The American Lawyer magazine recently released its annual survey of third through fifth-year associates at BigLaw firms. When I looked at the findings of the survey, the responses to one particular question really jumped out at me. These mid-level associates were asked: “What do you expect to be doing in five years?” Almost one-third of the attorneys answered, simply:
“I don’t know.”
Life is full of too many uncertainties and variables to know for sure where we will find ourselves in five years (or five months, or five weeks), so in one sense, “I don’t know” is a technically accurate response to such a question.
But not knowing what you expect is very different than not knowing what you want.
What happens in the future may not be entirely within your control, but if you haven’t figured out what you want out of your legal career, your relationships, your life – if you haven’t identified your destination and charted a course on how to get there – you are essentially choosing to be the passenger and not the driver on your life’s journey.
Over the years that I’ve been working with attorneys on their career and life strategies, I’ve found that those mid-level lawyers who are struggling with their career direction and how they see the law fitting in with their lives fall into two broad categories:
Many lawyers start their career journey in the passenger seat – having gone to law school for reasons of inertia and indecision more so than a passion for the law or a desire to seek justice. You may be one of those lawyers or you likely know someone like that. It may take a year, it may take five or ten, but after a while those lawyers realize that they’ve been taken for a ride. Having not given sufficient thought to why they are billing countless hours and sacrificing time away from friends and family, or what they want out of the practice of law, they hit a wall. With no thought, plans, or goals, the road ahead can look hazy and often frightening.
The Lost Drivers.
I feel fairly confident in saying that there will be days in most of our careers, if not weeks and months, where we feel adrift and disconnected from the positive and idealistic aspects of being a lawyer. You perhaps became a lawyer with visions of being the David fighting the Goliath, fighting for justice and positive change. Instead, you find yourself handling abstract or uninspiring matters, buried in minutiae and petty conflicts, dealing with timesheets and office politics, and wallowing in a general disenchantment. This is not the destination you had in mind when you set off on your legal journey. You can’t turn back, but how do you move forward if the road you’re on leads nowhere?
The good news for both the passengers and the lost drivers is that they have a great opportunity to reclaim their futures and chart a new course. All it takes is some reflection and planning. It takes identifying your desires and goals and then mapping out a route on how to get there.
In our upcoming free 20-minute teleclass on “How to Map out Your 2016 “Best Year Yet” Game Plan: Practical Planning Tips for Lawyers”, we’ll be helping you figure out your plan so that you can go further faster in 2016. So if you are interested in learning the the one “game changing” tactic to successfully achieving your goals, which most lawyers don’t realize (which will surprise you!), and receiving immediately applicable results-oriented tips and strategies to map out your best year yet, join us on Thursday, December 10 at 12pm Eastern! To learn more and register, click HERE.
(IMPORTANT: even if you cannot attend live, be sure to sign up so that we can send you an audio recording later.)
You may not know where you expect to be in five years, but you can definitely know where you want to go and how to get there.
To your incredible success,