When I practiced law, I worried a lot. I worried about making a mistake on my files. I worried that I was too busy. I worried that I was not busy enough.
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”Joseph Heller
In some law firms there are politics among the Partners. Someone wants to be the managing partner or to win the compensation committee contest, and they need to win friends and influence people to get what they want.
I know, I know. You cannot believe it. This may be true in other firms, but certainly not in your firm.
In your firm, all of the Partners respect each other and support each other. They never talk behind each other’s back. They are hard on the issues and soft on the people. They certainly do not form cliques, count votes, or solicit support between meetings to win votes at the Compensation Committee or the Executive Committee.
This morning someone remarked that much of my writing about the legal profession is a tad negative. She said, “you practiced law for a long time; you were good at what you did; you made enough money to retire and travel the world. Surely you must have liked something about being a lawyer, didn’t you?”
There is currently a great deal of talk about mental health issues in the legal profession. It remains to be seen whether the profession will finally take mental health seriously, or whether the topic is simply the ‘flavour of the month’ and useful material for recruiting and marketing.
Back when I practiced law, it had been drummed into my head that every mistake was a potential catastrophe and a source of shame. I was a perfectionist and proud of it. I was also a little bit intense and not particularly healthy. I taught my Associates and Law Clerks to be just like me!
“All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.”Battlestar Galactica, Peter Pan, and Ecclesiastes 1:9
It is not often that I quote the Bible, but when the Bible is validated by both Peter Pan and Battlestar Galactica, it has to be right.
In 1994, which may as well be back before the beginning of recorded history as far as people entering law school now are concerned, the Los Angeles Times ran an article written by Amiram Elwork under the following title, “‘Justifiable Paranoia’ Afflicts Lawyers, Psychologist Says.”
Before you read this story, I should let you know that this is a sad story which does not end well.
Long ago I had a great professional relationship and friendship with Laurence. I liked Laurence a lot. He was honest and ethical. He cared about his clients, his family, and his relationships. He taught me valuable lessons about dealing with clients and co-workers.
Long ago I used to work with a great lawyer named Ed. Ed was calm, at least compared to me. When I was freaking out about my files and my workload and certain that I was going to get myself sued for something or other, Ed just did his work, calmly and professionally, no matter how much pressure he was under. We used to call Ed the Iceman because we were sure that he had ice water in his veins. I envied Ed. I never did find out if his insides were any different from his outsides.
I know a young doctor who I will call Stephanie, whose approach to her career impresses me quite a bit. She graduated at the top of her class, became a specialist, and had many choices open to her.
I keep reading about mental health issues in the legal profession. Too many lawyers are terminally unhappy. The problem appears to be impossible to fix. Even The Washington Post just ran an article titled, “Want to be happy? Then don’t be a lawyer.”