My profession presents — to me — a paradox. On the one hand, I love what I do and I look forward to work every day. On the other hand, there are days my stress level is so high that I wonder whether to even continue in the practice. This is an ongoing struggle and one that has taken me a long time to learn to deal with. The extremes between loving my job and hating it swing radically. This is my Daily Paradox.
I am a civil defense attorney and have practiced law since 1999. When others ask what I do for a living, I typically respond that I am in the lawsuit business or that “I am a trial lawyer”. I am assigned cases (filed in courts from the panhandle of Idaho, western Wyoming to St. George, Utah) and I am tasked with the responsibility to defend my clients in these cases. If the case cannot be settled or otherwise disposed of, I take them to juries for decision. Most of the cases I handle are commercial in nature and involve large losses and large sums of money. The stakes are high, the risks are high, and the associated stress is — at times — overwhelming. But. . . . I love it.
It is difficult to describe to a non-lawyer exactly how stressful and draining this job really is. I often describe the work environment as a “pressure cooker”. On any given day, my team and I are asked to solve very complex problems under strict time constraints. To make matters worse, I often deal with difficult attorneys and demanding clients. There is no margin for error in the lawsuit business. My job is to defend my clients and to win every case.
I recognized the demands of the profession in the first five years of practice. At first, I did not deal well with these demands. Over time, however, my coping mechanisms and skills have sharpened. I worry, though, that as these “mechanisms” and “skills” have sharpened, that I have become hardened. The people with whom I deal are oftentimes deceitful, but more often they complain about their circumstances. Constant complaining. All day every day. There are times when I wonder whether I am capable of feeling empathy or sympathy for others’ problems. When I see a problem and my instinct/training forces me to “fix” it, rather than dwell on the emotional difficulties of the litigants. I really do worry about this. It sounds silly as I write this, but I worry that I am becoming less human the longer I practice. Again, as I pointed out above, I love it.
I like to believe that my beautiful wife and my four kids ground me. I like to believe that my religious conviction grounds me. I like to believe that my relationships with my siblings, my mom and in-laws ground me. While I like to believe these things, I am not sure whether I can be grounded. It may sound silly but I do not know how else to explain the way I feel.
This profession demands a lot from me and — accordingly — from my family. I find myself traveling frequently (hence, the title of the blog) which further compounds my worries. It is very difficult to leave my wife and children as I go to and fro defending lawsuits. When I am on the road, I never sleep; rather, I worry. I am constantly plagued with guilt that I am not home to assist. While on the road, I move from point to point with a never ending sense of guilt that I am not with my beautiful wife. Again, I don’t know how to put it into words, but it’s as if there is a never ending “knot” in my chest from the moment I leave to the airport to the time I walk back into the house. Yet, despite all of this I know I have a job to do and it happens to be a job that I love. The paradox.
I hope to unload more of these challenging issues as I explore the blogosphere for the first time. I do not know where this will lead me (if anywhere), but here we go.
One thing that helps — perhaps the only thing — is running. I love to run because it allows me to either forget the daily struggles or to help me solve those difficult questions. You will see a lot of running/fitness photographs here for this reason.