Becoming a Happy Lawyer

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In 2021, the global legal services market is projected to exceed one trillion U.S dollars. Developed countries dominate the industry; in 2018, the United States accounted for almost half of the global market and Europe for just over one quarter. 

With over 1.2 million lawyers in the United States alone, over 80% of the population have no access to legal support. 

I recently read this on the ABA: “Legal spend in the United States has been compared with the profile of a martini glass. At the top is a wide but shallow bowl where lots of the good stuff gets poured. That’s the Fortune 500 and Biglaw. At the bottom is a thin base just wide enough to keep the glass from tipping over. That’s low-income and public-interest law. In between is a long, thin stem. That’s the middle class and small-business world, and they’re waiting for law to show up at a price they can afford. Technological and business model innovation offers them hope of accessing affordable legal services. The question is whether the legal industry will let that happen. The next generation of lawyers will decide.” 

What kind of lawyer does it take to bring change? 

Answering Legal Banner

A happy lawyer! A 2nd Generation lawyer! One powered by AI. 

So Why is being a happy lawyer important?

Lawyering is analytics, lawyering is creativity, lawyering is passion. A lawyer must be inspired to deliver his or her best.

Economists carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder. Through experiments, they found “happiness” made people around 12% more productive.

A recent Gallup survey found only 13% of employees are engaged at work, meaning the vast majority of working adults don’t enjoy their work. By one recent measure, this costs U.S. companies roughly $450–$550 billion dollars annually. 

Attorneys are 3.6 times more likely to be depressed than other professions.

Looked at another way though, poor worker engagement is an opportunity for companies to boost their productivity by investing in employees’ welfare and workplace happiness.

The Real-Life of an Attorney

All of us have heard the question, “So why did you become a lawyer?” 

Most of the time, this question comes up after some cocktails, along with a surprised reaction that a person seemingly as nice as you could actually be a lawyer. If you are like me, you have developed your own answers to these questions, at least when asked by strangers, designed to respond politely to keep the conversation going. I sometimes answer the question, “What kind of lawyer are you?” with “An Awesome One!”

But an “Awesome lawyer” doesn’t always have an “awesome life.” In fact, the more awesome you are, the busier you are, and this repeating cycle will take time away from remaining awesome.  

Think about these two questions: “Why did I become a lawyer?” And “Why do I remain one?”

There are numerous reasons why people become lawyers, but for most, practice of law is seen as a social responsibility, lawyers can show clients how to resolve problems and continue with their lives; the desire to leave people in a better position than when they started.

for me personally, law school was one of the best times of my life.  I was happy everyday living, breathing the steps to reaching my dream of becoming a human rights attorney, and changing the world.  I was young, and full of hopes and dreams.

When I got my first job, I was surprised to find out what being a lawyer actually meant: I was buried in paper files, struggling to meet the unrealistic billing requirements, while learning how to to even bill, while learning an entirely new area of law. The hopes and dreams quickly faded, and replaced with concerns of repayment of student loans, meeting the billing requirements, and settling cases that should have been litigated, but for the simple reason that it would cost more to litigate than to settle.

Over time, I found my rhythm. I noticed a pattern in processes and became faster and more efficient in doing my job mindlessly, with little passion or analytical thinking. The better I got at my job, the unhappier I felt. My parents always told me to: “pursue what you love and you are passionate about, because if you love it and are passionate about it, you will give it your all, and if you give it your all, you will be good at it, and if you are good at it, success will naturally come.”

It took me sometime to truly understand that “success,”  to me, is “contentment” and “happiness.” I wasn’t passionate about what I was actually doing. Although most of the elements for “success” were there, the key ingredient that’s “passion” was missing.

Passion drives creativity and analytical thinking. Without that, the main ingredient in being a lawyer is missing.

Needless to say, I was inspired to find a way to fall in love with what I do again.

How I became a Happy Lawyer:

To start my career-makeover,  I made a list of the tasks I liked the most about my job which was working with clients, and what I disliked the most which was non-legal, administrative tasks. We then designed a unique platform with four core pillars:

Client portal: Every customer has personal access to begin requests, as well as to all active and archived matters with our firm in one place.

Workflow automation: Using workflow automation is one of the best ways to create structured processes. Workflows ensure that all the important information is collected, no steps are overlooked, and no deadlines are missed.

AI-Powered chatbot: An AI-powered chatbot is a smarter version which uses natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to better understand the client’s needs and to provide the best response. This is FAQ on steroids.

Case Management: Strong legal project management system to manage the relationship from lead stage, to client through to the final stages in the case … all in the same platform.

This platform, along with an accounting software, and Zoom online meeting have enabled me to work from anywhere in the world with just a phone and laptop. I have the ability to connect with my clients anytime, anywhere, and to collaborate with them in a structured and secure manner. 

Seeing the Opportunity

I must say though that it was not an easy road. I have heard this sentence: “That’s not how things work” more times than I can count. Innovation wouldn’t exist if everyone just looked around and said “okay, well if that’s how it works.” None of the life-changing companies, the unicorns that you know and love would have existed.

Innovation is an ability to see change as an opportunity — not a threat.

It doesn’t matter what other lawyers say, what your boss says, what the industry says. The only thing that matters is what the clients say. We live in the age of technology and apps. The market, our clients, are tech savvy people. They expect connectivity, appreciate efficiency and easy user experience. 

Legal industry is one of the last professional service industries to be automated and you have an opportunity to be at the forefront of this change for your client’s happiness, and your own.  

Design your life with your happiness in mind.  Let your happiness be your measure of career success.

Will you be a happy lawyer?

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