When I review the searches that lead people to this blog, I all too frequently find some version of, “I hate being a lawyer.” Often I shrug and move on without much thought, but seeing the search last weekend took me down a different line of thought.
Is this really true for the searcher?
Maybe it is. If so, I empathize. Although I’ve never hated practicing law, I’ve (briefly) had jobs I hated and sometimes had to do tasks I hated even in jobs I loved. It’s painful to hate something that consumes the bulk of one’s conscious hours, and change is in order — pronto.
More likely, though, it’s not entirely true, though there’s some part of the statement that is true. So, the key is to determine which of two aspects (and perhaps more) is untrue. (And for here on out, I’m addressing the “you” who agree with the search statement.)
1. “I hate being a lawyer.“ What does it mean to you to “be a lawyer?” How do you interpret that identity, and what do you dislike about it? Is there a way to reshape “being a lawyer” so that it’s more acceptable? Is it different to “be someone who practices law” than to “be a lawyer”? This is a rich area for exploration.
2. “I hate practicing law.” This is what I suspect the search is really all about. But again, is this entirely true? Is there some part of practice you enjoy? Maybe you really like research and writing but hate dealing with clients — or vice versa. Maybe you enjoy the puzzle of tax law but not the clients you represent. Maybe you want to be on your feet and out of the office more than anything. Finding the parts of practice that you do like is the key step toward a situation that’s a good fit for you. This is another area rich for investigation.
Although happy lawyers explain the source of their happiness in many different ways, the common denominator seems to be that they connect what they enjoy to what they do on a regular basis in practice. I don’t imagine that any lawyer or any person likes every single professional task undertaken, but there’s a tipping point, and those who stay above that point tend to self-identify as happy. I’ve also observed that happy lawyers connect with a sense of fulfillment or a belief that what they’re doing matters.
The bottom line, of course, is that making the statement “I hate being a lawyer” calls for some kind of action. Maybe the action is a job/career change, or maybe it’s analysis to identify what changes would negate that statement (partly or completely) and making those changes.
So, searcher, you “hate being a lawyer.” What will you choose to do about it?