I specialize in working with lawyers. I worked at law firms as a lawyer prior to my career as a psychologist, I am familiar with the demands and dynamics of law firm environments, and many of my current and former clients have been law firm lawyers.
Described below are some of the potential benefits of therapy for lawyers.
Some lawyers at firms find their place, their people, and their “rabbi.” These lawyers tend to get mentored, and the support they enjoy can help offset the rigors of law firm life. Mentored lawyers tend to feel more valued, protected, connected and hopeful about their future at the firm. The absence of such connection and mentoring in contrast can render law firm life isolating and difficult to tolerate.
In therapy, I have helped lawyers who experience such isolation gain insight into the personal and interpersonal dynamics contributing to their isolation. With such insight, lawyers can then work on developing the skills to minimize this experience at work as well as in other parts of life.
Anxiety is part of law firm life for many lawyers. Law firm work is exacting, and the consequences of getting something wrong can be considerable for the client and for the lawyer’s reputation.
Though anxiety is an uncomfortable experience, it is also an emotion and is not inherently problematic (unlike depression, for example). Anxiety can actually be helpful as it can increase motivation and provide important information about one’s self and one’s environment. For example, think back to your first law school exam. Wouldn’t it actually be odd not to feel anxious before such an exam?
Some lawyers however experience anxiety more acutely and more frequently than others. Extremely high levels of anxiety or near constant anxiety can impair functioning and may reflect an anxiety disorder, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
In therapy, lawyers can develop skills to manage their day to day anxiety more effectively. In addition, therapy can help lawyers decode the information that normal, day to day anxiety is transmitting. If a lawyer is having near constant anxiety, therapy also offers effective treatments for such conditions.
Some lawyers find meaning in their work at law firms: The meaning that comes from developing mastery in an area of the law; from the recognition by others of such mastery; from the enjoyment of argumentation and winning cases; from belonging to a law firm known to be superlative; from earning a high income; from testing one’s own limits for performance under pressure; among other possible meanings. For those lawyers however who experience less of such meaning, law firm work may leave them feeling without direction and doubtful.
Therapy can help lawyers clarify the reasons why law firm work may engender such doubts and uncertainty. These reasons vary from lawyer to lawyer and can relate to a number of professional, organizational, and personal factors. Clarifying these reasons can serve as a basis for transitioning to a more meaningful professional experience.
Addressing Work Life Balance
Law firms can take up much of a lawyer’s day-to-day energies and time. The pressures, demands, and interpersonal dynamics of law firms can challenge lawyers’ ability to maintain their perspective and to keep in mind their personal values and what is in their interest.
Therapy can help lawyers reconnect with some of those values and interests. In so doing, lawyers can create the space to reassess the extent of their commitment to their work, and such reassessment can in turn help lawyers make more deliberate choices about their priorities in their careers and in their personal lives.
Developing Insight into Misperceptions
Some lawyers appear as if they were made for law firm life and seem energized by a law firm environment. For others, one or more aspects of that life can however feel unrelentingly effortful. Some of these experiences may be aggravated by perceptions of the firm, of other lawyers, and of themselves that are not entirely accurate. These misperceptions can affect lawyers’ productivity, performance, and judgments.
Therapy can help lawyers identify and address these misperceptions. Doing so can in turn help improve productivity, performance, and judgment. In therapy, lawyers sometimes also discover that their current work environment is not a good fit but that another legal environment might be.