I’m training myself to accept failure. More than that, I’m trying to actively identify and deal with how I process failure emotionally. And that’s not easy for someone whose perfectionism (not a positive trait) and guilt can sometimes prevent me from actually getting things done at work or actively engaging with the world, e.g. if you don’t start, then you can’t fail, and if you can’t fail, then you can’t feel the pain - but you can’t succeed either. Basically, when I fail, it’s often because I can’t get out of my own way, and not because of external reasons. I’ve failed many, many times – many times: in business, in life, in love, in friends, in family. And I keep failing. And that will certainly continue.
Many people are well aware that family law litigation can be prolonged, exhausting, and costly, to say the least. These are motivating factors for litigants to settle their issues in a prompt manner. It is no surprise then that legal procedures are geared toward quick resolutions, as this normally benefits the parties involved.
This is a difficult job we do, and it is easy to get caught up in the everyday problems of legal practice. It's hard to keep one eye on the bigger picture while you deal with difficult cases. There are days when you think it might be easier to do this work with the support of a big firm environment.
My initial experience of firm life was short lived. It was less than a year, and that’s being quite generous. A combination of experiences had led me to believe that I was in the wrong profession and that I was working towards some conception of happiness that did not exist. I had a drive to help resolve conflict, but it was not working.
"It is accepted, even by those who work within it, that Ontario’s family law system is utterly broken", writes Christie Blatchford in an article entitled, "Getting to the root of Ontario’s family law mess".
Agreed. I think you would be hard pressed finding anyone to disagree.
The vicious child custody battles and their shocking legal fees, and the endless losing battles against a former spouse who is seemingly impervious to reason are stories well known to everyone who works in the system. What is also shocking and frustrating, though, is that the blame for this is laid at the feet of lawyers, most of whom are not seeking to profit from the misery of others.
On November 9, 2016, Honourable Mr. Justice Bernd Zabel walked into the John Sopinka Courthouse wearing a red cap with Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. He then removed the cap and placed it on the bench. Within days, the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (“CLA”) filed a formal complaint against Justice Zabel and CLA President, Anthony Moustacalis, made the following comments:
I am the other. I am the quintessential other. I am female, I am a woman of colour, and I am Muslim. I am a proud Muslim, woman of colour and very fortunately I am Canadian. That doesn't mean that I didn’t feel the despair that half the United States felt in November and then once again Friday morning. In fact, I was in the US on Election Day and felt the dread and despair of many of my friends and colleagues. Some of them ‘others’ and some of them ‘sames.’
For those of you who don’t know, the Law Practice Program (LPP) is created by the Law Society in partnership with Ryerson University and the University of Ottawa that offer curriculum in English and French, respectively. It is designed to provide a licensing pathway to becoming a lawyer without having to article. This program is a pilot project that started in 2014, and was scheduled to run for three years before the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) evaluated the success of the program.
Do you want to hear the good news first or the bad news? What was that? You said the bad news? Here it goes...
When people learn that I am a lawyer, I am often asked the question, “What kind of lawyer are you?” When I answer that I predominantly work in family law, the response is normally something akin to, “Oh, you poor thing. I don’t know how you do it.”
To be honest, I am not surprised with the response.
We're grateful - even for the times that we forgot to give thanks.
Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall during someone else's therapy session? In this podcast, Susanne Gabriele and Andreas Kalogiannides admit to some personal and professional realizations and, despite being warned by their Inner Critics not to, they've decided to share them with you.
I am a young lawyer but the past year of managing my own law practice has confirmed what everyone already knows: justice is not only blind but it is also deaf and mute. I remember growing up with my mother telling me that if artful thieves exist and can target me, I must also be artful in protecting myself. I now somehow entangled this notion as a metaphor in the calculation of what it takes to achieve justice as a lawyer.
I have this thing that I do sometimes where I become frustrated, impatient and even slightly aggressive in situations where I'm working with people to manage complex problems and navigate complex, protracted, big-picture strategies. These fluid, ethereal situations are never easy to navigate. Basically, I want to yell out: "Why can't we all just move forward with this idea which we all think is great and that we all seem to want, even though the path forward doesn't necessarily please 100% of everyone at the table, and we all understand that nothing can ever please everyone all of the time in every way...so, c'mon now - 76% consensus is still a B+! So let's do this already!!"
My colleagues inspire me on a daily basis. For this post, I’m taking my cue from one of them. Interestingly enough, this particular colleague tends to write about the people in our profession who inspire her. She chooses to amplify the strides that members of our profession make, perhaps because she recognizes that if one of us moves the profession forward, then we all have the potential to do so.
It is so easy as a lawyer to get frustrated with the many deficiencies of the Legal System. It is easy to blame yourself, and often it seems, the world blames the legal profession. It is all the more important then to celebrate whenever the system has worked.
When I was working in Big Law, partners and associates sometimes looked at in-house counsel as those who couldn’t make it on Bay Street. In-house counsel were the weaker lawyers, the ones who couldn’t compete, or the ones who could not handle the long hours. Lawyers went in-house because they wanted work life balance. In fact, articles are written about women leaving Bay Street and entering in-house practice because they just can’t put in the hours anymore.
Until about a month ago, I had been getting increasingly motivated to put my thoughts down and share them. Lately that motivation has diminished. Does writer’s block stem from an underlying identity crisis? If so, then I think this is writer’s block.
We are taught that the business of law is competitive. Even before we begin our legal careers, we have to compete. We compete to get into law school, we compete with our friends and classmates for OCI’s, we compete for that second year summer job. Why? So that we can compete with those people hired at our firms for articling and associate positions. We thrive on competition. We have to be better, stronger, and faster than the student beside us.
The other week, I was putting on a suit for work; I had a client meeting in the afternoon and I was speaking on a legal panel that evening, and I wanted to look sharp. But on this morning, I observed a new feeling that I hadn’t ever experienced: putting it on just didn’t feel right. This was a suit that I’d worn many times before; as I looked in the mirror to put on my tie, I felt that something was “off”. Like many feelings, it was hard to pin down at first. All I knew was that this was a new feeling and something wasn’t right. The feeling was of contradiction; conflict, even. After sitting with it for a while, I narrowed it down: I no longer needed to wear a suit in order to feel like, well…me.
Are lawyers suffering from an identity crisis? Is it an occupational hazard that our training has made us good at our jobs, but bad at life? In many instances, we are legally and ethically compelled to subvert our personal interests and identities in favour of our professional interests and obligations. As lawyers we are typically pessimistic, risk-averse, adversarial, argumentative, confrontational, overly opinionated, critical, over-achieving, “type-A” and blame-avoidant on our clients’ behalf. Admit nothing. Say nothing. Give nothing. Defend, defend, defend. Attack, parry, thrust. Are our personal identities slightly subverted to these interests or have they been completely eradicated?
How do we affect change in our professional environments when it comes to acknowledging and confronting emotional and mental health issues? At the OBA’s Opening Remarks Summit on this topic, Dr. Molyn Leszcz suggested that we need more than a bandaid solution. I’m inclined to agree with him.
I see music as a vehicle for a soul's expression of itself. And I think that musicians and artists innately know what it means to bare their souls. More than that, that they know how to do so without judgement.
That's why I love my music clients.
Once upon a time, I found myself visiting the studios of a major media broadcaster. As it was the first time I was there, I was meeting new people for the first time. This is how the conversation with one woman went:
Me: "Hi, I'm Andreas Kalogiannides. Nice to meet you!"
Woman: "A pleasure to meet you, Andreas. My name is Stephanie". (not her real name)
[Enter our mutual friend who introduced us]
Friend: "Andreas is a lawyer!"
Woman: "Oh wow - I had better watch out around you, then! Ha. Ha. Ha"
As she said it, her tone and demeanour changed from being comfortable, friendly and warm to somewhat stand-off-ish, cautiously guarded and even slightly reverential. In literally 2.8 seconds, the information that I work as a lawyer changed how she perceived me. Why - WHY? - would you have to "watch out" around me? Am I going to use anything you say against you in the inevitable future claim which I will rush off to file in court as soon as I leave the building?