We work for money. We need to pay our bills and support our families and live the good life we strive for.
We also work to be recognized. We have spent a lot of time and effort becoming a lawyer, and while a salary is a good reflection of our worth, a kind word goes a long way as well. It just feels really good when you are recognized.
A lot of our unhappiness comes from simply not being appreciated. At the highest levels, this manifests itself in being passed over for partnership or required to take a reduced (or stick with an un-changed) salary. More day-to-day, this unhappiness and reduced confidence is often marked by silence, specifically the lack of unprompted feedback from clients, colleagues and associates. Sometimes you wonder How the hell am I doing? Sometimes you just want someone to say Real nice job, I love how you handled that.
Of course, the appreciation will come. And do not lament the dearth of compliments now; just know that the gratitude is likely there . . . and the public recognition is right around the corner, from someone important,
Before we even think of leaving the law, let’s first try to get a handle on a fundamental question: Why did I go to law school?
With the cushion of hindsight, let’s take some time and critically think about this. We need to ask ourselves, as well as our friends and family (who were around us when we made the decision to attend law school) what was our mind set, what reasons did we put forward, what pros/cons did we list? As much as it may hurt, we need some honest answers and recollections, from ourselves and our loved ones, as to what our mindset was at that time. More specifically, we need to determine whether we critically thought through this big decision or, rather, did we just go to law school because we had nothing better to do/we didn’t want to find a job/we admired lawyers/we thought we’d make a lot of money.
The goal here is not to get down on ourselves, but rather to identify whether law school itself, or the “beaten path” of OCI, the firm life, making partner, etc, is really something for us. If our reasons for going to law school were not that strong,
Many of us who consider leaving the law feel that we may have lost our way. We feel like we’re just in a weird stage. We often look around and wonder if this is it. We don’t think we’re as cool any longer. We wonder if we’re doing the right thing.
To take this further, some of us now think that our window of time may be expiring. That the clock of our final countdown is ticking fast. It could be a particular birthday on the horizon. It could be falling short in a recent comparison with our (ostensibly) successful friends. It could be just this general, vague, foggy feeling that we’re not living up to what we thought we would accomplish.
If we’re not a partner yet, we think we should have been made partner by now. If we’re not an equity partner yet, we think we should have been made equity partner by now. If we are an equity partner . . . we wonder why we are still unhappy.
This problem will persist so long as we continue to stick to outdated, unrelated plans. Many unhappy attorneys judge their success based on what their friends think is success or what their family thinks is success or on what they themselves thought success should be .