I can hear the snickering now – somehow the words “happy” and “lawyer” seem like they don’t belong in the same sentence. Or do they? Everyone’s definition of happiness is different.
When people ask me for career advice, I tell them do what makes you happy and what you have a passion for. Unless you are independently wealthy or have some inside information that you will win the lottery, most of us will spend at least the next 40 or 50 years doing whatever it is that we have chosen to do to make a living. If you choose a career because it will make you wealthy, you will soon realize how much truth there is to the saying that money doesn’t buy happiness. What money does buy is the perception of happiness to others looking in.
Can you be a happy lawyer? That depends on whether you plan to control your career or you plan to let your career control you:
· Do what you love. Some lawyers are meant to be litigators others prefer to avoid the stress of trial. Whether you would rather be in court every day, or sit at your desk preparing Wills, do what you love. Everyone is not cut out to be Perry Mason. Make sure the area of practice you choose is something you envision yourself doing for the rest of your career.
· Network. Not just to get referrals. Network to spend time with people like you who face the same challenges you do every day. Sometimes you feel better just venting to someone who understands, and it helps to know that you are not alone.
· Work/Life Balance and Work/Life Integration. You can get just as much work done in 40 hours as you can in 50 hours, if you are not all stressed out. Look around you and you will see proof that there is a great deal of truth to the benefits of work/life balance.
· Get involved in your bar association. All work and no play make Jack a dull and unhappy boy. You will still be involved in the profession but can get involved in charitable endeavors through the bar association. The camaraderie will be a good diversion and every feels good when they are giving something back.
· Unhappy work environment – change it! That could mean getting a new job or just moving your desk to another position in the office so it looks out the window – hopefully you have a great view. Bring in some personal items. If it means getting a new job, maybe you need to explore your options. Before you do, make a list of what it is that is making you unhappy – you might find that you need to not just change your job but your profession or your area of practice.
You have the ability to be in control of your happiness. The first thing you have to do is figure out what makes you an unhappy lawyer. Albert Schweitzer once said “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”. Make sure you love what you are doing – happiness will follow.