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Top 10 Legal Career Injustices

Posted on July 28, 2023 under Career & Work

The Cure for Busyness Disease & Overwork

I love career coaching lawyers. You're smart, hard-working, and witty. It's truly a joy.

What breaks my heart is hearing how you brutalize and torture your mind with negative thoughts that limit your legal career and beyond.

The irony is you are your own judge and jury. You're the toughest on yourself.

There are many reasons why lawyers are highly susceptible to self-criticism and doubt.

Lawyers are naturally hard-wired to be analytical, critical, questioning, skeptical, and continuously scouting for a worst-case, doomsday scenario.

In short, lawyers are powerful THINKERS.

Thinking can get you far in life and work.

However, thinking can paint you into a mental corner that is excruciatingly painful too.

I've coached lawyers in big and boutique firms, across different sectors such as government, commercial, and injury, and in their own private practices.

The toxic thoughts remain the same.

Let's unravel your top 5 negative thoughts and create a positive thought to replace them.

1. I have no other skills

This is where I consistently receive the most push back from lawyers.

You've built an ironclad case in your mind that you are a lawyer, and only a lawyer, and only a certain law firm will want to hire you (a lawyer!).

The reality is you have tons of portable skills: communicating, writing, negotiating, investigating, presenting, teaching, and analyzing.

It's up to you to start to believe in the value of these skills and how another firm or company would want them.

New Mantra: My skills are portable.

2. I love the law but I hate the politics

Not every associate will become a partner, nor should that always be the goal.

Some lawyers are purists and love the law for its truth and justice.

Some lawyers want to generate wealth and build up their status. Still others love the law AND the power and money.

If you're not “in it to win it” at the partner level, simply make peace with your chosen path and enjoy the journey.

Don't let someone else force you into a role you don't want.

New Mantra: I am a legal expert.

3. I'm burned out by billability

There's a job code for that! Yes, there's a job code for everything, even burnout.

The day-in day-out reality of achieving 100%+ billiability is not sustainable.

You must have an end-game in mind.

If you are gunning for a partner, pick the average billable number you need to stay on track (you don't need to crush every month) and set up the right support systems in your life to make it doable instead of miserable.

If your goal is to be an associate for a while and then move in-house, or have your own clients, you should be shooting for standard levels of billability with an emphasis on gaining the right kind of client and subject matter experience for your future.

New Mantra: I dispense valuable counsel.

4. I'm trapped by student loans.

Student loans are a reality for many legal professionals.

The key is to receive proper financial counsel either early in your career or as soon as you can.

Student loan terms and other debt management vehicles change all the time.

Once you get out from underneath the fear of loans, your mind may become open to other employment options beyond the supposed financial security of a legal career (which isn't so much of a sure thing anymore

New Mantra: My loans are manageable.

5. The culture is killing me

Being a lawyer doesn't have to mean playing a part in “The Firm” like Tom Cruise.

It can be exciting and challenging to work in a conservative legal firm for a few years, then leave the pinstripes behind for a more relaxed or niche environment.

One of my legal clients recently left his conservative firm and had his choice of two firms.

The first was a “hot” mid-sized firm that's business casual.

The second was a small partner-owned firm in a brownstone with a dog that offers more career expertise development and upward mobility.

His decision wasn't about the money, type of law, or brand – it was about the vibe of the day-to-day culture and how to love a long-term role.

New Mantra: There's a law firm perfect for me.​

6. I'm stuck in XYZ law

Many lawyers believe once they're in a certain kind of law, they are stuck there for the rest of their lives.

This is not true.

This is where you might wrestle me down to the ground.

I get it. You're a specialist, you're pigeonholed, you're over-invested in a certain subset of the field.

But, if you stay where you're unhappy it's only a matter of time before you either need to leave or you'll be asked to leave.

Why not use the time to start integrating, networking, and studying in the area you desire?

New Mantra: I'm learning a new area of law.

7. If I'm not a lawyer..then who the heck am I?

This question can create a full-on identity crisis.

You've invested years in building up your professional profile and now you're on the verge of “leaving it all behind”

Yes, you might be exiting a traditional legal setting, but you will always BE a lawyer.

No one can take away your mind and experience, except for you of course!

New Mantra: I have a legal heart and mind.

8. I'm living someone else's dream

Perhaps becoming a lawyer was a supposed foregone conclusion for you.

Your father and grandfather were both lawyers and so now you are too.

Except the world is much different place now; being a lawyer is no longer a golden ticket.

Do a reality check on your career motivations and drivers at least once per year – the holidays are generally an ideal time for taking personal stock.

What do you want to do, be, and have in 2018?

New Mantra: I'm in command of my career.

9. I'm busy-bored to death

It's incredibly easy to get buried under a mountain of “must do” tasks instead of pursuing your own agenda.

In the entrepreneurial world we call this the difference between “working on your business or working in your business.”

You can be the most billable lawyer, but not learn anything new or make a difference in your career.

Realize the difference and make a change.

New Mantra: I'm always learning.

10. I want to write the great American novel

I've yet to meet a lawyer who doesn't have another true passion.

Many of you love to write, act, speak, teach, and generally entertain others.

This is a good thing!

Give yourself permission to create the room in your life for other interests.

You can and should develop your whole self so that you can fully enjoy life and your career.

New Mantra: I am versatile and multi-talented.

I rest my case against the Top 10 Legal Career Injustices.

For more Career Development and Job Search tips, follow me on LinkedIn.

– Kelley Joyce, MBA, CPC

Kelley is a career development coach who is dedicated to helping people discover their career path and land their dream jobs. Kelley has served hundreds of professionals across the U.S., U.K., and Australia since 2012 to radically change their relationship with work.

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