The Demands of Legal Practice

One of the struggles with being a lawyer, coaching lawyers is that I get it. I can 1,000% relate to the struggles and challenges female attorneys face. I know the pains of receiving emergent emails as you’re about to walk out the door to a funeral, the helpless fatigue and mild depression that sets in on your 10th straight day of working 14-hour days. I’ve been there.

The challenge then, for me, is to remain impartial and offer my clients the opportunity to examine their reality through a different lens. As difficult as it is for me not to get into the drama pool with my clients, my goal is to offer a space where we can reasonably and rationally address the challenges of practicing law and strategize how to stay afloat.

My experience as any attorney has made me intimately familiar with certain “truths” about the practice of law that we are all better off simply accepting:

It will be demanding.

There will be long days.

You will have to make sacrifices.

While I work with my clients to explore different ways of thinking about their practice, a positive outlook cannot insulate us from these truths. Rather than trying to put lipstick on this pig, we work to anticipate these inevitable challenges.

First, we stop fighting these realities.

There are certain aspects of practicing law that simply come with the territory. Litigators and deal lawyers will be at the mercy of the life cycle of the deal or the case. There isn’t much you can do to change many of those deadlines. Non-transactional lawyers will have different marketing expectations and will have to juggle 20 different clients on any given day. That is just part of the deal.

In the same way, we would not sign up to lifeguard and complain about having to wear a bathing suit all day long, we cannot waste energy fighting with certain realities about the legal practice. It’s futile and it is making us miserable.

Second, we have to understand our “why”.

Why are you doing this? Why did you sign up to have your weekends and schedule sabotaged by the demands of the job? Are you trying to develop the skills to land an in-house job, are you trying to make partner, are you wanting to pay off your student loans?

If you are you going to survive the challenges of a legal practice, you must gain some clarity as to why you are choosing to stay.

Because, after all, you are making a choice. The job is not happening to you. You are choosing to invite the above challenges into your life. You are not a victim.

In order to move past our tendency to mourn for the life that we lost or yearn for the life that we want, we have to focus on our WHY. Why do you stay? Why do you do it?

Instead of carrying the mental and emotional weight that comes when we agonize over the realities of legal practice, we can shift that energy to getting through it. Our justification for staying allows us to make that shift. Once we know why we are doing it, we can dispense with the lamentations and weather the storm.

For many of my clients, once they realize and connect with their WHY, they can start seeing the job as simply a season in their life.

It’s the same principle we employ when we lift weights or train for a marathon. It’s painful and it’s grueling and it requires sacrifices but we do it because we see the ultimate goal and we are committed to it. We have a compelling reason for our suffering. Your legal practice is no different.

It’s supposed to be hard and challenging.

That is what you signed up for. But for many of my clients, partnership, and lifetime commitment to billable hours is not their desired result; it’s simply a means to an end. It’s a season in life that has an expiration date. It will not last forever. That is the head space that will keep you on track and allow you to use the experience as it was intended in your life.

Stop fighting with reality and start taking ownership for your choice to stay. I know it’s frustrating and challenging and sometimes soul-sucking but you choose to be there. Focus on what this experience will GET you.

It’s just a season in your life. It will pass.

If you are treading water in your practice and feeling overwhelmed and tired, set up a  time to chat (for free) and let’s get to work reconnecting with your WHY so you can get back to it.


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