Apothic

Does anyone feel like they're not doing good enough?

32 posts in this topic

I apologize if this is the wrong place to post this. 

Currently articling. I've discussed this with friends/family outside of law school, current articling friends and lawyers. I still feel stuck. 

At times, I feel as though I'm not doing as well as I could be doing. I'm not talking about the amount of work I'm doing, how man hours I'm putting in, how dumb I feel 98% of the time. This is more like... am I doing what I'm "meant" to do? Am I doing what I genuinely enjoy doing (within the legal field). Ie. I do a lot of contract drafting, credit agreements, some security files, tax law... but I feel as though this isn't what I intended to do with my career, nor does it fit my personality. I'm passionate about environmental issues, health issues, social justice issues. I could care less about this crap. I try to pretend like I care, and there are some days where I think "hey, this is cool" or "look, I'm contributing". At times, I regret not seeking out a summer job or article with a firm that perhaps practices Aboriginal law, environmental law, health law, employment law, family law... anything, but this. 

Sorry, this has turned into some sort of rant instead of a constructive post. I don't even have the words anymore. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm going to hazard a guess that a lot of people feel the same way (myself included). But hey, you learn what you like and don't like. It's 10 months to gain some experience then you can go do what you really want to do. As many people have told me: "Nobody likes their first job."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are a lot of ways to make an impact on environmental, health, and social justice issues using the skills you are developing in commercial law. To me, it sounds like your concern is with your clientele and not so much with the work itself. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
48 minutes ago, Ophelia said:

I'm going to hazard a guess that a lot of people feel the same way (myself included). But hey, you learn what you like and don't like. It's 10 months to gain some experience then you can go do what you really want to do. As many people have told me: "Nobody likes their first job."

I don't doubt that at all. However, I don't understand how to stop myself from feeling absolutely defeated at the end of every work week. I feel like I've accomplished nothing. I lose to motivation to take on more projects because of this. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
44 minutes ago, sonandera said:

There are a lot of ways to make an impact on environmental, health, and social justice issues using the skills you are developing in commercial law. To me, it sounds like your concern is with your clientele and not so much with the work itself. 


You're right. My client is basically a big financial player. I mean, I get that these skills will be useful for what I want to do in the future. Once in a while I get excited because I get to draft a report on the Baker and Redwater cases, or get to write a memo on medical marijuana, or but these just end up being reports that are sent out into the organization, or are kept in the memo bank for lawyers and that's it. I'm not contributing anything to those related causes. 

I think I have to learn to be patient. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, Apothic said:


You're right. My client is basically a big financial player. I mean, I get that these skills will be useful for what I want to do in the future. Once in a while I get excited because I get to draft a report on the Baker and Redwater cases, or get to write a memo on medical marijuana, or but these just end up being reports that are sent out into the organization, or are kept in the memo bank for lawyers and that's it. I'm not contributing anything to those related causes. 

I think I have to learn to be patient. 

I won't disclose my client in a public forum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Luckycharm said:

I won't disclose my client in a public forum.

I won't either. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is it that you'd rather litigate than be in the office? Is it the nature of the actual tasks you do that bother you, rather than the area of law? Because environmental, health, family etc also have a lot of drafting and the like.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Redwater case is an environmental case isn't it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can "answer" Apothic's question:

1: Are you the kind of person who's generally happy and satisfied doing things that you find fulfilling? What I mean is, If you can identify some goal or purpose, can you feel calm and stable in your broader life whilst working toward that goal? If that's the case, find a new practice-area. That might bring you fulfillment. Some well-adjusted people need only to find their "calling" in order to escape a basic rut. You might just be bored. If you're in this category, consider yourself very lucky. Find a different firm and move on. But not to Family Law.

2: Are you the kind of person who lives in your head; is constantly fixated on the meaninglessness of every task, filing, victory? Does the idiocy of everyone and everything hit you and sit on your shoulders both in and out of the office? Are you always angry--and getting angrier? If so, it's a mental health problem. In that case, I'd suggest Criminal Law (my practice-area).

 

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To sort of piggyback...am I the only one who feels like a total moron most of the time/like I have no idea what I am doing? Is this normal? 

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think feeling like a moron is pretty normal. I felt incompetent through articling and beyond. Learning how to lawyer involves a fairly steep learning curve.

3 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Couple of the lawyers at my firm told me yesterday that it took them about 5 years for that feeling of being an idiot/imposter to fully go away.

4 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, Apothic said:

...

I'm not talking about...how dumb I feel 98% of the time. This is more like... am I doing what I'm "meant" to do? Am I doing what I genuinely enjoy doing (within the legal field). Ie. I do a lot of contract drafting, credit agreements, some security files, tax law... but I feel as though this isn't what I intended to do with my career, nor does it fit my personality. I'm passionate about environmental issues, health issues, social justice issues. I could care less about this crap. I try to pretend like I care, and there are some days where I think "hey, this is cool" or "look, I'm contributing". At times, I regret not seeking out a summer job or article with a firm that perhaps practices Aboriginal law, environmental law, health law, employment law, family law... anything, but this.

...

[portion only quoted, emphasis added]

Okay, sounds like you're not looking for getting over the feeling dumb sometimes aspects, but more purpose and meaning. Which is kind of hard to deal with in pseudonymous forum posts!

But that said, I'll post anyway (caveat, I only practice law PT now, work full-time non-legal work). And I'm going to play devil's advocate (cue Simpsons reference...but seriously, yes). If you're not passionate about your clients and the issues you deal with, that might arguably be a plus - you can do a good job, learn the field, find intellectual interest in problem solving, whatever. Not saying you will or do with what you do, I'm just saying try to figure out, is working in a field you care a lot about really such a good idea? I used to do IP and now do litigation generally PT, so have a great deal of choice in what I do (since a sideline), but even though I like it, I still have situations where doing the ethical thing and acting properly may still leave me feeling sorry for the other side (e.g., to give an altered simplified example so it's more of a hypo, if acting against a self-rep who I know is going to get dinged severely on costs because they didn't realize that the settlement offer my client made was generous, I'm pleased with the result as is my client, but I still feel sorry that the person didn't have a competent advisor to give them a reality check, and that the pre-trial judge wasn't able to do so for them either).

An ethical lawyer is not just a mouthpiece for their client and too many lawyers forget that. However, an ethical lawyer may still have to pursue, in their client's interests, things that on a personal level they profoundly disagree with. Maybe in family law arguing for custody when you think the other parent should have sole custody. Defending a polluter. Employment law, on the worker side pursuing a wrongful dismissal claim when you think they person was a bad employee despite having a non-frivolous legal argument, or contrariwise defending an employer's termination of an employee you think was treated unfairly. Whatever. Even if you eventually get into a position where you have more control over client intake (even a sole practitioner has to face economic reality and perhaps accept some clients who on a personal level they'd rather not) you'll still have some clients and causes you have problems with on a personal level. Even if you work for a public interest advocacy group, they may sometimes take positions with which you disagree strongly (e.g. to pick TWU law school, some civil liberties organizations fell on either side of the issue, you might be working for one and have to promote an argument you disagree with; a recent US example, ACLU is suing over Washington D.C. removing transit advertisements for Milo Y and others [including ACLU itself], which one ACLU lawyer complained about, which raises other concerns...I'm very pro-free speech so my sympathies are not with the lawyer).

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

why don't you do what you like to do in the first place, rather than contract, corporate law, which cause you feel conflicted and powerless

Why don't you go to do aboriginal law or environmental law if that's something shows you keen interest. You don't need to do what you are doing to be considered as actually working., It's ok to listen your inner self and do what you like. You will feel more productive , fulfilling and enjoyable to a certain degree.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2017-08-12 at 3:37 PM, epeeist said:

[portion only quoted, emphasis added]

Okay, sounds like you're not looking for getting over the feeling dumb sometimes aspects, but more purpose and meaning. Which is kind of hard to deal with in pseudonymous forum posts!

If you're not passionate about your clients and the issues you deal with, that might arguably be a plus - you can do a good job, learn the field, find intellectual interest in problem solving, whatever. Not saying you will or do with what you do, I'm just saying try to figure out, is working in a field you care a lot about really such a good idea?

An ethical lawyer is not just a mouthpiece for their client and too many lawyers forget that. However, an ethical lawyer may still have to pursue, in their client's interests, things that on a personal level they profoundly disagree with.

 

You're right that it's not so much about feeling dumb. I've accepted the fact that I'm learning and from all the lawyers I've talked to - the feeling takes some time to go away.

Thank you for this. The point you made about not being passionate about my clients/issues could be a plus. I tend to get incredibly emotional and attached to the causes I'm passionate about. Perhaps, I can focus on volunteering for these causes in my spare time rather than focusing my work on it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2017-08-12 at 5:15 PM, akulamasusu said:

why don't you do what you like to do in the first place, rather than contract, corporate law, which cause you feel conflicted and powerless

Why don't you go to do aboriginal law or environmental law if that's something shows you keen interest. You don't need to do what you are doing to be considered as actually working., It's ok to listen your inner self and do what you like. You will feel more productive , fulfilling and enjoyable to a certain degree.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's that easy. I cannot quit my current job, as an articling student (well I could, but there are actual aspects that I enjoy and love about it). Also, as much as I like to think "the grass is greener on the other side", I very much know that it isn't always.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, Apothic said:

You're right that it's not so much about feeling dumb. I've accepted the fact that I'm learning and from all the lawyers I've talked to - the feeling takes some time to go away.

Thank you for this. The point you made about not being passionate about my clients/issues could be a plus. I tend to get incredibly emotional and attached to the causes I'm passionate about. Perhaps, I can focus on volunteering for these causes in my spare time rather than focusing my work on it.

Volunteering could be a good option. I always take issue with the proposition that you need to "love what you do." While you absolutely shouldn't resent your job, it's ok to like certain aspects while disliking others. If you can do your job well, draw satisfaction from parts of it, and round out enjoyment from hobbies/causes/other interests, that's a pretty good position to be in. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Since you've narrowed your concerns down to the very basic "feeling like there's a point in the job that you're doing" I'll just address that essential idea. And unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

Don't hold your breath and wait for the moment in time when you are suddenly fulfilled in a job where you help large corporations to make more money and to keep the money they already have. You may be working on environmental issues, but ultimately you'll be drafting memos aimed at helping corporations to circumvent environmental law, or to do the absolute minimum required under environmental law. Some people can enjoy fulfilling careers doing just that. I'm not here to call those people wrong or stupid. But if you aren't finding that fulfilling now, you won't find it fulfilling in the future. And a more senior role won't make a difference either.

So, what's left? Take control of your life, make hard choices, make sacrifices. You're right that you're locked into articles right now. That's fine. It's less than a year of your life and you can get through it, I'm sure, if there's light at the end of the tunnel. But where does that light come from? It comes from you, making the hard and sincere promise to yourself that you won't stay in this firm, or seek similar employment. You need to promise yourself, and mean it, that you'll actually go out and do the sort of work you want to do - even if it pays less, even if your friends and family consider it less prestigious, even if there isn't a job waiting for you, right away. You have to make yourself choose the harder path.

I don't know if your posts here, so far, adequately reflect your thinking. But you've thrown a lot of different ideas at the wall, in short order. You've mentioned environmental law, health law, Aboriginal law, social justice, family law ... that's a lot of different ideas. So correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you really just saying that you want to help poor and oppressed people be less poor and less oppressed? And that's what you thought you'd be doing when you became a lawyer? Except now, you went to work for a law firm representing large corporations instead, and you wonder why you aren't happy. Well, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see why.

Here's the thing. Every path comes with compromises. Every choice precludes other choices. With reasonable luck, talent, and diligence, you can have what you want - at least the important things. But you need to know what you want in order to make that happen. You need to keep your eyes fixed firmly on the goal. Otherwise you veer off chasing whatever other shiny thing crosses your path. And what's your goal? Can you even clearly articulate it? How are you supposed to keep your eyes firmly fixed on something if you don't even know what it is in the first place?

You ended up doing OCIs and chasing the big job with the big money that impresses people and that most of your peers (apparently) want because you had no better answer than that ready. And I don't mean to flog you to death with the obvious here, but you do realize that you don't get paid big money by big law firms in order to present the poor and oppressed, right? There are jobs out there where you help real, individual people with their real, compelling problems. But working for the little guy comes with sacrifices in other ways. And you were totally ambushed by that reality. You need a better answer. And you need it now.

Every path comes with compromises. If you don't choose your compromises in some deliberate, clear-eyed way, you'll end up with compromises anyway, but unless you are extremely lucky and just happen to fall into a life that suits you, those compromises will be in areas that you would never have chosen for yourself and you'll be unhappy. It's not easy, at all, to make compromises more deliberately and intelligently. It's not easy to give up on things like money - especially when most of the world seems to keep score in those terms. But it is simple in the sense that the solution is easy to describe. So make better choices and more deliberate compromises. And good luck.

Edited by Diplock
6 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know if this will help, but as you keep on keeping on you get an inherent automatic clout. 

Whatever you are doing once you are a ten year call you get a certain status that you can use. You can call people up and when they look you up they see a career behind you and they call you right back with a ready ear. It's actually not that important what you do day to day (although that helps).

Sometimes the difference you make is through the cracks and corners of your life. The little influence you exert. Calling your secretary's kid's landlord to remind him he can't legally deny housing to a gay person. Emailing a colleague because your mom's neighbour is getting hosed over a shitty slip 'n fall and a letter will clear it all up. Comforting an old buddy who was pulled over for a DUI and has no idea what will happen next. These networks that twentysomethings sneer at are the coin and paper of your thirties and the privilege of your forties. Going out and doing good is not necessarily a job description: it's a way of living your life.

I dunno. Might help. Might not. 

9 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.