Imagine for a second that you are a silent observer in a hospital surgery ward, and a beloved family member has been awaiting a life saving heart transplant. You are in the surgery suite watching the procedure. In walks the highly accredited doctor to perform the surgery. After many months of research on the subject, and referrals from friends and other medical professionals, your loved one has found themselves in the caring hands of this most capable surgeon.
As the anesthesia is administered, in walks another doctor in surgery attire who assumes a location across the table from the chosen surgeon. As your loved one’s doctor selects his first instrument to begin the surgery, the unrecognized doctor begins to criticize his choice of scalpel; and as the doctor begins to make the first incision the stranger states, “That’s the wrong location for that cut.”
You obviously begin to become worried about the chosen doctor’s abilities as a surgeon, and your loved one’s future begins to become questionable to you in the chosen surgeon’s hands. Every move the doctor makes is questioned, criticized, and ridiculed by the doctor across the surgery table. The responsible doctor calmly proceeds with his process, and the heart is replaced, and ultimately your loved one is wheeled out of the surgery suite and into the recovery room. The criticizing doctor shakes the surgeon’s hand, and tells him, “Good job, I’ll see you next time.” The two part ways.
Does such a scenario even seem plausible?
Imagine if at every state of any professionals life, they were constantly told they were “wrong,” “inept,” “too young,” “too old,” “not intelligent enough to be practicing their profession,” or “not the right gender, race, or temperament for what they are doing;” all the while having another comparably talented professional telling them every decision they have made along the way is dead wrong. Why would anyone elect to embark on such a professional career?
This is often exactly what lawyers do every day they wake up and go to work to practice their chosen calling. No other profession is called upon to make professional decisions in the most stressful environments, for individuals and businesses who find themselves in the most difficult times of their lives, all the while having another professional in their field publicly proclaiming that every decision and recommendation they make is wrong.
The life of a lawyer can be incredibly stress-filled, and attorneys often find themselves riddled with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, regardless of whether they are a new lawyer out of law school, or a seasoned and qualified Supreme Court Justice. Every lawyer is faced with the thought of, “What if I’m really as wrong and as inadequate as they say I am?”
Couple the doubt and stress of the actual technical side of the profession with the demand for obtaining, maintaining, and collecting from clients who often are so unhappy at that stage of their business or personal life, if for no other reason than that they have to hire you and your firm to begin with, and you have the makings of what many within the profession find to be a career they would not enter into again if they were afforded the opportunity.
Too many within the practice of law find themselves afraid to look in the mirror due to their lack of humanity, or their own self abuses through emotional sabotage, substance abuse, or depression that creeps in gradually and makes a home in an otherwise healthy heart. Like the frog who finds themselves in the vat that is gradually heated under them, too many fail to address the impact of the profession on their personal lives until it’s too late, and they are simply left to try to reconstruct the pieces.
How do we create a happy, fulfilled, less stressful, and more fulfilling life in the practice of law? How do we couple our inherent humanity with the often-unemotional needs of the profession? The exploration toward the answer to that question is why I’ve initiated this experiment that is The Lawyer Life.
Lawyers are by nature bound by a common fact that we all find ourselves facing too many of the same negative patterns and struggles unique to our profession. However, we are all capable of addressing them head on. When we ask ourselves why we do what we do, remember that we are the only profession that is allowed to step into the shoes of another individual when that person can no longer continue down the path on their own; and for that reason the world needs us, and needs us at our best.
Whether the question is how do I manage a family life with the demands of the profession; what do I do when faced with the strain of a geographical limitation to my professional life; how do I overcome an issue of depression, substance abuse, debilitating stress, insecurities, uncertainties, professional goals and personal goals; how do I start my own practice, and manage and grow the same; and how do I avoid the burnout and frustration all too common to many of us; The Lawyer Life is designed to serve as a clearinghouse for ideas and input on the subjects important to lawyers in the twenty-first century.
The Lawyer Life is the vision of attorney Chris Smith. A practicing lawyer, who has experience as a law firm associate, and a struggling solo practitioner with nothing but a laptop and limited bank account, and who has built a law firm supporting attorneys in multiple states, Chris has lived the lawyer life in every since of the word, and has struggled, thrived, and learned the tough lessons necessary to succeed as an attorney and human being in the practice of law. The Lawyer Life reflects Chris’ desire to help every attorney in his or her daily effort to succeed in this often-difficult profession.
We can all succeed as human beings in the practice of law. Let’s just decide to, and go learn how. I hope you enjoy the journey.