The Path to a Flourishing Legal Practice Comes with Change


The Path to a Flourishing Legal Practice Comes with Change

Jenny feels stuck. At three years of practice, she values her warm relationships with colleagues at her firm. There’s just one problem. It’s a boutique litigation practice, and Jenny is learning that she does not like litigation.

Mark also feels stuck. He’s at a firm with a good reputation and high-quality work. He likes the practice area, but the senior partner he works for is difficult and prone to dishing sarcastic put-downs and angry tirades. The other partners know this is a problem, but no one steps in to help.

Jenny and Mark are not alone. Most lawyers do not land the perfect job right out of law school.

Many lawyers with flourishing careers have made at least one career transition, if not more.

There are three essential steps you can take to navigate toward flourishing.


Suffering and misery carry important messages — investigate. Seek out the source. What is causing the energy drain? These feelings could be due to misalignment or overwork.

Common misalignments are too many unpleasant clients. Work that is, for the most part, unmotivating and depleting. A toxic work environment. Or a sense of work conflicting with your core values. Sometimes, work that once aligned no longer does. As a more senior lawyer, you may no longer be engaged by legal work that has become mundane.

Overwork will also cause a loss of energy and engagement. Even projects or people you would typically enjoy can become draining when there has been too much of it for too long. It is vital to get the break you need and speak with someone who can help to assess if the root cause is overwork or a misalignment.

Conversely, what work engages you? What activities energize you? Who are the people you enjoy? Who are your favourite clients? What have been the high points of your career? Pay attention to what lights you up.

The pain and energy drains and the positive experiences provide valuable information about what you need to move away from and toward.


There is a voice in your head that is loud and judgemental — your inner critic. The inner critic has a purpose, to keep you safe at all costs. It wants you to take no risks and to stay safe. Even if that means slowly suffocating. The inner critic is why so many people stay in a job draining their lifeblood instead of making a change.

Your wise self speaks in a quieter voice. In my experience, it emerges when you are out for a walk, or engaged in some other active pursuit. It tells you your dreams. Maybe it is an interest you have long wished to pursue. Listen closely.


One young woman knew she wanted to focus her career on Section 15 of the Charter. Now she is a lawyer running a human rights organization. Another lawyer knew he wanted to practice international arbitration. He is now getting his MA in international arbitration.

There is only one major mistake you can make: ignore the signals and turn away from your dreams.

Instead, pay attention, investigate, and chart your course toward a legal career that engages you, where you put your strengths to work and can learn and grow. Allow yourself to imagine what would be good and steadily chart your course forward. Sometimes it takes more than one move to land in the right spot. That’s OK.

Jenny found an opportunity to join the privacy law practice at a large firm. She enjoys this area of law and her colleagues.

Mark decided to join a different firm. He is continuing to work in commercial litigation but with a group of collegial and supportive partners.

There is so much within your power to change and influence; what is calling you?

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