Are lawyers pessimists?


Elbert Hubbard said, “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

That sounds good but I think it depends on what you do for a living.

I’ll explain.

I woke up today thinking, Why is it that engineers often make good entrepreneurs and lawyers often don’t?

Both groups are smart, analytical, and precise. We both work hard and put in our dues.

So, what’s the difference?

I’m going to take a guess and say it is that engineers focus on finding ways to make things work, while lawyers focus on finding things that can go wrong.

Engineers are optimists. Lawyers are pessimists.

Engineers believe that there is a solution and keep working until they find it. Lawyers solve one problem and expect to find more.

Engineers expect to fail many times before finding the solution. Lawyers are built differently. We avoid risk because we want to avoid failure.

Engineers succeed by making lots of mistakes. Lawyers succeed by finding lots of ways to avoid mistakes.

I’m probably wrong about this. Or am I just being pessimistic?

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Why I turned down law review


In law school, I was invited to join law review. I turned it down, much to the chagrin of my father who thought I was making a mistake.

I did it so I could concentrate on school and the Bar exam.

I worked for my father in law school and the plan was that I would continue doing so after I graduated. So I didn’t need to add law review to a resume to get a job.

I got good grades and passed the Bar the first time. I don’t what would have happened if I’d had the additional burden of law review eating into my schedule.

Writing for law review would certainly have improved my research and writing skills, which could have helped me as a practicing lawyer.

So, did I make a mistake?

To answer that, I have to be honest about another reason I said no: fear.

I remember thinking, What if I’m not good enough? What if I can’t handle the work?

Yes, I knew I had been recommended by a professor who apparently thought I could handle it, but it wasn’t his ego on the line.

Unfortunately, I’ll never know if I could have handled it, so to that extent, I regret turning it down.

Throughout my career, I’ve successfully navigated more than a few challenges. Once I opened my own office, for example, I had to figure out how to bring in clients.

I had to do it, so I did.

Which makes me wonder, What if I hadn’t had a job waiting for me out of law school and needed to add something like law review on a resume?

What are you not doing because you don’t have to?

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Feel the fear and DON’T do it


Many say that the way to overcome fear is to face it head on. Do what you fear long enough, they tell us, and you will eventually conquer that fear.

There are others who say otherwise.

One group of philosophers say that instead of making ourselves do something that makes us uncomfortable, we should heed the feeling. “Never move forward in fear,” they say.

Who’s right?

Should we brace ourselves in the face of fear and soldier on? We know this works. If you fear public speaking, for example, but force yourself to do it enough, you often overcome the fear and are better for it.

But facing your fears can also make you miserable. For every one time we think, “I’m glad I stuck with it,” there might be three times when we think, “I never want to do that again!” Isn’t there a way to accomplish the deed without the pain?

The folks who say, “Never move forward in fear,” say there is. They say we can (and should) eliminate the fear first, or at least dilute it enough so that we aren’t bothered by it, and then take action. They also say that doing it this way will allow you to do the task more easily and get better results. You can speak without trembling knees and sweat dripping down your face.

Sounds good to me. But how? How do we dissipate the fear?

Therapy? Hypnosis? A stiff drink or two?

The philosophers who recommend this path suggest that you guide how you feel about the activity by changing your thoughts about it. “Reach for a thought that feels better,” they say. Keep doing that until the fear is all but gone.

So maybe you think, “I’m not going to have a heart attack and die on stage”. Marginally better thought, yes?

Then you think, “It’s only twenty minutes. I can get through this.” Relaxing a little. Feeling a little better.

“I have something worthwhile to say.” Yes, you do. And the audience wants to hear it.

“Actually, it’s a friendly crowd.” Feeling better and better.

“Once I get past the first few words, I’ll be okay”. That’s the ticket.

And so on. Little by little, thought by thought, you think your way to feeling better and better until the fear is all but gone.

I’ve done this before and it works. It takes a little practice, but it’s not difficult.

Anyway, you don’t have to feel the fear and do it anyway, you can remove the fear and feel good about it.

Try it. Find something you know would be good for you but you’ve been putting off because of fear. Change your thoughts about it, little by little, until the fear is gone or at least completely under control. And then do it.

Your mind is powerful. It created your fears and it can be used to eliminate them.

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