We’re doing things a little differently on today’s episode. It’s my first solo episode since all the way back in episode 001, when I shared a little bit about my own journey out of the law.
With everything that’s happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to share a few thoughts that I hope are helpful for those of you who aren’t happy in your job right now.
In the episode, I share four things that I think unhappy lawyers need to know right now.
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Here’s a transcript of today’s episode!
Hey everyone! This week I’m doing things a little differently here on the podcast–it’s my first solo episode since episode 001, where I shared a bit about my own story of leaving the law.
I wanted to record this episode because I’m hearing from a lot of you about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you.
There are firms cutting salaries, there are layoffs and rumors of layoffs, firms are getting extra intense about entering billable time (I know many firms are requiring people to close their time every day), some lawyers who are parents are getting straight up nonsense emails from HR about how to handle their work and childcare responsibilities, etc. etc. etc.
And that’s on top of dealing with the unfolding trauma that we’re all dealing with on so many different levels as we weather this pandemic. Everyone seems to be feeling some combination of exhausted, uncertain, and anxious.
If you’re a lawyer who doesn’t like your job, there’s a good chance you were already feeling exhausted, uncertain, and anxious even before this crisis started. Add the pandemic, and it’s a recipe for a really difficult time. While I can’t make it any easier, I wanted to share a few things that I hope will help you feel less alone and more understood.
#1: It is okay to still not like your job.
Even if you’re grateful that you still have one while many others have lost theirs.
Even if you’re able to work from home when many other people can’t.
Even if you feel like you “should” like it, especially now.
Even if you feel a type of “survivor’s guilt” if you keep your job when others in your firm or company or industry are let go because of the economic upheaval.
That’s something that I struggled with a lot during my first year out of law school. I graduated in 2008 (right as the financial downturn was starting), and there were two round of layoffs at my firm within my first year. Meanwhile, I was on this awful case that I truly hated and was making me miserable. But it gave me lots of hours, so I escaped the layoffs. It was a weird and terrible feeling.
Which leads me into my second point…
#2: You can hold things in tension. It can be both/and, not either/or.
Not liking your job doesn’t mean that you can’t be grateful for your job. Not liking your job doesn’t mean that you don’t understand the ways in which you may have it better than other people right now. Not liking your job doesn’t mean that you don’t understand that there are positives to being employed in your current job right now.
You can feel the way you feel about your job, while at the same time recognizing the ways in which you are fortunate. I’m going to be the first to tell you that I am NOT GOOD AT THIS. I often find myself minimizing my own thoughts or feelings because there are so many who have it worse, or are more at risk. But not acknowledging your feelings doesn’t help you, and the fact that your challenge isn’t the absolute worst challenge out there doesn’t mean that it’s not challenging. It’s not a competition.
It’s counterintuitive for many of us, but one of the many things that I have learned in therapy is that the kinder that you are to yourself, the kinder you can be to other people. As you increase your compassion for yourself, you also increase your ability to show compassion to other people.
#3: Having time is not the same thing as having capacity.
I’m not the first person to make this observation, but this has been really helpful for me, especially as someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder. There’s a lot of noise out there about being productive and making the most of the time during self-isolation, and if that’s something that helps you, great. But if you’re just doing what needs to be done (and sometimes not even that, because there aren’t enough hours in the day)—that’s okay. The pressure and stress of this time may be decreasing your capacity because you are a human—and that’s okay. Especially if you don’t love your job even in the best of times. You’re already carrying a heavy mental and emotional load, and have just added another. And related…
4: There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re struggling to feel or act like it’s business as usual.
Nothing about our current situation is normal, so if you’re struggling with the cognitive dissonance of trying to deliver at your job like normal while everything around you is different—that just means you are a human being. Especially if you already don’t enjoy your job, the added stress of this current moment is going to feel really heavy. I think lawyers can often struggle and feel like being “normal” is a failure—we’re supposed to be exceptional, we’re high-achievers! We sometimes wrongly equate normalcy with mediocrity. But you aren’t a failure for being normal and human.
I’m sure you’ve seen this posted many places, but it’s true—if you’re working from home right now, you’re not working from home, you are home trying to work during a global pandemic.
So those are just a few things that I think unhappy lawyers need to keep in mind right now. Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can.
I’d love to hear from you if this was helpful for you, or if there are other things you think unhappy lawyers should keep in mind right now. DM me on Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want some help figuring out where to start with exploring leaving your job, grab my free guide, First Steps to Leaving the Law, at formerlawyer.com/guide. Take care and be well, everyone.