Steps to Building a Sustainable Career

By Judith Gordon

© 2018. Published in Law Practice Today, February 2018, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

Feeling unmotivated in your career? Lost the passion for your job? Judith Gordon, speaker, coach, lecturer at UCLA School of Law, and current member of the ABA Career Center board, explains the science and building blocks to making both your career and life meaningful and fulfilling.

The skills that make us great lawyers don’t necessarily contribute to a fulfilling life. “Thinking like a lawyer” is a cognitive skill, not a life skill—excellent for doing legal work, but not helpful when we’re looking for meaning in our work, life, and relationships. To make meaningful life decisions, we need to synthesize information from our social, emotional, motivational, and somatic intelligence as well.
To be the best lawyers that we can be, as well as to feel motivated and purposeful, means integrating (which comes from the Latin root to make whole) our full complement of human intelligence into our thinking, then acting accordingly. Many attorneys move from soul-deadening jobs to fulfilling careers by integrating their human assets to find purpose, motivation, and thrive.
How do we do this? Many avenues exist; a few are listed below. Before you find yourself paralyzed by inertia, trapped by golden handcuffs, or drop out altogether, consider the concepts below. Contemplate them. Notice which resonates with you. Then choose one or more upon which to act.
Regardless of the stage you’re in, a few fundamentals remain important:
  • Find Your Why: Research confirms that when our core values and our work are not aligned, our well-being plummets.
  • Manage Your Energy: Even when we love our work, if demands exceed our energy, we are left feeling exhausted, with little left over for ourselves or others.
  • Find Your People: Humans join tribes. We’re designed to connect. Law practice is often an isolating experience, even in the largest firms.
  • Do You, Today: Much of the stress we experience is self-generated by anticipating the future or ruminating about the past.

Read on as Judith lays out the fundamentals for thriving in law and in life.