unhappy lawyer

Do You Have Unhappy Lawyer Syndrome?

Unhappy Lawyer Syndrome, A Cause and Effect.


Mark Ford

Mark Ford

Unhappy Lawyer syndrome is firstly a phrase I have coined. I have not seen this referred to by anyone but I believe that many lawyers suffer from this. Briefly, my point of view is, unhappy lawyer syndrome is what many of us suffer from. We enter the law and very soon find ourselves stuck in a position where we feel trapped and can't really get out of. The worst feeling of all where we reach a stage that we are HAPPY WITH BEING UNHAPPY and whether you believe it or not it has a very definite effect on our professional and domestic outlook on life.

A controversial statement I know but unless you are one of those unique individuals who can separate your professional life from your personal life( believe me I battle) then you won't have a problem with being an unhappy lawyer. Consider this you have this huge argument at home, when you arrive at work do you work at your optimum or do you dwell on the problem? What happens to your productivity on the day after your dispute?

Unhappy lawyer syndrome, a cause.

The practice of law is not a glamorous, exciting and stimulating career, contrary to the run of the mill impression held by members of the public and television programmes we grew up watching. We spend many hours and days of our lives with our noses stuck in books looking for precedents and proofs for clients cases.

I remember being dragged off to see a movie called 'The meaning of life' by British comedian group Monty Python. In one particular scene they showed a firm in the city, it happened to be accountants, sitting at desks in a Oliver Twist like scenario with desks piled high with paperwork and 'supervisors' walking up and down with whips as in a galley beating work out of the poor unfortunates at the desks. Then the workers revolt and make the supervisors walk the plank and they become pirates who sail away in their building and perform hostile takeovers. This was I must admit a bit of a shock for me because I almost immediately drew a parallel to my career as a lawyer.

Before you dismiss my flight of fantasy let's have a closer look. During the course of our studies we are turned into pessimists. Think about this we are trained and spend the majority of our lives looking at the worst case scenario, in no other profession is 'cover your butt' worshipped, by doing this we protect both ourselves professionally and our clients. So with this in mind remember, the more pessimistic we are the more 'success' we will achieve as lawyers.

The environment we work in, particularly those of you in private practice, is extremely combative. How much time do we spend fighting for our client, refuting the opposition's argument and then to top it all we are then also fighting amongst ourselves to agree on the correct course of action to take and then as many of my colleagues in private practice put it the young gun or 'bright shiny new coin', that arrives and immediately tries to look at ousting you.

The long hours of work, because in all honesty, in private practice the 9 to 5 routine is generally a guideline. Also having a large case load is not helpful at all. Remember there are an incredible amount of deadlines to be met from filing cases, having cases ready to present in court, attending set meetings with clients and having all the information available to hand and then to have to attend the partner meetings and be able to have all the relevant information to hand on all you are dealing with.

Billing hours, I was extremely fortunate in working for the Magistrates Courts that this was not an issue for myself. However this is a totally different story to friends and colleagues who went into private practice as this really is the lifeblood of the practice, don't make money on the billable hours and bang you are in very deep water. The simple truth for anyone in private practice is no hours billed equates to no income and no business.

Perfectionism is the minimum standard required as a lawyer. The mundane most be done to the nth degree, because this is what wins or loses cases.

Unhappy lawyer? Break the vicious cycle

Unhappy lawyer syndrome, the effects.

The major cumulative effect in practicing law is boredom and stress. Both are not really good places to be in.

quittinglaw.com happy or unhappy lawyer

Food becomes less important

If you use your research skills go and look at the effect of stress on your life. An interesting point to note is that when we are stressed our bodies release adrenaline, yes the fight or flight response drug. This results in things like reduced appetite and increased heart rate which are not really good for our general health needless to say. The increased adrenaline also whilst useful when facing a wild animal as our ancestors did, does not help us here as we have no release of the drug. I mean we don't turn and run away,climb a tree or physically beat the threat up so the adrenaline takes a long time to dissipate but we are continually adding to the levels in our system. We thus reach the stage where we live rather on coffee or sometimes other substances of the not so legal variety and food takes a back seat or we are turned into the fast food junky.

The repetitive nature of our work leads to boredom. Doing the same thing day in and day out is to say the very least not at all stimulating. A lot of us do not recognise that we have become bored. The worst outcome is we start to look for something to stimulate us and that is usually detrimental to all sorts of relationships we form. How many times have we seen or heard of a lawyer who has become an addict of some sort or is a borderline addict to all sorts of nasty things and in general it is for the release and stimulation we are looking for, which we are not getting from our career.

One of the biggest effects of unhappy lawyer syndrome is our ingrained pessimism. Having the worst case scenario ingrained in us, we look at leaving the law behind but we don't believe that we are employable outside the law.I mean what do we have to offer to anyone outside of law, right? This pessimism also affects our personal lives as well and we are always considering the worst case scenario. I illustrate this, I spent a few weeks at a friends house looking after it for him. I woke up one morning with a sore back and it wouldn't go away. My pessimism rose to the fore and I seriously thought since this wasn't improving I had probably slipped a disk in my back. I eventually went to see the doctor and it was a stiff back(muscular pain) from sleeping on too soft a mattress but do you see what I mean about the worst case scenario. This pessimism is a huge handbrake in our lives because we fall into the trap of believing we are caught up in a situation that we cannot change and so we go back to the start again and repeat the same vicious circle we feel trapped in.

Perfectionism also trips us up. We believe that in any other career we cannot do our best and is what we looking at doing if we think of quitting law going to be done to perfection? Newsflash the law is one of the few professions where you need to be absolutely perfect in every detail. In general a certain amount of failure is allowed in the business sector and quite frankly a lot of people in business have failed and that failure has been the catalyst that has made them so successful in what they are doing.

Unhappy lawyers syndrome - My choices

I was HAPPY WITH BEING UNHAPPY, sitting in the corner thinking of how a life after law would be amazing and how one could just escape the law! But in all honesty I did nothing about it as I too was caught up in the unhappy lawyer syndrome and was functioning from day to day. I was lucky in that two momentous events happened in my life and believe me they were actually both negative. The government changed the licencing legislation which effectively left me as a clerk and my father lost his fight with cancer. So there I was in the year 2006 sitting in a highly dubious position.

From negatives come positives!  

I had my back to the wall so to speak. Fortunately we had received counselling when my father passed away and this was one of the tools that helped me to realise that I was stuck in this unhappy lawyer syndrome and I needed to make changes. So what was to be done?

Take a step back and evaluate yourself. This is hard believe me I can attest to this. But and here the awesome training we receive as lawyers stands us in good stead. We are ideally equipped to do in depth analysis and form well reasoned decisions from all the information we collect. The hard part is to stand back and apply that training in analysing ourselves.

It was strange setting out to do an analysis of the case,Mark Ford. The first step though is you need to make the choice to do this and then take action. Yes that first step is difficult but if you do not choose to do this then you still are exactly in the same position you chose to be in, HAPPY WITH BEING UNHAPPY! We all make choices constantly in our lives some are very simple such as what brand of coffee or tea to buy or more difficult such as to become a lawyer reinvented and make fundamental lifestyle and mindset changes.

Unhappy lawyer syndrome - Final thoughts

We as lawyers are uniquely talented and positioned to be an asset in many areas. Our fundamental training minus the negatives are incredible assets that can be applied almost anywhere, without a doubt. If you are suffering from unhappy lawyer syndrome and are unhappy in what you are doing then take the time to re evaluate where you are positioned it may be unpleasant but it is definitely worth the effort.

In most cases the really viable options are to look at the alternatives to law if the practice of law is dragging you down and you are mired in the law, because even if you change to another firm all you are doing is really moving your baggage to another destination and not really changing anything. In my personal opinion we are ideally suited to become entrepreneurs and become involved in creating our own businesses. After doing my own in depth analysis I found one of my major strengths was in helping people and so I have put that to good use by becoming a Home Business Lifestyle Coach and a mentor. Nothing in the world can be more satisfying for myself than to meet with someone and to see them reach the goals that they want in their lives and become fulfilled and happy in their lives. A mentor in my opinion is a necessity as they have been along the road you are starting out on and  they can show you the pitfalls to avoid, and yes I still have mentors in my life who I still turn to for advice and guidance because their answers are honest and unambiguous.

The change you need in your life hinges on two things MAKING A CHOICE TO CHANGE and TAKING ACTION!

Lawyers Reinvented the choice to change




Wishing you all success with your future choices.

Mark Ford

Mark Ford Home Business Lifestyle Coach

mark ford signature

Mark Ford.
CEO and Founder Nice Money Publications Limited
Home business lifestyle coaching with Mark Ford, loyally stepping up for others SO THAT they are given inner peace.
Many people live the life they think they have to live. They are overworked, underpaid, and unfulfilled. But the good news is that it doesn't have to be this way. My name is Mark Ford and my goal is to help you recognize your potential and equip you with the skills you need to turn that potential into a viable online home business in the digital economy.
We have to stop making excuses and make it happen, whatever that is for you?

>>> Read my story over at > http://markfords.com
>>> Read my latest home business blogs at > http://markfordsblog.com

Mark Ford - Do You Have Unhappy Lawyer Syndrome - Top of page



About The Author

Mark Ford

A former lawyer in the UK who quit law to build a property portfolio and then an internet business and live a new lifestyle.