The Law is Not My Mistress

Live the Life of Your Dreams

Live the Life of Your Dreams

Do you remember when you first heard the statement that “The Law is a Jealous Mistress?”  I do.

I was sitting in Contracts at the University Of Tennessee School Of Law.  I had Professor Cook who was an outstanding teacher and an equally generous taskmaster.  We were nearing the end of the quarter (back in the old days schools were on quarters rather than semesters) and exams were approaching.  We were sitting around waiting on Cook to arrive and the talk turned to the evening games.  No, not the basketball games; the games down on the strip at the favorite watering hole.

I remember saying, “No, I’ve got to study.”  I did a lot of that in law school.  They told us at orientation that 1/3 of us would not graduate.  I didn’t want to be in the one-third.  One of the guys in the group, after hearing of my plans for the evening, said the words, words I’ve repeated both orally and internally hundreds of times, “The Law is a Jealous Mistress?”

Fast forward to my first job as an attorney.  I heard it again and repeated it to myself.

While most of us would not seriously consider having a “mistress”, it’s pretty easy to let the “law” serve that function.  I tell folks that the “law” will take as much of you as you are willing to give.  However, you are in control.  You are the decider; but you have to decide.

So here are 3 tips to avoid if you don’t want the “law” to be the jealous mistress of your life.

1.  Recognize That Limits are Needed. Make sure that you acknowledge to yourself and to others that limits to the intrusion of the “law” into your life are necessary if you are to enjoy the life of your dreams.  OK, I’ve said it.  It’s OK to set limits.  No it’s up to you.  Your partners, your mentors, your associates and your clients only have one thing on their mind when they call you:  whatever is on their mind.  They aren’t thinking about your daughter’s birthday party.  They aren’t thinking about the soapbox derby race on Saturday.  They are thinking about whatever task, problem or challenge is on their mind.  So it’s up to you.  Right now make a decision (several actually).  Decide that it’s OK for your career to say no from time to time.  Decide to make your law practice a priority when you are working but only a secondary priority when not at work.  Now, have the guts to say “No.” Be sure to use your loving voice, “I’d love to help you with that, but I’m already committed.”

2. Create a Life Plan First. Create a plan for your person life before you create a plan for your business (that includes the law) life.  One of the biggest regrets people make is that they life their lives in whatever time’s left.  This occurs usually due to the unwillingness to spend the time necessary to think through what you want your life to look like.  Lawyers are generally a pretty smart bunch.  However, it happens to us just as well.  Why?  Because it’s just easier to live life with “what’s left” rather than developing a plan for your life, then develop a business to support it.  Remember that one of the reasons you choose “lawyering” as a livelihood is so you could provide a great life for you and your family.  That’s going to take work and not just work at work!  Take a day off this week.  Turn the phones off, (your blackberry too) and spend some time thinking about this question:  “If I could design my life to be anything I want it to be, what would it look like?”  Be bold with the answers but be truthful to yourself.  It will be better if you write with a pen (rather than a computer) as you are doing this exercise.  Then once you have painted a picture of your life “designed by you” consider “what do I have to do to have this life.”  You are going to be called upon to make a number of decisions, including decisions on what your individual priorities will be.  Now go backwards.  If this is what I want my life to be, what does this year have to look like, this month….  Be sure to date your life plan. You’ll return to it often.

3.  Engage Your Partner in Your Plan. My wife says she never knows what I’m thinking.  That’s pretty strange given the fact that she expects me to always know what she’s thinking.  Seriously though, if you are building a life with another person, let them in on your plan.  I always recommend doing step No. 2 above by yourself.  This way you’ll have the freedom to be honest.  Only after you’ve designed the life of your dreams can you then share it with your life partner and together perhaps you both can build a plan that blends both of your desires and dreams.  This is super, super important for a number of reasons.  First, be sure that you are both traveling along the same path.  Recognize that some compromises are often required by both of you.  That’s what building a life together is all about.  Second, you’ll have to make priority decisions that may impact your finances and often your career.  Be sure you are both together on them.  Finally, when the mountain gets tall or the valley gets deep, you’re going to need your partner to be at your side not in back of you or even in front of you.

These are just three tips to help you get started.

While I agree that “The Law is a Jealous Mistress,” I’m likewise convinced that you don’t have to have a mistress unless you live life by default rather than design.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Please comment below.

Perhaps you have a friend or cohort that might need to consider this topic.  If so, please pass the post along.

Talk soon,

Dan

Image Credit:  bjorkish

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