unhappy lawyer

Unhappy Lawyer Turned Happy Former Lawyer

Break The Unhappy Lawyer ‘Syndrome”


Mark Ford

Mark Ford

I very definitely was an unhappy lawyer, although it took me a number of years to realise this (25 to be exact). I left school with my 'O' levels as I could not see how calculus and related subjects were going to fit into any career that I had in mind, my parents had also divorced and I found myself in the position that I needed to start working as well. In my view and one I still hold, we get our best experience by doing specific tasks for the job we want to pursue, no matter what we choose to pursue.

I started my legal career working in the legal offices in the Magistrates courts. You could say I 'fell into the job', but I believe there were  few other 'unconscious' influences. I had spent many hours with my father debating the legal system and the innate cry of most people wanting to see justice, fairness and 'seeing the under dog succeed.' Witness the large numbers of protests occurring worldwide by people who view many decisions being made as unjust or unfair. I was fortunate in that I was allowed to study for my 'A' levels and my law degree whilst still employed by the Magistrates courts.

However this was a double edged sword as I had to work full time(fortunately a 9 to 5 job) and study part time. However this gave me an incling as to what you lawyers in private practice are exposed to in terms of hours worked. Whilst I was studying I met my wife and got married and started a family. I always justified to myself that the time I was spending away from them was to better our situation and was blissfully unaware of the incredible strain that was created on my family in that they hardly ever saw me. I was either at work or at class or if not doing that studying or completing assignments and so on, so in reality I was an absentee husband and father but it was all for our betterment as a family not so? DEFINITELY NOT SO! Shortly before writing my final examinations the dreaded "I want a divorce" occurred. I was shattered and failed my exams as it took a lot out of me. However I then applied myself and passed my exams the next turn around.

The feasibility of pursuing an alternative to law did not enter my head. Here I was a newly qualified solicitor who already had a guaranteed position and I did not have to now go out and compete for a job as many of my colleagues who had qualified with me had to. That was the one great advantage I had in that I was already established in a legal career and the only way forward was up. Yes these challenges occur in our lives and during our time studying law we soon realise there is really no glamour in the law. In a number of cases we suddenly realise this is not really for us, but with the large number of hours we have spent in striving to attain our degree and also the substantial financial investment that has been made we are now leaving university as unhappy lawyers before we have even started to practice law.

quitting law do you feel you are carrying the ball all alone

Do you feel you are left to carry the ball all alone

From the outset in the study and practice of law, pessimism is our strongest suit and if you think about it the more pessimistic you are the more successful you are in law. However this is one of the biggest downfalls as we feel trapped in where we are, caught on a treadmill running like crazy and going nowhere. Many of my colleagues who went into private practice complained about the long hours of work from the outset and how stressed their families were and to be frank this adds to the stress on yourself as a practicing lawyer, doing your articles also isolates you as you are generally confined to a back room and your interaction with people in general is minimal to say the least and the research you need to do is boring and you still need to be absolutely methodical in what you are doing, because heaven help you if you make a mistake and a case is lost because of it. One of the most stifling aspects of the law I found was not being able to make simple decisions in many matters particularly at junior level and this builds an incredible frustration as the 'yes sir no sir' automaton is extremely difficult to follow since you are implementing someone else's viewpoint. Have you ever noticed how we put up with this as our thinking is always we need to get through this and it will be better when we advance through the ranks? This adds a lot of fuel to the fire and suddenly you are well onto the road of becoming an unhappy lawyer. As the years have passed the law has become a win and lose game. The general question asked by a member of the public in difficulty is "I need a good lawyer" and by good let's be frank they mean someone who is going to win for them. So we are more and more thrown into situations of great conflict and if we lose then we are no good. To succeed we need to win every time we represent a client, try to live up to this expectation everyday. This adversarial situation then gives rise to feelings of me against them even in the practice you are involved in and you feel that you alone are carrying the ball.


Unhappy lawyer syndrome.

Please be aware, as far as I know, this is not an actual term or medical phrase but it is my personal view. Many of the lawyers I know, myself included, are unhappy lawyers stuck on the treadmill of the law but here's the rub WE ARE HAPPY WITH BEING UNHAPPY and remain stuck where we are. This also happens to large degree due to our ingrained and established pessimism. I mean we are qualified professionals what else can we do?

We also expect perfection in all we do and there is no room for failure as lawyers so whatever can we do? Every job or idea is not worth pursuing as we might fail at what we are doing or that new career is not the perfect one. So once again we fall back into the unhappy lawyer syndrome and stay involved in the same vicious circle. But the law is really the only profession where such high levels of perfection are expected. Take a look at Steve Jobs, a man who dropped out of university, then formed APPLE, was fired by his board and then went on to form two highly successful companies namely NEXT and PIXAR and then was brought back to APPLE, when they were almost bankrupt and formed them into one of the most formidable organisations in the world. From a lawyers point of view he failed and should have been side lined, but his so called failures led to his biggest success.

Unhappy lawyer - What did i do

For a while I too was happy with being an Unhappy lawyer. My career had stalled and I was stuck in a backwater and quite frankly was a qualified solicitor who was not practicing law anymore. My Father passed away in 2006 and I was granted a leave of absence and that time although traumatic also gave me time to reflect on my position with a lot more clarity. Remember we also have many advantages in our training as lawyers and I put this to good use and clearly assessed my position.

My choice was to leave law behind as my particular chosen field of the law(licencing law) had been devolved away to Local Authority level and the laws had been changed drastically. So after much soul searching and research and changing personal circumstances I decided that working from home would be my preferred course of action.

Some of my reasons were:

  • The freedom to make decisions in my best interests(be my own boss).
  • Work at the times when I am at my optimum.(I work the best in the late morning to early evening)
  • Free myself from geographical boundaries.
  • Put the hard work in to my advantage and not for someone else.
  • Create a lifestyle to suit my requirements and ultimately achieve my dreams and desires.

Having then struck out on my own at the age of 46 and 10 years later, after some stops and false starts, I can say with the greatest confidence that my life after law has been successful. I have had the privilege to indulge my passion for cricket and have been to Australia and South Africa following the English cricket team, I can proudly say I am a member of the barmy army. I also now own a house in both the United Kingdom and Cypress.

Unhappy lawyer - Closing thoughts

Being happy with being unhappy is a bit like beating your head on a brick wall. It is only nice when you stop. We as people are equipped with many talents and yes a lot of the time we are not even aware of them. As someone who has studied a law degree, I firmly believe and know that apart from some very obvious negatives of law, you are uniquely equipped with a skill set that you can use to your advantage.

The time is at hand for you to put these skills to your advantage. However it starts with your decision to stop being an unhappy lawyer. "What are my talents? or what can I do?" You may well ask. My question to you, "Why did you decide to choose the particular area of law you are in?" You obviously had a particular talent and set of skills you could apply to that area. So the logical extension of this is to apply the same thought process to what you can do with yourself if you were not a lawyer. My particular skill is in helping people and being a mentor.

Book a free 30 minute SKYPE call with me and let's have a chat.

Looking forward to helping you change your unhappy lawyer status.

Mark Ford

Mark Ford - Home Business Lifestyle Coach

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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
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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.