It seems like a simple question – but the answer may be complex. I come across a lot of unhappy lawyers. Some are ready to move on to something else, but many know that they enjoy practicing law, they just don’t enjoy their day-to-day, their firm, or their partners.
Practicing law is a challenging profession, but that is a part of the allure for many people. We often face moments of doubt, stress, and too little sleep. If we aren’t careful, we can end up with bad diets and neglected exercise regimes.
If you find yourself in an unhappy state, go back to the first question: do you enjoy the practice of law? Do you enjoy your clients?
If you do, ask yourself if you enjoy the firm, the people you work with, and your current situation.
There isn’t much you can do if you hate law, but if you do enjoy law, have a book of business, and loyal clients, you should enjoy the practice of law as well.
Here’s how you can.
Start by defining what you want from your career
You can’t find what makes you happy if you don’t know what makes you happy. So, if you aren’t satisfied with your practice, ask yourself what you want from your career. What is the missing piece that your current job lacks?
Some answers to this question that I hear repeatedly are:
- More money and recognition.
- A higher level of intellectual challenge.
- The opportunity to serve a cause.
- Clients you want to work with.
- The opportunity to explore practice areas.
- More work-life balance
What are you looking for?
Think about your life goals
One tool that I find helpful in delineating your career objectives is to start with your life objectives. Maybe you want to spend more time with your family (maybe you want to spend less). Maybe you want to put your children through college or travel the world. Or perhaps you want to live like a hermit in a cabin on Waldon Pond.
Whatever your life goals are, define them. We often think in three dimensions:
- What wealth do you want? This is the money you want to accumulate.
- What freedom do you want? This is what you want to be able to do, how you want to live your life.
- What impact do you want to have? How you want to impact those around you can be as simple as sending the kids to college and as grandiose as changing the world.
It doesn’t matter what these goals are for you; the important thing is that you define them and align your career to them.
Build a Business Plan
Once you’ve sorted out what you want from your career and life, we recommend creating a Business Plan. The GSG Business Plan is one key factor that sets us apart from other recruiters. We start with what you want for yourself and then find the right fit from there.
Our template guides you step by step through crafting a Business Plan that you can use to structure your business now and for the future, whether you stay in your current role or decide to seek another.
Define what is missing at your current firm
Is it the wrong cultural fit?
Culture is an important factor in determining your job satisfaction.
Maybe you don’t like working with your colleagues, or you don’t like the way they practice law. You may find that your current firm attracts the wrong type of client for you.
Dreading the firm picnic and disliking spending time with your colleagues are sure signs you need something else.
It may seem that all law firms are the same, but they aren’t. There are as many different types of law firms as different types of lawyers. You can find the right fit.
Is the compensation model broken?
Different firms have very different ways of compensating partners, especially when it comes to origination fees. In some cases, younger partners do the work to bring in new business from old clients, but since a different partner brought that client in 20 years ago, they get all the origination credit.
Or you may bring in business in a different practice area and not get credit for it. Or only the lead partner gets credit despite you doing the work.
Is the compensation structure broken? If so, you can find a better fit.
Does the staffing model not work?
If you are a partner who brings in business and you are working 20 hours a day, then your firm likely has the wrong staffing model.
Bringing in business is one of the most valuable functions in a law firm. So if you bring in the business, you should have more legal support from associates and paralegals.
You shouldn’t be changing toner, ordering paper, or dealing with administrative tasks. Doing so is a waste of your time and a clear sign that the staffing model at your current firm is broken (learn more about the benefits of joining a larger firm).
Can you practice the law you want to practice (or need to practice)?
You may love working with startups, but your firm doesn’t love working with startups. Or maybe you want to explore new markets (like cannabis), and your firm prefers to stick with tried and true markets, eschewing all perceived risk.
Or, even if you are happy practicing the areas you want to practice, your clients may request legal support in areas your firm just doesn’t offer.
The opposite can be true as well: perhaps you’d rather not take on the risk of startups, but your firm can’t stay away.
Ask yourself whether your current firm’s practice is right for you.
Do you need geographic flexibility?
Often lawyers want to work in smaller markets rather than commute to or live in large markets. Can you work remotely if you want to?
Alternatively, your clients may need you in smaller markets, or you may be good at building business in smaller markets: can you do that in your current firm? Or a partner may need to be in additional large markets too…it’s a matter of being where the clients need them]
Find the right fit
Once you define what you are looking for, you can work on finding the right fit. The good news is that today’s market gives you almost limitless opportunities.
But even when the market shifts, as a rainmaker with a book of business, you should enjoy practicing law. The work you do is extremely valuable – in good times and in bad, so you always have options.
At Gillman Strategic Group, our focus is on helping lawyers find their exact right perfect-fit firm. Law firms pay us, but we work for you to find the best fit based on your wants and needs.
We are passionate about helping lawyers enjoy their work and their lives. Everything we do is strictly confidential, and we can find the right place for you.
So if you are frustrated with your current position and are looking for a better fit, let’s talk.