Saddest Lawyers: “I Don’t Even Know What I Like Doing”

Doing what the teachers say may not put you in touch with what you should do with your life. But hey, at least there's iPads for distraction, right?

Doing what the teachers say may not put you in touch with what you should do with your life. But hey, at least there’s iPads for distraction, right?

A lot of you know you hate law. But a lot of you also do not know what you would do if you had free time, except maybe sleep. I’m not talking about taking any steps toward making a career change, mind you; I’m talking about the basic concept of doing something purely for fun.

People who have no idea of how to have fun have been marching along to society’s, parents’, and teachers’ idea of what they should do for a very, heartbreakingly long time. They have become numb to their own desires and their own voice.

Far too many lawyers fall into this category. One-third to one-half of my clients usually fall into this category when they initially contact me. It’s often the result of being a smart kid who does well in school. Those around you think all those A’s should be encouraged; after all, those grades will be terrific on your college application.

And that may be just fine with you, because great grades sure look like the start of the path to a good life, and you like school anyway. In fact, you internalize all this and don’t explore non-academic things that won’t help that college application, like art, dancing, writing poetry, ultimate frisbee, or making goofy videos. Because unless you have some unbelievable gift in a non-academic area, these things aren’t likely to win you awards and praise. They are, sadly, usually viewed as time-wasters.

Except, they’re not. Exploring stuff simply because you’re interested in it is how you get to know yourself and honor Continue reading

Flowing Into Legal Career Change

What in your work, unhappy lawyers, do you actually enjoy? What about other parts of your life? And by “enjoy,” I mean something that you undertake not out of obligation or to achieve a particular objective, to paraphrase Dan Pink from his book Drive. Something that is, yanno, fun. Doesn’t have to be knock-your-socks-off fun. Even something like customizing the color scheme of your browser or word processor could count.

jumping happy woman with laptop

Once you commit to adding flow to your lawyer life, your work really can make you leap for joy.

Fun, as it turns out, is not optional if you want to stay out of the loony bin. That’s what psychology research has discovered in the last 40 years. Yet most lawyers and business people haven’t caught on. Especially in our current climate of economic fear and dread, many people think that the only approach to law and business is to eliminate fun and grind more.

Flow Is Not Optional

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (roughly, pronounced “chick-sent-me-high”) conducted some startling research in the 1970s. At the end of the experiment, the subjects exhibited the following symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, a mental illness afflicting about 3 percent of the population. It was like reading a joke that started, “You might be a lawyer Continue reading

If Not Law, Then What? 3 Tools for Figuring It Out

One thing that attorneys have a hard time figuring out is what the heck else they might want to do if not practice law. Particularly if you have limited (read: almost no) job experience outside of law, it’s hard to know what people in other jobs actually do. And more importantly, whether you would actually enjoy it day in and day out.

Woman writing on legal pad

Let your career magic emerge on the page, every morning.

I’d be lying if I said this part was easy, if you don’t already feel a fairly strong pull toward something. (But if you do feel a strong pull: Just go do it! You’re right!)

There are 3 tools I find useful for most people in this process.

Tool #1: Figure Out Your Defaults

One way to narrow things down is to use Continue reading

Lawyers, Schools and Depression

There’s a fascinating article in the Oct. 7 edition of the Washington Post about “Race to Nowhere,” a documentary by a lawyer-mom. She looks at the literal ill effects that achievement pressure can wreak on college-bound kids these days. There are some great insights there for lawyers who are in the midst of their own career crises, as well.


stick figure under cloud of depression

When work makes you feel like this, it's time for a change.


Filmmaker Vicki Abeles told the Washington Post that “there is tremendous pressure on all kids to get the grade, to get the test score … which is creating an epidemic of unhealthy kids who are also arriving at college and at the workplace unprepared.”

In other words, the pressure to achieve is robbing kids of both joy and learning. They’re taught to the test—not to be generally educated—and cram in enough to snag a good grade, but then promptly forget what they spat out for the test. Not what I’d call learning, and certainly not joyful.

In essence, what we’re teaching kids is that they should live for external gratification. Continue reading