I want to make something very clear: there is no point in having a conversation about managing your time or energy if you hate your job.
There are so many CPDs, and an entire industry, geared toward helping lawyers be more organized or more efficient or whatever it is that they need to improve to bill as many hours as possible.
This is all wasted on you if you are actively hating your job right now.
Let’s be honest – the reason that you’re not getting that much done is because you don’t want to do it. You don’t want to call that client about that thing that you don’t care about. You don’t want to draft that document or make that offer or whatever because you just don’t want to be there.
I have spoken to too many young lawyers who are convinced that something is wrong with them because they aren’t hitting their billable targets, and so many of them are failing to ask a basic question: do you like what you do?
Notice that I didn’t ask whether you love what you do because that’s stupid and it’s impossible to know in the first five years of a legal career. But, you can like it. You can wake up in the morning and look forward to seeing your coworkers and learning something new and taking on a challenging new file. You can do that and if you like it, then you can decide whether you need to better manage your time or energy.
If you look around you and you say – this sucks. I hate these people. I used to be so motivated and I’m just not feeling it anymore. You should seriously consider whether this is the right place for you. Maybe even if it’s the right career. Because you’re not going to become motivated to work 2000 hours on something you don’t want to do.
I think the ‘mysterious’ loss of motivation is one of the key issues that lawyers who are unhappy face, but they consider it to be a personal failure rather than a sign of a larger problem. And I get it. It’s really hard to be someone who worked extremely hard in undergrad and law school (and loved it) and then all of a sudden feel like the brakes have been slammed on, but there’s no obvious reason for it.
Wasn’t this the job that you always wanted? Isn’t this the type of law you always wanted to practice? When the answer is yes, the lawyer quickly determines that they have the issue and if they just work harder/smarter/faster, they’ll work through it. However, that logic is flawed.
Trying to work without motivation is like trying to run through quicksand. The more you force yourself to do the work, the slower you’ll go, the faster you’ll sink and you will never reach the other side. Then the inevitable panic and downward spiral begin. You think – if I can’t motivate myself to do this work, then I must be a bad lawyer/bad person/terrible at everything. But, you’re not the problem.
The problem is a system that’s set up to put warm bodies in seats and doesn’t pay attention to the individual strengths and weaknesses of the person. It used to be the case that lawyers were apprentices. They got to work under experienced counsel and develop an appreciation for the practice of law as much as the concepts underlying our legal system.
That’s not really the case anymore. Now, new lawyers are a cog in the wheel. It may five to seven years before you ever get to actually “practice” law. You’ll spend those first few years doing a lot of the mundane document-based tasks that will eventually be done by computers. You’re not actually using your brain so you check out. You lose motivation. You wonder why you went to law school.
You hate everything.
And I don’t want that for you. So, don’t be afraid to ask yourself the question: Do I like what I’m doing? If the answers yes, then we can have a further discussion about how to make all of the pieces of the life puzzle fit together.
However, if the answer is no, we need to go back to fundamentals. You can flourish as a lawyer, you just need to find the right position. Start by checking out my post on searching for legal jobs because there are so many questions to ask. Next, do a little soul searching – you have to know yourself to know what you want. Last, put yourself out there. Meet as many people as you possibly can. It is time consuming and difficult and there are always some really awkward people out there, but you’ll get better at it and it will improve your odds of finding something you like immeasurably.
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