Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Do happy lawyers exist?

Available at Amazon.com

Available at Amazon.com
Always a good question to ask, not only about careers in general, but for the one that you are currently pursuing.

I always assumed that lawyering was a means to an end for me.  A way to make contacts and gain necessary life experience and marketable job skills for whatever it is I decide I'm passionate about (writing my memoirs in short essays; opening my own day care/nursery school; becoming a professional organizer).

In this Corporette thread discussing whether happy lawyers exist, the ladies dole out some great insight.  I especially liked how Kat mentioned that there are people who like law school and people who like practicing law. 

I'm not sure where I fall right now, because when I started law school I LOVED IT.  But I loved it relative to what I had been doing - being an English-speaking puppet for a country-bumpkin school in Korea for a year (disagreeing wholeheartedly with everyone I had to take orders from not only about education methods and materials but also with the actual substance that I was teaching).

Compared to "working," I fell back into law school and loved it.  I loved preparing for class - I loved thinking there was a right answer, I loved the class discussions and the intellectualness of it all.  THEN, I started to dislike it.  After having "worked," I realized that school is NOT such a big deal.  Missing a reading or getting something wrong in class was NOT the end of the world - I had been in worse "emergency" situations in the past year and survived.  And perhaps that's where I got too lax.

Although I appreciate the perspective that "working" gave me - that a bad answer or less than stellar grade wasn't the end of the world (there ARE other people whose bad decisions and bad consequences are much worse than "a B+! Oh, NO!!!"), I also think it let me be too forgiving of myself.  In that vein, I also lost focus of what I wanted.  Since nothing seemed to be a life or death matter for me, I stopped asking myself the hard questions: What did I want to do?  What did I like to do?  What made me feel good?  What could I see myself doing for the next 20-30 years of my life?

Even now, I don't know if there are any "happy" lawyers - for a lot of my friends it seems like this is the lot they chose and now they must make do.  And there's a sense of not being able to complain because we are considered so lucky (can't complain about your challenging lawyer job when there are so many people fighting for those positions).  Nonetheless, it seems like the job is something some of them merely "put up with" - but for what?  The money?  Perhaps, we are, presumably, responsible adults who understand how education loans work and the promise we made to pay them back. 

But what else?  Why are my friends lawyers?  So many of them spoke of "changing the world," "making a difference," "helping people who really need it," and now nearly all of them are working in BigLaw at large firms who cater to corporate clients - more often than not defending their clients from indigent or vulnerable folks who have (most likely) been taken advantage of.

I believe I may have lost my kernel of thought - but I guess, I wish I knew more to finding this answer.  I recently attended a networking event of women from my undergraduate alma mater and was not surprised to find that I was 1 of 5 JDs in the room.  I WAS disappointed to find that I was 1 of 2 currently practicing attorneys and that the other 3 had transitioned into completely non-law-related careers and the 1 practicing attorney had just moved from commercial litigation to an in-house gig and that they were ALL SO HAPPY with their choices to leave practicing BigLaw.

One last note, the guys I've met (who are lawyers) seem to be more accepting, if not satisfied, with their lives as lawyers.  On the flip side, many of the women I've met are much more unhappy and much more vocal about their unhappiness.  Unfortunately, I'm a woman - so guess what the odds are saying?

One real last note, I think it's important to consider if you're really happy in your job, but it's probably also worth considering if you NEED to be really happy in your job.  I've never been one to define myself by my career - and so my career is not where I get the "meaning" or "purpose" in my life.  As long as my career/job gives me the means to do what I want OUTSIDE of work and doesn't interfere with my life outside of work too much/unnecessarily, I think I'd find myself pretty happy.

This isn't a very focused post - but just some thoughts thrown together around a fairly loose topic...


sylvia said...

i had no idea you also wanted to open up a daycare. we should team up and do it.

go back to school and get an education degree!

Christine said...

i already have a minor in early childhood education (double major plus minor, dude).

Christine said...

also, i had no idea you liked kids. b/w your MBA and my JD and both of our BAs, (or did you BS in econ?) i think we have enough letters to make this happen.