Career Challenges: 5 Hurdles All Lawyers Must Overcome

Persevere with your law degree, and your qualifications could take you almost anywhere in the world. In a few years, you could be the best commercial lawyer in Albury-Wodonga, a high-flying real estate lawyer in Dubai, or an environmental lawyer helping pave the way for clean technology and ethical land management.

Of course, there will be plenty of challenges along the way. After all, the best things in life require work, dedication, and commitment. If you want to get an idea of the challenges that lie ahead, here are five that all lawyers, regardless of specialty, will experience:

1. Competition at every turn

From applying to law school to vying for promotions and, of course, presenting your cases in court, high-stakes competition is the name of the game in law. For some people, the appeal of this never dies. They love the challenge and thrive on competition. However, for others, it can start to feel like a drag, especially when health problems and personal dramas arise. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing a career in a highly competitive industry – it’s just important to be fully aware of what lies ahead.

2.  Never feeling like you’ve achieved enough

Become the world’s most successful criminal defense lawyer, and you’ll probably get at least a few dirty looks and snarky comments at dinner parties. Dedicate yourself to being a legal aid attorney, and your law school buddies may scoff at your career path. Make it into the law firm of your dreams, and there’s no time to celebrate – now you have to prove your worth and aim for a better position.

The truth is that in this high-pressure industry, you’ll never please everyone, and if you try to, you’ll end up feeling like nothing you achieve is ever enough.

3. Losing touch with your purpose

When you decided you wanted to become a lawyer, you probably had a grander purpose in mind. Whether that was to help the environment, correct injustices, provide a voice for victims, or become wealthy and successful, it’s easy to lose sight of that initial goal after plunging into the endless grind of law school and then life as a working lawyer. Of course, your vision can and will change, and that’s a good thing. However, keep your original goals and values in mind as your career progresses to ensure you never lose touch with your purpose in life. 

The importance of balancing your professional and personal lives increases as your career progresses. Take advantage of flexible work arrangements or outsource some tasks to spend more time with your family. This could also apply to your children’s piano lessons — which you could also take — as you don’t want to sacrifice their education and growth while pursuing your career goals. 

4. Arduous hours

Even if your only knowledge of the legal system comes from movies and TV shows, you’ll suspect that lawyers work long hours. Unfortunately, this is one area in which Hollywood is not exaggerating for dramatic effect. From research and analysis to preparing documents and appearing in court, the average lawyer works 40-80 hours per week.

Of course, your experience will depend greatly on where you work and in which field of law. For example, lawyers at government agencies tend to work fewer hours per week than those at large, inner-city law firms.

5. Stress & burnout

Factor in the high competition, long hours, and intense demands of the job, and it’s understandable that many lawyers report experiencing higher-than-average levels of stress, anxiety, and burnout. Even if you’re working reasonable hours at a government agency, the pressure of the job can lead to stress and burnout. So, it’s crucial to balance your career goals with your mental and physical health.

If these challenges haven’t scared you off, the life of a lawyer may be an ideal fit for your personality. You just have to make it through law school first!

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