” is not the same as “enough money to live on for 5 years.”)

The problem with certainty is that it cuts off possibilities, and diminishes what crunchy granola coaches (like me) call “the magic of the Universe.” When you are focused on achieving a specific goal, say, finding a job with set hours and regular raises, with 40l(k) contributions, and you know that following steps A, B, C and D will get you there, you’re going to miss that detour onto Exit Q.

So you’ll never know that had you exited at Q, you would have run into that old friend you haven’t seen in 3 years, who was looking for someone to help her write her business plan, and needed a great writer and analytic thinker to help see the gaps and persuade the investors. As in, she needed YOU. Even though she didn’t realize it until she ran into you.

If you follow the path of predictability, you’ll just read about her amazing new business model in 3 years in the Wall St. Journal, or see an ad in The Ladders for her amazing new startup, and get all mad at yourself that you haven’t kept in touch. Especially since her company is on the verge of a record-setting IPO.

More fundamentally, lawyers (and many, many others) cling to certainty because then, they can delude themselves that they are safe. Or as Brené Brown says, certainty keeps us from feeling vulnerable.

Lawyers in particular loathe vulnerability. They’ll do damn near anything to avoid that chest-tightening feeling. They will work 20-hour days so they can cover every possible scenario in a trial. Never mind that their sleep deprivation is far more likely to trip them up by converting their brains into clouds of fuzzy wool, unable to process the inevitable curveballs that happen in real life.

Another sad side effect of pursing certainty is giving up the richness of a life well-lived. For example, many attorneys will not engage in hobbies that don’t have a predictable return on investment for their careers. They will take up golf, because they can hob-nob with potential clients. But they won’t take the time for a painting class, because it’s self-indulgent and who ever heard of meeting a potential client there?

Taming the Roar of Certainty with Your Tribe

So how do you tame this default setting?

First, find your tribe. I don’t mean people who on paper seem like a good fit. No No No. Your tribe consists of people who get you, without the need for laborious explanations on your part. Most likely, your tribe doesn’t include any family member who tells you to be grateful you even have a job, and to stop whining. Ditto colleagues. I’m not saying these aren’t otherwise lovely people. But they either can’t, or don’t know how to, support you. And it’s not your job to teach them.

One way to think of potential tribe members is that they are the friends of your heart. They usually see more potential in you than you do yourself. They obsess over the same themes you do. My closest tribe members, for example, are my friends who are creative, and who get that creativity can be scary and unpredictable. But they forge ahead anyway, and try new things, all with a spirit of adventure and fun.

I won’t lie; it takes effort to find your tribe. For writers, it may take trying several different writing groups. For athletes, it may take several different gyms, or rec league teams, before you find the right mix. The important thing is to make time for these forays into new groups, and allow new groups a few chances before you write them off.

Listen to Your “Crazy”

Second, get busy listening to your innermost desires. Don’t keep them bound, gagged, chained and starved in the basement. Let those crazy thoughts out to play. You don’t have to act on them right away; just listen, and maybe write them down without committing or judging.

If you want a more structured way to tap into those deep longings, give Morning Pages a try. These are daily, stream-of-consciousness writings for 20 minutes, first thing in the morning. Yes, they do need to be in the morning, before your inner critic is up, had its 2nd cup of coffee, and is wandering about freely.

If you find yourself struggling to do this, think about it as a way to get rid of a lot of pesky worries before you start your day. Your mind will be clearer, and you will be calmer. Expect that 90% of what you write down will be whiny, self-indulgent drivel. The gold flakes will come, if you keep at it.

Get Out

Third, spend some time outside, daily. At least 20 minutes. I usually get my outside time in by puttering in my garden, pulling weeds, pruning, and on especially ambitious days, planting or moving stuff around. Even if you live and work in an urban jungle, you can find something outside if you just take a short walk. But it doesn’t count if you are plugged in, sorry to say. You need to focus on what you see, hear, smell and feel. And if there’s a blackberry bush or a yummy food truck somewhere along the way, you can taste as well.

It’s important to get out of your mental ruts, and going outside is a great way to do that. As Martha Beck notes in The Joy Diet:

By putting yourself in unfamiliar situations, you’ll see things with fresh eyes, and solutions you may never have noticed will crop up, one after another, until you realize that you’ve just had a very, very bright idea, one that might just help you realize your heart’s desires.

Being outside connects you with your instincts and hunches. Even a really logical, smart guy like Albert Einstein recognized the inspiration and healing of nature: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Is it work to change your default from certainty to curiosity? You bet. But the payoff is a prize beyond measure: A fulfilling life. So get going.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who regards time in her garden as some of the best therapy out there, and a great way to tap into her wildest dreams. If you need help changing your defaults from certainty to curiosity, contact her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com for a discounted sample coaching session.

Overworked Lawyers: Delicate, Drunk Flowers

You know that mythical time in law practice, when billable hour goals were 1600 and you were expected to be part of the community? Turns out that such expectations reflected a much larger business norm, actually a deep belief, that working more than 40 hours a week led to decreased productivity over the long term. And this belief was borne out by data collected by businesses, not labor unions. Astounding, isn’t it?

Lawyer at desk with wine bottle

Leaving the lilac shirt aside, showing up at the office like this would likely get you escorted to rehab. Yet even minor sleep losses have the same effect, you drunk lawyer you.

I found all this and more out in a marvelous article on Salon, Bring Back the 40-hour Work Week, by Sara Robinson. I always thought that the 40-hour work week was forced on business by labor unions. Not entirely. Labor unions certainly agitated for it, but businesses actually supported a 40-hour week as well by the time the Fair Labor Standards Act passed.

In 1914, Henry Ford led the way, by doubling his workers’ wages and cutting them from a 47-hour week to a 40-hour week. It totally pissed off his competition that Ford’s productivity then leapfrogged over their car factories’ productivity. But they wised up and followed suit.

So what do the productivity limits of an 8-hour factory worker day have to do with lawyers? After all, it’s not like you’re on your feet all day or swinging a hammer, right? Continue reading

Chasing the Perfect Job, Ruining Your Alternative Legal Career Search

As I’ve written about several times (here, here, and here, for starters), perfectionism is an especially strong demon for most lawyers in their alternative legal career search. It’s one of the six attitudes that hold lawyers back in their search for a better career and life, and it’s got such a powerful hold over most lawyers that it gets its very own post.

Not following the perfect path, the pattern set by others, can lead to something fun and better.

The nub of perfectionism is worrying others will discover you are not enough, and gearing your actions and focus to eradicate that feeling of being less than perfect. The focus on the extrinsic—the partners will look down on me if I keep driving my dinged-up, paid-for Toyota, better get a BMW—keeps you from connecting with your authentic self. It’s all about external validation. Perfectionism walls you off from your own, fantastic inner wisdom, because it substitutes others’ judgments for yours. It keeps you conforming to others’ limitations, rather than exploring your own unique gifts.

Here’s a tip: No one is perfect. We all have flaws, some of them deep and juicy. Our flaws are what make us interesting and human. Lots of people think that if they were perfect, every single one of their problems would disappear. It’s more likely they would become insanely boring and horribly insufferable. And, they still wouldn’t be happy, because Continue reading

It’s Not Your Horrible Law Job. It’s You.

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 Continue reading

The Lack Blitzkrieg

After more than a decade of being a recovering lawyer, I have finally caught on to a few of my inner lizard, Guido’s, methods of operation. I’ve learned how to (mostly) ignore his various iterations of “you’re not enough:”

  • That’s a stupid idea (you’re not smart enough);
  • Someone else has written about this already (you’re not original enough);
  • You don’t know what you’re talking about (another version of you’re not smart enough);
  • You’re just whining, life isn’t as hard as you’re making it out to be (you’re not tough enough).

illustration of exploding cloud

Your inner lizard may be dropping doubt bombs all around, but keep the faith and it will work out.

At the very least, I now recognize Guido’s voice for what it is, even if it gets up my left nostril. But one M.O. that I’ve only gotten savvy to in the last few years is the Lack Blitzkrieg.

When Inner Lizards Attack

I’m quite sure I experienced the Lack Blitzkrieg many times before, but the first time I recognized it for what it was happened on my way to life coach training. For various insane reasons, I opted to drive the 500-odd miles. I literally almost turned around at least twice Continue reading

Guest Blog: Law Wasn’t For Me, And That’s OK

It is difficult to explain how and why I left my job as an attorney without first explaining how and why I became an attorney.

I have always excelled academically and had diverse interests including writing, literature, education, law, economics, and theater. After graduating from college with honors in economics, earning a graduate degree seemed like the logical next step.

Young attractive business woman on the highest bar of a 3d graphic

You can leave the law track. It will be OK. Really!

I had considered going to law school and becoming a lawyer from the time I was in high school. From an economic standpoint, a law degree had the greatest return on investment. I wavered back and forth throughout college as to whether I would really pursue a law degree. With the support from my family as well as several great mentors, I had every reason to believe that I would succeed.

As I searched for LSAT prep courses, I decided that if I signed up for the LSAT prep course, I was going to go to law school.

No matter what. Continue reading

Instrinsic Motivation for Lawyers: All in One Place

Lawyer misery is depriving us of a lot of talent and energy that would be much better used to improve the world instead. Many bright, creative people are lawyers, and their gifts are not used in a typical BigLaw or Lawyerland setting. We as a nation and a planet have a whole heaping pile of problems in desperate need of innovative, creative solutions, and some of the people who could contribute ideas and energy are locked in the airless, pessimistic environment of law.

Man walking on bridge toward lightMuch of what is wrong with law firms and lawyers generally is the maniacal focus on money as a motivator. As I’ve discussed at (much) greater length and am reposting in a one-stop-shopping format below, using money as the main motivator results in poorer performance and ethically shaky behavior.

So other than change law firm culture—a long-term project for sure—what can you do? It’s deceptively simple: Do what lights you up, as often as possible.

Dan Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us gives a nice list of tools you can try that will help you achieve a flow/autonomy/mastery state. Try some of them.

I particularly love his idea for using “brain bomb” cards for getting mentally unstuck when you’re unmotivated, panicked, or otherwise not connecting with your best self. These cards, called Oblique cards, contain a single, often bizzarre question or statement to jar you out of a rut. Like, “Your mistake was a hidden intention,” or “Don’t avoid what is easy.”

The cards were designed in 1975 by famed produced Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt, specifically to overcome the pressure-packed moments that go with deadlines. Sounds perfect for lawyers.

If you’re reading this blog on posting day, join me at 1:30 pm ET to discuss all these lawyer motivation issues–and probably lots more–at the Unhappy Lawyers Book Club. Here’s the skinny on that:

Unhappy Lawyers Book Club, Drive edition Details

Date: September 15, 2011

Time: 1:30 pm—2:00 pm ET

Format: Conference call

Call-in info: (209) 647-1000. The access code is 535240# (yes you need to enter the # sign).

Cost: Free!

Now, on to the one-stop-shopping collection of my posts about Drive and what it means for lawyers. Continue reading