Practicing law is a challenging profession with long hours and tough intellectual challenges. Far from a deterrent, the challenges and rewards often attract lawyers to the profession in the first place.
Well, maybe you (we) didn’t go seeking long hours exactly, but if you are a rainmaking lawyer, then long hours have never stood in your way. You worked hard at school and thrived on the challenge.
In the right conditions, the hours melt away as you dive deep into an issue and develop meaningful solutions for your clients.
But in the wrong conditions, the hours are torture. According to one study, 56% of lawyers are frustrated with their careers. Liz Brown, the author of the help manual Life After Law, observes, “Law is the only career I know that has a sub-profession dedicated to helping people get out of it.”
I frequently talk to lawyers who used to love the law and want to enjoy it again, but are convinced that the profession is a terrible place to be.
They are wrong; practicing law doesn’t have to be miserable.
If you are a partner who loves law but hates your current job, you may be at the wrong firm. So in this post, I explore some ways to know if you are at the wrong firm.
You can also download our full report on the topic here.
Do you dread going to work?
Often, lawyers get lulled into the rhythm of their work. Each day bleeds into the next, and they don’t think about it too much about it until they get a day off or take a vacation.
Maybe you get the weekend off, and Sunday evening fills with the dread of having to go back to the office (or log back into Zoom).
Or you take a vacation with the family and actually decompress. Then you realize you’ll have to return to the same situation you were in before your vacation.
There should be some joyful anticipation associated with going back to work, like the first day of school. Far from dread, returning to the office should feel good, exciting, and fulfilling if your law firm is a good fit. If your work doesn’t feel this way, you are likely at the wrong firm.
You are constantly apologizing.
Many lawyers get stuck on what I call “the apology tour.”
They miss every family event, so they apologize to their children, spouses, parents, and in-laws for missing dinner, recitals, practices, holidays… you name it.
And they don’t just apologize to the family. Good lawyers love serving their clients. When they get overworked and can’t help or, worse, end up with delays or subpar work, they have to apologize to their clients as well.
If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know how painful it is. It’s often a result of understaffing or under-resourcing lawyers, either because the firm won’t hire more support or because they can’t because of their toxic culture. Or, it might be because your firm lacks a practice area or geographic location that is a good fit for you.
No matter why, if you’ve been on the apology tour, you recognize it and know how miserable it can be. It’s also evidence that you are at the wrong firm. If your law firm is a good fit, you won’t be apologizing.
You are concerned about the future.
Even if you are happy with your situation today, your future at the firm may concern you — either your role in the firm or the firm’s future.
Two concerns pertaining to the future that arise are concerns about practice area and succession planning.
Working at a firm that neglects your practice area can be tough. The firm may starve your practice area of resources or outright consider plans to eliminate the practice. It’s never fun to be caught in limbo, and it also makes building your book of business nearly impossible.
Then there is succession planning. Many firms, especially midsized or smaller ones, neglect succession planning. They rely on aging rainmaking partners who hold on, believing that they will be able to continue forever.
The problem is that they won’t be able to continue forever.
When the inevitable does happen, that can spell disaster for your firm and your career.
You don’t think you are treated fairly.
Even if all the other pieces are in place, you may feel you aren’t treated fairly.
Does origination go to partners who brought in business 30 years ago but haven’t done anything since?
Does your firm expect you to do the work of a partner and three associates?
Is it your responsibility to change the toner cartridge?
Whatever your concern, from pay to support to respect, you might want to consider a change if you bring in business and don’t feel like you are treated fairly.
You deserve fair treatment, fair pay, and a platform that supports you in building your practice.
No good or bad firms
There are no good or bad firms out there. Every law firm is built around ideas and has a culture that works for some people, or they wouldn’t exist.
So every law firm works for some lawyers, but not every law firm works for every lawyer. The question is one of fit: you need a law firm that fits you. You shouldn’t dread going to work, be forced to apologize constantly, or be worried about the future. And you should be treated fairly.
So if you love law but don’t love your firm, it may be time for a change. Find a firm that works for you.
That is what we do – it costs you nothing, but we dedicate ourselves to your happiness. Do you wonder what opportunities might be available to you? Let’s talk, there’s no obligation, and I’d be happy to help you figure out your next step.
Download our full report for more on whether your law firm is a good fit for you here because you deserve to be happy too.