Tomorrow begins a new year, open with possibilities for new opportunities and improvements upon the status quo. At this time of list making and reflection upon the year past, my contribution focuses on what I know best – taking the leap from a joyless legal practice to an enthusiastic and impassioned approach to work. Having implemented this kind of change in my life, from time to time I hear from dissatisfied lawyers asking for advice on how they can do the same. What follows are some of the bits of advice I have given over the years, in no particular order.
- Figure out what gets your creative juices flowing and do more of that. What are the things you already do that stimulate a sense of flow? Is there a way you can engage in those tasks more often? It may be through volunteering rather than your paid work.
- Get out and volunteer, whether within the pro bono legal sector, in your community or through a vacation with a purpose. There’s nothing like helping others to energize and bring a new perspective to your own life.
- Be endlessly curious and ask questions of everyone you meet about what energizes them in their work. If you prefer, read about innovators and problem-solvers. Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin have each written a number of books that will inspire and motivate you.
- Work on your own strategic plan. What is your vision and mission in life? What are your core values? How can you bring those to life through the work you do?
- Try something new. If you don’t know or can’t remember what brings you joy, experiment a little. Sign up for an activity, register for a class, or visit a new place. Broaden your experience and increase your possibilities.
- Take a good long look at those you work with. Are they unhappy too? Are you in a healthy workplace environment or a toxic one? Sometimes, it’s not what you’re doing, but where you’re doing it that brings dissatisfaction. If the environment can’t be changed, maybe you need to find a new workplace.
- Don’t follow the money. Unless money is your passion, don’t let it be the primary factor in the choices you make about work. It’s important. It’s necessary to function in our society. But following money rarely leads to personal or job satisfaction.
- Turn your mind back to when you were applying for law school and think about what motivated you to make that choice. What was your career plan? If you were doing now what you planned then, would it be different or better? Could you get back onto that track?
- Investigate the alternatives. There are a lot of options for the legally trained professional outside of the traditional streams of private, public and in-house practice. Alternative legal practice settings (#altlegal) include non-profits, legal technology firms, media outlets, universities and trade schools and more. As barriers to multi-disciplinary practice and outside ownership come down in the future, the options for lawyers will doubtless expand.
- Be the change you wish to see in your work world. Open your eyes to the opportunities already on your doorstep. Look for work others are doing in your workplace that you might be interested in and then offer to provide support. Look within your clients’ business environments for areas where you might be able to make a real contribution. Implement small changes where you are to achieve the positive impact you’re looking for.
Happy New Year!