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Overcoming Career Change Inertia Lawyers Assistance Program Facilitated by Robert Bircher.

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Presentation on theme: "Overcoming Career Change Inertia Lawyers Assistance Program Facilitated by Robert Bircher."— Presentation transcript:

1 Overcoming Career Change Inertia Lawyers Assistance Program Facilitated by Robert Bircher

2 Its not the way I thought it would be! Ex post facto career planning is normal for lawyers-many lawyers “fell into it” some were “pushed into it” some “stumbled into it” Most lawyers had little idea of what the reality of practicing law was like until they actually did it Most lawyers took the first or only articling job they were offered-then in first year proceeded to specialize in whatever the firm wanted or needed This would be the same strategy as marrying the first person you ever went out with and trying to force that to work

3 Why Lawyers stay Stuck The reality is few lawyers have actually considered what they want or need to be happy and congruent as practicing lawyers This results in a feeling of “I’m not sure I am in the right firm or I’m not sure what area I want to practice in” Some are so “honored” to have been offered a job they don’t even consider their own needs, they just try and pretzel themselves to fit in Some are unaware that law has probably more types of cultures than any other profession

4 Inertia Some lawyers simply feel they “can’t make a move” for reason X -in fact- the main reason is fear Step one is self diagnosis-is it a problem of culture? (people you work with, hours required, overt/covert working conditions and expectations, salary) or is it a problem of area of law (barrister or solicitor work, tedium or boredom, comfort with conflict or adversarial systems) If the fit is good you will have low levels of stress, depression and anxiety

5 Inertia Blaming yourself for the poor fit will result in you trying to be someone you are not or thinking there “must be something wrong with me” If you misdiagnose you will end up with the “same crappy job in a different building” syndrome If you are unhappy it usually means the universe is telling you to change the situation, accept the situation or leave the situation-most people do none of these-they get busy worrying and ruminating

6 Inertia When you are busy worrying and ruminating and generally over thinking the situation there is no energy left to do what works! Thinking is useful only in the diagnosis stage-what works, of course, is effective action A leading cause of job change inertia is believing you will solve the problem by thinking about it It is much easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way in to a new way of acting

7 Changing the Situation Look first at changing your own role in the firm-if you are burned out setting boundaries may be your solution- saying no You may need to be more assertive in some situations-you are an asset not a job beggar Can you improve your self care where you are? Taking healthy lunch breaks, taking holidays and time off I can already hear “there is no way I can do that at my firm”

8 Changing the Situation Most lawyers underestimate what healthy changes are possible “I must do what the herd does” the firm doesn’t want you to leave and will often accommodate any reasonable requests It is actually quite rare for a firm to fail to make accommodation once it is brought to their attention-believe it or not! It could be that the firm culture is too divergent from your own values meaning leaving is another choice e.g.. If it is a “live in order to work” firm and you are a “work in order to live” person you will need to find another more compatible culture Be aware that provincially most firms are fairly laid back and have a “work in order to live culture”

9 Changing the Situation Really, only Metro Vancouver large firms have the “live in order to work culture” it is rare in other areas,even in Victoria You always have lots of choices! For some people it is the reverse-their job is too dull or not challenging enough or they may want to make more money or highly value prestige, power and recognition See- s/being_a_happy_lawyer.pdf-for research on lawyer happiness

10 Accepting the Situation Some things are difficult or impossible to change-in private practice –billing/time- keeping/marketing/economics of law firms Adversarial / combative nature of litigation is not likely to change soon-this may not suit your personality-most lawyers are not extroverted or aggressive/combative by nature and probably would be happier doing solicitors work

11 Leaving the Situation Once you have decided to leave and have diagnosed what the problem is you can plan to leave- for some people the universe does it for them-they get fired, suspended/disbarred, or get sick, depressed, anxious etc Many lawyers get this far then freeze up and don’t move for years

12 Barriers to Moving on Lawyers get trapped by some repetitive cognitive distortions: “I will wait until something comes up” this is a passive approach which allows you to avoid looking at yourself and you don’t have to change anything- nothing will come up unless you are proactive “I have so many options I can’t decide” most lawyers do have many choices- but you do need to find a way to narrow the choices or you will be “living in potential forever”

13 Barriers to Moving on “I am looking for the right opportunity”-this usually means the “perfect choice” which doesn’t exist-it will always be a gamble to some degree “I am waiting until I know, for sure, what I want” the hidden agenda here is also safety-this will never happen “I will wait until I feel like it” this is another cognitive distortion- action precedes feeling-you must do it then feel like it

14 Procrastination There is no mystery to why you procrastinate, the benefits simply outweigh the costs,the mystery is because you deny or ignore the benefits Benefits include avoiding risk, living in potential, not having to make a decision, I can do something more pleasurable, I can put it out of my mind, job hunting is tedious, I can avoid rejection etc. Cost benefit analysis exercise

15 TIC-TOC TIC stands for task interfering cognitions-these are thoughts that result in procrastination “I’m too busy now” “I am not clear on what I want to do” “It’s not that bad here” “All legal jobs are hard and stressful” “If it wasn’t a struggle it wouldn’t be worthwhile” “My resume is not ready” “There are no other jobs out there that are any better” are all TIC’s TOC means task oriented cognitions- these thoughts result in action

16 TIC-TOC “I’ll phone somebody and do an informational interview” “I’ll get my resume ready to go” “I’ll do some career planning” “I’ll ask the firm to work 4 days a week” “I’ll phone around and see who’s looking for lawyers” “I’ll check websites for jobs” etc. are TOC’s TIC-TOC exercise if the TIC’s outweigh the TOC’s you won’t do much


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