Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Self Portrait #2

Continuing the unpublished "self-portrait", here's the next part. Last time, I finished on the subject of how I got stuck being a lawyer; how it happened.

Here I'm talking about what else I might do if I had the choice...

The scary thing is that I have no idea what I’d do if I had the choice. These days I don’t waste my time thinking about what I would or could have done. I’m very conscious that there’s no about-turn, that it’s too late for that. Not that I’m trapped: I’ve become accustomed to the way I live.

I qualified 16 years ago, in 1991. That’s a long time to be doing what I do, and it’s a really high-pressure job. When you’re in negotiation and you do really well and win what your client wants, you feel pretty happy and impressed with yourself. I still take myself by surprise from time to time. But that’s about it. I do feel kind of burned out having done it for 16 years. That’s extremely common. So many people leave the legal profession these days because it’s become hugely stressful, and they’re just burned out. You get paid very decently, but at what cost?

Of course there are things that could be done. Law firms could look to make less profit and employ more people to do the work. Naturally though, it’s all about making a large profit—partners in some City law firms are taking home annual earnings in excess of £1 million—and the only way to sustain that is by taking a high volume of work and working overlong hours to meet extremely tight (and sometimes unrealistic) deadlines. Generally the whole thing’s driven by the desire to bring in more fees: it’s all about making a profit. Some firms are reasonably happy to make a reasonable amount and have a decent work-life balance. Fortunately, my firm—my department—is okay and are considerate of the work-life balance.

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