Being a lawyer can feel isolated and lonely. But it need not be so – reach out!
It seems contradictory, doesn’t it? On the one hand, you are surrounded by people all the time. Partners, colleagues, opponents, clients and a myriad of others.
But, the reality is that many lawyers are extremely lonely in their careers.
Although we are surrounded by many people and we have many opportunities for interaction, we seem to think that we are going in our careers alone.
So today I wanted to encourage you to look beyond your fears, and to genuinely interact with, and develop a relationship with, those people around you.
Because, in doing so, you will be able to experience less loneliness, more support, and ultimately to achieve greater results as part of your ongoing endeavours to maximise your service to your clients.
What does that mean in reality?
In reality, what that means is that you need to be able to accept when you are unable to do a particular task.
It means you need to be able to accept when you are overworked.
It means you need to be able to admit to those around you that you are unable to complete a particular task without assistance.
In accepting these truths, what you’re really doing is to open yourself up in some way to those around you in an acceptance of the fact that you cannot be everything to everyone at all times. You’re being real. You’re being authentic.
Of course, many lawyers have a significant fear about accepting that they are unable to do everything. We are constantly worried about being seen to be foolish, unknowledgeable, ill-equipped, or otherwise unable to perform the tasks that we believe we ought to be able to perform.
I Agree – Let’s Not Look Stupid
I appreciate that fear. I don’t want to look foolish any more than anyone else does. However, I also accept that in order to perform the tasks that I need to perform to the best my abilities, then I’m going to need assistance from time to time.
If I do not ask for assistance, then I am not appropriately fulfilling my duties to my client. If I try to “go it alone” then in reality I am doing is a disservice to my client, who is paying for me not to achieve results for them, but rather to flounder in my attempts to serve their legal interests.
For many lawyers, the loneliness stems from an incorrect assumption that those around them are not really interested in helping them out. In fact, most senior lawyers and those with more than a few years experience are more than willing to assist where required. Certainly there are some people who have an arrogant or self obsessed approach to the legal profession. However, those are the exception rather than the norm.
If Judges can Do it – Why Not Others Around You?
I was speaking in May 2016 at the North Queensland Law Association symposium and I was greatly comforted and encouraged by the willing participation by, and interaction with, the judges and justices of the courts during that conference. They offered great insight, assistance and wisdom from the years of experience to those around them, including the young lawyers who were participating in the seminar that I was delivering.
It is a great testimony to the legal profession that judges of such stature are prepared to offer their wisdom and insight to young lawyers in such an informal and meaningful way.
If judges and justices of the courts can offer such assistance and are willing to do so, eventually this is a sign that many senior lawyers around the legal profession are prepared to offer their assistance and their insight to young lawyers, if only the young lawyers would be prepared to put up their hand and ask for it.
But we Don’t Want to Look Silly…
However, within that context, there is a desire not to look foolish or silly. In part this is because we are afraid of looking like an imposter. We are concerned that someone will find out that we’re not is equipped for our job, as we indicated to them that we ought to be.
However, most senior lawyers remember just what it was like to be a junior lawyer. They remember what it was like to be confronted with jobs that you not necessarily have the ability to perform in a timely fashion. They remember what it was like to have tasks put before you at seemed utterly overwhelming and incapable of completion within the timeframe given.
And so I want to encourage you, whatever stage of your career you are at, to seek assistance if it is required.
What Help should you Seek?
Help might be in the context of a legal question. It might be in the context of a pragmatic question. You might need more information about processes, styles, basic legal information, detailed direction, research opportunities or other avenues of growth that you might be looking for. Whatever the case may be, you can find that assistance in the senior lawyers around you.
Of course, you might be unlucky enough to be working for a firm or an individual who is incapable or unwilling or providing that information. In that case I encourage you to seek guidance from those in the wider legal fraternity. Using resources such as LinkedIn, email, websites, forums and Facebook you’re able to reach out to a much wider community than what you ever might have thought would be possible. Many of those people will be willing to help you, even though you do not work directly with or for them.
And so the legal profession in not be a lonely profession. For many this is a self-imposed isolation rather than a function of the legal profession itself.
Reach out to someone today. If you would like to get in contact with me. You can find me on LinkedIn, or you can otherwise contact me through this site.
Let me know in the comments your experiences with isolation. When have you felt most alone in the legal profession? I think we would all benefit from your experiences in this area.