Finding Fulfillment as a Lawyer

- Richard Brock

“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment; it is in the happiness of pursuit.”         ~ Denis Waitley

Once upon a time, you were an optimistic law student, eager to earn your degree and set the world on fire. Your dreams were big, and your confidence to attain those dreams was even bigger. You were going to save the world, or at least your specialty corner in it, and gain respect, recognition, and a healthy dose of recompense for your troubles. For some of you, things have gone according to plan, and your career aspirations are right on track.

But for the rest of you, what happened!? Why are you burnt out, stressed, quickly becoming frustrated beyond your ability to cope, and seriously considering a career change? Why can’t you find fulfillment as a lawyer?

Before you throw it all away and start from scratch in a new career, consider digging deeper and changing the way you approach being a successful lawyer.

Set the record straight: If possible, take a 3-day weekend retreat and leave all your current work matters at home. If this is impossible, then set aside a few hours each week and guard them with your life. The process will take longer, but you can still obtain the end goal. Ask yourself the following questions. Dig deep within and be honest with your answers. You deserve the truth.

  • Why did I choose a career in law?
  • What were my ideals when I started? What are my ideals now?
  • What are my priorities?
  • Do you want to be known as the lawyer who always wins at whatever cost or do you want to be known as a lawyer of integrity who will always give his/her best?
  • What motivates and inspires me?
  • What are my career goals?
  • What do I care about the most in my work? Challenge? Flexibility? Environment? Leadership? Career growth?
  • What do I enjoy the most about my current work responsibilities?
  • What do I hate the most?
  • What is keeping me from reaching my goals?

Once you have some answers, it’s time to make an action plan. But first consider this: does a victorious warrior go to battle without ensuring that his armor is battle-ready, and he is physically fit and prepared?

  • Prepare yourself for the journey: Commit first to healthy eating, exercising, and getting enough sleep. The more you improve your physical health, the more you will improve your mental and emotional health, resulting in an increased ability to make wise career decisions and changes.
  • Don’t get bogged down in past failures or time lost: Acknowledge the past, of course; it’s part of who you are, but learn from it. Use it as an opportunity to determine what you want to be different in the future. What mistakes did you make and how can you avoid a repeat?
  • Feed your soul: Take time to breathe. Take time to meditate. Take time to build relationships with family and friends. When your emotional tank is full, your capacity to be productive and your ability to make discerning choices increase.
  • Define your personal goals: Why are you a lawyer? Is it to help others? Support a desired lifestyle? Gain public recognition? Enter the political realm? Do you want to make a difference in your community? If someone had to write an intro for you, what would you want them to say?

Moving forward: Now that you have evaluated the situation, defined who you want to be and where you want to go, and prepared yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, it’s time to embrace change.

Compose your mission statement. Define your life purpose and the values that you want to hold onto while attaining your goals, both as a lawyer and in other aspects of life. Base your decisions, actions, and even the leisure choices you make on your mission statement. In other words, live it and walk the talk.

  • Choose specific opportunities to learn something new.
  • Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals and follow-through.
  • Focus on building relationships. Share yourself.
  • Focus on the positive and take time to be grateful.

In every career, we can hit the wall. We feel trapped, unmotivated, and overwhelmed. If your boat is sinking, changing course won’t help. You became a lawyer by choice and a lot of hard work. Before you give it up, find the root of the problem and fix the leak. Maybe you’ll still discover that you do need to change career direction or at least your area of practice. On the other hand, perhaps you just need to change your outlook, vision, mission statement, and plan of action to find true fulfillment doing what you once yearned to do – be a really good lawyer.