Whether we left academia five or 25 years ago, whether we’re reliving first-day anticipation through our own budding scholars or recall only faintly the fraught calculation of cafeteria-seating selection, none of us is immune from high-voltage back-to-school energy at this time of year. September immerses us in electrifying possibility that inspires us to reflect and reset.
As I set out to speak with enthusiastic law students and LPP candidates at schools across Ontario during this exhilarating orientation period, I think back to the advice I received when I was in their shoes … the good, the bad, the prescient and the absent – an exercise in which I’m not alone in engaging as the school-year begins.
It occurs to me there are some lessons we would do well to revisit even well into our legal careers. It’s easy to become so busy – once we’ve established ourselves in practice, advanced in our field, assumed a rapidly expanding roster of clients, cases or responsibilities – that we find ourselves operating on auto-pilot and losing sight of some questions fundamental to our success and satisfaction.
- Are you where you want to be? We caution law students to avoid narrowing their sights too early instead of keeping an open mind and open eye to practice possibilities. If the path you’ve forged has led you to a place you no longer find fulfilling, it’s not too late to change course – with a new role, employer, practice area or environment. The OBA has a wide range of CPD programs that open avenues to emerging or alternative areas and allow you to acquire the skills and confidence you need to pursue a new professional direction and interact with lawyers who’ve navigated similar transitions.
- Are you getting the support you need? Our legal work is only one facet of our lives – we all have competing interests and priorities, we all struggle to find balance, and we all encounter unexpected personal and professional pressures. The OBA is always creating new services to serve the whole lawyer, and help you survive, adapt and thrive whatever comes your way. The latest of these is our Peer Support Network, your connection to an inclusive, engaged, empathetic community with similar lived experience to you that shows up for each other when work and life are challenging. Access vital resources, articles and engagement, and consider joining our first Peer Support Meeting, for our newly developed Lawyers Living with a Disability Network, on September 14.
- Are you having any fun? Practising law is complex, demanding work with significant consequences that none of us can afford to take lightly. That said, we all need to find some joy in a career and profession to which we commit ourselves daily. If the thrill is gone, maybe it’s time to connect with peers to compare notes with those who understand the ebbs and flows. Getting involved in Sections – joining the conversations and Caselaw Call-in Series – can reignite your passion for your practice area. And taking part in social events, like the OBA Book Club or Annual TIFF Social, allows you to experience the recharging effect of camaraderie while engaging with your cohort around interests beyond the law.
Take this time to remind yourself of what your OBA community offers you – and what you can offer it. Sometimes the boost we need is simply to give back with what have learned, experienced and achieved – to pay forward the mentorship and friendship we have received.