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Calm in the Chaos

What I Am Looking For Is Not Out There ...


For a long time I was practicing law in an environment that I didn't enjoy because the firm didn't share my values. For years, I tried to work within that large law firm environment, looking for what I wanted "out there" in Big Law. It wasn't until I "looked within myself" that I realized that I could practice law in a place that reflects my values. Here's my story.

Photo by Lindsey Victoria Photography

by Jamie Spannhake

September 28, 2019


Calm in the Chaos

What I Am Looking For Is Not Out There ...


For a long time I was practicing law in an environment that I didn't enjoy because the firm didn't share my values. For years, I tried to work within that large law firm environment, looking for what I wanted "out there" in Big Law. It wasn't until I "looked within myself" that I realized that I could practice law in a place that reflects my values. Here's my story.

by Jamie Spannhake

September 28, 2019


Photo by Lindsey Victoria Photography

What I Am Looking For Is Not Out There ... It Is Within Me.

I saw this quote on a painting in a public place. It resonated with me because of my answer to a question at a women's networking group a few days ago. The indirect question was "do you like practicing law"? And I responded, without thinking: No. But as I thought about it later, that's not true.

There are lots of things I don't like about practicing law, but I also really like working with clients I like and can help. And most of the things I don't like about practicing law are only the practice of litigation. So a better answer would have been that I don't like practicing in the area of litigation.

But even that is not entirely true, because litigation involves advocating and writing, two things that I really like. So why did I just respond "No" without thinking.

Because it is a habit. Because for a long time I was practicing law in an environment that I didn't enjoy because the firm didn't share my values. For years, I tried to work within that large law firm environment, looking for what I wanted "out there" in Big Law. It wasn't until I "looked within myself" that I realized that I could practice law in a place that reflects my values.

Here's my story:

When I was a senior associate at a large Manhattan law firm, my priorities became clear to me. I wanted to be a lawyer, but I also wanted to be a wife, mother, daughter, and friend. Once my priorities were clear, I realized I had to change my employment situation. I opted to reduce my schedule to part-time rather than leave my job. I liked my job but didn’t want to work 50-plus hours a week. In that context, working part-time meant only 40 hours a week. I approached the chair of the litigation department in which I worked. As part of our discussion, the chair said I needed to understand that switching to a part-time track meant that I would never be considered for partner because the desire to work part-time brought into question my dedication to the law. WTF! In the value system of the firm, if I wanted to be a lawyer, I could only be a lawyer.

After considering the consequences, I switched to a part-time schedule. I decided to live within my value system, not someone else’s. Ultimately, I left that firm, started and grew my own practice, then joined a small law firm with other lawyers who shared my values. Now, finally, I am a lawyer, a mother, a daughter, and a friend. 

I am not necessarily suggesting that you leave your employment situation, but if your job makes it impossible for you to live your values, you may find that what you are looking for is not out there. Maybe it is within you, and maybe you need a new job. 

 

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