Scars result from damage. They fade, but they have changed us. As a lawyer, you’re going to develop some scars over time. You’ll survive the experience of acquiring them, although you might not enjoy it.
Where do the Scars Come From?
You’ve probably figured out that I’m not talking about the kinds of scars that doctors sew together with stitches.
We’re talking about deeper scars. The ones that people don’t see. The ones that, sometimes, you pretend are gone entirely – but if you look hard enough you’ll still be able to find them.
Some scars are just mild blemishes. They are a reminder of what has happened in the past, but don’t hamper your ability to function.
Others are more of a problem. These are the scars caused by bigger events, more hurtful damage. These scars can change how you do things – they stop some parts of you working correctly. Perhaps you can’t stretch parts well enough. Perhaps you’re afraid to exercise something that was hurt in the past.
So where do they come from?
Most basically, you get scars from only one of two events:
- Someone attacks you; or
- You do something wrong.
Scars from Attack
There are plenty of opportunities to be attacked throughout a legal career.
Your boss might berate you.
Your client might yell at you.
Your colleagues might ridicule you.
You might need to work longer hours than your spouse thinks is reasonable.
In each case you might:
- get through without any impact; or
- suffer some damage, and develop a new scar.
The question for you today is whether you are acknowledging and realising that this is what’s happening. You’ll see why below.
Scars from Mistakes
It would be nice to blame other people for all the things that go wrong, but you’re going to do plenty of stupid things and you’re going to make lots of mistakes during your career.
Some of these mistakes (like having a rubbish LinkedIn profile, for example) are fairly easy to fix and recover from. They are unlikely to do lasting damage. These are the scrapes and bruises that we all get along the way – minor things happen, we realise that they’ve happened, and we remedy them.
However, other issues are more lasting, and can dramatically impact how we make decisions.
Perhaps you forget to do something you promised, and lose a client for your firm.
Perhaps you don’t put a critical date in your diary and it gets missed.
Perhaps you simply get something wrong and give bad advice.
These are going to cause damage. You’re going to lose sleep. You’re going to question whether you should really be a lawyer at all. And it would be easy for me to just say “take the hit” (which, in fact, I’ve done before):
But, of course, there’s more to it than simply taking the hit and getting up again.
You have to deal with the hit, and you have to acknowledge and appreciate what the hit might result in.
Deal with the Damage
Scars are the result of surviving the damage.
But if you don’t get the right care, then the damage might be fatal.
If not, it might at least not heal right, and will cause you problems for a long time to come.
So if you’ve taken a particularly hard hit, then you need to actually acknolwedge the damage and deal with it.
That might mean taking 5 for a deep breath.
That might mean a coffee out with a trusted friend.
That might mean counselling.
Whatever it is – before the scar can form, the damage needs to heal. Otherwise everything goes haywire down the track.
Appreciate the Scar
Once the damage is healed, you need to appreciate the scar.
What did you learn? Do you need to change something, or not? What will you do differently?
I want to emphasise that not all scars can be avoided. They are not all a sign that you did something wrong. Nor are they all glorious – sometimes they are just there, bothering you, and reminding you of events of the past.
What’s your Scar?
We all have scars from our careers and our study.
What’s your scar? Does it remind you of anything? Did it help you learn something?
Help us all learn from your battlefield experience – share the story of your scar in the comments!