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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
Snoop brings the real talks.
If you have ever wondered why some people are "successful" - emotionally, spirituality, socially, at work, in friendship & love or financially (although much of long-term financial achievement is a result of achievement in these other areas) - it's because they have cultivated the emotional intelligence to see things, situations, people and, most importantly, themselves, for what & how they truly are.
I read an interesting article recently in the Globe and Mail. High profile, professional women were interviewed to provide insight into the ongoing struggle for gender parity. Adrienne Clarkson was one of the interviewees, and her advice to younger women was never to believe in other people’s expectations of you; only believe in your expectations of yourself.
I experience fear sometimes.
Sometimes I experience fear because I don’t know how opposing counsel is going to react to my blackline in a tense contract negotiation. Sometimes times I experience fear because my girl is late returning home on a stormy winter’s night. Sometimes I experience fear because of FOMO for social events (well, I used to - I have conquered this one). Other times, I experience fear because I don’t know how my randomly-selected LSUC practice management review is going to go.
It's a mixed bag, really.
Do you know those times in your life where you find yourself standing at the edge of a large cliff, peering off the edge, deciding whether or not to jump (metaphorically speaking, of course)? Your cliff may be a new opportunity or grieving through the loss of an opportunity - moving across the country for a new job, leaving a relationship that doesn’t work for you, or starting your own business.
It is scary to jump. Let me repeat that: it is scary as hell to jump. To jump into whatever is next; into something you can’t see. At its core, the decision is either to play it safe or venture into the unknown. Tough stuff.
The Ghomeshi trial is all the rage right now in the criminal world, and rightly so. The case goes to the very heart of many issues that are commonly debated when discussing sexual assault. However, the issue mainly picked up by the media in this case is, “can we prove that consent was present at the time of the alleged assault given the complainant’s behavior following the incident?” More specifically, if the complainant “goes back” to the alleged perpetrator, is his/her credibility damaged to the point where they cannot be believed about the incident in question? Whether this is the case or not, it got me thinking about my own behaviour when I was met with workplace harassment and discrimination as a female lawyer.
“The lawyer must not be crossed because she knows everything about everything. There are conceptual monograms embedded in her very core that cannot ever be decoded. Her brain can process information in ways we cannot understand. If we catch her gaze, this automatically inaugurates an analytical process causing her to discover our hidden truths. This is how she attains success – she solves the puzzle by spotting the secret to the client’s problem."
I read an article on Vox.com recently, entitled “7 Reasons you shouldn’t go to law school (unless you really, really want to be a lawyer)” by Amanda Taub. You should most definitely take a read; it’s excellent and completely on-point in describing many of our experiences in making the decision to attend law school and become a lawyer.
Why would someone who grew up with an intense fear of being confronted choose to become a lawyer? The obvious answer is that I had something to prove, but that presupposes that I was conscious of this fear and that I took active steps to engage with it. If I was conscious of the fear, it was only so that I could ‘manage’ it. When it came to that fear, the only thing I actively engaged in was finding something big enough to mask it.