This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Crisis of Faith

A priest once advised that if a person never has a crisis of faith, there's something seriously wrong. Believing without question, without thought, without exploration is harmful. If you believe after addressing your doubts, your fears, and your concerns, then you have a solid foundation for your belief.

This week, I had a crisis of faith. Not in Catholicism, (let's be honest, I've never been the best theist) but in my chosen profession. It's been a really bad week.

I completely lost faith in my abilities. I had two cases that were very quickly turning into clusterfucks. I've been completely torn up about them all week. One was supposed to be a simple matter that spiraled out of control and was causing everyone much turmoil, particularly me. Then there was the case where I made the right decision for the wrong reason which completely shook my confidence to the core. I was pretty much convinced I had no business practicing family law, or law in general, and should go apply for a job as a fry cook where I could do only minimum damage to people's lives.

Then a friend of mine told me how tore up she was about an upcoming hearing. She's been practicing for over 5 years, and she still gets nervous. We previously worked together, and she's this fabulous lady lawyer, smart and talented, but much too hard on herself and gets stressed out. That's when I realized that the same advice I'd be giving her for years (which is you're smart and talented, you're gonna kick ass) needs to apply to me too. My boss told me that even when you don't know what you're doing, always sound confident that you do. I think that's good advice.

Sure, I screwed up the law. Sure, my simple little case grew legs and started running a marathon. But I didn't screw up either case. What both clients needed was for me to be confident and be a strong advocate for them. That's what they paid me to do, that's what I'm bound by my profession to do. So, I can either sit around developing an ulcer or I can rely upon my negotiation training to reign in these cases and get the matters resolved in my clients' best interests.

I took some deep breaths, and did what I always do when coming into negotiations: I pulled out Fisher and Ury's book "Getting to Yes" and started thumbing through it. It always serves as a refresher for me on principled negotiation, reminds me of my days in diplomacy school and that, at least when it comes to negotiation, I know what I'm doing. I might not know what I'm doing in law all the time, being a baby lawyer and all, and I have very little courtroom experience. But I know negotiations, which is something they just don't teach in law school (at least not at mine).

Anyway, things are better, I feel back "in control" of both cases, and realized that I was never out of control of the cases, I was simply out of control of myself. Lesson learned. Hopefully. I'm sure I'll still have plenty of opportunities in the future to earn that ulcer, but for right now, my calm is restored.


Cee said...

I'm so glad you're restored in your "faith." It's so scary to think that people's lives (not exactly literally) are in our hands. It scares the crap out of me to think of all that responsibility. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job and that new attorneys are entitled to have these little hiccups- that's how we learn right?!

Tree Hugging 2L said...

i think you're always your own worst critic. i have to tell myself, ad nauseam, that i can, in fact, get through law school - and that i didn't make a huge mistake by leaving me cush engineering job. somedays it works better than others...

LEO said...

Every new lawyer will have these moments, and in a profession where there is so much always-changing information to learn, you can never be perfect. At least you're really learning a lot now, getting the kinks out early...better than 10 years into a career. And honestly, it's good that you're embracing the challenge in this profession... it will keep it interesting and make you better at what you do everyday!