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We all have friends and colleagues who love their job, and many of us in the legal profession pine for their energy, enthusiasm and optimism. The good news is that a happy and fulfilling law career is within reach for most every legal professional. It’s just a matter of tailoring your approach and attitude for the work at hand. Here are five habits to develop to keep your zest for your career high:
1. Stay positive
Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong, as they invariably will at times. You’re going to experience successes and failures throughout your career, and there’s no use getting stuck in negativity. Praise yourself for the things that went right, forgive yourself for the errors in judgment, and accept that some events are beyond your control. Learn from your mistakes, make adjustments to better suit the needs of your clients and your employer, and move forward.
Every lawyer starts his or her legal career at the bottom. If you’re the newbie, don’t waste energy being jealous of those above you. Take pride in all your work, with the knowledge that you’re developing and strengthening your skill set and laying the groundwork for a rewarding career.
2. Address issues quickly
Not every conflict or problem at work can be resolved with acceptance and a smile. Whether it’s you or an associate who’s fumbled, an issue may need to be resolved. If you’re heading into a difficult conversation with a colleague or your boss, steel yourself and act as soon as possible. Own up to your part in the error, commit to do better, accept constructive criticism and move forward. Dwelling on a problem, or pretending it doesn’t exist, won’t make it go away.
3. Create a comfortable office or cubicle space
Whether you’re a first year associate assigned to a cubicle or a partner with a corner office, you’ll spend a large portion of your time at your desk. Depending on your personality, disorganized or stark surroundings might slowly sap your creative energy and gnaw away at the enjoyment you get from your legal career. You don’t need to make big changes. Proper posture, and setting up your work station so that it is ergonomically correct, can make a world of difference and can often be achieved with the right office chair, keyboard and monitor. Proper lighting is important to avoid eye strain and can dramatically change the mood of a room. The simple addition of a plant, a framed photo of a loved one, or a pendant from your alma mater can enhance your work atmosphere.
4. Take breaks
Some legal professionals believe it demonstrates dedication and strength of character to work excessive hours and forego vacations. This approach only seems impressive in the short term. A good night’s sleep improves concentration and decision-making skills, and taking a vacation will rejuvenate you. Time off allows you to step back and take a broader view of your work, permitting you to spot problems or gain inspiration from new areas.
5. Engage in projects you’re passionate about
It’s great if you are in a position to pick and choose which projects to work on, or which clients to work with. Though this isn’t always possible, it may be realistic to take on pro bono work in your free time for a cause that speaks to your personal values. You might also consider mentoring junior colleagues or organizing trainings. Another novel idea might be to start a legal blog offering advice and answering questions. Work that you’re proud of and that resonates with your core principles and values trumps any other kind.
The components of a happy and fulfilling legal career aren’t a mystery. They are simply habits to adopt and act upon every day. You may be surprised at how small changes in the way you approach your work will benefit your mind and spirit over time.