Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist, whom we profiled. A former Sullivan & Cromwell associate, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist.

I’ve written a fair amount about lawyers at the office in this column.

Right now a lot of lawyers aren’t at the office.

They’re at home, out of work.

Unemployment is tough on lawyers because they tend to be pleasers – they have to be, to earn the grades to make it into law school.

It’s all about pleasing others at a firm, too. You submit to the whims of a partner and work around the clock.

Like all pleasers, lawyers get used to looking outside themselves for affirmation of their worth.

When you’re unemployed, there’s no one to please but yourself. You’re alone with you – and for a pleaser, that can lead to a plunge in self-esteem.

That’s why, during unemployment, you have to be especially good to yourself.

You can’t afford to fall into a hole right now; you need to stay strong. That means reminding yourself of your achievements: your grades, your degree, your accomplishments at a firm.

If things get truly dire, remember the bottom line: you’re doing your best. That’s all anyone can ask.

This is no time to beat yourself up. Remember to be you, your best self, the person you really are. That’s more than just a lawyer; that’s a person. Spend time with friends, and people who like you. You’re worth something and you know it – and you need all the support you can get.

You also need some time off.

The worst thing about being unemployed, as one of my unemployed lawyer clients put it, is that “when you’re unemployed, you’re always working.”

Unemployment can turn into a 24-hour/day grind. Give yourself permission to relax sometimes. Activity is important – but so is taking time off to get your head together.

Job interviews, in my experience, can be particularly difficult for lawyers.

Pleasers never learn to sell themselves – you just do what you’re told and hope good things happen.

That doesn’t work in a job interview.

You might remember those mass interviews the law school placement departments arranged back in the boom years. They typically consisted of a handshake, a dutiful glance at a resume, and a pointless chat about nothing.

Those weren’t real job interviews. Those firms were hiring your résumé. They just wanted to make sure you could dress yourself. The interviewers often seemed as clueless as the candidates.

It’s different now, during a recession. You have to sell yourself actively.

That can be tough for a lawyer.

Read on at The People’s Therapist for interviewing advice.


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