If I ask you to close your eyes and envision a lawyer, many of us would see a similar picture. A certain age, a certain stature, dressed in a suit. Perhaps you see a briefcase or a trial bag, or a yellow pad and pen. But, in reality, the image is changing. And that is a good thing.
Today, we have non-traditional career paths, non-traditional work schedules, and non-traditional work environments. And this will ultimately make the practice healthier and accessible for a more diverse population.
Law is a traditional career and while a variety of people have made their way here, they don’t always stay. I’ve worked in law firms of all shapes and sizes over the years, and I’ve seen many lawyers exit the profession. I know you have as well.
When the path looks too similar and there is no room for who we are as individuals to shine, some of those people drop out along the way. So law firms continue along, looking the same.
When I worked in law firm recruiting, I often knew a candidate would be a great addition to a firm. They would bring a fresh perspective and a new personality. But I also knew the chances of that person choosing the firm or staying with the firm long term if they were hired was slim. There is so much pressure in law firms already without adding the additional challenge of being in a culture where you may not fit.
I recently talked with a senior partner about his frustration with next generation lawyers. “They don’t show up. They are always on their phones. They want to work from the soccer field.” What he finally said, in a moment that exploded with honesty, is that he was jealous of them. He was jealous that they didn’t feel tied to a chair from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. He was jealous that they felt comfortable practicing law from their mobile devices. And he was jealous that they didn’t seem bothered by texting with clients after hours. The senior lawyer lamented that in the old days, you worked a long day, but when it ended, you went home, and your work did not follow you. With today’s modern conveniences and technology abilities, he said, “I feel like I’m working 24 hours a day and I hate it.”
It should be an advantage today for lawyers to not feel trapped by an antiquated system. It is healthy for lawyers to find non-traditional jobs that better suit their lifestyles. It is self-awareness that allows lawyers to strive for a work-life integration that feels healthy and makes them happy.
I encourage lawyers of all ages to explore the law in a way you haven’t before. Now, more than ever, there are jobs that fit everyone. It’s not just young lawyers that are making these changes. Lawyers at every stage of career are exploring flexible work schedules and non-traditional work environments.
Earlier this year, Lawyers Mutual produced a podcast discussing the changing nature of the practice. Michael Burger, with NC Planning in Cary, says death and taxes are two certainties and you can add change as the third certainty. He acknowledges we can run and hide from change or we can embrace it.
Valerie Johnson, a partner with Copeley, Johnson & Groninger, is meeting change by developing a podcast discussing sexual harassment issues. Valerie and her partner Leto thought a podcast was a way to educate folks who would never pick up a law book or search out an employment lawyer in a traditional way.
Kevin Pratt is a lawyer in Charlotte. He founded CoLaw, a co-working space dedicated to lawyers, because he wanted to make law practice management easier, more cost effective, as well as more innovative and agile. More importantly, he wanted to bring people together in a whole new way.
To listen to the podcast, visit www.lawyersmutualnc.com/annual-report/2018
Today is an exciting time to a lawyer. And there is no excuse not to find the law practice or work environment that best suits you.
What can you do to find your true self? Here are a few tips:
- Appreciate who you are and your differences
- Stop trying to please other people
- Develop confidence building skills
- Learn from your mistakes without beating yourself up for making them
- Set goals and milestones for yourself
For as Oscar Wilde says, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”.
Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.662.8843.