How Did I Get To Be an Unhappy Lawyer? Part 2

As I talked about in Part 1,  you entered law school already disconnected quite a bit from what you’re really all about. But that alone isn’t what makes you so miserable now that you’re an attorney. Nope, it’s the law school pedagogy itself that is a huge part of the problem, and really deepens and almost cements that disconnect. It’s the second whammy.

Lawyers are, in fact, in their own special hell. Thank you, law school!

I got this insight just recently, while having lunch with Dave Shearon, an attorney with a master’s in positive psychology who was instrumental in leading Tennessee to be the first jurisdiction to approve resilience coaching for attorneys as CLE-eligible. He is working on a fascinating book, Thriving Through the Five Challenges of Law.

As we were talking, Shearon noted that law school does a real number on people psychologically in many ways. Law students enter law school with the same rate of depression as the general population (6% – 9%), but within 6 months are depressed at 3 times that rate. (More on that below.)

Law School Deepens Disconnection

One of the chief reasons for this spike, Shearon thinks, is that legal education teaches us to disconnect from our emotions and moral code—our values—and instead Continue reading

Growing Your Alternative Legal Career, Organically

I’m not a huge fan of the saying “grow where you are planted,” because too many people translate it as “stay in a toxic situation.” No sane person expects a cactus to survive, let alone flourish, in the New England countryside—too cold, too wet, not enough sunlight. No one expects orchids to grow in the arid blaze of Phoenix—too hot, too dry, nowhere to root.

businessman with blue watering can in meadow

Feed your soul soil, give it the right light and water, and watch your new, alternative legal career take off.

Yet many of you expect to somehow make your current law firm or legal job situation work, even though it doesn’t give you your soul’s basic nutritional requirements. (Quick review: autonomy, mastery and purpose that matters to you.) Be honest about your basic needs, and then seek out the situations that have those things.

For your alternative legal career search to flourish, you need to nurture that spark of soul trying so hard to bust out right now. As I discussed last time, a lot of lawyers try to nurture that spark by being more perfect. It doesn’t work; perfectionism sucks the life out of you after not too long. Much like using chemicals in the garden produces impressive-looking results at first, but ultimately robs the soil and plants of what they need to survive. They become dependent on chemical help 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

The Other Key Lawyer Personality Trait: Think, Don’t Feel

The Thinking/Feeling preference in the Myers-Briggs typology is a biggie for happiness and satisfaction at work. If that aspect of your personality is stifled, devalued, and can’t be used in your work, you’re going to be miserable.

That’s because T/F is one of the function pairs (the other is the Sensing/Intuitive pair). The function pairs are where you are likely the least malleable and least able to bend your personality to fit in—in other words, it’s where you’re the most hard-wired.

frustrated woman

The average day for a Feeling type in a typical law job.

What does that mean for unhappy lawyers? In a nutshell, you need to figure out it you’re like the archetypal lawyer when it comes to the Thinking/ Feeling divide. And if you’re on the Feeling side, you have some pondering to do.

When it comes to lawyers, Thinking types dominate. Indeed, Dr. Larry Richard in his ABA Journal article says that 78% of lawyers show a Thinker preference. Thinking types strongly prefer Continue reading

Key Lawyer Personality Trait: Are You a Sensing or Intuitive Type?

The two middle traits of the Myers-Briggs typology (Sensing/Intuitive and Perceiving/Feeling) are the keys to satisfaction at work, whether you’re a lawyer or a carpenter. When your preferences in both those areas are in synch with the type of work you’re doing, you will feel more fulfilled and in harmony. Sounds kind of important to me.

philips screwdriver flat screw

A strong preference for Sensing in a field full of Intuitives can make you feel a bit useless.

If you match in one area but not in the other, you’re going to feel out of step with many of your colleagues, and may even find that many of the tasks in your work seem more difficult for you than your peers. If both traits differ from the norm in your profession, there’s a much higher chance Continue reading