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by Vault Law Editors | April 23, 2008


In our latest associate survey, one unhappy BigLaw insider describes his firm: “There is a climate of fear: the junior associates are afraid of the senior associates who are afraid of the administrative partners who fear the rainmakers who are terrified of the clients.” This young lawyer is not typical, but the nature of his complaint is typical of unhappy lawyers. I believe in a sort of inverse of Tolstoy’s dictum about families: unhappy lawyers tend to be alike, happy ones are happy in their own ways.

Today’s New York Lawyer (via Texas Lawyer) runs a column about combating lawyerly fear (“Your Panic Room, Your Office” (free sub’n req) by psychotherapist James “Please Don’t Confuse Me With the Clown Who Owns the Knicks” Dolan, who makes his living “coaching” lawyers. Dolan decided to pursue this niche practice when he noticed that over half his psychotherapy patients were lawyers.

I have no idea how successful Dolan is at helping his clients overcome fear, but he has a way with metaphor. Here are the two paragraphs from his piece:

I once had a client ask, "How do I stop being so fearful all the time?" to which I replied that his question was like someone standing on the top rung of a stepladder asking a passer-by to kick the ladder out from underneath him. My point was that the client had come to rely on fear as the primary motivating energy for his practice, and to devise a way to rid him of it without understanding its place in his life would have been disaster.


Dealing with fear is something like owning a tiger. We must completely understand and be aware of its instinctual behavior. If we don't, the tiger may one day have us for lunch. We must know and accept its place of value in our world, be conversant with it and realize that, once you own a tiger, there is no easy way to get rid of it. And we must also understand that once we own the tiger, we don't have to take it with us everywhere we go.

pictured above: Tiger-owner, Esq.

- posted by brian


Filed Under: Law