Why You Are Unhappy Practicing Law: You May Only be Happy When You Reach the Point of Giving Orders and Not Taking Them

Lately, when I have received calls from attorneys wanting to make lateral moves, I have told a fair number of them to stay right where they are. I have been doing this because it was clear to me that they wanted to move firms for the wrong reasons. They did not understand their roles as either soldiers or generals in the law firm world and mistakenly thought that simply switching firms would solve their problems. This is a common problem for attorneys working in law firms and it is what this article is about. At each step of your career, you need to embrace the role that is expected of you as either a soldier or general and excel at it.
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

The most vexing issue that destroys the morale, careers, and lives of many attorneys is the internal conflict they have between being a soldier or a general. Every attorney I speak with is either one or the other, and the attorney is happy or unhappy depending on his or her ability to be one or another. To succeed in the practice of law and at a law firm, an attorney must first be an effective soldier and then needs to transition to being a general.
  • If an attorney tries to be a general before it is time, the attorney typically gets crushed and has an unsatisfying career—the attorney never reaches his or her full potential in the practice of law.
  • If an attorney remains a soldier and does not transition to being a general—the attorney will have an unsatisfying career and not reach his or her full potential either.