Sep 01, 2018
Joy in the Law: An Invitation to Reflect and Learn
Sep 01, 2018
By Marie Barnes
Joy in the law—is that even possible? Joy is not something the general public or even we lawyers equate with our profession. When I meet people in a social setting and tell them that I am a lawyer, I often get a shocked stare and a response along the lines of, “You are too nice to be a lawyer!” I laugh and say, “Thank you!” while wondering why lawyers are not expected to be nice. Another frequent response is, “How are you a lawyer with two small children?” to which I think that I never imagined not starting a family and being a lawyer.
These comments seem endless and tell me that the perception of what it’s like being a lawyer is often not positive but rather gloomy. No doubt this perception stems from the reality of many. So is it possible to find joy in the law? I guess it depends on how you define joy. I invite readers, whether you have been practicing for over thirty years and retirement is on the horizon or whether you are newly licensed, to reflect on your own definitions of joy and whether you can say you have found joy in your practice.
As we all know, the practice of law itself can be intense and not for the faint of heart, whether you are in big law with big billable hour demands or you are a public interest attorney worried about your client’s liberty, the pressure can be insurmountable. Where do we find the joy? Is it in the amount of money we make every year? Is it in winning a case? Is it finding a way to relieve the innate pressure we all encounter from the nature of our jobs? Is it striking the perfect work/life balance?
The answer is, it depends. How fitting for lawyers that the answer is not black or white but somewhat gray. We may be able to agree that joy is a happy emotional state but whether or not there can be joy in the law can only be answered by you personally based on what brings you happiness.
I believe that you can find joy in the law. Personally, I have always lived by the mantra that as long as I am happy in my practice then I have found joy in the law, but the minute I no longer have that emotion then it’s time to re-group. I have been lucky enough to find a group of like-minded women attorneys who help me re-group. We have formed a group called Joy in the Law to support each other in finding joy in our profession. Later this month, we are holding our second conference with the purpose of promoting joy in the legal profession by sharing and teaching techniques for cultivating joy. The conference is open to men and women and offers three specialty credits (two in competence and one in ethics.) Past attendees have said it was life changing.
MCBA is one of the conference sponsors. If you are interested in exploring what still seems to many lawyers an unorthodox concept, join us on September 28, 2018. Learn more about it and sign up here. Do not miss this opportunity to share, learn and recharge!
Marie A. Barnes devotes herself to the practice of both criminal defense and family law. Over the course of her career, Marie has defended a wide range of criminal matters, from misdemeanors to major felonies and brings the knowledge and wisdom she gained as a former prosecutor to the defense. In family law, Marie focuses on issues arising from domestic violence and how they affect divorce and child custody. Marie was born in San Francisco and is fluent in Spanish. She received her Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Psychology from Sonoma State University and received her Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan University, Thomas Cooley Law School. In her spare time she volunteers for various organizations that provide free or low-cost legal services to the community.