Being a Lawyer Can Be Fun

Let's be real. Lawyering is not an easy job. Between the billable hours pressure, cantankerous opposing counsel, demanding law firm partners and nitpicky local court rules, being a lawyer can sometimes make you want to crawl under a rock. But it doesn't have to be that way. Indeed, practicing law can actually be rewarding and fun. Here are a few tips for making your job more enjoyable.

1. Do the Best You Can

No doubt about it, when you're a lawyer, the pressure is on. But don't be so hard on yourself. Make a conscious effort to recognize your efforts. On your morning commute to the office, for example, vow to just do the best you can that day. Set small, realizable goals. Tell yourself, "Today, I'm not going to freak out if I can't immediately find a case on point. Instead, I'm going to try three new research tools I've never used before and see if that helps." And on the way home at the end of the day, remind yourself of the good things you did, whether it was winning a motion or something as simple as being kind to your secretary during a stressful filing.

If you do screw something up -- and even the best lawyers do -- don't beat yourself up. Just clean up your mess and move on to the next project.

2. Have a Life Outside the Office

Being an attorney can be all-consuming. At times, it may seem like your life revolves around the office and that everyone you meet is somehow related to the legal profession. So having a life outside the law is an important way to stay balanced.

Get to work on that novel, for example. Take a pottery class, an acting class or brush up on your Spanish at the local city college. Train for a mini-triathlon or dust off your old ballet slippers. Have something in your life that excites and energizes you. It'll rub off in other areas of your life, like work.

One side benefit of these extracurricular activities: not only are they huge stress relievers, but you could actually wind up doing some business development too. You'll meet all kinds of people, including some potential clients.

3. Form Relationships

Get to know your co-workers. Read the attorney biographies on your firm's website and call up someone you don't know -- but who seems nice and interesting -- for a lunch date.

Importantly, get to know some non-lawyers at your office too. Eat in the lunch room or attend the monthly birthday celebration for secretaries. You might find a running partner or a fellow artist. The idea is to make your workplace about more than just work. You'll find that getting up in the morning will be easier.

4. Pepper Your Day With Fun Rituals

Give yourself periodic, fun breaks from the always-full e-mail in-box and the stack of documents you need to read. Keep a mini radio in your office and listen to your favorite salsa program while doing non-intense work, for example. Or invite some co-workers to a daily 10:30 a.m. latte break. Or make Tuesday your burrito day. Start a 15-minute afternoon contest for who can hurl and stick the most pencils in the ceiling.

Being a lawyer is serious business, of course, but there's nothing in the ethical rules prohibiting occasional frivolity.

5. Do Some Pro Bono Work

Do you sometimes feel like you're just pushing paper? Or simply transferring wealth from one entity to another? If so, try putting your legal skills to work in a new way. Tell your firm or local public interest organization that you want to donate some time to people who need legal assistance in a real nuts-and-bolts way.

You can use pro bono work as a way to stretch your legal skills too, especially if you pick up a small case in a new practice area. For example, if you're a litigator, take on a case in which you'll learn a little about real estate law. Or practice your Spanish on an immigration matter.

The bottom line? Don't wallow in case citations and deal points. There are ways to liven up the legal profession, and when you do, you'll be a better lawyer for it in the long run.

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