Burr & Forman

02.6.2020   |   Articles / Publications

The Practical Lawyer: FIND YOUR WHY: THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN WORK AND LIFE

I thought I was ready to practice law long before I walked into my first law school class. At the time, I was working as a law clerk at a personal injury firm. My job entailed interviewing witnesses, preparing and responding to discovery requests, and drafting legal memos and briefs. Among these tasks, I enjoyed legal writing the most. In fact, I had drafted trial court briefs, administrative agency statements, state and federal court appeals, and even a writ of certiorari to “the Supremes” in Washington. Based upon all this work, I was confident in my preparation for the practice of law. However, a few stumbling blocks remained in my way to becoming a successful attorney, including a bar exam, many non-billable articles and conferences, hundreds of soiled diapers, and tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

Ultimately, I survived law school and my first 20 years of practice by answering the question, Why do I want to be a lawyer? Although I wrestled with that question for many years, it finally came down to the following two words…helping others. Ultimately, I became a construction lawyer to help others rely on best practices and technology in resolving their problems.

Being a successful litigation attorney focused on helping others, however, could not have prepared me for my greatest challenge two years ago—a divorce after almost 18 years of marriage. Or did it? Leadership guru John Maxwell teaches that “success is not a destination thing…it’s a daily thing.” For me, answering the Why? question enabled me to start an amazing journey that continues to this day. Sure, I could be more successful. I could have more clients. I could have more trials. I could have many more “things.” But once I answered the Why? question, I realized that many of my so-called stumbling blocks were actually stepping stones to a more fulfilling life.

The numerous lessons learned over the years have become invaluable to my development as an attorney and single father of seven children. You may think you are not getting enough courtroom experience at this stage in your career. You may be overwhelmed with the thousands of pages of documents that you have to review by next week. You may be questioning your job, your marriage, or both. Whatever your circumstance, I would challenge you to continue your journey and find success professionally and emotionally.

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