Cordell Parvin Blog Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Lawyers: Life and Career Purpose-Look Back, Look Forward, Look Inward

Posted in Career Development

If you don’t like touchy-feely stuff, then you might want to pass on reading this post.

My career changed in a very positive way when I started thinking about my life and career purpose. All of a sudden, I had a stronger sense of direction and it was easier to plan my future.

What is your life purpose? What is your career purpose?

What do you really want in your life and in your career?

Very few young lawyers I meet have answers to those questions. In fact, I know of very few who have even pondered the questions and looked introspectively within for the answers.

Perhaps in the course of dealing with day to day work and family events, young lawyers do not take time to focus on the soul searching exercise of looking within and searching for the meaning of what they are doing.

Your life purpose or work purpose is like your calling.

As theologian, Frederick Buechner describes it:

The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

As a lawyer who focused on construction I tended to think of building my career in the same terms as constructing a building project. Before an architect or an engineer begins to design a project, the ultimate user of the project provides a detailed description of its intended purpose.

A few years ago, Nancy and I toured the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

It illustrates my point about purpose. In the narrative about the hall I learned how the famed architect, Frank Gehry, spent hours with Lillian Disney to understand her vision of the hall.

Mrs. Disney made clear that she wanted the concert hall building to reflect the culture and character of Southern California, remain accessible to the entire community, boast lovely and inviting garden areas, and offer acoustical perfection for the enjoyment of music.

It is one of the most visually and acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world. The stainless steel panels on the outside and the hardwood paneled interior are truly unique.

I ask young lawyers to think back to that day they decided they really wanted to become a lawyer and think about what prompted them to consider law for a career.

I remember what it was for me. When I was in about 8th grade I read an autobiography of Clarence Darrow titled: The Story of My Life.

Darrow

I was immediately inspired by his description of a case less famous than most. It was the Sweet trials in Detroit. It was the real life version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Dr. Sweet and his family had moved into a white neighborhood, in part because there were no homes available int the black part of the city due to the auto industry creating the migration from the south. Each night when the family came home, there was a mob taunting them outside their house. One night a shot rang out and a man was killed.

Darrow just back from the Scopes trial in Tennessee was exhausted and wanted to rest. But, when the NAACP pleaded with him, he came to Detroit. If you want some inspiration, I urge you to read Douglas Linder’s account of the trial and Clarence Darrow’s final argument in the second trial.

Another approach to discovering your life and career purpose is to look forward.

Visualize that your firm or company is giving you a retirement party. Several people will speak about you. They include a partner, your assistant, a client, your spouse and one of your children.

What do you want each of these people to say about you? If you can visualize what each person will say about you, I think you will have a pretty clear idea of what your life purpose and career purpose are.