It’s The Law, It’s Not Your Life

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Miserable Lawyer is a Bad LawyerMany lawyers dream of being something else.  That is to say they dream of giving up the practice of law and becoming, well, it runs the gamut…

Many people go to law school because they graduate from college and they don’t know what else to do with their lives.  Then they graduate from law school and they still don’t have an answer to that question so they take a job at a law firm.  That job turns into a career and they wake up at age 40 disillusioned, depressed and disoriented.

Many of these people find me.

One of these lawyers wound up at lunch with me last week.  I’ve known him for a while.  He’s a friendly guy.  Intelligent.  And charming.

As a lawyer he is mediocre on his best day.

He came to me looking for some advice.

As a semi-crappy lawyer he often makes mistakes that other attorneys need to step in to correct.  These mistakes are preventable and they come from lack of focus driven by lack of intellectual curiosity.  Think about it:  If you really hate reading about transnational torts, how good are you going to be about keeping up on the latest case law related to that subject?

Now this lawyer is in front of me and he wants some guidance on what to do with his life.  His major dilemma:  He has two kids, an expensive wife, a mortgage, car payments and all the emotional baggage that goes along with dedicating 20 years to a career that has placed him in this predicament.

But that’s not this guy’s real problem.

His problem:

He let what he does define who he is.

Instead of being Joe Smith, great guy, dad, friend, husband and confidant – he is Joe Smith, aka Shleprock the lawyer.

Why change now?

In most cases, a guy like Shleprock would never leave his low six figure law job.  He’d keep muddling through his life and in 30 more years he’d retire.  Bald.  Fat. Divorced. And on a host of medications to help him cope with the emotional damage he has done to himself.

But this guy has an “out.”

A friend offered to loan him the money to start his own business as a photographer.

It seems our boy Shlep has a great eye and is fantastic at getting people to relax in front of a camera.  His friends and relatives ask him to take photos at their events and gatherings and everyone marvels at the images he captures.

The kicker:  He loves taking photos.

During the course of our lunch, this soon-to-be former lawyer and I map out a strategy for telling his friends, family and his boss about this new chapter in his life.  We also sketch out the first few steps in a marketing plan for his business.

Immediately Shelprock turns into Joe Smith, passionate, charming business leader bursting with enthusiasm.

He leaves lunch smiling with a bright future ahead of him.

How does this impact you?  What can you take away from this story?  One simple lesson:

Do not define who you are by what you do. 

You are not “Joe the Lawyer.”  You are “Joe the Great Guy.”

Today you are playing the role of a lawyer.  If you are good at it, and have a passion for it, keep playing that role.

If you are “miscast,” it’s easy to find something else to do.  Something that brings out the best in who you really are.

There is nothing worse than building a success you can’t stand.

Law firm marketing is easier when you are selling a product you love.