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Gaining perspective from the past experiences of others

By all accounts, the beginning of one’s legal career can be the most difficult. Young attorneys could be dealing with a lot all at once — learning practice areas (not to mention the practice of law), growing families and managing student loan debt, just to name a few things. With all of that pressure can come the nagging urge to question your life choices: Why did I choose this career?!

I’ll admit that maybe, in a moment of weakness, I, too, have asked myself what I was thinking when I decided to become a lawyer. But I’ve always come to the conclusion that I am right where I should be. How I get to that conclusion varies.

There are number of ways we reassure ourselves about our choice to become lawyers. Some lawyers ease their pain with a nice hefty paycheck. Others gain succor from getting favorable results for their clients. There are other times when we can look back at our past experiences to get through a difficult patch. But when we are dealing with uncharted waters, what do we do then?

I am often reminded of a moment, early in my career, when I was lamenting to a partner in my firm about my family’s difficulty in finding a new home. My wife and I were one of the unlucky couples who purchased our first home back in 2007, right before the housing bubble burst. With a baby on the way, we found ourselves needing more space but because of when we purchased our home, we had no hopes of selling it. We either had to stay there or rent it out. This was definitely not in our plans.

After telling the partner my story, he sat me down in his office. He told me that, when he was early in his career, he and his wife had a similar situation when their family was growing. They were renting out one home while buying another and money was tight. Money was so tight, in fact, that he sometimes had to place an index card in the family checkbook that read “NO MORE CHECKS!” It was a gentle reminder to his wife that the well was dry. He still has that same index card in his desk at home as a reminder of how far he’s come.

He told me that as time wore on and his practice grew, things got easier and that the same would happen for me. I can’t tell you how reassuring that was. It was also a reminder of the importance that mentors play in our lives. One of the greatest gifts a mentor can give you is the reassurance that you are on the right track and things will work out.

Regardless of whether you are dealing with personal or professional challenges, there is likely someone out there who has gone down the same path, who can provide wisdom that can only come from experience.