Speaking to a lawyer friend, I was reminded about the superhero tendancies many of us lawyers have.
Philippa is an excellent lawyer, very sought after and able to command any salary she wants. I can say these things about her, she wouldn’t say them about herself, she doesn’t see it.
When we last met, we hadn’t seen each other for over a year. Philippa had been working long hours and felt that any time she wasn’t working, she had to spend with her family. (Not that she didn’t want to spend time with them, but that there was no time for anything else).
Can you relate to that particular breed of guilt?
We had a lovely evening talking about old times and our kids and husbands.
Philippa had taken a leap in changing firms after about 15 years as the new firm had “guaranteed” a more flexible working pattern and to honour her days off. I was keen to hear how that was going…
For the first month she worked until around 10pm every night. I rolled my eyes…
I had expected it. Philippa is not only an excellent lawyer, but she never says NO. I asked her what might happen if she said no to one of the senior partners.
Philippa thought about this for a while then replied that if she said no to work, they might stop passing work to her. She might lose her client contacts and be seen as unreliable by her team. She wouldn’t be able to bill as much as she usually would and then her position at the firm might be called into question…
Have you ever had these thoughts?
Is this the truth, is this what firms really think..? I’m not so sure…
I encouraged her to think again about her workload for the sake of her deteriorating health and so that she has more quality time with the children I know she adores.
Something really struck me after our conversation.
Her marriage is struggling. I got the sense it was quite serious.
You see, Superwoman/Superman is amazing. They are the one meeting all those deadlines, running projects, managing teams, smashing targets. Ordering the weekly shop and sorting out the washing. Helping the kids with their homework and making sure they have their lunch box and school trip monies. Usually volunteering for the PTA, local scout group or managing the young football team…
This inner Superhero is also the cause of our burnout, anxiety and depression, ill health and relationship issues. A Superhero’s food of choice (testosterone, followed by adrenalin and cortisol the stress hormone) speeds up the onset of anxiety and eventually burnout.
We need to learn to use this inner Superhero in careful moderation – if at all.
I’m not suggesting that we stop being ambitious and driven, but that we do it another way. In a way that protects our health, sanity and relationships.
I realised this a few years ago before it was too late, although I regularly have to remind myself of the traps, my default position is always to go back to trying to be a superhero!
Are you a legal superhero?
Do you ever feel:
- You can’t say no
- You never want to let anyone down
- You don’t delegate so as not to “stress out” anyone else?
- You’re often working longer hours that others, maybe they aren’t as committed as you?
This isn’t reserved to women.
I’ve worked with some amazing male lawyers over the last few years and one comment stands out. This client was stepping back from partnership and questioning whether he could be a lawyer any longer. He said he felt that he was the “shield” protecting his team. I wasn’t surprised we were having a conversation about burnout.
It’s for “Superhero lawyers” like Philippa that I became a coach & trainer for lawyers. We can’t always find the way ourselves and sometimes having a guide in the form of someone who’s been there with practical tools and strategies with accountability and support, makes it easier.
If this would help someone you know, please point them in my direction!
To give you a quick start, I’ll be running my Retiring Your Inner Legal Superhero 5 day challenge from 29th May to 2nd June, and you’re very welcome to join us.
We’ll be looking at the truth behind our inner superhero and how we might do things a little differently – maybe even better!
We’d love to see you there!
Do join us in our Free Facebook Community for the legal profession, Legally Speaking, your one stop shop for networking, mini trainings and support.