For many the practice of law is a dissatisfying experience. By providing a more comprehensive, AQAL vision for the practice of law, I speculate that lawyers can gain more satisfaction and meaning from their profession.
In 1999, the American Bar Association released a study on the U.S. justice system. Unfortunately, the news for lawyers was not good. The public perceives that lawyers care more about themselves than they do their clients. Many believe lawyers lack a commitment to community and service. It seems that the public does not trust us.
The lawyer’s own experience does not fare much better. Lawyers often struggle with finding meaning in their work, or alternatively, they have meaningful work but it does not pay the bills. Surprisingly, lawyers that work for large private firms (and make the most money) are the least satisfied in their field. On the other hand, public sector attorneys make the least amount of money but feel most fulfilled. It is financially difficult for public sector attorneys to retain this meaningful work as the cost of living rises; yet the thought of working for a private firm, for a hundred hours per week, with little meaning and satisfaction, is just as troublesome.
Because of the pressure we feel to make money, as attorneys we often focus on the exterior, material dimensions of reality and ignore our vivid interior dimensions. We seem addicted to exterior reward, and so we overlook what brings us meaning and happiness (unless, of course, exterior reward and money bring us happiness). This existence can be narrow and self-centered, and our clients suspect it. Day after day, we dress sharp, make lots of money, and yet we often feel dull, perhaps because we ignore what is going on inside ourselves, our clients, and the people at our firm. Thus, until we connect these two dimensions of the exterior world and our interior selves, we will continue to feel fractured, dissatisfied, and unappreciated.