If you made a list of the most demanding jobs in this country, you may not think to add lawyers to the top of the list, but the sheer weight of the profession has pushed it into the top five. Except for those in the medical industry, there are few professions that carry such a heavy performance-based impact as being a lawyer. When you do something right, it makes the client happy and you might get a recommendation which will lead to more clients in the future and move you up the partnership track. However, if you do something wrong or the other side does a better job, then your client could potentially lose thousands or even millions of dollars, custody of their kids, or could even be sent to jail. These are things that, no matter how long you have been in the industry, weigh heavily on your conscience.
In addition, being a lawyer also carries with it long and regular hours that often mean sacrificing time with friends or family. Many times this leads to divorce, alcoholism and other destructive behaviors or outcomes. For these reasons, it is important that lawyers can find a way to discover real joy in their life. Note, I used the word joy and not happiness. Most people do not realize that these two ideas of happiness and joy are actually quite different. Having one does not necessarily guarantee the other, and in fact, they can be completely independent of each other.
Happiness is a kind of emotional response that people feel based on the outcome of a certain event. So if you win a case, you may be happy, but, as soon as the next day, you may lose a motion or worse lose a client. Happiness then fades and is replaced by depression and despair.
Joy is a constant presence and is not dependent on results. Joy is a strong emotion derived from selfless sacrifice in many cases. Many parents find joy in their children, even though the sacrifice of raising a family is hard. Joy runs deep. Joy comes from understanding yourself at a core level and what you value. You may find joy from your profession or your profession may be a means to joy. I coach lawyers every day who don’t necessarily enjoy billing time or handling the most mundane parts of their practice, but they find joy outside of the office in their relationships with friends or family. Others find joy in community service or by simply reading a book. Your results (hours billed, or cases won) may bring you temporary happiness, but happiness is fleeting. Dig deep to figure out what brings you real joy and seek time to pursue it!