Want to thrive? Be brave
Seeking a career that offers purpose and balance, and which is based on connection, humanness and vulnerability, is the bravest thing a lawyer can do, says Emma Fitzgerald.
Many lawyers grapple with insecurity when they first enter the profession – something that we are not cognisant of until we first step through the doors of our first employer’s office, Emma Fitzgerald, director of Lawyering Space, muses.
Whilst it can be difficult to determine where such insecurity comes from, one thing is clear, Ms Fitzgerald posits: “historically it has certainly been exploited to some degree”.
In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Ms Fitzgerald – the Brisbane-based director said practitioners need to become brave by way of being advocates not just for clients, but also for themselves.
“To be brave is to seek a career with purpose and balance which is based on connection, humanness and vulnerability. As a lawyer you can be both [hard-working] and intelligent, extraordinary and kind. It is the combination of all of these things that will lead to fulfilment for each of us,” she explained.
“This can certainly be achieved by entering the boutique space and starting your own practices. This gives you control over your environment, your clients and your space.”
There can be reluctance among lawyers to be brave in this sense, Ms Fitzgerald noted, which is often based on fear.
“I understand that kind of fear, because I have felt it. The best way to be accountable to your goals is to have either an accountability buddy or a coach or mentor. Someone that will be kind to you in the same way that you should be kind to yourself and will want success for you in whatever way you define it,” she said.
However, there has arguably never been a more urgent time to be brave, she stressed.
“In the time of coronavirus, I think people need to do two things. The first is to revisit what success means to them. And to leave some kindness or leeway for themself. You actually do not need to progress your career this year,” she advised.
“It is important to have goals, but this year success should be keeping healthy – both physically and mentally, and keeping your financial grounding. It may be that you will find yourself doing work that you have never done before and this could be an extraordinary ‘success’ in that it is helping you and your [mindset grow].
“It comes down to mindset.”
When asked what steps legal practices can take to build and maintain such traits, particularly in such an economically turbulent time, Ms Fitzgerald said that “one of the most important things that boutique law firms can do is to be honest and authentic about their businesses and when speaking to their clients”.
“We also need to be flexible and kind with the hardships that our clients are facing. The combination of these things enables boutique law firms to truly connect to their clients and their audience,” she suggested.
Turning her attention to the future, Ms Fitzgerald said she is “definitely” optimistic about the capacity of boutique lawyers to be not only brave, but also “extraordinary and fulfilled”.
“There are some extraordinary boutique firms out there that are taking great strides even at this time. When you have your own practice, you are in such an amazing position because you are in control of your own brand, your own style of ‘lawyering’ and you can innovate in a way that cherishes connection, humanness and vulnerability,” she reflected.
“I have said that we should refrain from saying ‘business as usual’ at this time because this is not a usual time and it fails to acknowledge the suffering many of our clients, colleagues, friends and family are experiencing.
“It should not be business as usual; it should be business that is flexible and kind.”