By Val Hemminger; Westshore Divorce Lawyer and Creator of Be The BEST Divorce Lawyer.
My personal journey outlines the highs and lows of developing a balanced life as an ethical and (almost) stress-free lawyer. I have written this so you know you are not alone. You may relate to some or even all of it. 🤔
And if you have ever wondered why lawyers are so unhappy and what can be done about it, I invite you to join the conversation by subscribing to my newsletter or my LinkedIn Group for Divorce Lawyers. You will learn detailed ways to shift gears and have direct access to me.
My wish is to save you the years of stress and hardship that I endured. Here's how those years unfolded. Some of it may sound familiar.
For the first 20 years practicing as a family divorce lawyer in Westshore, British Columbia, I had happy clients and got good results. Yet, I was mostly overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. This was not the way I wanted to grow a family law practice!!
I had no time for myself or my family. I had financial problems that weighed me down, leaving me owing money I didn't have.
I also had zero idea that I had undiagnosed ADHD and that this was significant to my experience of what is well recognized as lawyer stress!
After years of struggling, I slowly began to realize that there was another way to live.
I wanted to live as an (almost) stress-free lawyer and now, with Pathway Legal, my law firm, based in Westshore and serving the entire of British Columbia, I have successfully built my own law practice and work significantly less hours, almost always virtually with a brilliant team. I even have most weekends free from client work! Here's how it evolved...
As you know law school teaches us nothing about running a business! So, when I first opened my firm more than two decades ago, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea how to run a business effectively.
This may sound familiar...
Before becoming a lawyer, being smart and working hard was a great strategy that worked. It got me into law school, and it had me pass my bar exams. And like many lawyers, I thought if I worked hard, everything would all turn out. I knew I was smart enough, and I knew I would do my best.
However, surprise surprise, being smart and working hard, does not, work for running a profitable law practice!
Things got even worse when in 2009 when I purchased a piece of property for my law firm that I could not afford. Then the financial struggles really began.
For years, my life totally sucked. I mean really sucked beyond measure. I worked 10+ hour days but I was still broke. I was miserable, insolvent and was desperately unhappy. I had problems with my health, problems with the Law Society, and a shattered home life.
I just did not understand why so much of my life was not working.
Because I am someone who takes responsibility, I read a ton of business books, took marketing training, hired a business coach, and learned about running a profitable business. I dove deep into personal development, and commenced a dedicated spiritual practice. In short, I began to learn how to run a family law practice and not suffer lawyer stress.
However, despite my spiritual practice and disciplines, I was also still anxious and overwhelmed a lot of the time. As a result, I also self-medicated.
A lawyer I know reported to my Law Society that I was “taking illegal drugs” and drinking tequila all day long at work. The allegations were absolute nonsense of course. I must be present and at my absolute BEST for my clients when doing client work, so no tequila (or illegal drugs, duh) on the job!
Because of the completely unfounded and frankly despicable allegation that I was taking drugs and drinking at work, someone recommended I see an ADHD specialist so I could get assessed. I took their advice. I not only thought it would help my case with the Law Society, but I wanted to understand what else was going on with me.
In late 2020 the ADHD specialist I saw said I had ADHD and it was “off the charts.” He has prescribed specific medication and it has been life-changing!
The ADHD specialist also said I was an anomaly because I had great coping skills. So a lot of my life was actually working well! 🥳
This included other things such as all the developing business skills, my spiritual practice, and the personal development stuff I was learning.
Even with my undiagnosed and untreated ADHD, I successfully created a multiple 6- Figure Law Practice. The problem was, prior to my diagnosis, I still appeared and often felt overwhelmed and anxious. So much felt like a struggle.
I run my business ethically and without gouging my clients. Being a great family law lawyer is about more than knowing the law and being a great advocate (although that is important too). It is about making your entire practice run smoothly.
A successful law practice is about having structures and systems that enable us to have satisfied and happy clients, every time.
And another thing, I do not fit the “usual” stereotype of being a lawyer. Think of the show called “Suits” and that is definitely not me. I dress very casually whenever I can.
I know I don’t fit the model of what people think a lawyer should act like or look like (thank gawd for that!). Maybe you are like that too.😀
If the test for being a great divorce lawyer is that I
I am definitely NOT a great divorce lawyer.
I AM a very successful divorce lawyer.
What kind of lawyer are you? What kind of lawyer do you want to be?
Maybe you are like me; considered a bit weird, and still want to do great work.
That is why I am dedicated to showing you what I have learned. I don't want you to have to spend all that time struggling. You can learn from my mistakes and use the skills and tools I have spent years creating.
I have done it not only for the benefit of the next generation of family law lawyers (I call them baby lawyers -- young lawyers I meet now give me such great hope, so many are soooo cool these days) but also for the benefit of the families we serve.
Will you join me in the journey and grow YOUR family law practice, ethically and with a balanced personal life? That way, you'll get to know me and get to know my work to transform the business and personal success experience of lawyers like you and me.
I recommend you start by subscribing to my newsletter or join my LinkedIn group. Or both! I really do look forward to hearing from you.