Given the breadth of the legal sector, why does it appear so many lawyers feel isolated?
I have attended a number of conferences this year with lawyers from all over the world, and when we have had conversations many have said that they do feel isolated, and unable to tap into help and support, or unable to recommend or refer work on as they simply don’t know people well enough.
There is often such a community spirit at legal conferences and events, and you can tell that with everyone rushing to catch up with one another, but how often do they speak to these lawyers again afterwards? Or do they typically catch up again at the next event the year after?
It seems silly waiting an entire year to speak to people again especially when these people work in your area of law, or at least work in the legal sector and they understand the challenges but also why you chose this career in the first place, so why not use each other, drop them the odd email, check in with them, it takes 2 seconds!
Does the legal system lack a community feel? Is everyone fighting each other to secure deals and clients rather than helping others?
Being a lawyer isn’t just about representing your client in court, drafting legal documentation, meeting with clients, and all of the endless phone calls and emails. Lawyers also need to stay on top of legal updates and developments, market yourself, bring in new work and help the company by writing content for their sites too!
There is a lot to do and to keep on top of and it is no surprise that some of these things fall by the way side when workloads increase, pressure mounts, deadlines loom and you are given more and more work (and clients!). And it is never the client and billable elements that fall by the way side is it? It is always the events or training which assist you in becoming a better lawyer and developing your skills, knowledge and experience.
Having touched on how busy a lawyer is, there is also a lot to know and remember when being a lawyer, and that doesn’t just mean the legal knowledge of your area of expertise. Lawyers need to be able to (successfully) market themselves and their law firms/chambers, they need to keep their online profiles up to date, as well as learn ways to cope with the inevitable stress that comes with the job, and some days can be a lot more manageable than others.
Is there a community spirit in the legal community? Do lawyers feel able to ask for help from other people?
Sometimes, when work is mounting, having a chat to someone or sending a few catch up emails might help, whilst it won’t make your pile of work disappear you might be able to tackle the problems a little better afterwards.
One of the things I love most about aspiring to be a Barrister is the friendliness of those I meet in the profession, whether that be dinners at Middle Temple, lunches whilst on mini-pupillages or just conversations on twitter. There is a real sense of support and I am grateful to be a part of a community which encourages people to ask for help, and to ask questions, it provides training, experience, development opportunities as well as expertise. They seek to help everyone, whatever stage of their career. However, it is so easy to forget to attend the dinners, or to send a quick email to check in with someone, and all to often I used to see lawyers sign in to CPD sessions and then disappear (or spend their entire day on the mobile sending emails).
Maybe it is that the community feel is there, people just forget or lose sight of that when pressure and work mount.
I regularly speak with lawyers in America, and in comparison to us here in the UK they would appear to be far more isolated given how the system works, where so many lawyers are running their own practices straight out of University, with no support or guidance. They have no one to check in with, seek advice on cases or feel supported.
So whilst people tell me they feel isolated, is it because they just don’t tap into the resources, networks and support systems which are available? Are lawyers so focused on getting the job done (which is fundamental) that they forget about the little things, such as attending training sessions, going to those dinners and engaging with other lawyers.
I would love to know your thoughts, so please get in touch and share your comments with me.