Help? Yes please. But where can I go?
I know it can seem difficult to know where to go, or who to turn to when you finally decide you need help with something, so I've put together here some examples of different resources available to young lawyers. These are by no means exhaustive, they are just some of the things I have tried that have worked or that I am aware of. If you have any suggestions please add them in the comments at the bottom. I know we’d all appreciate your help!
1. Talk to someone in a similar situation
Reach out to your peers.
Peers are great if you need to get out a good rant. They also can be a great source of support as they have likely experienced or are experiencing something similar. Maybe they have tried something you haven’t – and it’s worked! And sometimes it just helps to know you are not alone. As JD mentioned in her tips for bouncing back, a solid peer support network can be very helpful.
But here’s my caution to only going to peers with your struggles – be careful that asking for help or for an ear to listen to your rant doesn’t turn into cyclical complaining. Rather than helping, peers can sometimes have the opposite effect by getting in on the complaining and normalizing frustrating situations. This is not productive and often increases feelings of helplessness.
2. Talk to someone who’s been there
Reach out to your mentor. Or reach out to a senior lawyer who you’d like to be your mentor.
Senior lawyers are not as scary as you may think. They are human too, they’ve been there, and they will often be happy to provide guidance and career advice if asked for in a way that is not too intrusive or overwhelming.
I know from experience how valuable this type of relationship can be. I am fortunate to have the world’s best mentor. James Killam has given me more help and guidance regarding the practice of law, the business of law, interacting with colleagues and clients, and the unwritten rules of the legal profession in the eight months that I have been working at Killam Cordell Murray, than I have obtained from any other source since starting law school in 2007. He has also provided me with guidance generally in finding my path in this profession, and in life, and I am grateful every day for all that I am learning.
While I have had good relationships and received valuable advice from many other senior lawyers, often times the level of mentorship I currently have would not develop. The reason for this, in part, is because I previously did not know how to ask for help and I would rarely allow others to help me if they offered. I also know that this type of relationship does not just magically materialise the day you decide you need help. It must be allowed to grow organically over time.
In my last post I shared some strategies that you may find useful when asking for help from busy lawyers and when trying to build a mentor-mentee relationship.
3. Talk to someone in a completely different situation
As a young lawyer it can be helpful to talk to a friend or family member outside of the law when you are struggling with something that is not a technical legal issue. This is especially a good option if you know that talking to your law friends will result in the complaining fest I referred to above. They can often offer an alternative perspective and will often remind you to take a step back and reassess your priorities. Their advice will also often come with a hug, which is sometimes all that is needed!
Talking to friends and family outside the law can have its drawbacks however, as it is unrealistic to expect that they will be able to understand or offer practical solutions to problems particular to young lawyers.
4. Go see a heath care professional
When the problems life throws at you are outside the expertise of the people in your life, if you feel uncomfortable discussing the issue with those you know well, or when you just feel like you’ve talked to everyone and nothing is working, professionals are a great option.
If you are feeling anxious, unable to sleep, unable to cope, overwhelmed, depressed, or are struggling with some other mental or physical health issue, I cannot recommend enough simply talking to your family doctor about it. Going to the doctor does not mean you are a failure. It also does not mean you need to be put on pills. In certain cases prescriptions may be appropriate, however, doctors have all kinds of other resources to offer, including a kind, intelligent ear, and the ability to refer you to someone specialized in whatever area you are struggling with.
I by no means have the right to sit up on a high horse and tell you this is the right thing to do. I for years avoided telling my doctor I struggled with bulimia. But I eventually did go, and it was a positive and worthwhile experience. The doctor was kind, understanding, non-judgmental, light-hearted, and enthusiastic about helping me. He provided me with all kinds of resources and options for how I could continue to improve my health. And mostly he just cared. I left with renewed hope and a positive outlook, the best tools one can have.
5. Other professionals
Not all stress-related problems will be solved by going to healthcare professionals. Maybe you are struggling with organizing your finances and would benefit from the services of a financial advisor; maybe you are unable to balance everything and could use the help of a nanny or childcare worker; maybe you are struggling to keep a healthy lifestyle and would benefit from a personal trainer or nutritionist; or maybe you just need to stop putting too many things on your own to-do list, and instead delegate some more tasks to your assistant or hire a plumber to fix your drain instead of spending Saturday doing it yourself.
When making decisions about whether to hire a professional to help you tackle your to-do list, make sure to give your own time the value it deserves. Sit down and actually think about what it would be like to have the extra time to relax and connect with those you care about. It is likely worth the cost of asking someone to help you tackle those things on your to-do list that make you cringe.
6. Use the free services available to all lawyers
The Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP) offers counselling services to all lawyers. They offer assistance with alcohol, depression, anxiety, drugs, career and work issues, codependence, family issues, health and medical issues, legal and financial issues, other addictions, relationship issues, and yes, even stress! Their website here in BC - http://lapbc.com/ - contains valuable resources for lawyers dealing with these issues, including a number of self-tests and links to other resources. If you believe you could benefit from some assistance, LAP offers confidential services such as short term counseling, referrals, and assessments. They also offer events, seminars, and workshops. I encourage you to check out their website and see in what ways they may be able to help you.
If you are reading this from outside BC I would encourage you to Google the Lawyers Assistance Program in your area. All provinces and territories make similar forms of assistance available to lawyers.
7. Get a life coach
If none of the above seems quite right for you, or if you are in any way feeling lost, uninspired, frustrated, stuck, in need of a challenge or some accountability, or anything slightly less than incredibly awesome, a life coach may be just what you need.
This is something I am currently experimenting with. I have recently hired Sarah Kalil of Kalillionaire Coaching as my life coach. Sarah Kalil is a lawyer turned business/life coach as well as the CEO of a start-up digital media company that writes and designs fantasy stories for mobile apps (Cool, I know!). She is also one of the most positive and genuine people I have ever met.
For the next while she will be guiding me on my journey and helping me to live consistently from that place of infinite possibility that I so desire to be. I have no doubt that with some determination and some hard work, I will get there. As Sarah says, “You are the only person who can create your own life.”
I love this statement, because I absolutely believe it to be true. I also believe that in the work of art that is our life, we all need a little help to get our creative juices flowing. And that is exactly what she is helping me to do.
In our profession its all too easy to get caught up in the busyness, to end up down the wrong path, or to forget parts of the dreams we once had. No matter what your place of infinite possibility looks like or what is keeping you from it right now, a life coach might be just what you need to help you shake things up and get out there and create it.
8. Try something new
There are a million different ways in which we can obtain help with those things that are challenging, frustrating, or just plain annoying to us. The things we need help with will be different for each of us as our strengths and weaknesses are unique. But that’s the beauty of it, there will always be someone out there who can help you, and there will always be someone out there who needs your help.
So go and look for help in new places. Be creative. Be curious. You never know what someone else’s super powers are.
This is the end of my asking for help series (see my previous articles on why we should ask for help and how to ask for help). I hope that you have started to question whether you are trying to do too much on your own and where in your life you could benefit from a little assistance; and I hope that you will go out there and ask for help whenever it would make your life easier.
I’m not going to lie, I still have a lot of difficulty asking for and receiving help, but I’m working on it. I’m committed to working on it because I’ve learned how valuable it can be. I’ve seen it cure frustration, lift weights off my shoulders, and cut my to-do list in half. I’ve also experienced how it powerful it can be to get rid of feelings of loneliness, make new friends, and deepen relationships.
Asking for help breaks through the barriers of what’s possible on our own. Let’s embrace that possibility.
As Sarah has said to me more than once, “Possibility is an awesome place to live.”