One of the most pernicious lessons taught to impressionable law school students is that “the law is a jealous mistress”—that is, being a successful lawyer means working 100 hour weeks and spending a minimal amount of time with your family...if you manage to find time for a family in the first place. The fact is that, if you market your law practice the right way, your life as a lawyer doesn't have to be a constant, joyless grind, and you can spend plenty of quality time with your loved ones.
Why Is the Law Different from Other Professions?
Think about it for a second. Many bagel-store owners run successful businesses, pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year without even having gone to college. Do you hear anyone saying “a bagel store is a jealous mistress?” Sure, a successful owner will spend more time at his store than any of his employees, but no one will think less of him if he makes room for a growing family and the occasional vacation.
For some reason, though, the expectations are different for lawyers. If an attorney's spouse complains that he spends more time in airports than he does with his own kids, he's likely to respond by saying, “You don't understand, this is the way it's supposed to be!” That's because he's parroting the line that has been handed down by the generation of lawyers that preceded him:
Even Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, speaking at a law school graduation ceremony, warned all those newly minted lawyers about a future dominated by their “masters,” i.e., their clients.
Like other received truths, this one can take a long time for the average lawyer to shake off—and most attorneys never achieve the insight that they don't have to work 100 hour weeks and take in every client who comes through the door in order to be successful. For this reason, they're resigned to the same old marketing grind, in which they plaster their faces across impersonal Yellow Pages ads and send out cookie-cutter newsletters to prospective clients. Life is mostly hard work, so why should marketing be any more fun or innovative?