Posted by Lisa Hamilton on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 00:00
Unless you've gone "off the grid" lately, you've no doubt read numerous articles and statistics about how Americans are spending more hours on the job. So many of us are taking shorter meal breaks, having fewer business lunches (or skipping lunch altogether) and now more accustomed to working on the weekends or while on vacation.
These trends may not be surprising for those of us who work in the legal field where, according to a recent Robert Half Legal survey, one-third of attorneys cited billable hours and longer hours as the greatest contributors to job-related stress. Given how much time we're spending at work, most of us want to enjoy our legal jobs and be positively motivated by the work we do.
But what happens if you’ve lost enthusiasm for your work; or if passion for your legal job has faded and you dread going to work each day? If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to take the time to identify why you’re in a career rut -- and then take the initiative to make your legal job more fulfilling.
Six Tips to Achieve Greater Satisfaction With Your Legal Job
Here are some tips to help regain a positive outlook so that you can learn to love your legal career again:
Analyze what’s working, what’s not and why. Think back to when you first started feeling discontented with your job. What happened that sparked your attitude shift? Once you identify the root cause of your dissatisfaction, you can begin to address the problem.
Make your needs known. Talk with your managing attorney or supervising paralegal about ways to make your role more fulfilling. Consider expanding your knowledge, skills and experience with an eye toward taking on new responsibilities. Or ask your supervisor if you could represent the organization outside the office as a recruiting liaison or through community outreach efforts. By actively seeking your legal manager's point of view, you’ll not only develop a viable plan of action but also show you’re receptive to change and improvement.
Step out of your comfort zone. A sure way to revitalize your work is to add value to your legal job. Perhaps assume a new challenge that stretches your abilities, offer to lead a high-profile project or overhaul a business process. Even if you’ve been reluctant to go out on a limb before, don’t let fear of failure hold you back. You can derive immense satisfaction and confidence by pushing yourself professionally. And by seeking new challenges, you avoid being viewed as complacent or resistant to change.
Renew your commitment to ongoing learning. Have you taken a legal continuing education class recently? Become proficient in a new technology? Attended a professional seminar? If not, pursue training or new development opportunities for personal growth to increase your value as a professional and breathe fresh life into your career.
Enhance your leadership capabilities. Many successful careers hit a plateau because they take place largely in a vacuum, rather than in creative interaction with others in the legal field. By taking on leadership roles outside your office, you can broaden your professional experience and enhance your visibility -- and that of your firm’s. Consider joining a new association that supports legal professionals; offer to present or organize a CLE program or speak at a legal industry event; or write an article for a professional publication. Taking action to become an active participant in the exchange of ideas will help to recharge your legal career.
Strike a balance. Legal professionals often lose enthusiasm for their jobs because they allow their work to become all-consuming. Take time to recharge yourself by creating a good balance between your work responsibilities and your personal needs, interests and priorities.
Even when you take the initiative to guide your legal career in a more desirable direction, there will be some aspects of your work that you can’t influence -- but you can control your personal motivation level and attitude. By taking specific steps to enhance your day-to-day job experience, you should be able to maintain your professional enthusiasm and keep your legal career moving forward.
For more on career management tips, read this recent post on "How to Jumpstart a Stalled Legal Career." Want to offer your fellow legal professionals some additional advice? Please add a comment to the section below.