Sep 19, 2020
Dear Disillusioned Junior Lawyer. I do understand, but
don’t quit yet.
I keep meeting you. Everywhere I go I hear some of your
story and it echoes the other stories of people just like you.
It’s part of my own journey too as I’ve been there. Let
me tell you how this story goes.
The Law attracted you because it felt like it would be a way
to help people, to bring about change and contribute to our
Your first year at law school was hard but intellectually
challenging. You got into second year and enjoyed the
diversity of subjects. You did well in your studies and came
out with a degree and even got a job offer to work in a law firm.
That’s when things changed. What you saw did not match
your dreams because you realised there was a strong focus on
billing, a very hierarchical system, a focus on profits, an
unhealthy obsession with success while relationships and family
were sacrificed on the altar of career. You also started
measuring your life in 6 minute units. You were offered gold
but you began to realise that the gold was in the shape of
It’s now been a few years and you are about to leave the Law.
You are either about to decide to try something else, or you
have already left - maybe a month ago, maybe 10 years ago, maybe
longer. For all of you I want to give you three points to
1. Don’t walk away yet: Just because it
hasn’t worked out yet doesn’t mean it cannot work out. We
need more purpose driven lawyers who want to help bring about the
change we want to see in the world. I spent years helping
rich people get richer and it was not fulfilling. But I
changed to another area where I help purpose driven people achieve
their goals - so my experience is that the Law can provide a means
to be a catalyst to work with people who have great ideas but don’t
understand the legal side of what their options are. We need
more lawyers like you with the right motivations to help such
2. Where are you: It is possible that you
were placed in an area of law which does not resonate with your
true call. Law firms are businesses and it may be that you
ended up in a an area that does not match who you are or what you
actually want to do, which you probably did not know when you
graduated. When you came out of law school you were happy to
have a job as a lawyer - but there are a wide variety of specialist
areas and none of us really know what it is like to practise law as
opposed to studying it. The point is that I have no idea what
area is right for you but just that you might not have found it
yet. You might be doing tax law but would really be great at
doing family law. Or vice versa. Fight for finding the
area that can really resonate with who you truly are.
3. Integration, not balance: We have given in
to the lie that work/life balance should be our main aim.
Balance implies that one of these is good and the other is
bad - I work so that I can have fun and feel fulfilled in my spare
time when I am actually doing “life”. This is a misconception
that sells short the true possibility of what you can contribute.
What you do in your spare time is important but what you do
in your work time is also important. Search for integration
of your life on all levels so that you do not resent your work for
taking you away from life - rather, embrace the mission that work
can call you too, so that this old saying is true: “Choose a job
you love and you will never work a day in your life”. And
maybe that is the foundation I am trying to call you back to: Being
a lawyer can be a calling. Not about ego, money or feeling
like you are moving paper from one side of the desk to another.
Robert Kennedy said this: “Courage is the most important
attribute of a lawyer - it should pervade the heart, the halls of
justice, and the the chambers of the mind."
So I do know what you are feeling. I’ve been there
myself and almost walked away. But it is possible to fight
for a career in the law which is both fulfilling and meaningful and
where you do give back in ways that are really important and even
vital for our society. We need more lawyers like you who care
deeply enough to feel that the system and practising law does not
match why you wanted to be a lawyer - we need you because it is
that attitude which can help transform and change the system and
what you don’t like.
So here is the seed to leave you with: Maybe the law could be
what you dreamed and you just haven’t found the right place within
it yet. Fight for finding where the part of the puzzle is fit
by you and your unique make up, vision and skills. And if you
have walked away, why not consider coming back?
Until next time.