by Erika Tatum, Shareholder at Hill Hill Carter
The legal profession can be a daunting endeavor. As attorneys, we spend most of our time wearing multiple hats, putting out fires, and jumping from case to case and project to project, with little sense of accomplishment. Despite these challenges, experiencing gratitude can completely change your perspective.
In March 2020, my law practice came to a sudden halt when schools closed due to the pandemic. As a special education attorney representing boards of education, once the children left the building, the need for my services, apparently, went with them.
Since panicking can never be the best approach, I took more than a few deep breaths as my billable hours cratered, focusing on the fact that I was still employed. Shifting gears, I began formulating new policies and procedures to use when traditional school resumed. After all, there was no template for this event, and it all had to be built from scratch. I also took advantage of the chance to address those time-consuming projects that I’d always intended to handle for clients, but couldn’t in the churn-and-burn of my regular practice. A Gratitude Attitude also meant having the time and energy to focus on health matters, occasionally moved to the back burner when managing a busy law practice.
Don’t get me wrong. Gratitude is not complete optimism or the ability to ignore reality. Rather, it is graciously accepting the setbacks in life, changing your perspective about those setbacks, and praising your ability to persevere through them. They are little life pep talks.
So how to you put this Gratitude Attitude into practice in your own life? Thinking of it as a gratitude list where you intentionally identify the positive aspects of your career is a great place to begin. For example:
1. My work helps me learn new strategies to manage an overwhelming case, looming deadlines or challenging opposing counsel;
2. My work lets me help my clients, and even my employer, solve complicated issues, and
3. My work allows me to have positive relationships with my coworkers, clients and mentors
While on a mountain hiking adventure, after the guide covered the agenda for the day, I would ask about our plans for the next day. She gently rebuffed my natural instinct to plan and encouraged me to live in the moment. The guide intuitively realized I needed to enjoy today rather than persistently thinking about tomorrow. Living in the moment became the theme of the adventure. Likewise, having a Gratitude Attitude in the legal profession means celebrating our accomplishments, appreciating our fortunes and recognizing all that is good around us in spite of our difficulties.