Attorney-Client shake handsHow many lawyers find fulfillment in their work?

I don’t have statistics, but based on many conversations with attorneys over the years, the number who would trumpet themselves “fulfilled” has declined over time.

A bad economy has a lot to do with that, I’m sure. But finances cannot account for all of the disappointment we hear about. After all, most people (really) are not in it just for the financial return. Something deeper must be afoot.

Insight into what may be missing appeared in a great recent post at Above the Law. In it, lawyer Brian Tannebaum examines a few ways to strengthen the lawyer–client relationship. And in so doing, he points us toward a few elements that may be lacking in many a law practice. The absence of those ingredients is not a mere annoyance. Instead, it could be a serious impediment to fulfillment and satisfaction.

Brian Tannebaum

Brian Tannebaum

Interestingly, Tannebaum suggests that the elements that could make lawyers happier may be exactly the same elements that could make clients happier.

Imagine that—there’s a connection.

“Meaning” may be too complex a concept to reduce to a blog post, but I think Tannebaum’s done a great job at it.

Here’s how he opens his post:

“Lawyers like to say, ‘I’m a lawyer, not a psychiatrist.’”

“If you’re dealing with people’s problems, you’re a lawyer and a psychiatrist. While clients understand you are the person hired to try and resolve their legal issues, the not-so subtle secret of a successful practice is a slew of clients that believe their lawyer actually gives a crap about how their legal issues are affecting their personal life.”

Read the whole post here.

And what do you think? Have you found changes that improve your clients’ experience have also improved your outlook? Are you considering any law practice changes to make your own work more satisfying?


This morning, I am back in the office after a solid week’s vacation. It was many things, but among them, it was too brief. In fact, it may be safe to say that I am less than an office pleasure right now (what else is new, colleagues would say).

Because I know you’re wondering, here is a photo from our stress-free vacation.

Our Laguna Beach view, broken occasionally by a paddleboarder or two.

It has been quite awhile since I’ve taken that amount of consecutive time off. To do it required me to complete many tasks in advance, and it meant that my cohorts had to increase their already-high mindfulness of our shared work goals.

All of that effort led me to recalling how very hard it is for practicing lawyers to get away from work. That is especially true if you are a solo or small-firm practitioner. (I surveyed readers recently on how many actually take a vacation. Oy.)

Even lawyers need a break.

So on this Monday morning, as I gaze at my stacked tasks and as the pleasures of a California beach town recede into memory, I thought I’d share a few lawyer-vacation insights.

The first is by a Minnesota lawyer named Randall Ryder. It was last summer that he wrote his article “How Solo Attorneys Can Take a Summer Vacation,” but I think his advice still applies.

And then there is the more pointed commentary by lawyer Brian Tannebaum, which he charmingly titles “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” His advice will not so much help you close your office for a needed break. Instead, out of his vacation he sheds some helpful light on marketing and customer service—as important for law offices as they are for restaurants and surf shops.

Have a decent Monday. That is my goal.