A Different Christmas Carol
The Emergence of the Reflective Lawyer
As the frosty December wind sweeps through the streets of Hamburg in 2023, some may find themselves in a pensive state, much like Ebenezer Scrooge on a fateful Christmas Eve in Charles Dickens' timeless tale.
Perhaps many out there have experienced their own professional or personal odyssey this year and look back in amazement. In my case, it is the journey from the uncertainty of someone who has left the safe path of being an employed lawyer and embarked on the adventure of starting my own business. It is a journey to my happier, more fulfilled self.
The Ghost of the Legal Past: Memories of a Bygone Era
My story, like Scrooge's, begins with an unexpected visitor from the past. In the quiet hours of long winter nights, the ghost of the legal past accompanied me through the shadows of my early career. I saw myself as a younger lawyer whose eyes shone with ambition and whose heart was not yet touched by the weariness of the relentless pursuit of success. Success was my mantra, billable hours my credo, the treadmill of busyness my defense to ward off disturbing thoughts. But in this ghostly repetition I saw what I had lost in this pursuit—the exchange with others, lightness, fulfilment through my professional activity and the feeling of doing something meaningful.
The Ghost of Law Present: The Harsh Reality
Next came the Ghost of Law Present, a cheerful ghost but one with a somber message. It showed me the world as it is now—my colleagues suffering under the weight of expectations, mounting pressures and the challenges of impending changes in the legal world, much like Bob Cratchit toiling for the sake of work. My thesis on the wellbeing of lawyers, a tome of revelations, lay open, its pages flapping in the ghostly breeze. The data spoke of a profession in crisis: 77% struggle with wellbeing issues, and more than a third are impaired by their profession. The joy of law, it seems, is currently overshadowed by the starkly different reality, one that distorts the mental health of lawyers and that fails to fulfill the original promise of the law—to bring about a better society.
The Spirit of Law Yet to Come: An Ominous Vision
The most frightening visit came from the spirit of the law to come. In its silent, ominous presence, I saw a future darkened by the continuation of these trends. Desks full of weary souls fighting more or less for themselves and against the rest of the world, the spark of legal brilliance extinguished by the pressures of billable hours and burnout, the hallowed halls of justice echoing with the sighs of the overworked. This was a future I could not accept, a path I knew I had to walk away from.
Scrooge's Lesson: A Beacon of Change
In the cold light of dawn, like Scrooge who had awoken, I found my resolve. The shackles of my old habits, the relentless pursuit of billable hours at the expense of everything else, began to loosen. I entered the world of the new lawyer's tower, a lawyer's world where empathy goes hand in hand with efficiency, where teamwork and well-being are as important as successfully closing cases. I became a coach and mentor, able to help others navigate the treacherous waters of the current legal profession without losing sight of the shore, driven by a desire to help others in the legal field find a balance between their professional aspirations and personal well-being.
A New Chapter: Advocating for Change
As the year winds down, I reach out to my colleagues in the legal profession, much like Scrooge did. Let's embark on this journey together and transform our profession into one that values not just the letter of the law and the ringing of the cash registers through endless billable hours, but the spirit of humanity. Let's weave a new story where work-life balance and teamplay, empathy and wellbeing are the cornerstones of our practice, where our clients treat us and we treat each other with appreciation, respect and care.
The Reflective Lawyer
As I sit at my desk this December with the lessons of my own Christmas carol deeply embedded in my heart, I look forward to a promising future. In this journey of transformation, we have come to realize the profound wisdom that lies in the concept of introspection and reflection. It is about unplugging ourselves from the relentless drive to stay perpetually busy. Embracing moments of stillness gives us access to regions of our mind, which we typically avoid in our constant busyness. It takes courage to face aspects of ourselves that we usually shy away from. But it is in these depths that we often find the most profound insights and the energy to fuel genuine change.
Our profession is on the cusp of change and is poised for a new era of compassionate, balanced legal advice where profit does not override individual needs beyond recognition. Where showing weakness becomes strength and where people come first. A commitment to a kinder, healthier, more humane practice of law, in the spirit of Dickens' timeless tale.