There’s a saying you may have heard before, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” –or something to that effect. I’ve bought into this concept through most of my career, however my opinion is changing as I see professionals struggling with this notion.
Practicing the law may include reviewing contracts, deposing a witness, negotiating a settlement and countless other undertakings. Questions for you:
- Do you love reviewing contracts? How many have you done and is it getting a bit old?
- Do you relish negotiating with other lawyers? Is that fun for you or a major source of aggravation?
- Do you get super jazzed when you close a real estate deal? Or do you have ten more just like it waiting in the wings?
My friend John is a chef. He loves making delicious food and we can’t wait to eat it. He runs a kitchen in Chicago and he recently confided to me that he’s lost his passion for cooking. I asked him why and he told me that he’s preparing, cooking and serving up the same menu and meals day in and day out. He loves to cook, but because he’s doing the same mundane tasks all day every day, it has become intolerable to him. Additionally, because he’s not customer facing, he’s not feeling his talents are being appreciated. For him, it’s just a ridiculous and relentless grind.
So, let’s get back to the title of this article, “Don’t do what you love, do what you love to do for others.” My concept is simple. You might enjoy practicing the law but isn’t the real enjoyment in how it impacts your clients’ lives in a positive way? Additionally, if you don’t have your own clients (doing other lawyers’ work), can you get the full enjoyment from your career? My thought for many lawyers is that it’s a resounding NO. You might be more like my friend John, working in the back of the restaurant toiling away to get the veal parmesan out the window for the ten-thousandth time.
Practicing law may be your true calling, however the promised land might be in the acquisition of your own client base. Not only can you do the work you enjoy most, you can build a relationship with someone you are directly impacting with your talents. For me, this was my “ah-ha” moment. While I enjoy creating content, facilitating roundtables and speaking to lawyers about business development, the pure enjoyment for me is watching my clients develop into business development assassins. Being a part of their journey and working as a true partner is more gratifying than anything I’ve ever done in my lifetime (short of being a husband and father–and, oh yes, playing paddle tennis, for those who have read my earlier articles). My clients share their personal stories and struggles with me and we develop strategies to overcome these challenges together.
Are you doing that in your legal career? If so, I’m sure you are feeling fulfilled and satisfied. Your love for the law may be in those interactions and problem-solving experiences with your clients.
Try to be self-reflective and think about what gets you up every day. If it’s doing a job for a paycheck, you might want to reconsider–not leaving the profession of law, but rather your role within it. My experience personally and through my clients has been that developing your own book of business is a big part of the solution. Think about who are the happiest and most fulfilled lawyers that you know. The majority are probably focusing on business development and working with more of their own clients. They love what they do for others, not just the actions of “doing” the legal work.
If you want to take proactive steps in this direction, please listen to my podcast BE THAT LAWYER or read one of my three books for inspiration. I’m also happy to invest 30 minutes with you if you believe I might be on to something here. I’m happy to help in any way I can. You only live once and loving what you do for others may be the secret sauce to a beautiful and more fulfilling career in law.