The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is that there’s no shortcuts for hard work. The playing field isn’t even, but at a certain point, everyone has to work to get it. And at that point, you can start to level out the playing field by out-working your competition. So know that you can do whatever you want to do. But realizing that you’re capable is only the first step.
The second, and more difficult step, is deciding what you want to do. Most people do not know, but they pretend that they do. Law school is great because it gives you set, concrete goals – ace an exam and then enjoy a vacation. And while exams are torture. There’s a set end to them. Practice is different. The target becomes nonexistent, and when it is there, it’s usually moving. It’s up to you to set your own goals and to define your own target. It’s okay to not know exactly what that goal will be, especially while you’re in school or newly into practice. But what’s not okay is failing to take the time to figure it out. Think deeply. Reflect. Assess how you honestly respond to each assignment that you receive. Do you genuinely find the subject matter interesting? Obviously each assignment will not be interesting, because sometimes the grunt work just has to get done. But if you don’t like the subject matter, you’re in trouble. And when you find yourself in trouble, you should get out.
Which brings me to the third, and likely most difficult, step – Change. We’re all Type A and risk-adverse and afraid of failure which usually leads to being afraid of change. But too many times people wake up halfway through their careers and find themselves unhappy with their lives. Set your own course by defining the life you want to live. If there’s a type of work that you want to do, find it. If you end up realizing you don’t want to practice law, find a new career. Just never allow yourself to become complacent or stuck, because the longer you wait, the more “stuck” you’ll actually be. I’ve noticed that other industries view failing fast as a positive way to waste fewer resources but lawyers tend to cling to their jobs even if it’s not a good fit. But if you made the wrong choice (practice group, firm, city, etc.), just stop choosing it.
Because, in the end “how we spend our days is of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard