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After the Bar

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Why Young Lawyers Should Continue to Read for Fun

Kristin Ellen McCall

Why Young Lawyers Should Continue to Read for Fun
lechatnoir via iStock

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Being a lawyer is incredibly stressful, especially at the beginning of your career when you’re just starting to find your feet and hone your skills. I have coped with the stress and challenges of being a young lawyer through reading: mainly fantasy, romance, and young adult fiction. To some people, this might seem counterintuitive. As lawyers, we read all day. Sometimes hundreds of pages each day. So how does reading more help cope with the negative parts of being a young lawyer?

It Provides an Escape

Although there are a lot of words to describe life as a young lawyer—some indeed good—I am going to focus here on the, well, bad ones. Overwhelming. Oppressive. Suffocating. Monotonous. Anxiety-inducing. Mind-numbing (at least when it comes to doc review). Exhausting. Terrifying.

For most of us, at least, these words do not always apply. For some of us, the lucky ones, maybe they rarely apply. Most of us have felt each of these emotions at some point during our budding careers. These feelings can sometimes seem inescapable or never-ending, especially when you are billing upwards of 80 hours a week with no end in sight.

Each of us must have an outlet to relax outside of work. Books can take you away from the computer, out of the office, and into new worlds. You can fully immerse yourself in an adventure, a love story, or childish wonder. For the hour or two that I spend reading each day, I am no longer a lawyer. Reading can provide a mental break from work so that you can come back the next day rejuvenated and ready to work again.

For me, books provide an escape that I cannot achieve through watching TV. When I watch TV, I am usually not fully engaged. I am half-watching while playing on my phone, scrolling through social media, or stressing about work. But when I read a book, I am transported into its pages. The rest of the world and the stress and negativity I am experiencing fall away and ceases to exist while reading.

It Makes Me Happy

Our work as lawyers is often depressing. Typically, our clients hire us because something has gone wrong for them. Although helping them can be inspiring, uplifting, and even fun, the content of our work is often sad because of our clients’ situations. Any time I am feeling particularly down after work, I turn to a romance novel. There is one guarantee with romance: a happy ending. When I pick up a love story, I know that I will get to watch two characters get to know each other, overcome their obstacles, and ultimately get their happily ever after. I always come away from a romance novel feeling satisfied and elated.

It Maintains My Love for Reading

Reading has always been one of my favorite activities. But reading dry case law, document productions, and briefs (some good, some terrible) all day, every day, takes a toll. Reading fiction reminds me daily of why I love reading. This reminder, in turn, helps me get through all the reading I don’t love as much by keeping my outlook toward reading positive.

It Makes Me Better at My Job

Reading fiction is good for your job satisfaction in another way as well—it makes you a better advocate. Although prose in fiction is starkly different from legal writing, reading fiction causes you to appreciate well-crafted sentences and well-structured paragraphs. Additionally, as lawyers, part of our job is to tell our clients’ stories to a court or jury. Fiction teaches you how to develop a narrative, draw in a reader, and persuade an audience. You can then employ those same tactics in your legal writing and oral advocacy and feel more confident in these areas.

So I encourage you to pick up a novel and dive in. 

Lawyer Assistance Programs provide confidential services and support to judges, lawyers and law students who are facing substance use disorders or mental health issues. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, contact your state or local LAP.