Some Days You Eat the Bear, Some Days the Bear Eats You

What do you all make of this Texas Lawyer article about how we all live in fear every day in our practices:

“Our firm is ruled by fear,” said Steve. “Hell, the whole profession is about fear. Fear of not billing hours, fear of not bringing in business, fear of losing business. Fear of not making partner. Fear of being in trouble with my wife for working too much, and, of course, fear of being in trouble with the partnership for not working enough.” He stopped for a moment, letting his own words sink in.

“And it started in law school. The whole thing runs on fear. I’m sick of being afraid all the time.”

Steve was talking about one of the unspoken realities of life in law.

Law practice is the military, and lawyers are the combatants. Some are pure strategists, poring in hushed offices over the contested terrain. They press their buttons at high altitudes and drop bombs on people they may never, personally, encounter.

Others are negotiators who bring differing factions together.

And others are plainly, clearly and undoubtedly foot soldiers whose job it is to do hand-to-hand combat.

Whatever level of engagement a lawyer has with The Other Side, he knows that this is win or lose, sink or swim, live or die. A lawyer’s slightest misjudgment may be the beginning of the end.

Quite naturally, lawyers live in fear.

I think the author is exaggerating to make a point. Yes, there is an element of risk in our daily practice, especially for us litigators. And we do “go to combat” with our fellow lawyers to some degree, and we are worried about billables, collectibles, overhead, client relations, judges, and all the other stuff we worry about before we even begin to think about such things as spouses, children, money woes and — for some of you numb nuts — certain elegant, regal Canadians.

But, for many of us, there is a certain complacency and, dare I say it, even some inertia that sets into our professional lives, especially for those of us working in the bigger firms. The comfort level, the perks, the Gevalia coffee — all of that — takes the edge off of the fear level on a daily basis. Heck, I would even argue that for many of us it blunts that edge, makes us too complacent, and some of us even rebel against that dying of the light by forming new firms, new relationships, new practice areas, even new blogs….