Understanding the Existential Pitfalls of Law Practice
Few professions in contemporary American society produce more deeply entrenched ego-driven identities than law practice. To begin, the cerebral, logic-driven nature of law practice in itself serves as a starting point for one to easily lose touch with a grounded sense of being rooted not in intellect, but in present-moment experience. A litany of other factors serve to forge a pervasive ego-identity. First, our society is deeply enamored with power. Lawyers obtain this power by becoming educated in basic societal rights to a far greater extent than non-lawyers, and learn how to pursue these rights with greater efficacy. Additionally, over the past several decades, attorneys have been able to create an industry in which fees routinely exceed $300.00/hour, thus allowing the attainment of significant material wealth, also highly valued in contemporary society. Further adding to the formation of a tenacious ego is the fact that the ability of an attorney to command the highest fees is largely dependent upon the ability to “win” in court, or achieve outcomes “better” than one’s opponent.
The above factors serve to create an existential minefield through which few attorneys are able to successfully navigate. Maintaining this egoic self has become especially difficult for many attorneys during this economic downturn; what is left is what many in the industry now term the “New Normal.” With imperiled egos, however, come unparalleled opportunities to transcend one’s learned conditioning and realize new inner peace and professional fulfillment. Freed from this grip, attorneys can, perhaps for the first time in adulthood, begin to entertain the notion that what he or she had come to view as him or her “self” was primarily based on fictional thoughts and beliefs, and that his or her true self might actually lie beyond these thoughts. What lies beyond these thoughts is a true sense of being that connects all life.
In this light, the falsity of the ego becomes readily apparent and a true sense of being can begin to emerge. This reality cannot be proven by logic, intellect, or thought as it lies beyond these faculties. Its truth lies in one’s experience of the inner peace felt when connecting up to a simple but profound sense of being.
I come from a background typical of most U.S. attorneys. My road led directly to law school from college, and to a large private law firm directly after law school. In traveling this path for more than twenty years, I have worked in almost every segment of the legal industry including litigation practice in large-firm, small-firm and solo-practice environments, recruitment and staffing, litigation management and legal fee auditing, and law firm marketing. These experiences have fostered an appreciation for how difficult this road can be.
As with my non-attorney clients, my mindfulness and meditation for lawyers program emphasizes the heightening of conscious awareness and acceptance of the present-moment as a means of dis-identifying from entrenched thoughts and learned conditioning. This process can help to both improve your ability to connect with life on a deeper, more foundational level and make you a more effective practitioner with renewed creativity and improved ability to truly solve problems for your clients that transcend discreet legal situations. Approaching practice in this reinvigorated manner will significantly heighten your professional fulfillment as a practicing attorney.