Being a lawyer can be tougher than you might believe. Popular culture and belief associate lawyers with importance, power, and money, among other glamorous attributes. Reality is much more grounded.
As lawyers, our mental and emotional well-being are at extreme risk. We abuse alcohol and drugs far more than other people. Our suicide rate far surpasses that of most professionals. Texas even has an organization to find help for lawyers with those problems. The emotional toll our job costs is practically unavoidable.
Our legal system is cutthroat by design. Ours is an adversarial system. Our opponents, the very same people we consider our colleagues and friends, are simultaneously our enemies. They are trying to beat us in court and are expected to take advantage of any mistake we make. We are expected to do the same to them. A personal grudge is not required. Our professional responsibilities to our clients demand it.
We perform one of the most stressful jobs imaginable. We routinely deal with the most intimate, monumental, and pressure-filled events in your lives. Our performance can have lifelong consequences to you, long after we’ve moved on to other cases and clients.
You seek us out when things are going terribly for you, and sometimes far past that point. By the time you get to us, your already extreme problems may have multiplied. You may be in the worst emotional place of your life at the time we meet.
Often, we have to tell you there’s nothing we can do. That’s no fun. Even if we are capable of helping you and would like to help, making the choice to help you may sacrifice our own financial well being. That’s also no fun.
We often ride your emotional roller coasters as our own. We know how important your issues are and suffer the stress of bearing responsibility for our performance. Even when we succeed, our success was with the the risk and fear of failure. If we fail, our failure is extended to you. Maintaining a professional emotional distance is not an easy task.
We have to deal with the challenges of our personal lives at the same time, as well. Like you, we have relationship issues, life events, worries, triumphs, happiness, and the whole gamut of emotions. We may try to keep our personal business out of yours, but we are dealing with our own issues when we deal with yours.
We compete for the approval of the judges we encounter. Juries pass judgment on us while we represent our clients. We often obsess over what we should do. We want our clients to win. Even winning takes an emotional toll, despite the obvious satisfaction it provides.
Trials demand far more than all the other challenges. We are required to publicly perform in a comprehensive effort, knowing our performance is for much more than applause or adulation. Instead, our performance could mean the difference between you having a great result or a horrible result.
I love what I do for a living and don’t regret becoming a lawyer. Many lawyers feel the opposite way. A huge percentage of lawyers would not recommend others consider the profession. I encourage anyone who is interested to consider becoming a lawyer. Before committing to that path, it would be wise to think of the whole of the commitment, not simply the exciting, rewarding parts.