The three stages of a law career

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The way I see it there are three stages to a law career. Some lawyers go through all three stages. Some stay in one stage their entire career.

Stage one is where you love the work you’re doing or the challenge of learning and getting good at something new. Many new lawyers start out in stage one. Some skip over it right into stage two.

If you’re in stage one and you love what you do, congratulations. I wish you a long and happy career.

Stage two is where the work itself is no longer gratifying or challenging, or never was. You do the work because you have to but any joy or fulfillment you feel comes not from the work itself but from what your work allows you do.

You’re happy because your work allows you to get results for your clients, build a successful practice, or make the world a better place.

If you’re in stage two and the work no longer fulfills you, you might take on a new practice area or target a new type of client or market. You might look into teaching CLE classes or writing a book. You might find a charity or cause you care about and through it find new challenges and new ways to use your skills and training.

Stage three is where you don’t enjoy the work and the joy you feel from helping people or from personal success isn’t enough to make up for that, “Is that all there is” feeling that weighs on you.

If you’re in stage three and it’s just not working for you anymore (or it never did), you should probably do something else.

That doesn’t mean you have to leave the law. At least not right away. You can hire people and let them run the day-to-day of your practice while you explore and go find your plan b.

Of course, you may not fit squarely into any one of these stages. You may love some parts of your work and detest others. You may have good days, bad days, and days you feel like running away.

Those darn gray areas. They make your life complicated, don’t they? Hey, nobody said being a lawyer was easy.

You really can earn more and work less

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